Knowing When to "Remain SIlent"

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
Jerry Coyne is all over the response from American university administrators to the Hamas atrocity. He is a big fan of the "Kalven Report", a 1967 document issued at the University of Chicago. It's short, barely over two pages. Universities, as institutions, should avoid taking "collective action on the issues of the day"; to do so imposes an Official University Position that stifles independent thought.

A pretty good idea from 56 years ago. What the heck happened? Jerry reproduces a letter from Brian Leiter defending the Kalven Report.

I find it baffling that anyone would want to hear from a college president or senior administrator about any domestic or international issue (“Here’s What Colleges Are, and Aren’t, Saying About the Israel-Hamas War,The Chronicle, October 10). Administrators should be seen and not heard, unless they are speaking about college business. That is one of the ways in which the Kalven Report proposes to secure a wide open space for members of the college community to express their views, without fear that they are running afoul of institutional orthodoxy.

You again quote Brian Rosenberg, a visiting professor in the Harvard Graduate School of Education and president emeritus of Macalester College, who claims that, “You cannot escape politics.” This statement doesn’t become less idiotic the more times it is quoted. If a college president remains silent about a political controversy and focuses on administering his or her college and its core functions of teaching and research, then he or she has indeed “escaped politics” in the only sense that matters in this context. If, instead, the president uses the bully pulpit to pontificate about politics, then he or she has injected politics and the pall of orthodoxy into the institution. That is exactly what the Kalven Report wants to avoid.

I've been giving the University Near Here some grief over the past few days for not coming up with any sort of official response to the atrocities perpetrated on Israel. Especially when the UNH President and Provost found it necessary to pontificate after the death of George Floyd back in 2020, stating "We cannot remain silent in the face of the trauma that these events inflict…".

Well, this time, they find it pretty easy to remain silent.

And (I have to admit) that might be a pretty good idea. Unless you're Ben Sasse.

Also of note:

  • Crazy idea: Let's keep the mess out of New Hampshire. The Antiplanner discusses how Massachusetts is handling mass transit: Fixing MBTA’s Financial Mess.

    Boston’s transit agency, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA or T for short), appears to be on the verge of collapse. Eight years ago, it reported a $7.3 billion repair backlog, which has probably grown since then. As I read its 2022 financial statement, it also has $5.4 billion in unfunded pension and health care liabilities.

    State officials have known about the T’s serious maintenance and safety problems at least since 2009, when an outside report commissioned by the governor found that it had a $3 billion maintenance backlog and wasn’t even spending enough on maintenance to keep that backlog from growing further (which is why it grew to $7.3 billion six years later). This was creating serious safety problems, the report charged, finding that the agency’s maintenance program was addressing only about 10 percent of the system’s most serious safety issues.

    I noted in a comment that up here in New Hampshire, gubernatorial candidate Joyce Craig is vowing "to bring MBTA commuter rail to Nashua and Manchester." A helpful commenter replied to me pointing out this LTE in the Union Leader, which begins:

    According to the latest official estimates, commuter rail would cost $782 million to build — more than triple the 2014 estimate — but it would be used by only 1,644 round-trip passengers a day. The other 99.99 percent of us would have no use for the train, but we would be paying to operate and maintain it at the rate of $17 million a year ($46,600 per day)!

    Also in the comments, a news story from just a few weeks ago: Frustration Growing With MBTA And Its "Unusual" Issues.

    MBTA officials shed little new light Thursday on the "unusual" rail problems that have slowed the nearly brand-new Green Line Extension almost to a halt, while a growing tide of public frustration is taking aim at Gov. Maura Healey and her hand-picked deputies.

    Portions of the Green Line Extension's Medford and Union Square branches cannot safely operate above 3 mph because the tracks now appear slightly too narrow for normal operations, General Manager Phil Eng told agency overseers at a public meeting.

    Yeah, it's a great idea to bring those choo-choos up here.

    (Should I have used a <sarcasm> tag there? Oh, well, too late now.)

  • Good advice. And it's from Ron Bailey in Reason: Take Nutrition Studies With a Grain of Salt.

    Comb through enough nutrition research, and you can find a study confirming or rebutting nearly every belief you may hold about how specific nutrients affect your health. "Meat Increases Heart Risks, Latest Study Concludes," reported The New York Times in 2020. A year earlier, the Times ran this headline: "Eat Less Red Meat, Scientists Said. Now Some Believe That Was Bad Advice."

    And that's just one example of the "everything we told you a few years back was wrong" school of nutritional advice. Bailey's bottom line:

    So enjoy the pleasures of drink and of the table in moderation, while keeping in mind English poet Alexander Pope's astute observation: "What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn't much better than tedious disease."

Last Modified 2024-01-10 5:47 AM EDT