A Failed Attack on Bowdoin by the NAS

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) just released a 359-page report (pdf) attacking Bowdoin College that proves one essential point: don’t criticize rich guys you golf with.

The rich guy in this case is Thomas Klingenstein, who happened to be golfing with Bowdoin president Barry Mills, and explained his hatred of elite colleges for being too liberal and too concerned with diversity. Mills recounted this story (without identifying Klingenstein) in a convocation address at Bowdoin. Klingenstein came across the text of the speech, recognized himself in it, and was so offended that Mills would falsely accuse him of violating golf etiquette by talking during a backswing that he launched a crusade against Mills and Bowdoin. Mills made the grotesque mistake of daring to say something a rich conservative didn’t like. Since the primary job of college presidents is to make rich people feel good about themselves, this was an unforgivable sin. Klingenstein paid the NAS to conduct this study, as I noted back in 2011.

The NAS are Klingenstein’s hired mercenaries for this fight against Bowdoin, but they are happy to take up the battle. According to the NAS, this report is essentially an indictment of all American higher education: “Nearly everything we have to say about Bowdoin has its counterpart at other selective liberal arts colleges, and much of what we say applies to a still broader range of colleges and universities….On the basis of broad experience, we think that Bowdoin represents the larger reality.” Obviously, taking one of the most liberal hippy-dippy colleges in the country and turning it into the embodiment of all colleges makes for an easy argument. But what’s remarkable is how badly the NAS fails in its attack on Bowdoin (read Bowdoin’s response here).

At times, the NAS report descends into disturbing conspiracy theories and wild speculation. When President Mills praised “our nation’s democratic traditions” in a 2010 speech, citing Martha Nussbaum’s work, the NAS concludes that because Nussbaum uses the phrase “global citizenship,” this is the driving ideology behind Bowdoin College. According to the NAS report (which is laughably ignorant about this subject), the phrase “global citizenship” means “all cultures are equal,” “virtually unlimited government intervention [is] necessary to achieve the global citizen’s understanding of sexual justice,” and “free market economic systems, and the materialistic, bourgeois values that drive them, are destroying the planet.” Moreover, the NAS claims that anyone using the phrase “global citizenship” is demanding censorship and repression of dissenting ideas: “These are notions that are not meaningfully ‘open to debate’ at Bowdoin; indeed, a commitment to global citizenship requires that they not be open to debate.” All of this imagined oppression comes from one speech by a college president that never actually uses the phrase “global citizenship.” Unless you’re one of the Neo-Nazi numbnuts who think UN black helicopters are descending upon us, the phrase “global citizenship” (especially when it is never used) should not inspire these kind of conspiratorial fears.

The NAS is so desperate to attack Bowdoin that one finds it scouring the descriptions of departments, looking for any words it finds appalling, such as this: “Courses in Gender and Women’s Studies investigate the experience of women and men in light of the social construction of gender and its meaning across cultures and historic periods. Gender construction is explored as an institutionalized means of structuring inequality and dominance.”

According to the NAS, “Here Bowdoin flatly announces that gender is a social construct, the sole purpose of which is to subjugate women. Is gender, according to this view, entirely a social construct? “In light of the social construction of gender” seems to say so, and at the very least it forecloses any interest in other possibilities, such as biology…” The NAS calls this statement “so evidentially closed-minded” and “rather brazen.”

While the NAS may dislike the brazen hussies in Gender and Women’s Studies, there’s nothing repressive about this statement. Gender is “the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex” according to Merriam-Webster, while sex refers to biological differences. Gender is, by definition, socially constructed. No one imagines that gender has no connection to biology, or that biological analysis is forbidden in gender studies courses. Naturally, the NAS never bothers to talk to any faculty who teach at Bowdoin, or any students who have taken these courses, to find out if biology is actually banned in gender studies classes.

The NAS seems to call for the total abolition of gender studies, black studies, gay and lesbian studies, Latin American studies, and all other studies programs that might be linked to identity: “Courses listed in the studies programs now comprise approximately 18 percent of the curriculum, but that is the tip of the iceberg. Eighteen percent of the curriculum may seem a small figure, but not if the proper percent is zero.” Is the proper percent zero? That appears to be what the NAS thinks, but it’s afraid to actually make an argument for wiping out entire fields of study and firing their faculty for purely political reasons. All the NAS can do is make ridiculous claims such as, “’Diversity’ is a disguised form of racism.”

The NAS has a simple, dogmatic belief that all survey courses are always better than specialized courses, which inspires their hatred against Bowdoin’s lack of required survey courses. (Ironically, the NAS concludes by demanding a class on Edmund Spenser, which is probably more specialized than any of the classes it attacks for being too specialized.) Every time the NAS lists all of the classes being taught at Bowdoin in order to denounce a handful of them based solely on the titles, all I can think of is how wonderful these classes sound.

Most people, including most conservatives, will read this report and think to themselves, “I wish I could be a student at Bowdoin. I wish I could be a professor at Bowdoin.” The incredible resources, small classes, and intellectual environment would strike anyone as a blessing, unless you viewed it purely as a question of whether your ideological position was the winner among most students and faculty.

The NAS condemns Mills (and Bowdoin) for “moral relativism,” and then denounces them whenever they seem to take a position on anything. The NAS has a confusing double standard. It attacks Bowdoin for failing to tell students what classes to take and not to have sex, but then it condemns Bowdoin’s administration for promoting environmentalism and insults President Mills for publicly supporting gay marriage: “Mills’s partisan letter was a misuse of his office and a conspicuous failure to model critical thinking.” The NAS wants to limit student and faculty freedom, but only if it moves the college in a conservative direction. A college like Bowdoin, which offers classes in the classics, Greek, and Latin despite a notable lack of student interest, still doesn’t satisfy the NAS.

There are many vague complaints about intellectual bias in this report, but no evidence of any discrimination against conservatives. Even the NAS admits that the lack of conservatives in academia may not be the result of any hiring bias: “we acknowledge that finding conservatives is not easy,… because earlier in their lives conservatives are discouraged from becoming academics.”

Where is the oppression of conservatives at Bowdoin? The prime example offered by the NAS report is a complaint by a co-chair of the College Republicans, who reports that at his table during a student activities fair, a student called him “a bigot for not supporting gay marriage” and he complained, “It was acceptable for them to heckle me because I’m a Republican.” First of all, speaking to someone at a table is not heckling. Second, it’s perfectly acceptable for anyone to criticize the views of others. Third, he is a bigot for opposing gay marriage.

If the fragile feelings of conservatives must be so protected that even a political activist sitting at a table inviting people to converse cannot be criticized, what kind of college experience does the NAS want? A college where no one openly criticizes anyone else’s views for fear of silencing them?

In typical condescending fashion, the NAS report treats all liberal students at Bowdoin as the mindless puppets of a vast left-wing conspiracy: “But in every area of student culture we examined we found that the administration exercised a strong and typically dominating influence.”

After a student challenged the rich guy Klingenstein at a campus forum for claiming Bowdoin graduates were ignorant, the NAS report attacks the student: “What he lacked was the humility needed to comprehend the limits of his knowledge. This student might have acquired that humility had he taken a college-level survey course on American political (or military, diplomatic, or intellectual) history. Such a course would have drawn attention to large gaps in his understanding. But unfortunately for him, Bowdoin does not offer such courses.” The notion that survey courses create humility in students is absurd. There’s not the slightest evidence to support this bizarre idea based upon a belief that the purpose of college is to create feelings of humility.

The NAS report recounts this incident again: “’Tell me what it is I don’t know.’ That was the challenge laid down by a Bowdoin student, May 16, 2011. This report is our answer.” Sadly, the NAS never answers the question. What exactly do Bowdoin students fail to learn? The NAS made no attempt to survey or interview students about what they learn in the classroom, and this student appears to be the only liberal on campus they ever reported speaking to. Instead of answering the student, the NAS insults him for lacking “humility.”

In the final paragraph of its report, the NAS writes:

What does Bowdoin not teach? Intellectual modesty. Self-restraint. Hard work. Virtue. Self-criticism. Moderation. A broad framework of intellectual history. Survey courses. English composition. A course on Edmund Spenser. A course primarily on the American Founders. A course on the American Revolution. The history of Western civilization from classical times to the present. A course on the Christian philosophical tradition. Public speaking. Tolerance towards dissenting views. The predicates of critical thinking. A coherent body of knowledge. How to distinguish importance from triviality. Wisdom. Culture.

This incoherent mish-mash of mostly mindless complaints embodies what’s wrong with the NAS report. When “intellectual modesty” (whatever the hell that means) is your top priority, it shows how little substance the NAS is standing on. Of course, Bowdoin does promote critical thinking, virtue, wisdom, and culture, but because it’s not a narrow conservative definition of these ideas, the NAS can’t see anything good about the college.

The NAS came into this report already believing this statement, and hardly bothered to even try to find any evidence that it was right and something is wrong with Bowdoin. It is striking that a 359-report can have so little evidence to prove its fundamental claims of a vast conspiracy against conservatives in higher education.

25 thoughts on “A Failed Attack on Bowdoin by the NAS

  1. Amem to you John K. Wilson..

    As a Bowdoin alumn (1976) who enjoyed all of the excesses and none of the responsibilities of the 1960s (the draft was winding down), somehow this wonderful college instilled a love of learning and critical inquiry that has lasted throughout my life. Despite plenty of leftwing profs, almost all of whom were totally respectful of diverse political views, the college taught us well. Mr. Klingenstein would be shocked.to learn that many of us even voted for Ronald Reagan by 1980, in fact I voted for the GOP until 2004!

    I have no doubt that today’s Bowdoin students, who are probably much sharper than I ever was, are going through the same sort of intellectual journey. The worried folks at the NAS vastly underestimate the acumen of these students. I am certain that the current crop of Bowdoin students will figure out out their own world views which will range across the entire political spectrum. And some course on Queer Gardening will do no more harm to them than my senior seminar on Feminism in Latin America in 1976-they might even learn something different or be challenged in ways they might not have expected. Is that not the point of a liberal arts college?
    It is a silly, poorly edited report that completely distorts the intent of the 2010 speech of Barry Mills. There are some valid points to be made about higher education-its costs, the need to maintain opportunity and access to all income levels, and the sometimes arid and predictable world views expressed (not at all unlike my own times on campus). President Mills covered them well in his 2010 speech.However,this report is ridiculous in its hyperbole, distortion and overkill.

    Be careful who you golf with I guess…

  2. The report’s claim that Bowdoin lacks academic rigor today is dead wrong. I’ve been the “host parent” to several students over the last 10 years; a mock interviewer for the Career Services Office; and I’ve gotten to know many other students through my involvement with the College. Bowdoin is far more rigorous than when I was a student (1960-64). The report should be viewed for what it is: biased bombast, pure — or, rather, not so pure — and simple.

  3. The NAS report would have been welcome had it offered constructive criticism, a respect for students’ intelligence, and an fair portrayal of Bowdoin’s record and course offerings. None of these are the case, and that is the biggest failing of the report.

    As an organization, the NAS will be forever ineffective if it continues down this path. The Bowdoin I know is open to a dissenting perspective. The NAS should seriously reconsider its tactics if it wishes to change anything.

    Read more:


  4. Circle the wagons, boys. NAS has pulled back the curtain. Our politically correct worldview is under attack. We can’t let parents know that what we’re selling (at prices that routinely rise at 4X the inflation rate) is ephemeral and trivial in the extreme. After all, we like our cushy lives, spending 6 hours a week in the classroom, eight months per year, flogging race/class/gender infused silliness, and cramming our political preferences down the throats of callow children who dare not question us..

    Ours is, practically speaking, the perfect con. Since the kids we teach never develop critical reasoning skills, and because what we “teach” them is virtually content-free, they’ll spend the rest of their lives in ignorant bliss — never suspecting they’ve been fleeced!. Now, let’s all of us agree to pooh-pooh the NAS study as nothing more than an account of a disagreeable encounter on a golf course….

    • I think the claim that the kids so taught never develop critical reasoning skills is unsubstantiated and, excuse me, silly. Let’s assume the worst accusations are true and that students really are taught to deconstruct “traditional American values” in these excessively liberal institutions. Once one learns to deconstruct, the skill can, and will, be turned on any set of assumptions whether liberal, conservative or something else entirely. That IS critical reasoning. If American students were the group of brainwashed sheep that seems to form the central assumption of these criticisms, then George W. Bush wouldn’t have been elected to two terms. The fact that the political pendulum continues to swing back and forth between conservative and liberal camps tells me that critical thinking is alive and well in America.

  5. “Third, he is a bigot for opposing gay marriage”? One can be for gay rights and yet not for gay marriage. Would you argue that President Obama was a bigot a year ago, before he announced support for gay marriage? Support for gay marriage is growing; telling people who might be convinced that they are bigots is over the top.

    It’s posts like these that make me think NAS is on to something. I don’t know much about Bowdoin or small liberal arts schools, but I am not impressed by the lack of intellectual diversity that is described in the report. Several defenders of Bowdoin here and elsewhere have said, more or less, “the report is wrong: Bowdoin is open to dissent but the NAS report is wrong, wrong, wrong, and no other reply is needed.” Is anyone at Bowdoin actually engaging in any soul searching? Considering whether there might actually be a valid point here and there?

    • I don’t think Obama was a bigot, I think he was a cynical political liar from 2008-2011. Now, early in his career, Obama expressed tactical opposition to gay marriage–he didn’t oppose it but he thought it wasn’t politically realistic to get passed, and civil unions were a better tactic. I don’t think that’s what this College Republican was arguing. You’re absolutely right that calling someone a bigot might not change their mind, but it doesn’t change the truth of it.

      As for your second argument, I don’t think it makes sense that if someone says you’re intolerant and closed-minded, you have to partially agree with them or else you’ve proven they’re right.

      • Agree with you about Obama. My point is only that if we didn’t call Obama a bigot then, we shouldn’t call other people bigots now if all they do is express the similar views. That said, I think it is possible to make a principled argument against gay marriage without being a bigot. (I’m for gay marriage, for the record.) Bigotry is a loaded term, and I would be careful about using it.

        The NAS report says, among other things, that Bowdoin is not an intellectually diverse place and doesn’t seem interested in becoming more intellectually diverse. There doesn’t seem to be any doubt that Bowdoin’s faculty is very liberal: e.g., 100% of faculty donations went to Obama. Does this bother anyone at Bowdoin? Does anyone at Bowdoin think that the college should make more of an effort to be inclusive, or at least to listen respectfully to other viewpoints? You personally don’t need to listen to me or agree with me, but shouldn’t Bowdoin the institution make an effort? I’ve read the president’s note and several posts, and have yet to read any defender of Bowdoin say anything other than the authors of the report are biased, the report is wrong, and there is nothing to improve. That comes across as defensiveness.

      • Mr. Wilson: Your use of the term ‘bigot’ shows that you are a symptom of the problem the NAS study diagnosed. What a model of civility and open-mindedness you are! You could very well be a professor at Bowdoin.

        Very respectfully,
        The bigot

      • I think people should be free to use the word “bigot”, just as the NAS should be free to call anyone who supports diversity a “racist.” I disagree with the accuracy of their dubious claim, not their use of a loaded term. By contrast, I stand by my accuracy. If you oppose equal rights for someone based on their identity, I think it makes you, factually, a bigot. The fact that this particular form of bigotry was, until very recently, popular in the US, does not change what it is. It is notable that all of the complaints against my use of the word “bigot” don’t argue against it based on its truth claims, but based on the belief that it is impolite.

        • We’re going to have to agree to disagree on whether opposing gay marriage rises to the level of opposing equal rights. Let’s return to President Obama. He did not support gay marriage until about a year ago. By your definition he was a bigot before then. Lots of people have changed their views, so it appears that you think our country was majority bigot and just now has reached a condition where bigots are in the minority. (At least on the subject of gay rights.) I see that Maine now allows same-sex marriages, overturning a people’s veto from 2009. Presumably you think the majority of voters in Maine were bigots in 2009, and aren’t now. That’s progress, I suppose.

          Let’s imagine a state where civil unions are allowed for gay couples that are identical to civil unions for straight couples, and which offer all the benefits and conditions of marriage–taxes, hospital visitation, inheritance–everything. Let’s further suppose that the only distinction is that gay couples are not allowed to use the term “marriage”. Would that be a violation of their rights? Which ones? I’m with you that a bigot is someone who would deny equal rights based on identify, but it isn’t clear to me denial of the term, as opposed to the rights and obligations, is, by itself, a matter of civil rights. I await your proof.

          Politeness matters (to me, at least) in that updating the social compact is best done through argument.

          You haven’t addressed my larger point, which is that Bowdoin comes across in the NAS report as leaning strongly leftish and disinterested in hearing conservative views. Are there factual errors in the report? Is there really nothing for anyone at Bowdoin to learn from this report? That would be surprising.

      • If you replace “gay marriage” with “interracial marriage,” I think it’s clear that true equal rights must include the name, and not merely some kind of separate but equal status. A government that gave interracial couples the contractual rights of marriage but refused to allow them the name “marriage” would clearly still be bigoted, even if it was far better than the denial of those rights.

        Now, as for Bowdoin’s response, if you read Alex Williams’ piece (http://alexhwilliams.info/oped/the_nas_study/), it does point out some distortions in the NAS study, and points out how the tone does not exactly promote discussion. However, the official Bowdoin response I linked to was very nice to the NAS and indicated that they would read it carefully. I wish that the NAS had proposed some realistic options for bringing more conservative voices on campus, such as funding a series of debates at Bowdoin.

        • No one would disagree with your point on interracial marriage. Is interracial marriage really equivalent to gay marriage? That’s really the debate. Certain religions would say not. Once the premise is accepted that interracial marriage and gay marriage are equivalent, then your conclusion follows. Logically, you’re assuming the conclusion. I agree with your conclusion, just want to point out that you’re depending on an assumption that isn’t universally shared.

          I just read Alex Williams’ Interesting piece. Yes, he points out some factual inaccuracies. However, I think he missed the general point that Bowdoin is a very liberal place, like many schools. College faculties are among the most left wing groups in America. (100% of faculty domains to Obama!) Alex conflates disagreeing with liberal perspectives as “insult[ing] the intellectual work of hard working faculty”, and characterizes NAS as thinking the “curriculum completely undermine critical thinking and endanger the future of the country.” No, the criticism is that, on the whole, the faculty teaches from a liberal perspective, that the liberal perspective is incomplete (at best), and that no one at Bowdoin minds. It’s not insulting to the faculty to say that having ONLY left wing faculty will result in an unbalanced discussion. Only the weak minded fear honest debate.

          The identity studies discussion in the NAS report and Alex’s response is standard left/right wing stuff. The left says we have to understand “the history of racial, ethnic, and sexual discrimination”; the right says fine, understand, but those aren’t the most important things in our history.

          Alex mischaracterizes some criticisms and thus misses the point. For instance, on page 10 he writes “NAS publications discredit faculty members by belittling their research interests.” The claim made by NAS is that the faculty has narrow interests. The report doesn’t argue that the Bowdoin faculty are unqualified. I suppose that’s an issue with faculty everywhere, that research interests tend to be narrow and specialized. The NAS view is that students are better served by teaching at least some broader courses.

          For me, it boils down to this: A right wing organization issued a report critical of aspects of a college with a pronounced left leaning. The report was adversarial. The college response has been equally adversarial, and blind to valid criticism.


      • I’m curious to know what other types of marriage laws Mr. Wilson thinks fall outside the bounds of bigotry and into the arena of ordered democratic government. For example, if he has any reason for opposing plural, incestual or human-animal marriage, what about his reasons would make him any less of a bigot than the reasons he claims make SSM opponents bigots? And if he supports all of these marital arrangements, why are he and likeminded people only beating the drum about SSM? Shouldn’t he be fighting for the 18 year old man that wants to marry his dad just as much as the 18 year old marrying his 18 year old boyfriend? Equal is equal, right?

        You see, when you throw out the 5,000 year old traditional definition of marriage to accomodate some other group, you can draw the bigot line wherever you want since any rules will ultimately mean that some other group will be disenfranchised. The relative size and demand of that group should be irrelevant, correct?

        The historical purpose of marriage is to build a family, something interracial couples can do but same sex couples can never do. Sometimes, because of infertility due to age or otherwise, married men and women cannot have children, but that’s the exception, not the rule. To wit, every single person alive has or had 1 biological mother and 1 biological father, and there is no amount of legislative action or court rulings that will ever change that.

    • There’s clearly a bias in this post, too… that much is apparent, and as someone who leans towards the conservative side on many issues, I don’t agree with the general tone of this post. But, that doesn’t eliminate the fact that much of this critique of the NAS report is dead-on. They clearly came up with a conclusion before researching the data, and then conveniently cherry-picked the data to fit their conclusion. A massive waste of resources. I agree that if this study were objective and provided constructive criticism, that would be different.

  6. I’m sorry but I have to say that this is a rather weak rebuttal.

    In my opinion, a real college should be an institution that seeks to inform its students on knowledge, not opinions.
    With the given information, students will be able to form their own opinions under a safe environment, with minimal judgement.

    This article resonates strong bias with an overtone of prejudice. It is a loud but weak attack on the republicans. You are acting just like the “rich guy.”

    Quite disappointed.

  7. How strange. The criticism that the faculty is liberal concludes that there is no exposure to conservative ideas and arguments. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it. I reject a lot of hyperbole no matter the source, but that it’s impossible for a liberal to grasp and teach conservative ideas? That’s rather in line with the current wave of conservative anti-intellectualism that seems of be at the core of groups like NAS. It doesn’t try to engage with ideas, but merely throw whatever mud looks like it might stick. But it doesn’t when the conservative critics fail to engage with the ideas, when they use shorthand demonizing pejoratives, when they condemn without bothering to ask critical questions. Some liberals are guilty of this, too, but liberal academics can’t fairly represent conservative ideas? Nonsense.

    • Surely it is possible for liberals to grasp and teach conservative ideas, just as it is possible for a conservative to grasp and teach liberal ideas.Perhaps the teachers of survey courses do a reasonable job of teaching all perspectives. But describing views that you disagree with is not the same as energetically advocating them. Bowdoin comes across as a liberal place, with almost entirely liberal professors, with a course catalog leaning to liberal interests. These are empirical facts. One can over-interpret the data and disagree about the consequences, but clearly Bowdoin demonstrates a lack of intellectual diversity.

      Thought experiment: Imagine a small, conservative college, perhaps a Southern college with a religious affiliation. Let us further imagine that this college leans as far right as Bowdoin leans left, e.g., 100% of faculty campaign contributions go to Republicans. Let us stipulate that this college is as respectable as Bowdoin. Now consider courses that cover labor unions and gay marriage. Without inquiring further, are you satisfied that the students are hearing all perspectives? Suppose you notice that the course catalog is long on American political, military and economic history, and light on marginalized groups. What’s your reaction?

      • Honestly, there are conservative private colleges near here that are as good as the private ones with less of a conservative reputation, not in the same league as Bowdoin, but as good as the small liberal arts colleges here, and I haven’t heard anything that would cause me concern. If the faculty were selected because of their ideology rather than academic quality, I would be concerned, but I don’t see that there, nor at the more liberal schools in my region. I don’t think my children would have been as comfortable at the more conservative schools, but I do not think less of them. I have students who attended part of their college careers there, and the reasons I’ve heard about heir leaving have been more associated with cost. I’m not troubled by their being conservative enclaves because I believe the students get a good education from caring, dedicated teachers who don’t sacrifice their integrity to ideology. I doubt, from all I’ve read about Bowdoin, I doubt the school sacrifices their academics for ideology, either.

        My state requires a course in our state government, and I read a textbook written by a former professor from one of these schools that read like it was written with Rush Limbaugh on the radio the whole time. It’s not a textbook that has any publishing company’s imprint. It’s distributed to schools with three holes punched, and copies enough only for teachers to use. My daughter borrowed it because she had decided to home school her last two years of high school. She was dumbfounded by the unseriousness of the thing. It cited, in a chapter on free press functioning as part of how people in the state get information about their government, as “studies” of liberal bias in the media a conservative website that collects people’s complaints of media bias, as well as editorials in Red State. There was a long list of these badly sourced opinions presented as fact. My daughter was aghast, and showed me. The guy had secured a grant to write the textbook. I doubt if he tried to teach his undergraduates using such shoddy work, but if he did, I’m at least glad to see he has no place on the faculty of the particular college anymore. I doubt the others fob off conservative popular culture as scholarship, or students would have reason to sue them for misrepresenting themselves as offering a quality education, not a quality conservative view of education.

        I know places exist that teach evolution as the crazy opinion of academics trying to keep their hegemony, but I doubt if they are who you’re talking about.

  8. I tend to agree with some of the aspects of the NAS report, even as it is clear the authors were taking a critical posture a bit too early. So let’s say the report hits a target, what, just 1/3 of the time? Having said that, it’s discouraging to read so many, above, dismiss the report out of hand because, after all, it was commissioned by a rich guy and was penned by people known to be critical of what passes today for higher education. Let’s show a little bit more balance: clearly, there are big problems at Bowdoin. Any time 100% of the faculty has the same worldview, you have a problem. Are Bowdoin alums genuinely content to know that there is greater ideological diversity at Bob Jones University than there is at Bowdoin? Why not criticize the report but concede that, flawed though it may be, Bowdoin has work to do?

    • I’m not a Bowdoin alumnus, but I can’t really equate donating to a candidate as demonstrating the same worldview. When you sit in faculty meetings, within a department and interdepartmental, trying to nail down language among scholars who may share a concern for funding higher education, and one candidate has worked to improve it, and another embraces a budget to cut it, that translates into the same worldview. Certainly some believe federal and state governments should not subsidize higher education at all, but if these are scholars in their fields, it has to be a gross representation to suggest they all have the same worldview. There really isn’t a field within academia that has a single worldview. Real scholars, as Bowdoin seems to have, don’t ignore the views they don’t like within their field.

      Does Bob Jones really have greater diversity among their faculty than Bowdoin? I’d love to know what that diversity consists in.

  9. It’s an interesting exploit. Angry Dude feels angry about the turnout for a game, and he uses money to conduct a sham study originating from an organization that is politically polarized. The study is directed towards the institution — operated by the Target Dude — which has an opposing political polarization. Even though the attack is delivered based on the premise of political differences, the essential aspect of the attack is an attempt at personal insult on the Target Dude: “You hurt my feelings, so I will unload garbage on your place of business.” Because the attack has political polarization, it draws in people with opposing political interests, and these collateral observers engage in a relatively pointless conflict — and become victims of 360 pages of trollbait.


    Bowdoin Class of 77

    • Nailed it.

      But trolls hitting public institutions can affect legislation affecting the operation of those. If Angry Dude withdraws support, that sucks. If he gets his friends to, that sucks more. But the trolls can start to erode the quality of the public institutions.

  10. I know I’m a bit simple, but what was the point of all this, Bowdoin is liberal? Maybe we can commission the NAS to do a study to determine if water is wet.

  11. Read Klingenstein’s original article. According to Klingenstein, what angered him was that Mills made him out to be a racist bigot. In Klingenstein’s version, Mills willfully misinterpreted his view that “diversity” ought to be more than merely ethnic, but also — and more importantly — ideological or philosophical.

    In his speech, Mills cited the unnamed Klingenstein as saying “you are a ridiculous liberal school that brings all the wrong students to campus for all the wrong reasons,” something Klingenstein denied saying.
    The implication was that Klingenstein was objecting to Bowdoin’s taking in minority students. If Klingenstein’s version is accurate, it wasn’t just about an accusation of talking during a golf swing.

    I don’t know who’s right or who’s telling the truth here, but it sounds like Klingenstein’s grievance was more than you make it out to be. Whether this justified a major report is another matter, but I don’t think you’ve given him a fair shake.

    The populist tone is also questionable: as head of a major college, Mills may well have commanded more resources than “rich guy” Klingenstein. Surely, college presidents don’t take a back seat to anybody when it comes to arrogance and presumption.

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