- Published Date
- Written by Roger Clegg
Last year I wrote here about the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s ridiculous “disparate impact” lawsuit against Kaplan Higher Learning Corp. The Obama administration sued Kaplan for running credit checks on employee applicants – similar, by the way, to the ones the EEOC itself uses. Kaplan had learned that some of its employees had misappropriated student payments and, to provide safeguards against this behavior, it began screening its applicants for major red flags in their credit histories. The EEOC sued Kaplan, arguing that it cannot use credit checks, because use of credit checks has a disparate impact on black applicants.
Anyway, putting aside the inherent dubiousness of the whole lawsuit, there were also severe methodological problems with the Obama administration’s evidence, which relied on “race raters” (!) to determine, by scrutinizing driver’s license photos, the race of the applicants. So the trial judge threw out the case.
Last week, I’m happy to report, the court of appeals affirmed that decision – and in no uncertain terms, I might add, much I’m sure to the Obama administration’s chagrin.
In the case, the Center for Equal Opportunity joined an amicus brief on behalf of the company, filed by Pacific Legal Foundation.
* * *
In a recent post on National Review Online, I asked, “Is President Obama really against sex discrimination?” The reason for my question is a line from his speech last week on that topic: “We need more businesses to make gender diversity a priority when they hire and when they promote.”
In other words, employers do need to consider sex as a factor in whom they hire and whom they promote.
* * *
The New York Times reported last week that the Obama administration has drafted revisions to the Bush administration’s racial-profiling rules. I very much liked the approach taken by the Bush administration (discussed here in a piece I did at the time for National Review Online), so this is not reassuring news.
* * *
As the Supreme Court justices put the finishing touches on their decision in Schuette v. BAMN, one hopes that they are not too busy to read a couple of news stories. In Schuette, it is being argued that a Michigan ballot initiative banning, among other things, racial preferences in university admissions ought to be struck down as antiminority. And yet, in California, the SCA 5 legislative effort to repeal the ban there on racial preferences in university admissions was recently withdrawn because of pressure from a racial minority, namely Asians.
The takeaway, of course, is that racial preferences are (increasingly) unworkable and untenable in a society that is (increasingly) multiracial and multiethnic. And we have learned that, duh, maybe banning racial preferences and discrimination is not so “antiminority” after all.
And another thing: After the SCA 5 effort was derailed, the response of some African American and Latino state legislators was to block an up-until-then uncontroversial bill being pushed by, you guessed it, an Asian American legislator. Which shows why the federal Constitution takes race off the table for regular politics, and why states ought to do so as well. The supporters of SCA 5, in other words, are – ironically – making the case for why antipreference ballot initiatives are wise.
The justices can add all this to the other reasons for upholding the state’s ban discussed earlier here.
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I’ll have more about this in a future email, but here’s a heads-up about a paper I cowrote and that the Heritage Foundation has just published, titled “What Congress Can Do to Stop Racial Discrimination.” And here’s the paper’s abstract:
Discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity is unconstitutional, unlawful, and morally repugnant. The government should not sort people according to such innate characteristics, yet such criteria often factor into government programs and protections. Jobs should go to the most qualified individuals; contracts should be awarded to the lowest qualified bidders; the students who are most likely to excel academically should be admitted to taxpayer-funded universities; and all should be protected equally from discrimination. A number of states have enacted laws banning all forms of discrimination. Congress should eliminate racial discrimination in federal contracting and employment and federally funded programs, including educational institutions; require disclosure of preferential university admission policies; and limit and clarify when claims of “disparate impact” may be brought.
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Barry Mills, president of Bowdoin College, has announced that he is resigning — but that he's not retiring. So, did the shellacking that the school has gotten — as a self-parody of political correctness — by the National Association of Scholars have anything to do with it? I don’t know, and I doubt that Bowdoin and Mills will ever admit it, true or not.
* * *
Finally, we had some nice shout-outs of the Center for Equal Opportunity’s work this week. Conservative columnist Walter Williams quotes us favorably here and the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Hans Bader does so here.
The National Association of Scholars, meanwhile, notes that the Project of Fair Representation “is looking for student plaintiffs to challenge racial discrimination in admissions decisions at Harvard, UNC-Chapel Hill, and the University of Wisconsin.” Then it also correctly adds:
When it comes to discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex, however, it’s even more clearly illegal in faculty hiring and promotion, as Roger Clegg has explained here. In light of this, the National Association of Scholars is also seeking to identify people who believe they have been discriminated against in faculty hiring or promotion and are willing to file lawsuits. We aren’t targeting particular institutions, but our goal is to document cases of unfair racial discrimination against competent faculty members. If you are or know a faculty member who was denied promotion or hiring, and you have grounds to believe that race, ethnicity, or sex was a factor, please get in touch with us.
Our study documenting the use of racial preferences at the University of Wisconsin — which probably helped prompt the interest in a lawsuit against this school, just noted — was cited in the Chronicle of Higher Education here.
And this open letter from a civil-rights advocate, while not on our side of the aisle, did refer to “the Center for Equal Opportunity, the most prominent organization advocating the dismantlement of affirmative action in America." Of course, we’ll take that as a compliment!
- Published Date
- Written by Linda Chavez
Agree with him or not, you have to respect Jeb Bush's honesty. On two issues, immigration and a common core in education, Bush recently went on record stating positions at odds with some powerful activists in his own party.
In a speech in Florida last week, he came out solidly for immigration reform that includes giving legal status to the 11 million illegal immigrants who are living in the U.S. now (provided they pay fines, taxes and haven't committed crimes while here) and for a common core of knowledge that children in all states should be expected to learn. This is heresy to some Republicans, but just plain common sense to others, including those of us who consider ourselves Reagan Republicans.
But the most remarkable thing about his statement was its refreshing candor. He knew his remarks would be used against him -- and he didn't let that stop him. When so many politicians pander to prevailing opinion, it's refreshing to have someone refuse to play that game.
In terms of substance, Bush was following President Ronald Reagan's example.
On immigration, Reagan not only granted amnesty to some four million illegal immigrants in 1986, but he also was a longtime critic of those who wanted to shut our borders. In a 1977 radio address -- which, unlike most of today's politicians, he actually wrote -- Reagan said the following: "It makes one wonder about the illegal alien fuss. Are great numbers of our unemployed really victims of the illegal alien invasion, or are those illegal tourists actually doing work our own people won't do?" he asked. "One thing is certain in this hungry world; no regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters."
On education, too, Reagan believed in tough standards that all students should be required to meet. The modern education reform movement dates back to the Reagan presidency and the 1983 report "A Nation at Risk" issued by then Education Secretary William J. Bennett. Following the report, which showed American students lagging behind their foreign peers, many states moved to adopt standards that required students to master certain math, reading and writing skills at various grade levels.
Unfortunately, the state standards were inconsistent, diffuse, sometimes poorly implemented and not rigorous enough to improve students' educational achievement. As a result, a group of education reformers, including Bush, Bennett, Gov. Chris Christie and former Gov. Mitch Daniels, endorsed a proposal put together by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers for a purely voluntary Common Core State Standards Initiative. But some on the right have decided that the whole common core idea is simply a left-wing plot to subvert local control over education and promote liberal ideology.
Bush's challenge going forward if he decides to run for president will be communicating his views in ways that win over critics. In doing so, he should take a page from Reagan's playbook.
Reagan often has been described as the Great Communicator. His effectiveness, however, was not in telling people what they wanted to hear, but in persuading them to his point of view.
When I was White House director of public liaison during Reagan's second term, we often discussed polling data during the daily senior staff meetings -- but the purpose was never to alter policy recommendations. Instead, the poll data were used to fashion effective arguments to win over those who were either neutral or skeptical about the president's policies.
This is where Jeb Bush needs some help. The next time he speaks about immigration reform, he needs to describe why it is in the interests of ordinary Americans to support immigration reform, not just why it's the compassionate, moral thing to do. And if he wants to talk about education reform, he needs to make sure his audience understands that a core curriculum is not code for liberal indoctrination and dumbed-down standards.
He needs to hone his message and repeat it as often as he can. My bet is that if he does this well, he'll win over far more people than he scares off. He has the courage to do so. Let's see if he has the stamina.
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- Written by Linda Chavez
Conservatives traditionally have regarded minimum-wage laws with skepticism -- and for good reason. Attempts by government to interfere with market forces in setting wages rarely work out as intended. But a group of conservative pundits and activists recently joined President Obama and others on the left in calling for hefty increases for low-wage workers.
Have they all gone mad? Not exactly -- though the motives and tactics of some of the new minimum-wage proponents may surprise their allies on the left.
Some conservatives, including activist Phyllis Schlafly, actually have endorsed increasing the federal minimum wage. Ron Unz, a onetime GOP gubernatorial candidate and former publisher of The American Conservative, favors a state hike. He tried to put an initiative on the California ballot this fall that would raise the California minimum wage to $12 an hour but backed off this week when he failed to entice others to help fund the campaign. Still others, such as columnists Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, want federal intervention of a different sort, which they claim would raise pay for millions of low-wage workers.
What unites these conservatives is their desire to halt immigration -- legal, as well as illegal. Unz is explicit in making the case. The Daily Caller reports that Unz thinks his $12/hour plan would "flood American businesses with Americans who have dropped out of the workforce, and also push low-skilled illegals to the sidelines and eventually south of the border."
Provocateur Coulter agrees, though she thinks the process should work in reverse. Stop immigration, and wages will rise. "Republicans could guarantee a $14 minimum wage simply by closing the pipeline of more than one million poor immigrants coming in every year," she wrote in a recent column.
Not so fast. Here's what Unz, Schlafly, Coulter and the other pro-wage hike conservatives seem to forget: You can't force people to work, nor can you force employers to hire workers at wages that exceed their productivity and thereby reduce profits.
Two industries come to mind: meat processing and agriculture, both of which depend heavily on immigrant labor. (I know something about the former because I served on the board of one of the largest poultry companies in the U.S., Pilgrim's Pride, until the company was sold in 2009.)
The meat-processing industry is heavily dependent on immigrant labor. About a third of workers nationally are Hispanic, mostly immigrants, but average wages in most meat-processing jobs already meet Unz's floor.
In 2012, the Department of Labor reported average hourly wages for meat slaughterers and cutters were $11.99 an hour. Lower-skilled trimmers and cutters earned less, $11.39 on average nationally. Despite wages significantly higher than the minimum wage, few workers choose to take these jobs, which are difficult, dirty and dangerous. And those Americans who might give these jobs a try are unlikely to stay long. Employee turnover rates for many meat-processing companies already exceed 100 percent a year.
The same is true in agriculture, which is even more dominated by immigrant workers. The average hourly wages for agricultural workers listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2012 was $14 an hour. But despite Coulter's fantasies, few Americans are lining up for jobs picking crops while stooped under the hot sun eight hours a day.
Nor would raising the minimum wage succeed in forcing employers to hire workers whose labor isn't worth higher pay. Employers still have to make a profit. And in labor-intensive industries, companies that want to stay in business either pass those costs on to customers, hire fewer workers to do the same amount of work, replace workers with machines, or pack up and leave.
Closing the door to immigrant workers and raising the minimum wage would produce fewer American jobs, not more.
Unz says greater mechanization would produce better, higher paying jobs in the U.S. He told The Daily Caller that cheaper machines would replace some workers, but that the demand would spur high-tech companies to hire well-paid American technicians, designers and production workers. Really? A disproportionate number of the types of workers he describes are foreign-born engineers, computer programmers and assembly-line workers.
Raising the minimum wage and shutting off immigration are both attacks on the free market. Conservatives, of all people, ought to know better.
- Published Date
- Written by Roger Clegg
In his remarks at the “Strengthening the Relationship Between Law Enforcement and Communities of Color Forum” last week, Associate Attorney General Tony West gets the ball rolling this way: “Let me also express appreciation to Reverend Al Sharpton, not only for joining us this morning but for his leadership, day in and day out, on issues of reconciliation and community restoration.”
Al Sharpton — a leader for “reconciliation”? Really?
Mr. West also praises New York City mayor Bill de Blasio: “In the short time the Mayor has been in office, the Justice Department has established a productive working partnership with the City of New York. Within weeks of assuming office, Mayor de Blasio helped broker a resolution to a long-running legal battle — in which the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest — over NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices, helping to ensure that reforms are in place throughout the police department to promote constitutional policing.”
Then Mr. West devoted the balance of his speech to bemoaning a “criminal justice system that lacks integrity in the eyes of those it is supposed to serve,” and, it seems to me, suggests that this perception is, in substantial part, not mistaken. But you can read the speech and decide for yourself.
* * *
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has been grilling the federal Small Business Administration about wasting the taxpayers’ money, and good for him. But we would add that this is not even mentioning the unfair, divisive, wasteful, corrupt, and unconstitutional use of racial, ethnic, and gender preferences in the Small Business Administration’s programs. We hope Senator Sessions is looking at that, too.
After all, why do race, ethnicity, and sex need to be considered at all in deciding who gets awarded a government contract? It's good to make sure contracting programs are open to all, that bidding opportunities are widely publicized beforehand, and that no one gets discriminated against because of skin color, national origin, or sex. But that means no preferences because of those characteristics either — whether it's labeled a "set-aside," a "quota," or a "goal," since they all end up amounting to the same thing.
Such discrimination is unfair and divisive; it breeds corruption and otherwise costs the taxpayers and businesses money to award a contract to someone other than the lowest bidder; and it's unconstitutional to boot.
* * *
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran some opinion pieces over the weekend about President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program, and the people there asked if they could include what I had written on the subject a few weeks ago. So you can read my piece, among others, here. Also down south, you can read my comments in the Florida Times-Union recently here and, still in the South, I moderated a panel on civil-rights issues last month in New Orleans at the Heritage Foundation’s Legal Strategy Forum.
* * *
Earlier this year we had a National Review Online post on the proceedings at an event, held by the Maine Heritage Policy Center and National Association of Scholars, that built on NAS’s comprehensive study of political correctness at Bowdoin College. The focus of this latest event was on what Bowdoin proudly calls its efforts to ensure that students there are taught to be proper “global citizens.” Now NAS has posted videos of the presentations at the conference, which you can watch here.
The prime mover of the Bowdoin project, by the way, is CEO board member Tom Klingenstein.
- Published Date
- Written by Linda Chavez
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer and feminist proselytizer, wants to ban the "b" word -- bossy, that is. She has launched a campaign along with Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Anna Maria Chavez (no relation) to discourage using the word to describe girls or women who happen to show "leadership qualities." Count me out.
Apparently, Sandberg felt the sting of the "b" word at some point in 9th grade when a teacher advised a student not to be friends with Sandberg because she was "bossy," according to an interview she gave on ABC News. Now she believes the use of the word is one of the factors that leads girls to become less interested in pursuing leadership positions by middle school.
Citing studies that show that "between elementary school and high school, girls' self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys" and that "girls are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles will make them seem 'bossy,'" Sandberg's Ban Bossy campaign has garnered more than 100,000 pledges in its first week.
I must have grown up on a different planet than Sandberg. Although I came of age in the pre-feminist 1960s, the girls I knew never hesitated to lead. We competed for class offices, ran organizations and were often the top students, and no one suggested we ought to do otherwise. As for Sandberg's claim that girls are called on less in class and interrupted more, not in the inner-city Catholic school I attended.
Perhaps it was the influence of the nuns who taught us. Women ran parish schools in those days, with hardly a male authority figure in sight. It wasn't the girls who had a hard time, as I recall, but the boys. They were the ones whose knuckles got rapped with rulers or, as happened when I was in 10th grade, who were thrown down a flight of stairs for playing a practical joke on one particularly humorless sister.
I don't remember ever being called bossy -- except by my children, with good reason -- but I remember plenty of boys and girls whose behavior evoked the appellation. Being bossy means telling others what to do. Some bosses are bossy; others aren't. And I would argue leadership doesn't entail being bossy. In fact, true leaders inspire others to follow; they don't simply order people about.
Clearly, being called bossy didn't stop Sandberg from succeeding. She's led a rather privileged life. She was born into a stable, professional family, graduated summa cum laude from Harvard, and earned a Harvard MBA with distinction. She's now in a highly paid, powerful position at one of the biggest corporations in America. Yet she still seems hurt by a word.
Get over it. Succeeding, as Sandberg certainly knows, entails defying others' expectations that you might not have it in you. Successful people, men as well as women, care less about what others think of them than what they believe about themselves. The most successful people have to prove themselves over and over again. It's what motivates them and keeps them going until they reach the top.
Living in a protected bubble is no way to succeed. Working your way up any occupational ladder requires acquiring a thick skin. Not everyone is going to love you, especially not those you beat out on your way up. And if you can't deal with a few harsh words, what happens when you actually fail at something important, as most humans, even great leaders, do at some point in their lives? Learning to pick yourself up after you've tried and failed distinguishes the truly successful from the merely lucky.
Sandberg's campaign, however well intended, has the effect of treating girls like delicate flowers who will wither at the faintest brush with real life. Protecting girls from words that might damage their fragile self-image isn't going to produce more leaders -- just the opposite. If you can't take being called bossy, you're not likely to become a boss.
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- Written by Linda Chavez
I like Megyn Kelly. The Fox News anchor is smart, lively and gorgeous. But she's managed to walk right into a controversy over race and ethnicity, and it's not the first time. These are treacherous waters for anyone in media -- but especially so for media personalities who are perceived as conservative. (Full disclosure: I am also a Fox News commentator.)
The current brouhaha involves Kelly's decision on Wednesday during her eponymous show not to name the shooter in the deadly attack at Ft. Hood. Here's what she said: "Authorities are identifying the shooter. If you are interested, you can get his name on other shows, like the one that preceded this one, and online, but we have decided not to name these mass killers as a policy here on 'The Kelly File.'"
So far, so good. While many might disagree with her decision, it seems motivated by a desire not to give mass killers the notoriety many of them desire. In this particular case, Kelly may be off target -- the shooter was a soldier being treated for mental health issues -- but the principle at stake is unobjectionable.
If Kelly had left it there, the controversy would be solely about whether naming mass killers is good or bad policy. Unfortunately, later in her show, she decided to comment on the shooter's ethnicity. "The nationality of the shooter, it sounds Hispanic, Latino, but you can look up his name online," she said.
Now, I have no problem with identifying race when it is relevant. If a suspect in a shooting is on the loose, it seems eminently sensible to describe what he or she looks like, including skin color. But in this case, Kelly's use of the shooter's ethnicity was superfluous. He'd already killed himself, as well as three others.
The problem for Kelly is compounded by an earlier controversy over her assertion that both Santa Claus and Jesus were white men. She's right, depending on how you define "white." St. Nicholas, after whom Santa Claus is modeled, was a 3rd-century bishop from a town that is now part of Turkey but was Greek at the time. Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew living in what is now Israel and likely looked more like El Greco's depiction of a dark-haired, dark-skinned Semite than Holbein's fair-haired Northern European.
To be fair, Kelly's comment on Santa Claus and Jesus was in response to an article in Slate that argued for Santa Claus to be turned into a penguin. The author, Aisha Harris, argued that in today's increasingly multiracial, multiethnic America, we should get rid of "Santa-as-fat-old-white-man," a sentiment that clearly struck Kelly as offensive.
She would have been better off at the time making the point that race is irrelevant -- or should be -- to both figures. And it is clearly irrelevant to the Ft. Hood shooting. Conservatives have to be especially careful in this regard.
I don't know what was going through Kelly's mind when she decided to raise the ethnicity issue -- but if she'd thought it through, I doubt the words would have come out of her mouth, which is one of the great dangers with live television.
One of the best ways I know to stop from uttering something that is likely to sound prejudiced is to imagine the words coming from someone who doesn't share your ethnicity -- even better, someone whose views you usually don't agree with -- and substituting your own ethnic or racial group for the one being talked about.
If Al Sharpton had said he wasn't going to name the shooter but the name sounded white, you can bet Kelly would have jumped all over the comment.
The Ft. Hood shooting was tragic. It does not appear from early reports that the shooter, Ivan Lopez, was motivated by anything other than mental illness. He served a short tour in Iraq and returned home depressed, anxious and possibly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, for which he was prescribed several medications. His superiors regarded him as an exemplary soldier; he was married and a father of four.
Because he took his own life (as well as cruelly killing three others and wounding another 16), we'll probably never know why he turned from a good soldier into a murderer. But one thing we can say for sure: The fact that he was Puerto Rican had nothing to do with it.
- Published Date
- Written by Roger Clegg
Here’s an interesting story from Bloomberg View about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB likes to use the “disparate impact” approach in its regulation of banks, but the American Banker has obtained data showing that the Bureau’s own employment practices might not fare very well under this approach (which puts a premium on racial/ethnic/gender bean-counting).
“Specifically, CFPB managers show a pattern of ranking white employees distinctly better than minorities in performance reviews used to grant raises and issue bonuses. Overall, whites were twice as likely in 2013 to receive the agency’s top grade than were African-American or Hispanic employees, the data shows.”
The point is not that the CFPB is discriminating; the point is that the numbers approach is one that ought to be used very cautiously. But try telling that to the Obama administration.
I had flagged this story last week on National Review Online, and this week in the Wall Street Journal there is a good op-ed elaborating on the matter.
* * *
Speaking of the Wall Street Journal, it had a long article last week about how, in California, “Colleges [Are] Straining to Restore Diversity.” The article discusses how black and Latino admissions for the system’s very top schools at Berkeley and UCLA are down — though not at the other schools, and that graduation rates for blacks and Latinos have gone up. And it talks about the argument that real diversity might be better achieved by considering socioeconomic status rather than skin color.
But here’s what is most noteworthy: In this long article that is quite sympathetic to the efforts of the diversicrats, there is exactly one sentence about why schools should want to discriminate on the basis of race in their admissions. It reads, “When the state’s most elite universities are less diverse, [a school official] said, ‘It doesn’t provide our students with a level of diversity they need in order to learn about other cultures and other communities,’ which she says is important for the state’s future leaders.”
That is indeed a fair statement of what the “diversity” rationale — the only argument now made by schools to the courts — boils down to. That is, schools want to engage in systematic racial discrimination because they think it might improve the likelihood that random interracial conversations will occur in which black and Latino students will teach white and Asian students things about “other cultures and other communities” that they could not learn any other way. That’s the schools’ “compelling interest.” That sounds pretty weak to me.
And that’s supposed to outweigh all these costs of discrimination: It is personally unfair, passes over better qualified students, and sets a disturbing legal, political, and moral precedent in allowing racial discrimination; it creates resentment; it stigmatizes the so-called beneficiaries in the eyes of their classmates, teachers, and themselves, as well as future employers, clients, and patients; it mismatches African Americans and Latinos with institutions, setting them up for failure; it fosters a victim mindset, removes the incentive for academic excellence, and encourages separatism; it compromises the academic mission of the university and lowers the overall academic quality of the student body; it creates pressure to discriminate in grading and graduation; it breeds hypocrisy within the school and encourages a scofflaw attitude among college officials; it papers over the real social problem of why so many African Americans and Latinos are academically uncompetitive; and it gets states and schools involved in unsavory activities like deciding which racial and ethnic minorities will be favored and which ones not, and how much blood is needed to establish group membership — an untenable legal regime as America becomes an increasingly multiracial, multiethnic society and as individual Americans are themselves more and more likely to be multiracial and multiethnic (starting with our president).
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As you’ve probably read by now, last week President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division went down to a stunning defeat. The Center for Equal Opportunity worked hard to help make that happen, and we’re delighted that a majority of Senators listened to CEO and others as we documented why Mr. Adegbile is simply too radically liberal to be confirmed to this sensitive position. See, for example, this post.
Kudos to those Senators, including a number of Democrats, who voted against confirmation. As for the other Senators, we hope the voters remember your vote come November.
Also in Congress: We’re also happy to see that U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) is getting some deservedly bad press for the bad amendments he’s supporting for the Voting Rights Act. As I discussed here and as an op-ed I also had a hand in describes here, the bill is unnecessary and unwise. Here’s hoping it goes nowhere.
- Published Date
- Written by Linda Chavez
A controversial ruling by the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board this week gives college football players the right to form a union. At issue was whether scholarship players should be considered employees of the university, in this case Northwestern University. NLRB Regional Director Peter Ohr ruled that the players are athletes first and students second.
That's probably a fair reading for most college football players in the country at both public and private colleges. But the solution isn't unionization.
I'm actually quite sympathetic to the claims that schools take advantage of top athletes in sports like football and basketball. Sure, college players win full rides, with tuition and room and board paid for, along with perks, including tutoring and better food and accommodations at many schools. But athletic programs are a huge source of funding for the schools. Northwestern raised an estimated $30 million for its football program alone last year -- and the top earner, the Texas Longhorns, raised $139 million.
So where does all the money go? Northwestern says it spent $22 million in expenses for the program. According to tax filings for 2011 reported in USA Today, coach Pat Fitzgerald earned more than $2.2 million, plus another potential $2.5 million in loan forgiveness if he remains at the school. He is the highest paid employee at Northwestern.
But Northwestern, which is a private college, isn't alone or even at the top of the list of highest paying schools. Alabama's Nick Saban tops the list at nearly $5.4 million, which is higher than many NFL head coaches. Indeed, 50 schools paid head coaches more than $2 million a year in 2013, according to a USA Today compilation. Did these guys earn the money? You bet, given their teams' winning records and the amount of money the sport brings into the schools.
And coaches aren't alone in earning the big bucks. The top nine highest paid college athletic directors earned more than $1 million each, topped by Vanderbilt's David Williams, who earned more than $3.2 million last year. But all of this money is earned on the backs of the athletes, who risk life-altering injury every time they go on the field or court.
The chief legal officer of the NCAA, which will fight the NLRB ruling, told The Wall Street Journal, "We frequently hear from student athletes, across all sports, that they participate to enhance their overall college experience and for the love of their sport, not to be paid."
I have no doubt these players love playing -- and being a college athlete does enhance one's college experience. But let's be honest. The best players are hoping to parlay their college records into offers from professional sports teams, with the payoff coming in their own multimillion-dollar contracts.
Most college athletes, however, won't see those rewards. But nearly all who play football -- and, increasingly, basketball, baseball and other sports -- will experience wear and tear on their bodies that they may not have anticipated: concussion-related brain injuries, shattered bones, worn-out knees, hips and shoulders, torn muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Unions haven't helped other under-compensated university employees -- teaching assistants and adjuncts -- so I doubt Northwestern football players will benefit much if the NLRB ruling stands. But schools should look for a way to compensate players more fully for the role they play in building a school's reputation and raising money.
For one thing, schools could establish funds that players could later draw on when their injuries come back to bite them. And schools should work much harder to ensure that athletes actually graduate and find jobs when the NFL or NBA doesn't come courting.
In fact, why not pay graduation bonuses to athletes who have put in 50 or 60 hours a week on sports during the season to incentivize them to complete their degrees? Schools also could offer scholarships for graduate study for those athletes smart enough to know that an MBA, a JD or even a teaching certificate is a surer path to a secure economic future than football ever will be.
Of the 9,000 college football players nationally, scouts will choose only 310 for the NFL pool from which teams make their picks. And of those lucky few who make it onto an NFL team, the average career lasts about three seasons.
Colleges have gotten rich off of their football and basketball teams. It's time they delivered for the athletes who make that possible.
- Published Date
- Written by Linda Chavez
International Women's Day, celebrated this week for the 106th year, marks continued progress for women across the world, but that progress has been reversed in countries where Islamic fundamentalism has taken hold. And nowhere is women's freedom more under official assault than in Iran.
Prior to the Islamic Revolution in 1979, women in Iran had significant personal freedom and protection under the law. One of the first changes the Ayatollah Khomeini made after taking power was to revoke the 1967 Family Protection Law, which governed marriage, divorce and family custody.
Today, women have less than second-class status in Iran. Their husbands may divorce them at will and take as many as four concurrent wives, and divorced women have no custody rights to their own children once the child reaches age 2. Women are denied the right to study what they choose and are forbidden from entering certain professions and from studying abroad unless accompanied by their husbands. Their testimony in court is devalued: Two women must testify to carry the same weight as one man.
The court system is an arm of fundamentalist Islam. Female victims of crime receive less justice than male victims. Punishment for harming or even killing a woman is less harsh than if the victim is a man. What we in the West might consider moral transgressions, such as adultery, incur the severest criminal penalties, including the stoning to death of female adulterers. Even minor transgressions, such as failing to wear the hijab, can result in beatings and imprisonment.
Last week in Paris, however, I joined a group of prominent women gathered to draw attention to the plight of women in Iran and under other Islamic extremist governments. The conference theme, "Women Leading the Fight Against Islamic Fundamentalism," drew speakers including former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, former president of the German Bundestag Rita Sussmuth, South African activist Nontombi Naomi Tutu, and Mariane Pearl, journalist and widow of reporter Daniel Pearl, whose videotaped execution by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed became a symbol of the barbarity of al-Qaida.
Maryam Rajavi, the conference organizer and president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, described the outrageous misogyny that the mullahs inflict on Iran: an acid attack against a woman and her daughter in the streets of Tehran, forced marriages for girls under 15, and new laws (unopposed by the so-called moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani) that allow men to marry their adopted daughters at age 13.
But Rajavi's message was not one of despair. "Iranian women and all women in the region must move from being hopeless to being hopeful. They have to move from simply being angry to becoming inspired to change and to bring about change."
It was the same message Tutu invoked. Recalling her famous father, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, she described a visit he made to Alaska during the apartheid era where he met a woman who told him that she woke every morning at3 o'clock to pray for the liberation of South Africa. "And he said, 'What chance does the apartheid regime have when we were being prayed for at 3 o'clock in the morning in Alaska?' ... What chance does the regime stand when there are young women inside Iran leading protests on college campuses. What chance does the regime stand when the opposition is lead by a woman named Mrs. Rajavi. No chance! No chance!"
Pearl spoke of resistance in personal terms. "The women that we talked about today are those ordinary women with a mighty heart -- and they can defeat terrorism," she said. "They also know that we have no choice but to win that fight."
Women make up more than half of the population of Iran. The mullahs may try to silence them, deprive them of their rights, even take away their children. But women will be the face of change in Iran. And it is time feminists in the West stood by their side in the fight against Islamic extremism.