University of Pennsylvania’s ‘Wasting Time on the Internet’ course lived up to its name
This past spring, the University of Pennsylvania offered an English class called “Wasting Time on the Internet,” which included, among other assignments, watching porn during class.
Other experiences ranged from “spreading rumors across the internet to simply filming [themselves]… for the entire 3-hour class,” according to a freshman who took the seminar.
As for the porn assignment, the student, who asked to remain anonymous, said in an email to The College Fix that the class sat in a circle in a crowded university building “and played the same porn video on our computers at the same time on full volume.”
“It created a very uncomfortable environment for us – some of the class even got up part of the way through and left because they were uncomfortable,” she stated, adding other students on campus apparently did not notice the group porn viewing.
“People … didn’t even hear or notice, to my knowledge,” she said.
She described the pornography screening as part of a series of “experiments based on discomfort – trying to make the most uncomfortable environment possible.”
Lecturer Kenneth Goldsmith did not respond to emailed requests by The College Fix seeking comment.
Category Archives: College Bubble
The heart of this entry is a letter I wrote in response to one specific liberal professor who made the mistake of attempting to embarrass me for holding conservative views. First let me share a little back-story. It was an online course on American Government, one that made use of a message board for class discussion and student interaction. After introductions our first assignment was to answer a question regarding freedom in America, including how and to whom it should be applied. I happily typed and posted my response, which I share here in part:
“Our Federation was founded on the ideas of Individualism, and the idea that freedom should be available to every citizen in equal measure. It was this idea that the framers of our Constitution embodied and enshrined within our system of governance. They sought to create a document that preserved and protected the idea of individual freedom by enumerating a system that not only protected the citizen but allowed the citizen to participate should he or she choose to do so.”
Being a liberal my professor could not let me, a mere student, praise the work of our nation’s founders, especially in an open forum where other students might be exposed to a positive view of them. Thus she felt it her duty to post a reply and correct my “errant” notions, and responded by stating:
“I will not usually intervene here, but I want to push you all to think about something —
Irish writes: “Our Federation was founded on the ideas of Individualism, and the idea that freedom should be available to every citizen in equal measure.” As I’m sure Irish knows, though, the Founding Fathers explicitly did not believe that freedom should be available to every citizen in equal measure. Quite the opposite. They believed that freedom should be available mostly to the wealthy, land-owning, white men. Our idea of who should be allowed to participate in this project of self-governance has evolved substantially over our history.”
The relationship between students and teachers has changed, he says, thanks to the same hypersensitivity that Academia uses to silence dissent and debate. “The student-teacher dynamic has been reenvisioned along a line that’s simultaneously consumerist and hyper-protective,” Schlosser writes, “giving each and every student the ability to claim Grievous Harm in nearly any circumstance, after any affront, and a teacher’s formal ability to respond to these claims is limited at best.”
In the past, students complaints focused on actual teaching or bias in the classroom, issues which deal with the teacher’s actions and can at least form the basis of coherent criticism of behavior or teaching methods. Now, Schlosser knows that complaints can have little to with objective reality but with how the student perceives it.
He worries that an accusation will involve a lack of sensitivity to one individual’s “feelings,” or as Schlosser puts it, “some simple act of indelicacy that’s considered tantamount to physical assault … center[ed] solely on how my teaching affected the student’s emotional state.” Even if the instruction delivered is “absolutely appropriate and respectful,” any wounded emotions will “get a teacher in serious trouble” on today’s college campuses.
The only way to avoid the inevitable wounded-snowflake syndrome, Schlosser concludes, is to anodize the curricula so that no possible challenge to student worldviews sneaks into “higher education.” After watching a colleague lose his position over complaints that he had exposed them to Edward Said and Mark Twain, Schlosser began the clean-up project that continues to this day. Instead of challenging his students to learn, Schlosser felt compelled “to comb through my syllabi and cut out anything I could see upsetting a coddled undergrad, texts ranging from Upton Sinclair to Maureen Tkacik.” Schlosser said he wasn’t alone in that effort.
The issue is “a simplistic, unworkable, and ultimately stifling conception of social justice,” he concludes. Combined with intense competition for teaching jobs in higher education, academics now feel intimidated into limiting themselves essentially to telling students what they want to hear, and not just in class but anywhere on campus or even in publications unaffiliated with their institutions at all. Ironically, academics find themselves deprived of any free-speech zones at all.
The purpose is to impose each individual’s concept of social justice without actually doing any work traditionally associated with the concept. It’s easier to demand the cancellation of “an Afrobeat band because their lineup had too many white people in it” than it is to work to harmonize different cultures in the same space. It’s about enforcing identity over ideas, or entirely replacing ideas with blizzards of ever-changing boundary lines of victim constituencies.
Schlosser’s conclusion conveniently fails to follow through with the obvious next question. If students have “a stifling conception of social justice” that leans heavily on silencing dissent and policing speech and thought rather than engage on ideas, where did they learn it? The answer, for anyone who has attended either college, or paid attention to the proliferation of speech codes, development of “safe rooms and speech zones,” and the use of “triggers” to accuse people of harassment for what used to be rational debate, is pretty clear.
This is a stalking horse for censorship, not coincidentally of the same kind that college campuses have either encouraged or imposed for more than a generation on their students. The next generation will now experience “higher education” as an echo chamber, one in which teachers ensure that no cognitive dissonance enter the lives of those going into deep debt to experience what can only be considered an intellectual day-care, run by the toddlers. Those students have now become the masters. The academics created this monster, and now it has come for them. And us.
Good grief, here we go again. I wrote previously about a professor (of course!) promoting “pea personhood” in the New York Times and a book.
Switzerland includes the “intrinsic dignity” of individual plants in its constitution.
“Nature rights” is the law in two countries, more than thirty U.S. municipalities, and supported by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.
Now, advocacy for “plant intelligence.” From, “Why Don’t We Consider Plants Smart?” in the New Scientist:
Clearly, we will never play chess with a rose, nor ask the orchid on our windowsill for advice. But that is the point: humans are guilty of serious parochialism, of defining intelligence in terms of a nervous system and muscle-based speed that enables things to be done fast, say all three authors.
Sure plants react to their environment. We’ve all seen a flower open in response to the sun. But is that “intelligence?” No. Intelligence is defined thusly (my emphasis):
[The] capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.
Let the anthropomorphizing begin!
Now microelectronics and the analysis of volatile compounds at picogram concentrations are revealing the complexities of plant behaviour as never before. So much so that Mancuso can write: “Plant lives unfold in another dimension of time” and that they are “considerably less passive than they appear, and are in fact wily protagonists in the drama of their own lives”.
The “drama of their own lives?” “Behavior?
They are not “behaving.” They are reacting without sentience.
We are moving from imagining animal internal lives to creating one for plants?
Plants, say the authors, are highly responsive, attuned to gravity, grains of sand, sunlight, starlight, the footfalls of tiny insects and to slow rhythms outside our range. They are subtle, aware, strategic beings whose lives involve an environmental sensitivity very distant from the simple flower and seed factories of popular imagination.
Being “strategic” requires intentionality. Plants are incapable of that.
Why is that happening? Adjuncts are more compliant about teaching off scripts and bending to a college administration’s agenda. Their instruction is also cheaper, but maybe that’s not the main concern. It’s better still when adjuncts teach online, because they can be even more scripted. Educational can be most efficiently keyed to “best practices” when the instructor’s personal contribution or “mental labor” is reduced to as close to nothing as possible.
As Marx (and libertarian economists who rail against the minimum wage) explains, those who do little to no mental labor should be paid subsistence. Adjuncts, of course, are typically not even paid that; they’re paid piecemeal for their work and have no benefits—no health care, no security, and no respect. (It’s not true that adjuncts’ fear is about to turn into hatred, and revolution is around the corner. Despite it all, they like their work, and they could always just get other jobs. Marx’s didn’t quite predict the reserve army of adjuncts on which our colleges increasingly depend, and we need better studies to explain the psychology of the false consciousness of the adjunct.)
What’s going on, for example, in the Amazon warehouse or in large chains such as Panera Bread, is going on in our campuses. The idea of “competency” being enforced the accrediting agencies—which are basically run by administrators and follow a “class-based” administrative agenda—serves the goal of scripting instruction and then displacing actual instructors, as much as possible, by education delivered on-screen.
Feminist students silencing feminist professors in the name of equality.
Feminist professor Laura Kipnis of Northwestern University published an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education in February, decrying “sexual paranoia” on campus and the way virtually any classroom mention of sex was being subjected to an odd sort of neo-Victorian prudery: “Students were being encouraged to regard themselves as such exquisitely sensitive creatures that an errant classroom remark could impede their education, as such hothouse flowers that an unfunny joke was likely to create lasting trauma. … In the post-Title IX landscape, sexual panic rules. Slippery slopes abound.”
This article sat poorly with campus activists, who in response reported her for sexual harassment, on the theory that this article (and a follow-up tweet — yes, that’s right, a tweet) somehow might have created a hostile environment for female students, which would violate Title IX as interpreted by the Education Department. Because, you see, female students, according to feminists, are too fragile to face disagreement. And they’ll demonstrate this fragility by subjecting you to Stalinist persecution if you challenge them, apparently.
At least, that’s what happened to Kipnis, who describes what she calls her Title IX inquisition in a lengthy essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education on Friday.The university’s investigators wouldn’t tell her who made the charges or even, for some time, what the charges were, which is typical of these Kafkaesque proceedings. While Kipnis was allowed to bring a faculty “support person” to her hearing, “support person” was not allowed to speak. After the hearing, a Title IX complaint was filed against the speechless “support person.”
My advice to potential faculty hires — or student applicants — at Northwestern: Go somewhere else. As law professor Jonathan Adler notes in The Washington Post, Northwestern threw academic freedom “under the bus.”
Title IX, as its simple language provides, was intended to open up colleges to women, not to empower a Stalinist bureaucracy to torment people who don’t toe the feminist line. Congress needs to haul some Department of Education bureaucrats up for hearings, then rewrite Title IX to make clear that it doesn’t grant the kind of sweeping powers over academic expression that educrats have seized. Despite what they might think at the Department of Education, 1984 was written as a cautionary tale — not an instruction manual.
The Case of the Amazing Gay-Marriage Data: How a Graduate Student Reluctantly Uncovered a Huge Scientific Fraud
But even before Broockman, Kalla, and Aronow published their report, LaCour’s results were so impressive that, on their face, they didn’t make sense. Jon Krosnick, a Stanford social psychologist who focuses on attitude change and also works on issues of scientific transparency, says that he hadn’t heard about the study until he was contacted by a “This American Life” producer who described the results to him over the phone. “Gee,” he replied, “that’s very surprising and doesn’t fit with a huge literature of evidence. It doesn’t sound plausible to me.” A few clicks later, Krosnick had pulled up the paper on his computer. “Ah,” he told the producer, “I see Don Green is an author. I trust him completely, so I’m no longer doubtful.” (Some people I spoke to about this case argued that Green, whose name is, after all, on the paper, had failed in his supervisory role. I emailed him to ask whether he thought this was a fair assessment. “Entirely fair,” he responded. “I am deeply embarrassed that I did not suspect and discover the fabrication of the survey data and grateful to the team of researchers who brought it to my attention.” He declined to comment further for this story.)
So LaCour was always able to dissuade people from looking too closely, from asking follow-up questions. This was a graduate student who successfully ran the gauntlet of the Princeton interview process with a publicly posted CV that contained wild falsehoods about his grant receipts — he listed $793,000 worth of them, which is an all but impossible amount for a political-science graduate student — and included a teaching award that doesn’t exist. Many of his fabrications, including the data for the Science study, lay in plain sight for years, and yet no one picked up on them until last week. What’s most odd is the way some of the falsehoods sat buried in piles of truths. LaCour’s made-up “Emerging Instructor Award,” for example, was listed alongside a number of other awards he really did win. LaCour seems to have a tendency toward dishonesty even in situations where there is no rational reason for it. “My puzzlement now is, if he fabricated the data, surely he must have known that when people tried to replicate his study, they would fail to do so and the truth would come out,” Green told me shortly after the scandal broke. “And so why not reason backward and say, Let’s do the study properly?”
Why did it take so long for someone to discover the fraud? It’s a question many have asked in the last week and a half as observers both inside and outside of academia ponder what this scandal means for science. A big part of the answer, it turns out, lies in David Broockman’s story.
In more than three hours of interviews with Science of Us, Broockman laid out, for the first time, the complete timeline of how he exposed LaCour. His story details his concerns with LaCour’s research dating all the way back to late 2013 — far earlier than previously reported — and includes several moments in which, were it not for an unlucky break here or there, the fraud could have been uncovered sooner, potentially forestalling a great deal of the disruption it inflicted on various careers and on social science as a whole.
America must break its “addiction” to bachelor’s degrees and become better acquainted with the financial benefits of one- and two-year degrees and certificates, an education researcher argued at a recent panel discussion about what level of higher education it takes to break into the middle class.
“When you ask people what they think about postsecondary education, they say ‘bachelor’s,’” said Mark Schneider, Vice President and Institute Fellow of the Education Program at the American Institutes for Research, or AIR.
“I think of this as a bachelor’s addiction which has to be broken and has to be changed,” Schneider said. “The contemporary bachelor’s degree takes too long, it’s too expensive and it’s not for everyone.”
Schneider presented wage-earnings data that show various one- and two-year degrees and several certificates enable holders to command salaries that surpass those of some bachelor’s degree holders.
Technical careers are particularly rewarding, Schneider said as he presented figures that show plumbers and technicians in a variety of fields that only require a certificate all earn upward of $71,000 — several thousand dollars more per year than many bachelor’s degree holders — a decade after they complete their educational program.
“Where you learn how to fix things, you win,” Schneider said.
The growth in associate’s degrees and other sub-baccalaureate credentials awarded has also outpaced that of bachelor’s degrees, 39 percent versus 18 percent from 2008 to 2013, respectively, figures provided by Schneider show.
When students are compelled to have “White Privilege 101” classes, we have every right to ask: Why, and for whose benefit?
If you’ve been white lately, you have likely been confronted with the idea that to be a good person, you must cultivate a guilt complex over the privileged status your race enjoys.
It isn’t that you are doing, or even quite thinking, anything racist. Rather, your existential state of Living While White constitutes a form of racism in itself. Your understanding will serve as a tool … for something. But be careful about asking just what that something is, because that will mean you “just don’t get it.”
I assume, for example, that the idea is not to teach white people that White Privilege means that black people are the only group of people in human history who cannot deal with obstacles and challenges. If the idea is that black people cannot solve their problems short of white people developing an exquisite sensitivity to how privileged they are, then we in the black community are being designated as disabled poster children.
So let’s start this stage of our “dialogue on race” with a simple question: When our mandated diversity director says, “This is messy work, but these conversations are necessary,” we have every right, as moral persons, to ask: Why, and for whose benefit?
In 2012, my colleagues and I at the ACLJ filed suit against multiple officials at UCLA on behalf of Dr. James Enstrom, a researcher fired after he blew the whistle on the junk science used to justify draconian new emissions regulations in California.
The facts of the case were astounding. As the environmentalist Left pushed new, job-killing regulations in the interests of “public health,” Dr. Enstrom took his own look at the data and determined that the health threat from diesel emissions was being wildly overstated. As he looked further, he discovered that the lead researcher pushing the new regulations actually possessed a fraudulent degree, purchased from “Thornhill University,” a shady, long-distance diploma mill. Moreover, members of the state’s “scientific review panel” tasked with evaluating the science had in some cases overstayed term limits by decades. At least one was a known ideological radical. (He was a member of the infamous “Chicago Seven.”)
Dr. Enstrom did what a scientist should do. He exposed public corruption, called out fake scientific credentials, and worked to save California from onerous and unnecessary regulations.
So UCLA fired him. After more than 30 years on the job.
Not only did the Regents agree to pay Dr. Enstrom $140,000, but they also have effectively rescinded the termination, agreeing to Dr. Enstrom’s use of the title “Retired Researcher” (as opposed to acknowledgment as a non-titled terminated employee) and his continued access to UCLA resources he previously enjoyed during his appointment.
Dr. Enstrom’s victory comes at a critical time, reminding the public that the scientific establishment is hardly infallible. Indeed, it’s subject to all the same failings as any human institution, including greed, corruption, and bias. It’s worth remembering as the House once again takes up the Secret Science Reform Act, a bill that would render the EPA more transparent by requiring it to make available for public review the “scientific and technical information used in is assessments.”