Commentary Magazine


Topic: University of Texas

University Deserves Kudos, Not Blame

As a country with more than enough real enemies, the last thing Israel needs is for its supporters to start attacking its friends. But that’s what seems to have happened to the University of Texas – which has been attacked as an anti-Israel boycotter for taking a courageous stand against the boycott.

It began when Israel National News published a perfectly fair article with an unfortunate headline: “New Boycott: U. of Texas Cancels Book Including Israelis.” The headline seems to accuse the university itself of boycotting Israelis, and that’s how many people evidently read it: Comments such as “U of Texas Press bows to boycotters,” or the more generic “scandalous!” and “shameful,” soon appeared on Twitter and Facebook.

What actually happened, as the news story makes clear, is that the university’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies wanted to publish a collection of women’s writing about life in the Middle East that would include both Arab and Israeli authors. The problem began when a Palestinian woman who had been invited to contribute threatened to withdraw her own article if the two Israelis contributors weren’t excluded.

The university, quite properly, told her to go ahead and withdraw; the book could live without her contribution. But she countered by persuading other contributors to withdraw their manuscripts as well. Ultimately, according to Inside Higher Ed, 13 of the 29 authors did so, and a few others were wavering. That left the university with four choices:

Read More

As a country with more than enough real enemies, the last thing Israel needs is for its supporters to start attacking its friends. But that’s what seems to have happened to the University of Texas – which has been attacked as an anti-Israel boycotter for taking a courageous stand against the boycott.

It began when Israel National News published a perfectly fair article with an unfortunate headline: “New Boycott: U. of Texas Cancels Book Including Israelis.” The headline seems to accuse the university itself of boycotting Israelis, and that’s how many people evidently read it: Comments such as “U of Texas Press bows to boycotters,” or the more generic “scandalous!” and “shameful,” soon appeared on Twitter and Facebook.

What actually happened, as the news story makes clear, is that the university’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies wanted to publish a collection of women’s writing about life in the Middle East that would include both Arab and Israeli authors. The problem began when a Palestinian woman who had been invited to contribute threatened to withdraw her own article if the two Israelis contributors weren’t excluded.

The university, quite properly, told her to go ahead and withdraw; the book could live without her contribution. But she countered by persuading other contributors to withdraw their manuscripts as well. Ultimately, according to Inside Higher Ed, 13 of the 29 authors did so, and a few others were wavering. That left the university with four choices:

First, it could violate every known standard of professional behavior, and open itself to lawsuits, by publishing the withdrawn manuscripts without their authors’ consent. Second, it could make itself a professional laughingstock by publishing a collection of articles on life in the Middle East that didn’t include a single Arab author. Its critics seem to think it should have chosen one of these two. Yet it should be obvious that no self-respecting university would seriously consider either of them.

The third option was to capitulate to the boycotters and publish 27 of the 29 articles, excluding only the two Israeli contributions. Many universities would likely have done exactly that: Just consider the craven behavior of Yale University Press, which capitulated to Muslim pressure to exclude pictures of controversial Danish cartoons of Mohammed from a book about the controversy over the Danish cartoons. But Texas, to its credit, did no such thing.

Instead, it chose the final option: It stood up to the boycotters and announced that if the Israelis aren’t published, the boycotters won’t be, either – even at the cost of canceling a book in which the university had already invested a good deal of time, effort and money. As Kamran Scot Aghaie, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, quite properly said, he refuses to “censor” people “based on religion or national origin. To do so is simply discrimination, and it’s wrong.”

That’s exactly how a self-respecting university should respond to anti-Israel boycotters. And for having done so, the University of Texas deserves kudos, not blame.

Read Less

You Don’t Need to Be a Weatherman but It May Help

The supposedly rock-solid consensus among all thinking human beings about the impending catastrophe of global warming has taken another hit from an unlikely villain: your friendly local TV weather forecaster. According to a front-page feature in Monday’s New York Times, some of the biggest global-warming skeptics are precisely those people whom many Americans look to for insight about the weather. The Times reports that a study released this week by George Mason University and the University of Texas reveals that “only about half of the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed that global warming was occurring and fewer than a third believed that climate change was caused mostly by human activities.” This is very bad news for environmental extremists, since the public seems to trust the weather guys more than Al Gore.

Apparently there is a real split developing in the world of weather between climatologists and meteorologists, with the latter showing a remarkable disinclination to accept the claims of the former that the planet is melting. But the frame of reference of this piece, like so much of the mainstream media’s coverage of those who raise questions about the alarmist theories of global warming, is not to examine the views and the reasons of the skeptics. Instead, the point of the article is to view it as yet another unfortunate problem to be overcome on the road to eradicating heretical dissent from the global-warming orthodoxy of our time. And since the average American is more likely to hear about the weather from a TV weather forecaster than to be lectured by a climatologist, this is especially dangerous for a field that has been rocked by a series of scandals that have undermined confidence in the honesty and accuracy of global-warming advocates.

For the Times, the problem is primarily one of academic achievement. The climatologists who are promoting fear of global warming—and profiting handsomely from it—are generally affiliated with universities and tend to have advanced degrees whereas many meteorologists do not. For Heidi Cullen, a climatologist who works to promote global-warming hysteria at something called Climate Central, the problem is that the weathermen are just not smart enough to understand her field. Indeed, she says the claim that it will be hotter 50 years from now is as open and shut a case as asserting that August will be warmer than January. But if you think about it, it makes sense that those who work on a day-to-day basis with weather forecasts would have their doubts about computer models about the weather we will get 50 years from now. They know all too well how variable the climate can be and that efforts to project forecasts with certainty, especially those promising apocalyptic disasters, should be taken with a shovel-full of salt.

The response from climatologists is, of course, not to listen to the skeptics or take them seriously, even if the skeptics in question know a thing or two about the weather. Instead, as the Times pompously relates, what the global-warming crowd wants is more “education” and “outreach” designed to squelch doubts about their theories before the debate about the issue—and the dangerous “cap and trade” schemes to handicap our economy to supposedly avert a global-warming disaster—gets out of hand.

As Bob Dylan famously wrote, “You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” But when it comes to bringing some common sense to the “climate change” debate, it apparently helps to be one.

The supposedly rock-solid consensus among all thinking human beings about the impending catastrophe of global warming has taken another hit from an unlikely villain: your friendly local TV weather forecaster. According to a front-page feature in Monday’s New York Times, some of the biggest global-warming skeptics are precisely those people whom many Americans look to for insight about the weather. The Times reports that a study released this week by George Mason University and the University of Texas reveals that “only about half of the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed that global warming was occurring and fewer than a third believed that climate change was caused mostly by human activities.” This is very bad news for environmental extremists, since the public seems to trust the weather guys more than Al Gore.

Apparently there is a real split developing in the world of weather between climatologists and meteorologists, with the latter showing a remarkable disinclination to accept the claims of the former that the planet is melting. But the frame of reference of this piece, like so much of the mainstream media’s coverage of those who raise questions about the alarmist theories of global warming, is not to examine the views and the reasons of the skeptics. Instead, the point of the article is to view it as yet another unfortunate problem to be overcome on the road to eradicating heretical dissent from the global-warming orthodoxy of our time. And since the average American is more likely to hear about the weather from a TV weather forecaster than to be lectured by a climatologist, this is especially dangerous for a field that has been rocked by a series of scandals that have undermined confidence in the honesty and accuracy of global-warming advocates.

For the Times, the problem is primarily one of academic achievement. The climatologists who are promoting fear of global warming—and profiting handsomely from it—are generally affiliated with universities and tend to have advanced degrees whereas many meteorologists do not. For Heidi Cullen, a climatologist who works to promote global-warming hysteria at something called Climate Central, the problem is that the weathermen are just not smart enough to understand her field. Indeed, she says the claim that it will be hotter 50 years from now is as open and shut a case as asserting that August will be warmer than January. But if you think about it, it makes sense that those who work on a day-to-day basis with weather forecasts would have their doubts about computer models about the weather we will get 50 years from now. They know all too well how variable the climate can be and that efforts to project forecasts with certainty, especially those promising apocalyptic disasters, should be taken with a shovel-full of salt.

The response from climatologists is, of course, not to listen to the skeptics or take them seriously, even if the skeptics in question know a thing or two about the weather. Instead, as the Times pompously relates, what the global-warming crowd wants is more “education” and “outreach” designed to squelch doubts about their theories before the debate about the issue—and the dangerous “cap and trade” schemes to handicap our economy to supposedly avert a global-warming disaster—gets out of hand.

As Bob Dylan famously wrote, “You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” But when it comes to bringing some common sense to the “climate change” debate, it apparently helps to be one.

Read Less

Post-Racial No More

So much for the post-racial presidency. This report explains:

The Obama administration has asked a federal appeals court to uphold a race-conscious admissions system at the University of Texas at Austin, aiming to stymie a lawsuit that conservatives hope will spur the Supreme Court to limit affirmative action at public colleges.

The Texas case tests a 2003 Supreme Court decision that upheld a race-conscious admissions system at the University of Michigan Law School. That ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger said the law school had “a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body.” By a 5-4 vote, the court prohibited “outright racial balancing,” but said race could be a “plus” factor to build a “critical mass” of minority students.

Since Grutter — when then Justice Sandra Day O’Connor promised racial preferences would fade away (“We expect that 25 years from now the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”) — universities have maintained a fiction, namely that race matters but isn’t the sole factor in admissions. Nevertheless, it matters enough to assure admission at elite schools of minority students whose test scores and grade point average are significantly worse than non-minority students. Given the Grutter roadmap (the requirement to show a “holistic” admissions approach), admissions officers and legal defenders of the thinly disguised racial-preference schemes must resort to verbal gymnastics to justify their programs:

Patricia Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs at the Austin campus, said many private and public universities take some account of race in admissions. Because blacks and Hispanics on average score lower on entrance exams than white and Asian-American applicants, universities have adopted affirmative-action programs to compensate.

“We think it is critical to being able to achieve the diverse institution that we think is important,” she said.

The Obama administration agrees. “[The] university’s effort to promote diversity is a paramount government objective,” says the brief filed by the Education and Justice departments. The administration disputed claims that Texas was simply engaging in raw racial preferences.

“The question is not whether an individual belongs to a racial group, but rather how an individual’s membership in any group may provide deeper understanding of the person’s record and experiences, as well as the contribution she can make to the school,” the brief says.

What?! This is just mumbo-jumbo. It’s not the individual’s race but that individual’s membership in a racial group that is of interest? An “individual’s membership in any group may provide deeper understanding of the person’s record and experiences, as well as the contribution she can make to the school”? Somehow, school admissions officers invariably achieve this “deeper understanding” especially for minority students, who have learned to provide just enough fodder in their applications to satisfy admissions officers that there is a rationale for allowing these students to leapfrog over more qualified peers.

The Fifth Circuit will decide if all of this rhetorical hocus-pocus is worthy of deference or whether, in the Obama era, it’s time to finally put an end to the racial-preference rackets. Unfortunately, the Court will find no encouragement from the not-at-all-post-racial president.

So much for the post-racial presidency. This report explains:

The Obama administration has asked a federal appeals court to uphold a race-conscious admissions system at the University of Texas at Austin, aiming to stymie a lawsuit that conservatives hope will spur the Supreme Court to limit affirmative action at public colleges.

The Texas case tests a 2003 Supreme Court decision that upheld a race-conscious admissions system at the University of Michigan Law School. That ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger said the law school had “a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body.” By a 5-4 vote, the court prohibited “outright racial balancing,” but said race could be a “plus” factor to build a “critical mass” of minority students.

Since Grutter — when then Justice Sandra Day O’Connor promised racial preferences would fade away (“We expect that 25 years from now the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”) — universities have maintained a fiction, namely that race matters but isn’t the sole factor in admissions. Nevertheless, it matters enough to assure admission at elite schools of minority students whose test scores and grade point average are significantly worse than non-minority students. Given the Grutter roadmap (the requirement to show a “holistic” admissions approach), admissions officers and legal defenders of the thinly disguised racial-preference schemes must resort to verbal gymnastics to justify their programs:

Patricia Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs at the Austin campus, said many private and public universities take some account of race in admissions. Because blacks and Hispanics on average score lower on entrance exams than white and Asian-American applicants, universities have adopted affirmative-action programs to compensate.

“We think it is critical to being able to achieve the diverse institution that we think is important,” she said.

The Obama administration agrees. “[The] university’s effort to promote diversity is a paramount government objective,” says the brief filed by the Education and Justice departments. The administration disputed claims that Texas was simply engaging in raw racial preferences.

“The question is not whether an individual belongs to a racial group, but rather how an individual’s membership in any group may provide deeper understanding of the person’s record and experiences, as well as the contribution she can make to the school,” the brief says.

What?! This is just mumbo-jumbo. It’s not the individual’s race but that individual’s membership in a racial group that is of interest? An “individual’s membership in any group may provide deeper understanding of the person’s record and experiences, as well as the contribution she can make to the school”? Somehow, school admissions officers invariably achieve this “deeper understanding” especially for minority students, who have learned to provide just enough fodder in their applications to satisfy admissions officers that there is a rationale for allowing these students to leapfrog over more qualified peers.

The Fifth Circuit will decide if all of this rhetorical hocus-pocus is worthy of deference or whether, in the Obama era, it’s time to finally put an end to the racial-preference rackets. Unfortunately, the Court will find no encouragement from the not-at-all-post-racial president.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.