[Updated, Friday, 1.07pm: In the race-to-the-bottom among critics of the paper, none other than Tim Tyson--yes, that Tim Tyson--has weighed in on the matter. In virtually any other environment, Tyson would have no credibility to comment on public matters. This was, after all, a figure who so badly misjudged the lacrosse case that he participated, as a "teacher," in a candlelight vigil on behalf of false accuser Crystal Mangum (who he described as somebody's "sweetheart") a couple of hours before Mangum took the stage, in a highly . . . limber . . . fashion, in a local strip club.
But in the race/class/gender-dominated academy, a race-baiter like Tyson speaks pearls of wisdom. And so in yesterday's Chronicle, Tyson goes after Peter Arcidiacono, fuming, "Who appointed [Arcidiacono] to weigh the merits of black folks being allowed into the room?" I was unaware that tenured faculty members like Arcidiacono had to be "appointed" before they could engage in scholarly inquiry.
As with virtually all of Arcidiacono's critics, Tyson does not challenge the data that the paper of Arcidiacono, et al., uncovered. Instead, he resorts to the race-baiting attack lines: after disingenuously suggesting that he's not challenging the academic freedom of people who don't share his world-view, he does just that: "Duke’s treasure, the late Dr. John Hope Franklin, whose legacy Arcidiacono treads upon, provided research for Thurgood Marshall in the Brown v. Board of Education case. But there is no constitutional right to R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha might put it. BSA members who question 'the research’s intent, methodology, analysis and conclusion, in addition to its validity,' display a generosity and deliberation far exceeding those of this study."
Once again: Tyson does not challenge in any way the data that Arcidiacono, et al., presented, that black students at Duke disproportionately migrate away from more difficult (science and engineering) to easier (liberal arts) majors.
[Updated, Wed., 8.14pm: In what could be deemed the least surprising development of this entire affair, prominent members of the Group of 88 have sharpened their race-baiting credentials to attack the paper.
Karla Holloway, notorious for her decision to pass along fifth-hand, slanderous gossip against Duke students, at least when doing so furthered her on-campus agenda, tweeted that "Duke authors' unpublished study of race + Affirmative Action lacks academic rigor." Nowhere in her twitter feed has Holloway provided any specific criticism of the study's data; indeed, in another tweet, she even elected to use scare quotes when describing the paper as a study.
The existence of the paper, the Group of 88'er wildly implied, indicated that "Duke still struggles w/issues of diversity," as she appeared to demand that Duke administrators publicly speak out about a research study from Duke professors. (This position was particularly rich coming from Holloway, who during the lacrosse case had issued the bizarre demand that Duke administrators had to publicly support her, as a Duke professor, from criticism.) In what could qualify as a textbook case of the politics of grievance in action, Holloway leveled the inflammatory allegation that the paper--a paper, again, whose data she does not appear to have publicly challenged--"re-opens old racial wounds."
The message here was clear: professors willing to provide data--even if that data is accurate--that challenges Holloway's worldview will face ill-concealed accusations of racism.
Holloway also tweeted a link to the blog run by Mark Anthony ("Thugniggaintellectual") Neal, who ran a post by David Leonard criticizing the paper. Imitating Holloway's race-baiting tactics, Leonard asserted that the paper (whose data he, too, did not challenge) "has dangerous implications."
Meanwhile the Black Student Association has upped its pressure, delivering what the Chronicle terms a "list of demands" to the administration. The list includes--of course--hiring more black professors. The almost laughable inference here is that Duke's arts and sciences faculty--a faculty where many departments are dominated by Group of 88 members, and others have strong Group influence--somehow are insufficiently attentive to hiring African-American faculty. Anyone who believes such a claim would have to reside in some sort of fantasy-land.]
Watching the returns from Saturday night’s South Carolina primary, I was struck by a focus group of Florida GOP voters, who had response dials as they listened to Newt Gingrich’s victory speech. Their dials skyrocketed into positive territory when Gingrich spoke of his willingness to stand up to ill-defined anti-Christian bigotry—this in a majority-Christian country where more than six in ten voters say they’d be less likely to support a presidential candidate who was an atheist.
But Gingrich did not need data or factual evidence to bolster his claims. Rather, as the (basically sympathetic) Sheldon Alberts correctly analyzed, the speech was part of a “broader ‘politics of grievance’ strategy that Gingrich is executing — at the moment — better than his rivals.”
As expert as Gingrich might be at practicing the politics of grievance—and he’s a master—the former Speaker can’t hold a candle to campus “diversity” advocates, who all but originated the tactic. An excellent example came last week at Duke.
The affair started with an unpublished paper penned by Peter Arcidiacono, Kenneth Spenner, and Esteban Aucejo. (Arcidiacono and Spenner are professors at Duke.) The paper used Duke’s own data to show that groups of students who receive preferential treatment in the admissions process (African-Americans and “legacy” admittees) disproportionately migrate from more difficult (science and engineering) to easier (liberal arts) majors.
The paper was cited in an amicus brief in the Fisher case. In briefs filed with the Supreme Court, a key, and persuasive, argument of opponents of on-campus preferences—including, as I wrote about at MTC, my UPI co-author Stuart Taylor—is that not only do these preferences violate the 14th amendment’s promise of all people receiving equal treatment under the law regardless of their race, but preferences don’t even benefit the people (minorities, in this instance) they allegedly were designed to serve. In this instance, the paper’s authors concluded that “attempts to increase representation [of minorities] at elite universities through the use of affirmative action may come at a cost of perpetuating underrepresentation of blacks in the natural sciences and engineering.”
As far as I can tell, no one has presented evidence that challenges the accuracy of the data that the trio presented. To reiterate: as far as I can tell, no one has presented evidence that challenges the accuracy of the data that the trio presented.
The paper first generated outrage from Duke’s Black Student Alliance. The H-S revealed that the organization e-mailed the state NAACP to complain that “the implications and intentions of this research at the hands of our very own prestigious faculty, seemingly without a genuine concern for proactively furthering the well-being of the black community is hurtful and alienating.” Newt couldn’t have handled the faux grievance angle better!
The e-mail further noted that the BSA had demanded “a dialogue” with the paper’s authors “that addresses our concerns about research’s intent, methodology, analysis and conclusion, in addition to its validity.” Yet as far as I could tell, the BSA did not challenge the accuracy of the data that the paper presented. I e-mailed BSA president Nana Asante to ask her if, in fact, she had any complaints about the accuracy of the paper’s data. She did not reply.
Even more boldly, the BSA suggested that some type of “acknowledgement or intervention took place, in the best interests of black students” by the Duke administration. I also asked Asante what type of administration “intervention” she and her colleagues envisioned. She did not reply.
To reiterate: as far as I can tell, the BSA did not challenge the accuracy of the data that the paper presented.
According to the H-S, the grievance crusade then moved on from the BSA to a group of black Duke alums. Seventeen alums wrote to the H-S to say that “we are deeply troubled and offended by the recent study emanating from faculty members at our alma mater.” The letter accused Arcidiacono, Spenner, and Aucejo of “slander” and having produced “both flawed and incorrect” research.
Yet, at least according to what was revealed in the H-S article, the letter didn’t actually identify any specific areas in which the paper was “both flawed and incorrect,” much less slanderous. It’s not even clear to me who the paper could have slandered.
To reiterate: as far as I can tell, despite their overheated rhetoric, the alums did not challenge the accuracy of the data that the paper presented.
The grievance demands triggered a joint letter from Duke provost Peter Lange and other Duke administrators (including Group of 88’er Lee Baker, now a Duke dean). The letter gave a generic defense of academic freedom. But it also included this extraordinary sentence: “We understand how the conclusions of the research paper can be interpreted in ways that reinforce negative stereotypes.”
The administrators did not identify which “negative stereotypes” they had detected, nor did they explain how “the conclusions of the research paper” could be “interpreted in ways that reinforce” these unidentified “negative stereotypes.” The administrators’ letter did not challenge, in any way, the accuracy of the data that the paper presented.
Apart from instances of academic fraud or outright racist/sexist/anti-semitic “research” claims by professors (the “work” of Northwestern’s Arthur Butz comes to mind), I can’t recall a single instance of a university’s administrators—much less a leading research university’s administrators—accusing professors at their school of producing scholarship that could “be interpreted in ways that reinforce negative stereotypes."
This administrative outrage, of course, is highly selective. Imagine the following counter-example. A couple of Duke professors pen a research paper noting (correctly) that opposition to marriage equality skews toward under-educated segments of the population. Duke’s Christian student organization, whose members oppose marriage equality but who see an association with poorly educated people as personally offensive to their religious beliefs, pen a letter wailing that “the implications and intentions of this research at the hands of our very own prestigious faculty, seemingly without a genuine concern for proactively furthering the well-being of the Christian community is hurtful and alienating.” The Christian students demand “a dialogue” with the paper’s authors “that addresses our concerns about research’s intent, methodology, analysis and conclusion, in addition to its validity.”
Does anyone believe that Duke administrators would respond to the Christian students with an open letter seeming to validate their complaints about the (accurate) scholarship, or that “we understand how the conclusions of the research paper can be interpreted in ways that reinforce negative stereotypes”? And if such a public letter were penned, does anyone believe that Duke administrators would not be facing a revolt from the Group of 88 and their allies?
To reiterate: as far as I can tell, no no one has presented evidence that challenges the accuracy of the data that Aucejo, Arcidiacono, and Spenner presented. But in the contemporary academy, which worships before the altar of “diversity,” accurate scholarship can be insufficient—and can even, as in this case, generate an implicit rebuke from a university leadership.