Georgia

Imagine this situation: You are a student at a major university, perhaps struggling, perhaps not. It’s the end of the academic semester, and you’re tired, frustrated, and not at all happy with the instructor. It’s Instructor Evaluation time, and on a particularly bad day, you’ve decided to take it out on him, using derogatory comments to describe him and his methods on the form. Who cares? It’s a confidential form, and nobody ever looks at them anyway, right? From a Georgia student:

The university hired a handwriting expert to confirm the identity of the culprit so punishment could be administered. The university claims the student broke the code of conduct, but if anonymity was promised, is this investigation ethical?

Georgia? Does it make a difference that this is a State run institution? This student wrote to NYT ethics columnist Randy Cohen.

Cohen rightly notes that the university is wrong to investigate students in this manner: “Even if a student violated its code of conduct by making a homophobic slur,”he notes, “for the university to abandon its pledge of anonymity is a cure worse than the disease.” He reflects that universities lose a great deal when they violate students’ trust, including access to the information provided in course evaluation forms.

Erin O’Connor, from whom I’ve quoted above, is beyond outraged.

The bottom line: Georgia was way, way, way out of line on multiple fronts. And the point: There’s no longer any point in being surprised, or outraged, or appalled, or shocked, or, conversely, skeptical or quizzical or dismissive. We know what campuses are doing to individual rights, and we learn more every day about the tactics they use. It’s a waste of energy and time to have conniption fits about it, or to try to argue that each case is an anomaly that proves nothing. That energy and time are far better spent exposing the problem and fighting it, both in the marketplace of ideas and in the courts.

She’s right. Universities at all levels in the academic hierarchy are so subversive of education, and indeed culture, that I would advise no one that they must attend college – not my own granddaughter. Find alternatives. On a resume that passes my desk, a degree from a university counts for almost nothing, except for that fact that there is nothing else that shows any achievement at the start of a career. Any substitute would do, if there was one. As a taxpayer, I want to know who the accreditors are, these mysterious academic accreditation agencies, who have failed to hold colleges to any sort of academic standards while insisting that they hold to strict, unjustifiable quotas. They should be dissolved, or at the very least, exposed.

Oh, this is just the usual academic nonsense, you say? Nothing to get that riled over. Then explain to me the doings at William and Mary over the past two years, please.

The president of William and Mary will allow a controversial “Sex Workers’ Art Show” to be held on campus next month.Gene Nichol said in a statement that he tried to work with students to hold the event at a venue off the Williamsburg campus. But students weren’t able to find an off-campus venue and Nichol said the First Amendment and “defining traditions of openness that sustain universities” required that he allow the show to be held on campus.

The show features monologues and performances by porn actors, strippers and other sex workers.

More on Georgia at Volokh.

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