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IJCR Quad

The Institute for Jewish & Community Research · August 2007

In this Issue

Firing Ward Churchill

The University's Excessive Overhead

The Misuse of Academic Freedom

Politics & Religious Beliefs of College Faculty

 

The Institute for Jewish & Community Research is an independent non-profit dedicated to the growth and security of the Jewish community.


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Welcome to the Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR) Quad, a monthly publication of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research. The Quad includes updates on IJCR research; alerts about items in the news; original commentary by IJCR scholars; and news about the organizations with which we work closely. We hope that you find the Quad informative and useful, and welcome your feedback and ideas.

Firing Ward Churchill

Gary TobinIJCR Commentary
By Gary Tobin, August 2007, The Institute for Jewish & Community Research

Recently, the Regents of the University of Colorado decided to accept the recommendation of a number of peer review academic committees to fire Ward Churchill. Their action not only spares the University of Colorado from continual support of his poor scholarship but also establishes a significant benchmark about roles and responsibilities that university administrations across the country should emulate.

The case of Ward Churchill is about as politicized as a campus controversy becomes. Following Mr. Churchill’s remarks comparing victims of the September 11th attacks to “Little Eichmanns,” community outrage forced the question to be asked: “How is it possible that someone who makes such a statement could be qualified to instruct students?” The answer is that he was never in fact qualified to hold the position he held and, in his capacity as a professor, had committed a number of grave scholarly errors that demanded dismissal. Nevertheless, those defending Mr. Churchill made their best attempt to excuse and deflect legitimate criticism of him with accusations of a political witch-hunt. Churchill tried to hide behind false claims of academic freedom and warned that his dismissal would represent a victory for those who want to close down free thought. 

The arguments about academic freedom are, unfortunately, used by faculty and administration alike to thwart proper examination and inquiry. The real issue was not Mr. Churchill’s politics, but his poor scholarship, misrepresentations in his hiring process, and the failure of his peers to evaluate him rigorously when deciding to award him tenure. Too often, university administrations choose to remain passive in the face of serious violations of their mission and codes of conduct. How often do we hear administrators offer variations of “We will not infringe on the rights of our students or faculty to academic freedom, freedom of speech or freedom of expression” in response to very serious grievances over actions by students or faculty on campus. Higher education would often rather defend the right of faculty and others to say and do stupid things, than face the fact that they have interviewed, retained, and promoted someone who says and does stupid things.

Yet, despite the attempted manipulation of the American public and the University of Colorado regents by Churchill’s defenders and the willingness of many administrators to bow to pressure, Churchill was, indeed, fired. And he certainly deserved to be fired. Not because of his politics, but because he should never have been hired in the first place. And it is the correction of this past wrong, in the face of intense criticism and pressure largely from within faculty ranks, that is noteworthy. It sets a precedent, or rather re-sets the founding principle that the administration as well as the faculty and trustees all have an appropriate role in regulating the campus community and monitoring faculty quality and productivity. And the University of Colorado administration is not alone in beginning to re-exert administrative oversight despite continued efforts to demonize them for doing so.

The University of California, Riverside recently avoided the embarrassment of the International Solidarity Movement’s annual Divestment Conference on their campus by simply forcing the organizers to adhere to three basic university rules. 1: Allow entrance to anyone who chooses to attend. 2: Allow the conference to be videotaped or recorded. 3: Use university police security rather than the usual Muslim student security. All three rules are normal university protocol designed to ensure a safe and open atmosphere. However, instead of complying, the conference organizers themselves moved the event off-campus to a hotel.

Administrators and trustees do not need to abdicate good judgment in response to threats from activist organizations, community members, students, or faculty who attempt to tell them that they have no right to do their job. And in the case of UC-Riverside, if an administration is ahead of the ball, reviewing the events on their campus before they become embroiled in a politicized debate, they are able to avoid facilitating the violation of the true core of academic freedom: open and intelligent explanation of ideas.

There are too many areas in higher education that administrators as well as trustees have abdicated; succumbing to the notion that faculty “are” the campus. Proper review of new hires and tenure candidates is clearly one area. Vetting of campus events is another. These two oversights are nowhere more evident than in the field of Middle East Studies. It is filled with Ward Churchills – doing sub-par research, filling their classrooms with propaganda, and operating below the radar of most of their academic colleagues. Many in the field are simply poor scholars and deserve neither public tax dollars to support them nor the hard earned grants of private donors.

Firing Ward Churchill showed that the university can do something when it wants to. But despite its symbolism, it is still today more of an isolated incident than a trend. In the case of Middle East Studies, administrators and others will not only need to be more pro-active and assertive than they are now, but they will need to be prepared to face a propaganda effort that dwarfs the campaign to save Churchill.

In the end, however, we do not want administrators taking on the daily task of managing faculty, only acting when faculty themselves fail. Ward Churchill’s colleagues needed to, and eventually did, acknowledge that he was a bad apple. But it came only after a vociferous outcry off-campus forced the issue.

Faculty must be able to self-police their own ranks against biased and shoddy teaching and scholarship. Otherwise, they may very well face the scenario over which they cry wolf: the erosion of the protections that afford them their high level of independence. And it will not be because of some government McCarthyite force but, rather, due to the failure of faculty themselves.

The University's Excessive Overhead

Aryeh WeinbergIJCR Commentary
By Aryeh Weinberg, August 2007, The Institute for Jewish & Community Research

Even as the fight for reform in higher education heats up and calls continue for oversight over federal money for higher education, the academy remains opposed to the most basic expectations of the non-profit world.            

Recently, the Defense Department put forward a proposal  requiring that grants made to higher education not exceed 20% in overhead costs. The presidents of the Association of American Universities, National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges and Council on Governmental Relations issued a joint statement criticizing the requirement and threatening not to adhere to it. Until now, universities have basically been given free reign to exceed their grant, piling on fixed costs that they then simply forward to the federal government. Overhead of 33%, 50%, and 70% are common.

In the rest of the non-profit world, even the 20% overhead allowed by the Defense Department is generally considered too high. Moreover, whatever guidelines a donor sets for a grant are not up for negotiation. One simply chooses whether to apply for a specific grant or not. Colleges and universities retain the multi-hundred dollar toilet seat mentality that government is itself trying to shed.

Only within the fiefdom of higher education do none of the common rules apply. In higher education, it seems, recipients set terms of grants and donors must meet the guidelines of an acceptable gift. This must change. Only when universities begin to understand that their funding is tied to product and that they are answerable to their funders, public and private, will true reform take place.


House Approves Defense-Spending Measure That Would Lower Overhead Reimbursements on Grants
By Jeffrey Brainard, August 6, 2007, The Chronicle of Higher Education

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill early Sunday to finance defense research in 2008. The measure included a provision, strongly opposed by universities that would reduce Pentagon reimbursements for overhead costs on basic-research grants.

The House held the unusual weekend vote as it wrapped up work before recessing until early September. The measure (H.R. 3222) passed 395 to 13. The Senate has yet to write its version of the bill.

University officials remained mystified last week about why the language had appeared in the bill when it was unveiled earlier in July. Observers wondered, however, whether the move reflected a long-standing gripe about research universities by Rep. John P. Murtha, a powerful Pennsylvania Democrat who leads the subcommittee that wrote the appropriations bill. During a previous confrontation on overhead costs, Mr. Murtha proposed a sharp reduction but then backed down.

The disputed provision would lower to 20 percent the overhead, or "indirect cost," rate on Pentagon research grants -- a sharp decline from current rates, which for many universities range from 40 percent to 60 percent. An overhead rate of 50 percent means that for every dollar that a university receives for the direct costs of a research project, it can charge the federal government only an additional 50 cents for overhead.

Those reimbursements cover support costs associated with research, including laboratory buildings, administrative help, and utility bills (The Chronicle, July 27).

But universities have long argued that existing overhead rates for all federal research grants were too low to recover the full amount of the costs and that such rates cost each institution millions of dollars annually (The

Chronicle, August 5, 2005). Since 1991 the federal government has capped the indirect-cost rate for administrative expenses at 26 percent while increasing regulations of university research -- for protecting human subjects, for example. (The 26-percent cap is included within the overall indirect-cost rate.)

The Chronicle sought comment last week from a spokesman for Representative Murtha and a spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee about the proposed 20-percent cap on Pentagon grants, but received no response.

Piqued at Universities

A 13-year-old dustup might offer some explanation. In 1994, Representative Murtha held the same chairmanship of the House Defense-appropriations subcommittee that he holds today. (He lost that job when Republicans won control of the House in 1994, but he regained the position when Democrats won the majority last fall.)

Thirteen years ago, the congressman proposed cutting by at least $800-million Pentagon spending for university research, more than half of such spending overall (The Chronicle, June 29, 1994). Mr. Murtha was reportedly angry at universities because he thought they had not expressed their appreciation for his past support of academic research. Mr. Murtha also reportedly thought that universities had not voiced adequate public support for Congressional earmarks. Those set-asides for specific constituents, including colleges, were under fire then as wasteful spending, and the criticism continues. Mr. Murtha has strongly defended the practice. He was also said to have told a colleague he needed to respond to reports of research misconduct by university scientists.

The final version of the defense-appropriations bill for 1995 -- which represented a compromise between the House and the Senate, and which Representative Murtha helped write -- did not include the $800- million cut that he originally proposed.

The episode suggests that Mr. Murtha was willing to take a strong position at the subcommittee level in order to make a point and to get people's attention, said Daniel R. Pearson, a staff aide for the House Committee on Science and Technology. Mr. Murtha is probably doing the same thing again, Mr. Pearson said. (In 1994, Mr. Pearson was an aide to the committee's chair at the time, Rep. George E. Brown Jr., a California Democrat who strongly criticized earmarks for research.)

Representative Murtha's subcommittee proposed no such large cut in the 2008 version of the Pentagon spending bill: Basic-research dollars, most of which flow to universities, would total $1.55-billion, a reduction of less than 1 percent compared to this year.

In a report about the bill, the House Appropriations Committee offered only a few sentences explaining the 20-percent cap. The panel said it had learned, through testimony and information from the Defense Department and "third-party groups," that the percentage of research-grant money allocated to overhead costs had "grown to unwarranted levels."

Who Shoulders the Costs

That assertion surprised higher-education officials because the overhead rates have actually declined slightly in recent years. (Although the rate has declined, universities have collected higher indirect-cost reimbursements because the total research base has grown.)

The Council on Governmental Relations, a Washington-based advocacy group for research universities, surveyed its members in 2001 and found their average overhead rate was 51.5 percent. A 2006 survey discovered that the average had declined slightly, to 51.2 percent. (Every three years, each university that receives federal grants negotiates with the government a single, indirect-cost rate, which is based on the institution's actual, recent overhead costs. Most federal agencies then apply the rate to all of the research grants they issue to that institution.)

"There's certainly no indication that costs are growing out of control, or that there are any abuses," said Anthony P. DeCrappeo, the group's president.

What is more, Mr. DeCrappeo and other higher-education officials said they had been unable to identify any Congressional hearings that had explored overhead reimbursements on Pentagon grants.

And Robert J. Trew, who was the Pentagon's director of research from 1997 to 2001, said overhead reimbursement "really wasn't a serious issue" while he held that job. The topic hasn't come up in his conversations with department managers since he entered academe, said Mr. Trew, who now heads the department of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University. "It's an accepted part of the cost of doing business," he said. Some federal agencies have already capped overhead rates for some types of research grants at levels far below the regular rates negotiated by universities. Research grants from the Department of Agriculture provide an overhead rate of only 19 percent. And grants provided by the National Institutes of Health to train biomedical researchers offer a rate of only 8 percent.

Officials at research universities have said those types of limits force them to cover overhead costs from the institutions' own funds, which in turn can take away money from student programs and lead to higher tuitions.

However, some research universities enjoy the largest endowments in academe, and critics of overhead reimbursements argue that those institutions could choose to devote a larger percentage of their endowment- interest income to cover such costs without much pain.

Among the 25 universities that received the most basic-research dollars from the Pentagon in 2005, 10 had endowments that ranked among the 25 largest endowments for universities in 2005-6, according to an analysis by The Chronicle. Four more institutions were campuses of the University of California system, whose endowment ranked eighth.

Together, those top 25 collected about half of all Pentagon dollars awarded for basic research that year. However, a total of 361 colleges and universities, some of them with small endowments to fall back on, received at least some grant money from the Defense Department.

 

The Misuse of Academic Freedom

Uncivil UniversityWill Taxing Colleges Save Them?
By Mitchell Langbert, July 26, 2007, Front Page Magazine

David Horowitz’s The Professors offers many examples of campus indoctrination. Evan Coyne Maloney’s forthcoming film “Indoctrinate U” offers still more.  Universities have had trouble distinguishing between education and propaganda. The trouble intensifies each year.  In the 1980s, City College’s Professor Leonard Jeffries was a lone example when he claimed that whites are “ice people.”  Today, anti-Semitism and propaganda increasingly dominate college campuses.

Although agenda-driven groups like the American Association of University Professors and the New York State United Teachers claim otherwise, universities no longer defend academic freedom as the freedom to debate ideas and theories based on scientific deduction and evidence.  Instead, today’s professoriate defines academic freedom as the academic collective’s freedom from external expectations.  But no institution ought to enjoy complete freedom from legal and social norms.  Universities have no freedom to harass Jewish students; to propagandize; or to support liberal political candidates.  These limitations on are not just ethical.  They are enshrined in tax code section 501 (c) (3) and related regulations that grant universities tax exemptions worth tens of billions of dollars and allow donors to deduct their donations.

The possibility that established universities might incur tax liabilities, to include partial penalties, when they propagandize or engage in anti-Semitism is virgin territory for the Internal Revenue Service.  Governmental agencies, including the IRS, have deferred to universities’ claims of collectivist academic freedom. But things have gotten out of hand.  It is time for the IRS to take a closer look at universities’ violations of the tax code’s legal requirements upon which their tax exemptions are based.

The educational exemption under section 501(c) (3) is predicated on the principle that “no substantial part” of what universities do can involve political activities, propaganda or attempting to influence legislation.  The IRS has been inclined to interpret these restrictions liberally with respect to universities.  However, the IRS has not allowed the educational tax exemption to white supremacist groups that voice anti-Semitic views. Since universities have increasingly become anti-Semitic fonts, they have veered across the line that distinguishes David Duke from Duke University.

Moreover, last year, the New York Sun quoted Brooklyn College’s now-retiring provost, Roberta Matthews, as having said that “teaching is a political act.”  Literal or over-zealous application of Provost Matthews’s opinion would disqualify a university from eligibility for tax exemption and tax deductibility.  Section 501(c)(3) prohibits institutions from engaging in substantial degrees of political activism.

The case law concerning section 501(c)(3) is in flux, but its direction is established.  In the 1959 case of Cammarano v. United States, the Supreme Court decided that monies spent for the exploitation of propaganda and lobbying are not deductible by not-for-profits like universities.  In the 1979 case of Taxation with Representation of Washington v. Regan, the Supreme Court held that section 501(c)(3)’s restriction on legislative activity does not violate the First Amendment.  Charities and educational institutions are free to lobby, but they have no right to a tax exemption when doing so.

With respect to propagandizing and anti-Semitism, the federal courts have held that organizations are not educational in nature when they propagate particular ideas or doctrines.  Regulations have defined educational activities as involving “full and fair exposition of the pertinent facts so as to permit an individual or the public to form an independent opinion or conclusion.”  In the 1980 case of Big Mama Rag Inc. v. United States, which concerned a feminist newspaper, a federal appeals court decided that the “full and fair exposition” rule was too vague.  In the 1983 case of National Alliance v. United States the IRS addressed the federal courts’ vagueness concern by introducing its current methodology test, under which the IRS bases the meaning of educational on the methods that an organization uses.

The National Alliance, a white supremacist group, had engaged in pseudo-educational activities aimed to arouse in white Americans of European ancestry "an understanding of and a pride in their racial and cultural heritage and an awareness of the present dangers to that heritage." The IRS argued that National Alliance’s methods were not educational because they failed to provide factual foundations.  According to the IRS, factors indicating that an organization is not educational include presentation of viewpoints unsupported by facts; distortion of facts; use of inflammatory and disparaging terms; and express conclusions on the basis of strong emotional feelings.  Yet such factors are present in today’s universities, especially in such fields such as Middle Eastern studies.  

The IRS has not brought any important cases against established educational institutions.  Yet, there is little question that violation of the section 501(c)(3) standards is common in universities.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud gave $20 million gifts to Georgetown and Harvard Universities.  Also, the United Arab Emirates donated $200,000 to Columbia University to establish a chaired professorship.  Gary Tobin, Aryeh K. Weinberg and Jenna Ferer’s 2005 book Uncivil University points out that Middle Eastern Studies departments around the country are little more than  propaganda organizations characterized by poor scholarship and dominated by a specific political outlook.  Such Middle Eastern Studies departments are no more deserving of tax exemption than are lobbying organizations like the Committee on America Islamic Relations or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that do not receive tax exemptions.  The IRS has permitted universities an illegal tax break.

Many educators admit openly that they contravene section 501(c)(3)’s  rules about tax exemption.  According to David Horowitz’s The Professors, Professor Peter Kirstein, a history professor at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, has a website that states that “Teaching is…NOT a dispassionate, neutral pursuit of ‘truth.’  It is advocacy and interpretation.”  Professor Kirstein’s website claims that the CIA is a terrorist organization and recommends that the agency should be abolished.  Yet, the IRS has not questioned the tax deductibility of the portion of the university’s exemption that goes to finance Professor Kirstein’s propagandizing.

The most egregious examples are those that involve anti-Semitism, as documented in Tobin, et al.’s Uncivil University.   A student at Berkeley was spit on and called a “f**king Jew” when she ran for student government.  Emeritus Professor Helen Cullen published a letter in the University of Massachusetts student newspaper claiming that “Judaism and Jewish identity are offensive to most human beings.”   The anti-Semitism on today’s college campuses is sometimes indistinguishable from the National Alliance’s.  But the IRS has failed to apply its National Alliance methodology test to established universities.

The likely obstacle to the IRS’s enforcement of section 501(c)(3) is fear of the unknown.  How might the IRS distinguish legitimate scholarship from increasingly prevalent propagandizing?  A solution is offered by HR 3077, which passed in the House of Representatives last year as part of the Higher Education Act Reauthorization bill.  The bill would establish a formal advisory board that would provide “advice, counsel and recommendations” concerning the quality of international studies programs such as Middle Eastern Studies departments.  The bill was introduced because of concern that American universities have failed to provide competent advice about Middle Eastern issues.  A similar concept could be applied more generally to assist the IRS.  An advisory board could be established to advise the IRS as to whether tax penalties ought to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Politics & Religious Beliefs of College Faculty

Two reportsIJCR Research Review
By IJCR Staff, August 2007, The Institute for Jewish & Community Research

The Institute has completed the first-ever comprehensive survey of the political, religious, and social beliefs of college faculty as part of a larger body of work addressing anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in higher education. Politics and Propaganda in America’s Educational Systems is a research initiative of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research, with the intention to further understand and to address rising levels of hostility toward Jews and Israel in American academia.

Our work in 2006 focused on the analysis and distribution of data obtained in the survey of American university faculty fielded by the Institute in 2005. The survey measured the political, religious, and social views of over 1,200 college faculty members representing over 700 universities. A total of 6,600 faculty members were randomly selected for the starting sample, stratified by field and region. The survey of faculty was conducted as an online, web-based survey. 

The faculty survey data is being released as a three-volume series. Each volume is being released as it is completed, and, in addition, all three will be re-released as a single bound unit after the completion of the third volume. To date, the Institute has published the first two in the three-volume set. The first was “The Political Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty”. The second was “The Religious Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty”. 

“The Political Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty” was released early in 2006. It received significant attention, particularly from faculty themselves. The report’s findings corroborated that faculty are almost monolithic in many of their political beliefs and also in their voting patterns. The report does not argue that faculty beliefs are right or wrong, but rather that, regardless of the direction of the political tilt among faculty, any dominant political ideology is inherently anti-intellectual. The overall position is that opposing views encourage healthy debate, and where honest debate is absent, propaganda flourishes.

“The Religious Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty” was completed at the end of 2006 and released in April of 2007. The report measured not only faculty views of their own religion and its importance to them, but also their feelings about others’ religion and the role of religion in politics. The findings revealed that, while faculty are less religious than the American public, they are far from being anti-religious.

The majority of faculty identify with a religion and feel that religion is somewhat important in their lives and for their family. They would like their children to have at least some religious training and themselves attend religious services at least occasionally. However, faculty are more personal about their religion than the American public. For the most part, they object to expressions of religion in the public sector, though notably this tendency is far stronger for some religions than others. Faculty are generally skeptical, if not hostile toward Evangelical Christians, especially in the public sector. However, faculty are overwhelmingly tolerant of most religions.

The third volume will focus on faculty views on Israel and the Middle East and will be supplemented with 2007 data that re-surveys faculty on some questions and poses new ones to add to the analysis. This volume will also explore how anti-Israelism fits into the religious and political ideologies on campus and how, if at all, discussion of Israel is impacted by faculty political, social and religious identity.

The faculty survey was a success in terms of both data creation and dissemination. The Institute’s work has provided quantitative data to corroborate faculty bias that is often only represented with qualitative data. This is a significant addition to the discussion of reform in high