Saturday, November 7, 2020

Even Liberal Silicon Valley Rejects Stanford’s Politics

Several readers have asked how Stanford voters compare with California voters overall on two key ballot measures.  To this I’ve added Santa Clara County, home of Silicon Valley.

One is Proposition 16, an effort to overturn Proposition 209 that banned affirmative action and giving preference on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, and other defining characteristics.  Here are the results.

Stanford.  71.3% Yes

Santa Clara County.  51.8% No

California.  56.5%. No

Both Silicon Valley and California voted for merit.  Stanford voted for positive discrimination.

Another ballot measure is Proposition 22, which treats app-based drivers as independent contractors, not employees.  If voted down, many drivers would lose the ability to work part time to earn extra money.  Here are the results.

Stanford. 70.5%. No

Santa Clara County.  52.1%. Yes

California. 58.6%. Yes

From their secure tenured jobs, Stanford voters want to impose onerous conditions on the freedom of Californians to work part time to earn extra money.  This is shameful. It’s reason alone to abolish academic tenure.

Stanford is not just out of touch with America and California, it is even out of touch with Silicon Valley.

Will real, true political diversity ever appear at Stanford?  The honest answer is no.  The best that can be hoped for is that Stanford’s Presidents will continue to support academic freedom.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Politics On The Farm (Stanford), November 3, 2020

Several thousand faculty, staff, and students who live in Stanford Campus Housing are registered to vote in Stanford’s exclusive 94305 zip code.  Stanford includes eight precincts.  For reporting purposes, Santa Clara County combines them into two super-precincts.  In the data that follow, I further combine them into one comprehensive result for 94305.

 

Here are the results:

 

                      Biden               Trump          Others

 

Stanford     1,860 (94.7%)    68 (3.5%)    37 (1.8%)

 

California     (65.3%)            (32.9 %)       (1.6%)

 

The most important ballot measure in my view was Proposition 15, which was an attempt to change a key provision in Proposition 13.  Approved in 1976, Proposition 13 taxed all property at 1% of its sales price and limited annual increases in assessments to a maximum of 2% a year.  Proposition 15 would create a split roll by removing commercial and industrial property from the 2% annual limit, replacing it with an assessment based on market value.  This change would amount to an estimated statewide tax increase of between $6-11 billion on commercial and industrial property.  Proposition 15 leaves the annual 2% property tax Increase limit on residential property unchanged .

 

                              Yes                            No

 

Stanford          1,664  (86.4%)          262  (13.4%)

 

California             (48.3%)                   (51.7%)

 

Several brief comments.

 

First, there is barely a twinge of political diversity at Stanford.  There was one Trump vote for every 27 Biden votes.  Blink and you might miss the Trump votes. 

 

Second, Stanford faculty and students are much further left on the political spectrum than the state itself.

 

Third, California voters rejected an increase in property tax assessments on commercial and industrial property, while Stanford faculty, staff, and students voted overwhelmingly for it.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Will More Diversity And Inclusion End Systemic Racism On Campus?

Universities have been at the forefront of diversity for the past 40 years. Yet, after the unfortunate death of George Floyd, they have rushed to declare that their campuses are replete with systemic, institutional racism.

To end racism and achieve “racial justice” on campus, and by extension in the wider community, universities have announced initiatives on teaching, research, and governance. A letter of September 23, 2020, from Stanford Provost Persis Drell to the Stanford Community typifies these measures. They include:

Hire more distinguished Black (and other underrepresented minority) professors to study the impact of race in America. 

Hire more junior Black scholars to study race/ethnic relations.

Train more black graduate students in race/ethnic relations to create a pipeline for future academic appointments.

Create departments of race/ethnic studies.

Require students to take one or more courses with a rigorous diversity experience. 

Train faculty, staff, and students on explicit and implicit racial basis.

Greatly increase Black inclusion across all units of university governance.

Will these measures reduce and ultimately end racism, especially anti-Black racism, on campus?

The short answer is No. Let me explain.

Inclusion does not mean Inclusive. All of the new hires, courses, research programs, and training sessions will not include all points of view, especially any criticism of the racial justice orthodoxy that prevails among university administrations, deans, and faculties.

Here are some prominent Conservative Black Intellectuals who have written extensively on race/ethnic relations. Many have argued, with evidence, that affirmative action does not largely help its intended beneficiaries, and that statistical disparities do not imply discrimination.

Thomas Sowell

Walter E. Williams

Shelby Steele

Jason Riley

Candace Owens

Clarence Thomas

Ben Carson

John McWhorter

Larry Elder

Star Parker 

Will any of their books and articles be included in the enhanced efforts to study and reduce "racial injustice?" Probably not.

Here are some Conservative White Intellectuals who have written extensively on race/ethnic relations. 

Gary Becker

Clifford Geertz

William Hutt

Pierre L. van den Berghe

Alvin Rabushka

Will any of their research be included in the efforts to improve race relations? Certainly not.

But what if some of their arguments are correct, that more focus on diversity, inclusion, and the pursuit of racial justice will worsen race relations? I will be shocked if a single book by any of the above-mentioned authors is required reading in any of the new initiatives in leading universities.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Abraham Accords. Peace Between Israel and the United Emirates and Bahrain

First Egypt in 1979, then Jordan in 1994, and now the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have signed peace agreements with Israel, establishing normal diplomatic relations, and launching cooperative economic and other arrangements. Saudi Arabia permitted a commercial El Al flight over its air space, from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi. More Arab countries are in the queue to sign peace agreements with Israel. All of this in addition to the Serbia-Kosovo deal.

Trump has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of the Norwegian Parliament, for the Abraham Accords, and Magnus Jacobsson, a member of the Swedish Parliament, for the Kosovo-Serbia resolution. Peace prize nominations from Scandinavians are high praise.

Accolades have poured in, even from some anti-Trumpers.

Peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors has been one of the goals of every Secretary of State. Some spent days shuttling back and forth between Israel and the Palestinian leadership. The rise of Iran and the recalcitrance of the Palestinian leadership to accept any offer has rendered the Palestinians irrelevant. As Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban famously said, the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Now they are on the outside looking in. Maybe young Palestinians will instigate an orange revolution of their own and move to make peace with Israel and concentrate on bettering the lives of their people.

The Abraham Accords were signed at 1:00 PM EDT on September 15, 2020. As I post this comment, 48 hours have passed. I looked to see what all the former living Secretaries of State have said about this historic agreement. 

There are seven living Secretaries of State, or rather, the great George Shultz and six others, three Democrats and three Republicans, who served in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. All six all have Facebook and twitter pages, some more up-to-date than others. Shultz only has an inactive Facebook page.

To my surprise, none of the six posted or tweeted any comments on the Abraham Accords. Perhaps none of them wanted to acknowledge Trump’s foreign policy achievement. Maybe one or more will issue statements later. Still, rather disappointing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Blacks Prefer Police To Social Workers

A recent poll revealed that 81% of Blacks wanted the same level or more police protection; only 19% wanted less.

This is not surprising.  In 1971, The Department of Housing and Urban Development solicited proposals from Local (Public) Housing Authorities (LHAs) for grants to improve their housing management systems and cut costs.  This was part of HUD’s Management Improvement Program (MIP).

The MIP added special funding to the normal operating budget of the LHA.  But a condition of the grant was that the management changes were to be planned and implemented with the participation of public housing residents.

Thirteen large LHAs (1,250 or more units under management) were selected from the 72 applicants.  One was the Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA) in Delaware, which had nearly 2,000 tenant families and elderly residents.

TransCentury Corporation, founded by the deputy director of the Peace Corps Warren W. Wiggins, was selected to assist with the design of the program and evaluate its success or failure.  I was retained as a consultant.

In early 1973, we set out to interview the nearly 2,000 largely Black residents about their problems, not to find out if they had problems.  Our task was to identify and count them in pursuit of a well-designed information and referral program.  To our surprise the tenants would not own up to all the problems they were supposed to have based on prior research of the “crisis” literature in public housing.

We had anticipation that tenants would cite problems with obtaining much needed social services such as day care, urgent need for food, jobs, and money, that they felt trapped in public housing, and that they were contemptuous of the WHA’s management.  Because one study team member had interviewed in Watts, we rather incidentally also asked about crime and the police.

Only a handful of the nearly 2,000 residents we interviewed cited difficulties with obtaining social services.  Moreover, most liked their housing.  Most rated the management in positive terms.  But they wanted police protection.  More than anything else, they wanted security for themselves and their possessions.

In response, the WHA set up a housing security force, hiring off-duty Wilmington police, largely White, to provide after-hours security for the tenants.  When a panel of the same residents was interviewed a year after the initial set of baseline interviews, it testified overwhelmingly in favor of the new security force.  Though it had been in operation only a few months, a majority of respondents knew of the force and wanted it continued or expanded.

Because the survey showed that almost nobody had problems obtaining needed social services, the management reduced by three-quarters the resident social services staff during the same period.  Tenants reported that satisfaction with social services actually increased during the project period.

Interviews were conducted with a sample of tenants in each of the three succeeding years.  Tenants continued to speak highly of the benefits of management decisions designed on the basis of tenant preferences.

Tenants were disappointed that the security force was disbanded after the money for the MIP was exhausted.  As is all too common in government programs, policies change with changes in administrations and political objectives.  It was back to business as usual with social welfare workers, not police, despite the reduction in crime and drug dealing in the community.

The study is reported in detail in my coauthored (with William G. Weissert) book, Caseworkers or Police (free download).

Please take some time to look at the data in this book, rather than draw inferences of Black preferences from observing urban street riots.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Teaching Race And Ethnic Relations: 1975 vs. 2020

On August 17, 2020, California’s Governor Newsom signed into law a requirement that every student enrolled in any of the 23 California State University Campuses take a course on ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. Options include courses on Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latina and Latino Americans.

All major universities have Centers for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations. They have become umbrellas for departments and centers on African and African-American Studies, Latin American Studies, Asian Studies, Jewish Studies, Russian Studies, South Asian Studies, Middle East and North African Studies, and so forth.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy that prevails in every American university has placed more emphasis on research and teaching race and ethnic relations in America.

I began studying race and ethnic relations partly by accident. I switched from Engineering to Asian Studies after my junior year (1961) at Washington University. I crammed in two years of Chinese language study in summer (1961) and the following academic year (1961/62). Then I spent two years at the East West Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii, of which one was in Hong Kong studying Chinese.

When the time came to fix a dissertation topic, I looked for a country where I could put my Chinese to use. The Federation of Malaya (peninsular Malaya excluding Sarawak, Sabah, and Singapore), which gained independence from Britain on August 31, 1957, was an ideal choice with populations of Chinese, Malays, and Indians.  I proposed to study the political, economic, and social “integration” of the three disparate communities in a newly-independent country.

I subsequently revised my dissertation, publishing it under the title Race and Politics in Urban Malaya (free download). This led me to pursue comparative ethnic/racial studies. I subsequently traveled to Singapore, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), Cyprus, Belgium, Gibraltar, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic and Slovakia), Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia (Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia), Trinidad and Tobago, and South Africa. I read widely on Sudan, Nigeria, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Zanzibar, Mauritius, Lebanon, and Guyana. I coauthored (with Kenneth A. Shepsle), Politics in Plural Societies: A Theory of Democratic Instability (second edition, 2009, free download).

I taught a course on Comparative Ethnic Politics at the University of Rochester in the 1974/75 and 1975/76 academic years. The timing was ideal. The scholarly literature had substantially increased during the 1960s and early 1970s with the granting of independence by Britain, France, and Belgium to many multi-ethnic countries in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Living in and traveling to these countries adds depth, insight, and understanding to history, stories, and folklore in books and articles.

As an outside scholar, I found that members of different ethnic/racial groups were willing to share with me their perceptions of rival communities. Most comments consisted of negative stereotypes, explicit prejudice, and harsh jokes (e.g., characterizing rival groups as ignorant, illiterate, lazy, filthy, greedy, selfish, ruthless, crude, ill-mannered, hostile, untrustworthy, and having undesirable animal-like traits).

In the mid-1970s, a teacher could use those critical ethnic remarks as a pedagogical tool, in class anthropology, to illustrate the depths of hostility and anger rival groups felt toward each other. This information enabled students to understand why civil wars and violence broke out among rival ethnic and racial groups after the lid of colonial governance was removed. The first generation of post-independence leaders urged members of all ethnic/racial groups to practice harmony, respect, and civility towards each other to sustain democracy. What is today termed “identity politics” transformed multi-ethnic political parties into exclusive ethnic/racial political groups, destabilizing the multi-ethnic political coalitions.

Today’s identity politics preclude even the slightest effort to add folklore depth to current research and teaching. The consequences are that students, professors, and policy makers, especially those interested in international relations and foreign policy, are woefully uninformed. They have been trained to mistakenly advance the American doctrine of Diversity and Inclusion in countries that tried and emphatically rejected it (e.g., Libya, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan).

The destruction of an academic career in 2020 only takes a single student to complain that an instructor disparaged a member of an ethnic or racial group, or assigned reading that does so, thereby creating a hostile educational environment. The instructor will, at a minimum, receive a severe warning from the Dean or Provost, be possibly suspended from teaching while under investigation, or even dismissed from employment. Academic freedom is no match for Madame Defarge.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Race Relations In America

Late May 2020 witnessed an outburst of protests and violence in cities around the United States in the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd.  Racial protests and race riots are not new or unique to America. They have occurred throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, East Asia, South Asia, the Pacific, and the Caribbean.

Countries have their own unique causes of racial and ethic conflict, but they also have features in common.  My co-author and I have chronicled these episodes in several dozen countries in our book, Politics in Plural Societies:  A Theory of Democratic Stability (Second edition, 2009).  It is available for free download.

I invite you to read this comparative study of racial and ethnic violence, the lessons learned, and proposals for ameliorating the hostilities.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Getting Back To Business With China

Is it time for the U.S. to move on from the blame game over who did what on Covid-19, and get back to doing business with the Chinese Communist Party, China’s Government, Chinese universities, business firms, and social organizations?

Perhaps.  But doing business with China requires adherence to its rules. What are those rules in practice?  (See list below.)  If you doubt them, apply for a visa to visit China.  On arrival, exercise your freedom of speech criticizing Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party the same way that are free to criticize Donald Trump and the Republican Party in the United States.  Watch what happens.  If you are lucky, you’ll be deported.  If not so lucky, you’ll be detained, perhaps for an indefinite period of time, or worse.  If you are President of Harvard, you may be allowed to talk about academic freedom to an audience of students and faculty at a leading Chinese university, but you still better not criticize any aspect of Xi Jinping Thought.

Here is a list of no-no’s that constrains doing business with China (and applies to your local Chinese employees):

No freedom of speech.

No freedom to dissent.

No freedom to criticize Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party, and China’s government.

No academic freedom in the humanities and social sciences.

No freedom of the press.

No religious freedom.

No freedom of the people to peacefully assemble.

No freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

No security of persons in their houses and their papers and effects.

No protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.

No “rule of law.”

No presumption of innocence.

No right to equal protection under the law.

No trial by an independent jury of one’s peers.

No protection against seizure of private property without just compensation.

No protection from excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishment.

No practice of democracy, i.e., free and fair elections.

No freedom of travel by train or airplane without an acceptable government-determined social credit score.

No protection from arbitrary arrest, detention, and exile.

No universal freedom to leave the country.

The individual freedoms that are summarily disregarded by China’s leaders are enshrined in China’s Constitution.  But they are on paper, not in practice.

Chapter II of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (2018 Edition) is titled “The Fundamental Rights And Duties Of Citizens.”  They are stipulated in Articles 33 through 56.”

33.  All citizens of the PRC are equal before the law.

34.  All citizens aged 18 and over have the right to vote and stand for election, unless deprived of political rights according to law.

35.  PRC citizens have freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration.

36.  PRC citizens have freedom of religious belief.  Citizens cannot make use of religion to disrupt public order or interfere with the educational system of the state.

37.  No citizen may be arrested except with the approval of a people’s procuratorate, a people’s court, or public security organ.

38.  Citizens shall be secure from libel, false accusation, or false incrimination.

39.  Citizens shall have freedom from unlawful search of, or intrusion into, a residence.

40.  Citizens shall enjoy freedom and privacy of correspondence, except to meet the needs of state security and criminal investigation.

41.  Citizens have the right to criticize and make suggestions regarding any state organ or functionary and make complaints against those that violate the law or fail to perform their duty.

42.  Citizens have the right and duty to work.

43.  Citizens who work have the right to rest and take vacations.

44.  Citizens who are retired are guaranteed livelihood by the state and society.

45.  Citizens are entitled to material assistance from the state and society if old, ill, or disabled.

46.  Citizens have the right and duty to receive education.

47.  Citizens have the freedom to engage in scientific research, literary and artistic creation, and other cultural pursuits.

48.  Women shall enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life.

49.  Freedom of marriage is protected by the state.  Both husband and wife have the duty to practice family planning.

50.  The PRC shall protect the legitimate rights of Chinese nationals residing abroad, family members of Chinese nationals residing abroad, and lawful rights of returned overseas Chinese.

51.  Citizens, in exercising their rights and freedoms, must not infringe upon the rights of the state, of society, of the collective, or lawful freedoms and rights of other citizens.

52.  Citizens have the duty to safeguard the unification of the country and the unity of all its ethnicities.

53.  Citizens must abide by the Constitution and other laws, keep state secrets, protect public property, observe labor discipline, observe public order, and respect social ethics.

54.  Citizens have the duty to safeguard the security, honor, and interests of the motherland and must not commit acts detrimental to the security, honor, and interests of the motherland.

55.  Citizens have the duty to defend the motherland and resist aggression.  Citizens have the duty to perform military service and join the militia in accordance with the law.

56.  Citizens shall have the duty to pay taxes in accordance with the law.

These rights and duties would be reasonable if they were honored in practice.  A major problem is that the Preamble and Chapter I in the Constitution, which specify the foundations of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” provide justification for violating constitutional rights.

Here is a partial list of constraints on the exercise of individual rights stated in the Preamble and Chapter I.  (My comments in italics.)

The People’s Republic of China is a Socialist state.  Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the Communist Party.  Any disruption of the socialist system by an organization or individual is prohibited.  (This statement eliminates democracy, dissent, free and fair elections, criticism of the Chinese Communist Party, and disobeying any other CCP dictums.)

The state upholds the Socialist legal system.  (The Socialist legal system does not provide the individual protections embedded in the Common Law and Civil Law.)

The basis of the Socialist economic system is socialist public ownership of the means of production.

All mineral resource, waters, forests, mountains, grasslands, unclaimed land, beaches, and natural resources, and urban land are owned by the state or rural collectives.

Non-public sectors of the economy (individual and private sectors) are protected, but under the oversight and control of the state.  (Individual and private sectors are subject to the whims of the CCP and the state.)

The state protects both public and private property, but may requisition or expropriate private property for public use with compensation.  (The state, not an independent tribunal, determines compensation.)

The state maintains public order and penalizes activities that endanger public security or disrupt the socialist economy.  (This provision means that China can punish any individual or organization that does not comply with official ideology or policy, without any appeal.)

What must be understood in these lists of rights, freedoms, and duties is that the Chinese Communist Party and its subsidiary state organs have the exclusive right and power to interpret and apply the Constitution and laws of China.  There are no appeals to any independent constitutional or statutory authority.

No country is perfect in always applying its stated principles of governance.  There are degrees of variation of adherence to human rights.  By any measure, the United States is high on the list of countries that give credence to human rights and China is far down.

Do you want to understand Chinese rules?  Ask residents of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Chinese exiles in the West what the “Rule of Law” means in practice in China, and what China’s promises to abide by written agreements means in practice for Hong Kongers.

The United States does business with many countries that violate their constitutional principles and legal guarantees.  But none pose the same economic and political threat to the United States as does China.  Burundi is not China.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Red Flag Over Hong Kong: China's Broken Promise To Hong Kong

Read the following book (free download) for a thorough understanding of China's broken promise to Hong Kong that its residents would enjoy a high degree of autonomy for 50 years to maintain their separate political, economic, and social systems.

The book was an English language bestseller in Hong Kong from its publication in 1996 until June 30, 1997, when China resumed sovereignty from Britain over Hong Kong.  Copies of the book disappeared from the shelves of Hong Kong's English language bookstores immediately thereafter.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Coming Great Disruption In Higher Education

During the past decade, most universities and colleges, large and small, have set forth vision statements for the future along with timetables for achieving their goals.

Here, for example, are the guiding principles of Stanford’s long-range vision

*  Renew our commitment to Stanford’s founding purpose to promote public welfare by exercising influence on behalf of humanity 

*  Anchor our efforts in integrity, ethics, inclusion, and human welfare 

*  Advance our mission as a research university to serve as a place of enlightenment and freedom of thought and expression

(details:  https://ourvision.stanford.edu/)

Most vision statements includes the following objectives:

Increase minority student enrollment
Increase first generation student enrollment
Increase low-income student enrollment
Increase student financial aid
Construct new campus facilities
Increase endowment and annual giving
Increase faculty/staff diversity, equity, and inclusion
Increase research activities
Increase international programs
External engagement to help local, state, national, and foreign governments solve problems
Revamp core curriculum to address social injustice
Increase residential education
Reduce sexual violence on campus
Increase mental wellness

Enter The Coronavirus

The Wuhan Coronavirus has disrupted these carefully prepared visions and timetables.  Some schools, with more to follow, have assembled task forces to deal with the impact of the coronavirus,  These task forces will have to consider cuts in current academic programs to offset reductions in endowment income, gifts, and state appropriations.  Without an effective vaccine for a year or more, and to prepare for the possibility of another disruption, universities will have to consider changes in current operations.

Fearing a second wave of the coronavirus in autumn, which a number of prominent epidemiologists has predicted, some universities and colleges that are scheduled to begin instruction in mid-August might choose to remain closed to undergraduates.  Most dorms are rows of rooms with common bathroom facilities and communal sitting areas.  A single student could potentially infect dozens.  The liability of students infections and deaths may be too high to risk reopening dorms, not to mention the moral opprobrium that would fall on university administrators.  Moreover, many parents may be reluctant to trust college administrators with their children’s safety.

Mental health illness, already a large problem on campuses, would intensify as students spend every waking minute worrying about catching the coronavirus from fellow students, staff, and faculty.

It is questionable whether fall 2020 sports will resume with football stadiums seating 50,000-100,000 spectators.  Several infected fans would create panic among students and other spectators.  Athletes would need to be tested daily given contact on the field and close proximity in locker rooms.

Social distancing will continue after the corona virus has abated.  It will become ingrained in our  behavior to minimize the transmission of colds, flu, and other infectious diseases.   Social distance will curtail social life, to wit, the college experience.  Absent social life, more students may choose to enroll in lower-cost, online degree programs already in place at many universities.  

All foreign study and research programs will likely remain suspended, lest students get infected and stranded abroad.

Many universities and colleges boast that their incoming first-year class includes students from 40-50 states and dozens of countries.  Each of those students will have to be carefully examined for the presence of the coronavirus.  If a second wave breaks out and students are again forced to evacuate campus housing, some may find it difficult to return to their own countries if inbound flights are terminated.  These students then become the responsibility of the university.

In the 2018-19 academic year, about 370,000 students from China were enrolled in American colleges and universities.  Many pay full tuition, room and board, and help support local economies, amounting to about $12 billion a year.  If flights from China remains banned, or severely restricted, many Chinese students will be unable to enroll, or return to their studies, in American universities.  Many Chinese parents who foot the bill may not want their children to attend school in America for fear of catching the virus in a second wave.  Ditto for students from India, the second largest source of international students, Italy, Spain, and other countries.

Now that universities have experienced a quarter or semester of online instruction, the hard work of learning the technology is largely complete.  Except for laboratory classes and research, it will be much easier to put the entire curriculum online for the fall semester or quarter.

How will the high school and college experience with online education change the landscape of higher education?

Without the college experience, students do not need thousands of universities, colleges, and community colleges to learn a subject and earn a degree, or even complete a degree course.  Why pay Yale or Stanford for distance learning from their limited faculties when online courses from a multitude of sources are available at lower cost.  Nor do students necessarily have to spend four years on a high-cost campus to earn a degree.

Entrepreneurs have already created certificate or degree programs from a pool of faculty that  can offer online courses and recruit thousands of other active and retired academics to serve as tutors and grade papers and exams.  Physically-defined universities will slowly give way to cloud-based universities.  Current organizations include edx, Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, and the Khan Academy.  Arizona State University offers 200 degree programs online. Other universities are doing the same.  Firms will post job descriptions for various careers and cloud-based firms and schools will supply and certify the necessary education. 

This reorganization of higher education may be slow to start, but technological innovation has the potential to overwhelm traditional education in short order, as it has done to many industries and professions, especially if revenues substantially decline in the 2020-21 academic year and beyond.

Many schools have paused new staff hiring and faculty searches.  The 2000 dot.com crash and the 2008-09 financial crash led to large-scale buyouts of faculty and staff.  This time the financial impact could be greater and last longer.

Appeals to trustees and donors will not make up lost revenue. Most wealthy persons and philanthropists serve as trustees of several non-profit institutions and donate to others.  Every non-profit will ask donors for more money to make up lost revenue, even as donors’ wealth declines.  Too, donors are likely to shift a higher percentage of their giving to biology departments, biotech programs, nursing departments, and medical schools.  Less money will go to general university funding, such as humanities and liberal arts.

Cost-cutting to rebase budgets to a lower sustainable level will be the order of the day.  Ramping up online teaching activity may be the only source of new revenue, similar to the way ebooks first complemented, and then steadily supplanted, print books.  Faculty and staff salaries consume the lion’s share of university expenditures.  Even tenured faculty will be pushed or bought out as took place in the 2000 dot.com crash and the 2008-09 financial crisis.  Ph.D. programs cranking out new faculty will be cut back for lack of money and diminished opportunity for graduates to get academic appointments.  Even schools with multi-billion dollar endowments will face hard choices.

Universities have added large number of non-teaching staff in recent years to foster diversity, equity, inclusion, mental health wellness, reduce sexual violence, support transgender persons, and so on.  Many of these academic jobs will disappear in a world of remote education.  Students will shop for courses and skills, not ethnic empowerment and social justice certificates.

Is this future inevitable?  Not necessarily.  Perhaps the virus will fully or almost fully abate sometime in mid-summer, with good treatments available to cure those who are sickened by it.  Under these conditions, universities may gamble on reopening in the fall.

If a second wave occurs this fall, or if the virus does not adequately respond to treatment, reopening and then closing mid-term a second time would be catastrophic.  Covid-19 should teach us that nothing is certain except death (and taxes).  Perhaps a vaccine can reestablish the old normal by fall 2021.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps it will be too late as remote education rapidly expands.  To quote Mao Zedong, “A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire.”

Cancellations

Widespread cancellations of events illustrate the response to the coronavirus.

The 2020 Japan Olympics has been rescheduled to July 2021.

On March 31, 2020, Wimbledon canceled its tennis tournament for 2020.  It will not resume until 2021.

On March 31, 2020,, Scotland announced the cancellation of the August Edinburgh International and Fringe Festivals for the first time in 70 years.  The Military Tattoo, the Edinburgh Art and International Book Festivals were also cancelled.  These festivals, attended by 4.4 million people, attract 25,000 artists, writers, and performers from 70 countries who take part in 5,000 events.

On April 1, 2020, the United Nations Climate Change Summit was postponed until 2021.

On April 1, 2020, Justin Bieber canceled all tour dates for 2020.

On March 17, 2020, the Rolling Stones postponed its tour.

On April 1, 2020, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival scheduled for June 24-August 30 was canceled for the first time in 88 years.

On March 26, 2020, the New York City Governors Ball was canceled.

On March 17, 2020, Glastonbury scheduled for June 4-8 was canceled.

Hundreds of postponements and cancellations have been announced for other Launches, Premiers, Screenings, Films, TV shoots, Theater Productions, and Sporting Events.

The first college or university that announces it will remain closed to on-campus learning and stick with remote learning will probably set off a tidal wave of closures around the country.  Similarly, if any school that reopens experiences a second wave of the coronavirus, it and other schools will quickly implement closures.  No school wants to be first to set off the avalanche, but time is fast running out.  We should have an indication before the end of May.