Friday, 16 December 2005

The only thing you need to know about the PATRIOT Act

Orin Kerr:

[F]our years after the Patriot Act was passed, a meeting of everyone who thinks of the Patriot Act as actual legislation could be held in my kitchen.

Murray Edelman couldn’t have said it better himself.

Of Coasties and Prestige

Stephen Karlson has two posts on the academic food chain that are worth juxtaposing.

I strongly suspect that “upward mobility” as pursued by the [Southwest] Missouri States and Memphis States, er “Universities of,” of the world (not to mention the place whose offer I politiely declined) is only going to end in tears. To bring up your median ACT scores (and thus mobilize upward), you need to sell high-scoring students on coming or discourage low-scoring students from entering; the former is difficult, in these days of declining state subsidies to the mid-majors and below (reducing their cost advantage over the top-tier publics and the private alternatives), and the latter is politically infeasible in this era of “access.” So, the best they can hope for is a secular trend of improving ACT scores more generally—which hardly is going to improve their relative positioning much.

Changing the name on the letterhead is unlikely to have much effect, either; the day Mississippi Southern College became the University of Southern Mississippi was no watershed event in its academic prestige. There might be something to be said for ditching names like “the University of Western Outer Mongolia at Altay” (substituting appropriately for Altay the name of any other “alternative” campus of some “real” university) for “Altay University,” but this is not as common a case as one might expect.

Nor is it all that clear that the “upwardly mobile” have much clue what they’re striving towards. [Southwest] Missouri State’s “mission statement” expressing fealty to the concept of being “a multipurpose, metropolitan university providing diverse instructional, research, and service programs” is nice, but I’m damned if I know what a “multipurpose, metropolitan university” is supposed to be. The cynic might read “multipurpose” as “rudderless” and “metropolitan” as “unsure if it’surban, suburban, or rural.” Then again, “operating a diploma mill for kids who couldn’t get into Mizzou, and stoking the egos of those who could have gone to Columbia by giving them a free ride and straight A’s” probably doesn’t look as quite as good when going up for reaccreditation…

I am grade inflation incarnate

The average final grade in my research methods class this semester was 92.66% (an A-).


U of C theory professor Jacob Levy talks about his tenure denial, breaking a two-month blogospheric silence; from his perspective, the fact that both he and Dan Drezner were denied tenure at the departmental level has nothing to do with blogging or ideology, but instead because “both political economy and liberal political theory are outside the emerging, Perestroikan, sense of what [Chicago’s] department’s about.”

My (strictly personal) sense is that any department that aspires to either be or continue to be considered at the top of the discipline needs to attract and retain the best faculty possible across the breadth of the discipline. My sense is also that the Perestroikans and their fellow travellers have at best a minimal conception of the actual breadth of the discipline. The intersection of these two senses is most disturbing, at least for those of us who’d like to think that Chicago ought to be an important center of political science research.

The return of the Mungowitz?