Posts Tagged ‘colleges’

Proof The Distraction of Electronic Devices Means You Aren’t Paying Attention: College Students Checking Phones During Class Have Lower Grades

January 11, 2019

While reading President Trump’s latest tweets may seem like a much better alternative than listening to liberal college professors drone on about politics, a new study suggests that constantly checking your phone during class could come back to haunt you during exam time.

According to a new study in Educational Psychology, students in college classes that are allowed access to electronic devices such as smartphones or tablets that include nonacademic vices such as Facebook or Twitter tend to perform at a lower academic standard compared to classmates attending lectures where such devices were banned.

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In the study, researchers at Rutgers University compared two separate classroom environments for learning: one class allowed tablets and cellphones for student usage, while another class banned the use of electronics entirely during lecture.

In their findings, researchers noted that students enrolled in the class that allowed smartphones and tablets to be used that admitted to using them during class performed approximately 5 percent lower (roughly half a letter grade) on the end of term final examination when compared to the population of students in the class that banned electronics.

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It is also worth noting that students enrolled in the smartphone/tablet-friendly class who did not report using the devices during class performed better than their peers who chose to use the devices, but still did not perform as well as their peers in the class where electronics were banned, suggesting that such devices likely create a disruptive classroom environment that is detrimental to everyone’s grade, not just those who use devices.

The main author of the study, Arnold Glass, noted that while the usage of the devices were most detrimental to the grades of those individuals who were using the devices, the lack of rules banning their use almost certainly impact the information retention of all individuals enrolled in the class.

“These findings should alert the many dedicated students and instructors that dividing attention is having an insidious effect that is impairing their exam performance and final grade,” said Glass. “To help manage the use of devices in the classroom, teachers should explain to students the damaging effect of distractions on retention — not only for themselves, but for the whole class.”

John Patrick (@john_pat_rick) is a graduate of Canisius College and Georgia Southern University. He interned for Red Alert Politics during the summer of 2012 and has continued to contribute regularly.

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China hushes up scheme to recruit overseas scientists

January 10, 2019

US has become increasingly suspicious of China’s Thousand Talents Programme

China’s ‘Thousand Talents Programme’ is made up of several different schemes and has recruited some 6,000 scientists

By Yuan Yang and Nian Liu in Beijing

China has asked officials to stop mentioning its premier programme to recruit the brightest tech talent from overseas, after growing suspicions over the scheme from the US. Late last year, the government ordered civil servants and recruiters not to discuss by name the “Thousand Talents Programme”, under which thousands of scientists and experts have been attracted to China with lavish grants.

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The plan, which began in 2008 to boost the standard of Chinese research, and which was instrumental in bringing back a large number of scientists born in China who had grown up or studied overseas, is still active, according to a number of recent applicants and civil servants. The last application round occurred in December. But an order to hush up the programme came after US investigators turned their attention to the scientists who have taken part, especially those who previously worked in the US or who had returned to the US after spending time in China.

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In December, Bill Priestap, assistant director of the counter-intelligence division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned a US Senate committee that China’s “talent recruitment and “brain gain” programmes . . . also encourage theft of intellectual property from US institutions”.

The US is trying to suppress China all-round, the Thousand Talents plan is not the problem Rao Yi, professor of neurobiology at Peking University Last September, Texas Tech University warned faculty in a letter that the US Congress saw the Thousand Talents programme as “part of a broader strategy to build technological superiority” and that the State Department and Congress believed elements of the plan to be “closely allied to the Chinese military”.

The letter contained a warning: that recipients of Thousand Talents awards could be barred from Department of Defense grants, and in future possibly federal research grants, a significant disincentive for researchers. Han Lifeng, the chief executive of a talent agency that has worked with about 30 “Thousand Talents” experts, has noticed the mood shift.

“Technology competition between the US and China is fierce now. The US sets obstacles for scientists who want to come back, so China doesn’t mention the name ‘Thousand Talents Plan’ in documents or meetings any more.”

One academic at a top Chinese university was told to remove the “Thousand Talents” awards from the websites of some faculty members, in order to “protect them from suspicion”.

Others have warned against US government concerns turning into a broad-brush, racial attack against Chinese scholars, following a shortlived White House proposal to halt student visas for Chinese nationals.

“The US is trying to suppress China all-round, the Thousand Talents plan is not the problem,” said Rao Yi, a professor of neurobiology at Peking University who gave up his US citizenship after 22 years of living there in order to return to China.

Mr Rao said he had been denied visas to the US several times. At the Shenzhen Innovation Park, a tour guide skipped past the Thousand Talents slogan painted on to one wall. “We don’t mention that scheme by name any more,” she explained. I think this program has done a lot to attract talented Chinese from abroad who otherwise would’ve stayed abroad Foreign academic The national Thousand Talents programme is made up of several different schemes and has recruited some 6,000 scientists.

One major branch targets academics with job offers from a Chinese university, either to teach full-time or for a shorter summer placement. Academics usually receive about Rmb1m ($146,670) in a personal “setting-up” grant, and then up to Rmb5m extra for a research grant to be spent as they wish. Experts can receive even more from local governments and add-on grants. According to the Chinese media, some “outstanding” researchers have been awarded as much as Rmb100m.

The plan helps Chinese universities compete with their better-funded international counterparts, and has played an important role in reversing some of the brain drain of talented families who left China to seek their fortune elsewhere.

“I think this program has done a lot to attract talented Chinese from abroad who otherwise would’ve stayed abroad. I think that’s their main goal, really, to build the system back up with talent which is native to the country. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” added a foreign academic who wished to remain anonymous.

Tim Byrnes, assistant professor of physics at New York university’s Shanghai campus, and a Thousand Talents recruit, said the Chinese government had not interfered with his research or directly investigated what he was doing. “I’ve not had to give reports of my research for the Thousand Talents, and I don’t see any plans to do so,” he said.

The system can be highly opaque: Mr Han admits that the application process can be bureaucratic and require “connections” or “special channels” to make sure one is successful. As a result, although “the intention is good”, a lot of experts who are recruited are not necessarily world-class, said one professor, a recent Thousand Talents applicant.

“Some of them are reaping benefits from confusion,” the professor added.

https://www.ft.com/content/a06f414c-0e6e-11e9-a3aa-118c761d2745

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Colleges were better when they were more ‘Paper Chase’ than origami

December 22, 2018

After a couple of years of being ridiculed for demanding “safe spaces” from speakers whose ideas “trigger” them, today’s college students might be expected to stop leaving themselves open to ridicule. But no.

Courtesy of The College Fix comes yet another story of epic campus mollycoddling across the country. Apparently, there’s a nationwide epidemic of students finding final exams so stressful that they need sugar-plum fairies to get them through.

By Quin Hillyer
Opinion
Washington Examiner

Students’ perceived need to “ de-stress” is so acute that some need coloring books, others want to pet miniature horses, others want Legos, and a few were into sessions of “cloud gazing.” Many of these exercises in ultra-de-stressification were officially sponsored or encouraged not just by friendly volunteer outfits but by the metastasizingly large administrative staffs of the colleges themselves.

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Duke University brought in ponies to help student de-stress

About the best that can be said about this story is that at least it doesn’t mention Brown University’s earlier resort to Play-Doh and blankies. Do these administrators understand the harm they do by infantilizing their students? Do the students know how pathetic it demand they be infantilized?

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Sure, exams can be stressful. And if, as a way to break the tension, a student wants to dig out his old coloring books for a few minutes and laugh, well, more power to him. But do students really need others to organize them into pre-school-like situations, pat them on the heads, and tell them everything is really really truly going to be hunky dory?

When my age cohort was in college, we didn’t have professors who forced us to do Indian fire walks or wear hair shirts to the exams. But we also didn’t ask the Student Affairs Office to show us videos of cute widdle puppies, either. About the farthest we went in self-indulgence during exams would be to go a week without shaving, or maybe pretend we liked it when a roommate thought it was stress-relieving to play Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money” 50 times in a row at high decibels.

 

American Universities: 93 percent of U.S. college professors said that under Trump the United States is “less respected”

December 17, 2018

Republican presidents have never fared well in the offices of America’s mostly liberal college professors, but President Trump is taking it especially hard, according to a unique survey of “international relations scholars” and political science teachers.

Of 1,157 polled in the Teaching, Research and International Policy project at the College of William and Mary, 93 percent said that under Trump the United States is “less respected.”

What’s more, just 4 percent said that the U.S. is respected at the same level in past years, and a tiny 2 percent said that U.S. gets more respect abroad than previously.

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The poll bolsters the criticism of Trump on many campuses, but challenges claims inside the administration that the president has boosted U.S. credibility overseas with his trade policies, stepped up war on terrorism, and outreach to North Korea.

The findings parallel Democratic views of the president. Pew Research Center, in an analysis of the survey, said that in its tests 87 percent of Democrats feel that the U.S. is less respected under Trump.

Republicans don’t agree. Some 42 percent said the U.S. is less respected, and only 28 percent feel it’s major problem.

“While majorities of Democrats viewed the U.S. as less respected internationally at various points during the Obama administration, there was a 29-percentage-point increase in the share saying this between 2016 and 2017 following Donald Trump’s election. Similarly, the share of Republicans saying that the U.S. is less respected abroad dropped by 28 percentage points from the end of the Obama administration to when Trump took office,” said Pew.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/93-percent-college-professors-hit-trump-foreign-policy-in-ivory-tower-diss

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Morning Prayer for Monday, December 17, 2018 — “Look How Great The World Is Doing Without God” — “Maybe We Should Pray”

December 17, 2018

The way of faith is for everybody who really wants to live. But many people can go through life without much of it. Many are doing so, to their own sorrow. The world is full of lack of faith. Many people have lost confidence in any meaning in the universe. Many are wondering if it has any meaning at all. Many are at loose ends. Life has no goal for many. They are strangers in the land. 

Avicenna developed ‘probably the most influential and interesting medieval attempt to show that God exists’, says Prof Peter Adamson. Photograph: Detlev van Ravenswaay/ Getty images

Meditation for the Day

“He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends the rain on the just and the unjust.” God does not interfere with the working of natural laws. The laws of nature are unchangeable; otherwise we could not depend on them. As far as natural laws are concerned, God makes no distinction between good and bad people. Sickness or death may strike anywhere. But spiritual laws are also made to be obeyed. On our choice of good or evil depends whether we go upward to true success and victory in life or downward to loss and defeat.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may choose today the way of the spiritual life. I pray that I may live today with faith and hope and love.

From Twenty Four Hours a Day

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 — (Prayer and Spiritual Practice and service to others help us to this)

Remember: Everything you feed your brain contributes to good mental health or your disorders… This is why quiet daily meditation and even prayer is recommended by many experts….

See also:

The Islamic thinker who ‘proved’ God exists

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/unthinkable-the-islamic-thinker-who-proved-god-exists-1.2931754

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See also:

Aristotle’s argument for the existence of God

http://www.logicmuseum.com/ontological/aristotleontological.htm

We just recently became interested on Aristotle’s “Metaphysics” after a professor we know said, “His is the inconvenient truth. Hundreds of years before Christ, Aristotle believed he proved the existence of God using logic from his teacher Plato. College students today don’t want to think — even though they cast out religion. Therefore, Aristotle is usually overlooked these days….”

Can’t make truth, ideas, monuments or God go away by refusing to accept them!

Totalitarian universities and suppression of the truth

December 17, 2018

Totalitarianism doesn’t always come wearing jackboots. It can curl its malign tendrils around us without massed parades, torture chambers, or firing squads.

During the Cold War, most Warsaw Pact states bore only a mild resemblance to George Orwell’s Oceania. They were altogether more banal, more tawdry, more sordid. Yes, they depended on police informers and, yes, only one party was allowed to win elections. But, by the 1970s, quite a lot of normal life had reasserted itself. There were shops and underground punk bands and sports teams and even limited foreign travel.

The defining feature of totalitarianism, the characteristic that made life in Erich Honecker’s East Germany or Gustav Husak’s Czechoslovakia so miserable, was the not the repression of free elections but the repression of free inquiry. People were afraid to open their mouths in case they said the wrong thing.

By  Dan Hannan
Opinion
Washington Examiner

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The consequences of expressing an unorthodox opinion were not usually judicial. A few committed dissidents were locked up for sedition, but, more typically, the penalties were unofficial. Your driving license would somehow go missing in the system. Your kids would lose their university places. Above all, you’d be unable to find any but menial jobs. The bitter joke in Czechoslovakia was that the window cleaners were professors, poets, and playwrights.

Can you imagine living in such a society, where your words, though they broke no written law, might condemn you? Where saying the wrong thing, even unintentionally, could end your career?

Welcome to our universities.

Last week, more than 200 academics demanded that Cambridge University sack a young scholar named Noah Carl who was guilty, they averred, of “racist pseudoscience.” They accused Carl of “vital errors in data analysis and interpretation,” although they failed to cite any of these errors. They went on: “Carl’s published work and public stance on various issues, particularly on the claimed relationship between ‘race’, ‘criminality’ and ‘genetic intelligence’, leads us to conclude that his work is ethically suspect and methodologically flawed.”

Despite the quotation marks, none of Carl’s works is being quoted there, and for a good reason. As far as I can make out, he has not himself written about any relationship between race and intelligence.

His actual offense seems to be that he published a paper arguing that scholars ought to be free to explore such issues. His argument was, in essence, that repressing academic research is more damaging than reaching uncomfortable conclusions. Instead of denying that some traits might be inherited, he argued, antiracists should take their stand on the firm ground that treating people differently because of their ethnicity is morally repugnant, irrespective of any conclusions that science reaches.

This point is worth stressing. Carl has not himself carried out any research on the heritability of IQ. He has simply defended the right of researchers to follow their studies as they see fit. Yet, it is precisely the defense of intellectual freedom that, paradoxically, upsets so many academics these days.

A year ago, for example, Nigel Biggar of Oxford University, arguably Britain’s senior academic theologian, was similarly denounced by a professorial mob for suggesting that the assessment of the British Empire should be rigorous and measured rather than unequivocally condemnatory. (Full disclosure: Biggar, a clever, modest and devout man, was my college chaplain when I was an Oxford undergraduate.)

Again, the pursuit of disinterested inquiry — the very reason that universities are supposed to exist — is nowadays seen as a provocation.

It’s hard not to recall the attitude of premodern churchmen, who saw certain subjects as beyond argument. Darwinism was not assessed dispassionately in clerical circles. It was not assessed at all. Even to study such an idea was at first considered blasphemous.

Most societies sacralize certain values, sometimes pretty arbitrarily. The doctrine of diversity, equality, and inclusion is, in a sense, our modern Trinity. But note the extraordinary reversal. Darwin’s theories were, by and large, taken up by people who preferred science to faith, evidence to dogma. Evolutionary biology was seen as a rational and progressive discipline, a challenge to obscurantism, and it eventually prevailed for that reason.

Today, though, evolutionary biology has become the most dangerous of topics to people who regard themselves as progressive in other contexts. They are the first to howl down antiscientific prejudices when it comes to, say, climate change. But when confronted with this topic, they suddenly act like medieval inquisitors, refusing to allow any discussion that might offend against the approved dogmas.

I leave the last words to Frederick Douglass — words which Carl quotes approvingly, and which recall the days when leftists saw free speech as an uncomplicated good: “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”

Amen.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/dan-hannan-the-totalitarian-university

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Fearing espionage, U.S. weighs tighter rules on Chinese students

November 29, 2018

The Trump administration is considering new background checks and other restrictions on Chinese students in the United States over growing espionage concerns, U.S. officials and congressional sources said.

In June, the U.S. State Department shortened the length of visas for Chinese graduate students studying aviation, robotics and advanced manufacturing to one year from five. U.S. officials said the goal was to curb the risk of spying and theft of intellectual property in areas vital to national security.

But now the Trump administration is weighing whether to subject Chinese students to additional vetting before they attend a U.S. school. The ideas under consideration, previously unreported, include checks of student phone records and scouring of personal accounts on Chinese and U.S. social media platforms for anything that might raise concerns about students’ intentions in the United States, including affiliations with government organizations, a U.S. official and three congressional and university sources told Reuters.

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U.S. Stealth Fighters

U.S. law enforcement is also expected to provide training to academic officials on how to detect spying and cyber theft that it provides to people in government, a senior U.S. official said.

“Every Chinese student who China sends here has to go through a party and government approval process,” one senior U.S. official told Reuters. “You may not be here for espionage purposes as traditionally defined, but no Chinese student who’s coming here is untethered from the state.”

The White House declined comment on the new student restrictions under review. Asked what consideration was being given to additional vetting, a State Department official said: “The department helps to ensure that those who receive U.S. visas are eligible and pose no risk to national interests.”

The Chinese government has repeatedly insisted that Washington has exaggerated the problem for political reasons. China’s ambassador to the United States told Reuters the accusations were groundless and “very indecent.”

“Why should anybody accuse them as spies? I think that this is extremely unfair for them,” Ambassador Cui Tiankai said.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet at a G20 summit in Argentina this week.

Greater scrutiny of Chinese students would be part of a broader effort to confront Beijing over what Washington sees as the use of sometimes illicit methods for acquiring rapid technological advances that China has made a national priority. The world’s two biggest economies also are in a trade war and increasingly at odds over diplomatic and economic issues.

Any changes would seek to strike a balance between preventing possible espionage while not scaring away talented students in a way that would harm universities financially or undercut technological innovation, administration officials said.

But that is exactly what universities – ranging from the Ivy League’s Harvard, Yale and Princeton universities to state-funded schools such as University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – fear most. They have spent much of 2018 lobbying against what they see as a broad effort by the administration to crack down on Chinese students with the change in visas this summer and a fear of more restrictions to come.

At stake is about $14 billion of economic activity, most of it tuition and other fees generated annually from the 360,000 Chinese nationals who attend U.S. schools, that could erode if these students look elsewhere for higher education abroad.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is seen on an embankment of the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., November 21, 2018. Picture taken November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Many Ivy League schools and other top research universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford University, have become so alarmed that they regularly share strategies to thwart the effort, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

U.S. authorities see ample reason for closer scrutiny, pointing to recently publicized cases of espionage, or alleged espionage, linked to former students from Louisiana State University and Duke University and the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told a Senate hearing this year that his agents across the country are seeing “non-traditional collectors (of intelligence), especially in the academic setting.”

China sees ‘consequences’ over growing trade feud

STOP SHORT OF A BAN

White House adviser Stephen Miller proposed a ban early this year on student visas for all Chinese nationals, according a report to the Financial Times, and confirmed by Reuters.

But the new measures would stop well short of such a ban, according to multiple sources. Terry Branstad, a former Iowa governor who is now ambassador to China, helped convince Trump to reject the Miller idea during a meeting in the Oval Office in the spring, one administration source said. Branstad argued that a ban would hurt schools across the United States, not just the elite universities many Republicans view as excessively liberal.

U.S. Representative Judy Chu of California warned the administration was at risk of overreach.

“Our national security concerns need to be taken seriously, but I am extremely concerned about the stereotyping and scapegoating of Chinese students and professors,” Chu, a Democrat who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said in a telephone interview.

Already worried about restrictions, universities have mounted a pressure campaign focused on the White House, State Department and Congress and held multiple meetings with the FBI, according to lobbyists, university officials and congressional aides.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education, told Reuters that Chinese students risked becoming “pawns” in the U.S.-China rivalry.

MIT president L. Rafael Reif, and Andrew Hamilton, the president of New York University, are among several top university officials who published opinion columns recently addressing the perceived growing threat to their Chinese students.

Reif said that academic institutions recognize the threat of espionage, but any new policy needs to “protect the value of openness that has made American universities wellsprings of discovery and powerhouses of innovation.”

Reuters

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Matt Spetalnick; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Chris Sanders and Edward Tobin

China’s Military Scientists Exploit Collaborations at Universities Abroad, Report Says

October 31, 2018

Over the past 10 years, Beijing has used a covert agenda to strengthen its military by sending scientists to study at colleges and universities around the world, posing a risk to the West’s strategic advantages, according to a recent think tank report.

On Oct. 30, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), an independent think tank partially funded by Australia’s Department of Defense, issued a report detailing Beijing’s scheme to send scientists with ties to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) abroad, mostly to the “Five Eyes” alliance countries—Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States—as well as Singapore, Germany, and Norway.

From 2006 to 2017, the top five destination countries for Chinese military scientists were the United States, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany, based on the number of publications with the scientists’ names as co-authors.

The report estimated that since 2007, more than 2,500 Chinese military scientists and engineers have traveled abroad, often by masking their military ties.

For example, when disclosing their academic affiliations, scientists would use the common name of a Chinese military institute instead of the formal name. For example, the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), a military academy, would be referred to as Changsha Institute of Technology instead.

Scientists also resorted to using names of non-existent research institutions as their cover. Sometimes, they would create LinkedIn profiles listed with their fake academic affiliations in order to establish a credible cover. Others claimed affiliation with real civilian institutions in the same regions as their military units.

According to the report, the PLA describes such schemes as “picking flowers in foreign lands to make honey in China”: acquiring foreign technology to advance the Chinese military’s capabilities. It warned of the risk of espionage by Chinese military scientists, especially those who haven’t come clean about their military ties.

How China sends its scientists on overseas programs is different from standard military exchanges, where understanding, dialogue, and a mutual relationship are built between China and the host countries’ militaries.

The PLA’s scientists have very little or no interaction with military officials in their host countries.

According to the report, roughly half of the 2,500 of the PLA scientists are PhD scholars, who go abroad to complete their doctoral degrees, or spend up to two years overseas as visiting scholars. The rest stay for a shorter period, about a year, as visiting scholars.

Chinese military scientists typically study in fields with military applications, such as hypersonic missiles, navigation technology, quantum physics, signal processing, and cryptography at overseas campuses.

Most of these scientists are from the military academy, National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), according to the report. Other Chinese schools that have sent many scientists are the Army Engineering University in Nanjing City; Northwestern Institute of Nuclear Technology and the Rocket Force Engineering University in central China’s Shaanxi Province; the Navy Submarine Academy in Qingdao, a port city located on the eastern coast; and the Armored Forces Engineering Academy and Chemical Defense Institute of the Academy of Military Sciences in Beijing.

 

The report also identified the top 10 university destinations for Chinese military scientists. The most popular destination was Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, followed by University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, and the University of Southampton in the U.K.

Several well-known Chinese military scientists from the PLA Rocket Force Engineering University (RFEU), an important research arm of the military’smissile forces, were named in the report for spending time studyingoverseas. Major General Hu Changhua, who heads the REFU’s missile testing and simulation center, studied at Germany’s University of Duisburg–Essen for four months in 2008.

Zhou Zhijie and Wang Zhaoqiang, scientists from RFEU, claimed to be from the Xi’an Research Institute, which appears to only exist on paper, when they were visiting scholars at universities in England.

Zhu Yijun, an associate professor at China’s PLA Information Engineering University (PLAIEU), claimed to be from the Zhengzhou Information Science and Technology Institute, another cover institute, when he studied at Canada’s McMaster University. According to the report, Zhu studied wireless communications technology with wide-ranging military applications while at McMaster.

For universities that decided to collaborate with Chinese military scientists on scientific research, the report warned of many risks and costs, including that Chinese military scientists are unlikely to share any major breakthroughs of military value with their foreign colleagues. Additionally, universities could risk damaging their reputation by working with China—a non-allied military.

The report provided several suggestions: One is improving the scrutiny of visa applications so that military scientists are identified and properly vetted. In addition, regulations should be put in place to limit the scientific training that foreign military personnel can receive while studying abroad.

https://www.theepochtimes.com/report-highlights-security-concerns-of-china-sending-military-scientists-to-study-abroad-in-the-west_2703662.html

The Problem With All Those Liberal Professors

September 18, 2018

The paucity of Republicans at many top schools hurts everyone.

A Democratic bastion.  Photographer: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Suppose that you start college with a keen interest in physics, and you quickly discover that almost all members of the physics department are Democrats. Would you think that something is wrong? Would your answer be different if your favorite subject is music, chemistry, computer science, anthropology or sociology?

In recent years, concern has grown over what many people see as a left-of-center political bias at colleges and universities. A few months ago, Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at Brooklyn College, published a study of the political affiliations of faculty members at 51 of the 66 liberal-arts colleges ranked highest by U.S. News in 2017. The findings are eye-popping (even if they do not come as a great surprise to many people in academia).

Democrats dominate most fields. In religion, Langbert’s survey found that the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 70 to 1. In music, it is 33 to 1. In biology, it is 21 to 1. In philosophy, history and psychology, it is 17 to 1. In political science, it is 8 to 1.

The gap is narrower in science and engineering. In physics, economics and mathematics, the ratio is about 6 to 1. In chemistry, it is 5 to 1, and in engineering, it is just 1.6 to 1. Still, Lambert found no field in which Republicans are more numerous than Democrats.

True, these figures do not include the many professors who do not have a political affiliation, either because they are not registered at all or because they have not declared themselves as Democrats or Republicans. And, true, the ratios vary dramatically across colleges.

The faculties of Wellesley, Williams and Swarthmore are overwhelmingly Democratic, with ratios at or above 120 to 1. At Harvey Mudd and Lafayette, the ratios are 6 to 1. At the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, it is 2.3 to 1; it is just 1.3 to 1 at West Point.

But despite the variability, none of the 51 colleges had more Republicans than Democrats. According to the survey, over a third of them had no Republicans at all.

For two reasons, these numbers, and others like them, are genuinely disturbing.

The first involves potential discrimination on the part of educational institutions. Some departments might be disinclined to hire potential faculty members based on their political convictions.

Such discrimination might take the form of unconscious devaluation of people whose views do not fit with the dominant perspective. For example, young historians who cast Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in a terrible light might not get a lot of job offers. And talented people might not pursue academic careers at all, because they expect that their potential professors will not appreciate their work.

The second reason is that students are less likely to get a good education, and faculty members are likely to learn less from one another, if there is a prevailing political orthodoxy. Students and faculty might end up in a kind of information cocoon. If a political-science department consists of 24 Democrats and 2 Republicans, we have reason to doubt that students will exposed to an adequate range of views.

It is true that in some fields, political affiliations do not matter. In chemistry, math, physics and engineering, students should not care about the party affiliations of their professors. Sure, it’s conceivable that Democratic chemistry professors want to hire fellow Democrats. But that would be surprising. In all likelihood, they are looking for good chemistry professors.

In fields of this kind, there is no reason to worry that political homogeneity will disserve students or undermine the exchange of ideas. If students are learning about special relativity or the physics of nuclei, partisan affiliations ought not to be relevant.

The real problems arise in subjects like history, political science, philosophy and psychology, where the professor’s political perspective might well make a difference. (The same is true of law.)

If academic hiring is skewed along ideological lines, the march toward uniformity might be self-reinforcing. Prospective professors will have an incentive to adopt the prevailing orthodoxy (or to speak and write as if they do).

It is far too simple, of course, to say that professors of history, political science, philosophy and the like should “look like America” in political terms. What matters is that they are experts in their fields, able to convey what they know. In faculty hiring, affirmative action for those with conservative political positions is not likely to serve anyone well.

Nonetheless, the current numbers make two points unmistakably clear.

First, those who teach in departments lacking ideological diversity have an obligation to offer competing views and to present them fairly and with respect. A political philosopher who leans left should be willing and able to ask students to think about the force of the argument for free markets, even if they produce a lot of inequality.

Second, those who run departments lacking ideological diversity have an obligation to find people who will represent competing views — visiting speakers, visiting professors and new hires. Faculties need not be expected to mirror their societies, but students and teachers ought not live in information cocoons.

John Stuart Mill put it well: “It is hardly possible to overrate the value … of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress.”

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners

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Cass R. Sunstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is the editor of “Can It Happen Here? Authoritarianism in America” and a co-author of “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness.”

Trump Administration to Rescind Obama-Era Guidelines on Race in College Admissions

July 3, 2018

Documents sought to help colleges consider race to promote diversity

The Trump administration is planning to rescind Tuesday a set of Obama-era policy documents that encourage the use of race in college admissions to promote diverse educational settings. Pictured here is Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
The Trump administration is planning to rescind Tuesday a set of Obama-era policy documents that encourage the use of race in college admissions to promote diverse educational settings. Pictured here is Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. PHOTO: ELISE AMENDOLA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is planning to rescind Tuesday a set of Obama-era policy documents that encourage the use of race in college admissions to promote diverse educational settings, according to two people familiar with the plans.

The move comes as the Justice Department is investigating whether Harvard University is illegally discriminating against Asian-American students by holding them to a higher standard in its admissions process. The administration revived the probe last year after Obama civil rights officials dismissed a similar complaint.

The documents, issued jointly by the Obama Justice and Education departments, laid out legal recommendations for schools looking to use race as an admissions factor to boost diversity at their schools.

Trump administration officials plan to argue that the documents, published in 2011 and 2016, go beyond Supreme Court precedent on the issue and mislead schools to believe that legal forms of affirmative action are simpler to achieve than what the law allows.

Anurima Bargava, who headed civil rights enforcement in schools under Mr. Obama’s Justice Department, disagreed with that assessment, saying the documents simply offered guidelines to schools and colleges looking to continue using affirmative action legally. She said the current administration’s action signals that it doesn’t favor racial diversity.

“The law on this hasn’t changed, and the Supreme Court has twice ruled reaffirming the importance of diversity,” she said. “This is a purely political attack that benefits nobody.”

Administration officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The move comes as a lawsuit is unfolding in federal court against Harvard, in which the Justice Department has previously filed a so-called statement of interest.

The suit, filed in 2014 by a group called Students for Fair Admissions, alleges Harvard intentionally discriminates against Asian-Americans by limiting the number of Asian students who are admitted. It is expected to go to trial in October.

The action to rescind the documents is likely to escalate a long-running national debate over the role of race in college admissions, an issue the U.S. Supreme Court has revisited on several occasions since the 1970s.

In 2016, the high court reaffirmed the practice in a 4-3 decision, but in his opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy left the door open to future legal challenges by saying universities must continue to review their affirmative-action policies to assess their positive and negative effects.

Mr. Kennedy has since announced his retirement, and advocates on both sides say his successor, to be nominated soon by President Donald Trump, may take a different view on the practice as the Harvard case wends its way through the courts.

Harvard has previously said its admissions process is consistent with the legal precedents set over the past 40 years by the Supreme Court, which have allowed universities to consider race as a factor in admissions to obtain the benefits of a diverse student body.

In court filings published last month as part of its continuing litigation, the university revealed that Asian-American applicants on average had higher academic marks and received higher scores from alumni interviews than other racial groups. But on a “personal” score that admissions officers used to gauge applicants’ character, Asian students scored the lowest.

Write to Michelle Hackman at Michelle.Hackman@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-to-rescind-obama-era-guidelines-on-race-in-college-admissions-1530619273