The Asphalt League

Letter From New York

In his 1942 swan song, The New Leviathan, dying British philosopher-historian R.G. Collingwood called the life of the mind "a magic journey." Remarkably free of illusions regarding the life of the university, however, Collingwood argued for "domesticating" professors, rather than being subject to them. But things have only gotten worse since then. Whether "public" or "private," today's university might more aptly be termed an "antiversity," where reason, science, evidence, and debate are held in Thrasymachean contempt, while repression, privilege, pseudo-science, and violence are lionized. Public and private campuses alike are dominated by massive government subsidy and coercion. This is particularly true in New York.

Take, for example, the City University of New York (CUNY). With the departure last September of CUNY's embattled chancellor, W. Ann Reynolds, some observers thought this once great institution, with an enrollment of 210,000 students, might yet be reformed from within. The 20,000 full-time employees who live large at the taxpayers' expense in CUNY's $4.4 billion-a-year patronage mill have had a generation to consolidate the culture of failure established in 1970 with the policy of "open admissions." A bread-and-circuses response to fears of black race riots, open admissions guaranteed acceptance at CUNY to every graduate of New York City's...

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