9/20/2011 9:15 AM
Tomorrow, the Select Committee to Promote Cost Explosion and Liberalism in Higher Education
will have its first meeting. Basically, the committee will hear from a bunch of leaders of trade associations in higher education who will talk about the need to involve faculty in decision-making, probably clouded in a bunch of lofty rhetoric complete with veiled attacks on Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Public Policy Foundation. In other words, the committee will defend the status quo and discourage regents from rocking the boat.
Already, the defenders of the cost explosion in higher education are pointing to a letter from Robert Berdahl
, at the time president of the Association of American Universities, to then-A&M Chancellor Mike McKinney as a “smoking gun” that conservative higher education reform would damage state universities. Berdahl complained about a proposal at A&M to look at how much student formula revenue individual professors generate – a proposal that was eventually not enacted.
I was a student at the University of Texas when Berdahl was president there. He was an activist liberal then who regularly attacked Texas values, and he hasn’t changed much since. His 1997 departure to an institution that better reflects his values – the University of California – Berkeley – was welcomed by Texas conservatives. McKinney ought to consider the letter from Berdahl as a compliment and tribute to his leadership.
When I was a student at UT, every Texas Independence Day, the university used to have a massive celebration of Texas Independence Day. There was a giant cake on the Main Mall, complete with band, cheerleaders, and unveiling the world’s largest Texas flag.
But then a left-wing group called MEChA – that wants the Southern United States to return to Mexico – protested. Instead of ignoring these agitators, Berdahl capitulated and cancelled the March 2nd Celebration on campus in 1995. Of course, the Ex-Students Association didn’t cancel any of the alumni fundraisers planned for that day.
Well, the Young Conservatives of Texas had other ideas. YCT held its own on-campus celebration. Berdahl called the organization the “Young Crazy Texans,” and decided to reinstate the celebration in 1996 – so the university administration could control the content.
Berdahl’s decision is a perfect example of what is wrong with academia today, and how the term “Academic Freedom” doesn’t protect conservatives. Mexicans didn’t like Santa Anna any more than Sam Houston did. After losing Texas, he was soon removed from power in Mexico. So celebrating Texas isn’t an attack on Mexico or Mexican culture. It’s a celebration of American freedom, which is absolutely verboten in today’s academia. Today’s universities live in fear of the race card, turning classes on history and culture into propaganda sessions where students are encouraged to explore racism and sexism.
Berdahl often got frustrated with the Texas Legislature's unwillingness to throw massive amounts of new money into higher education. (Back then, higher education policy in Texas was fiscally responsible under the leadership of then-appropriations chairman Rob Junell. If Berdahl had waited until 2003, he would have found legislative leadership more willing to carry water for UT administrators and less willing to stand up for middle-class families.)
Far from being a smoking gun, the Berdahl letter shows that Perry is on the right track in seeking to reform Texas universities. A former UT president who runs a higher education trade association writes a letter attacking the administration of UT’s traditional rival, and that letter just happens to help his successor at UT fight off the governor’s cost-control proposals. How convenient.
At tomorrow’s dog-and-pony show (aka hearing), legislators will hear from Berdahl’s successor at the Association of American Universities and a lot of other defenders of the liberal status quo in higher education.
Back in the 1990s, conservatives opposed the Berdahl agenda. Real conservatives still do.