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Update on the GOP Platform I: Colleges and Universities

November 26, 2017

In November of last year I wrote a post lamenting the fact that President Trump selected Rance Priebus to be his chief of staff. I was concernd because as the former head of the GOP, I believed Mr. Priebus would be pushing for the adoption of the GOP’s education platform. In the intervening months Mr. Preibus has fallen by the wayside, but the GOP’s education platform is alive and well and is advancing without Mr. Priebus’ interventoin at the White House. This is the first of three posts providing an update on the implementation of the GOP’s education platform using Politico’s synopsis of the elements of the 2016 Republican Platform that pertain to education with my assessment of progress made in bold red italics:

— On campus sexual assault: The Obama administration’s crackdown on campus sexual assaults has distorted Title IX “to micromanage the way colleges and universities deal with allegations of abuse,” the platform says. Republicans said that sexual assault reports should be resolved only by law enforcement, rather than by university officials. This has been accomplished with a stroke of Betsy DeVos’ pen. Some campuses welcomed the change, but many stated their intention to retain the standards they adopted in response to the Obama “crackdown”.

— On student loans: Republicans called for ending the federal direct student loan program and restoring greater “private sector participation in student financing.” Even though this will undermine a revenue stream for USDOE, the current GOP budget calls for a marked reduction in loans and includes a plan to increase revenues by ending tax deductions for student loans. Making matters even worse, graduate students will be required to pay taxes on the “compensation” they receive for fellowships and parents who teach in college will have to pay taxes on any in-kind scholarships their children receive. Make no mistake, the GOP does not like or value academics.

— On college accreditation: The platform says that “accreditation should be decoupled from federal financing.” And it also echoes some of the accreditation overhaul ideas that lawmakers like Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have proposed. The document says, for example, that “states should be empowered to allow a wide array of accrediting and credentialing bodies to operate.” Such a model, the platform says, would “foster innovation, bring private industry into the credentialing market, and give students the ability to customize their college experience.” This has come to pass at the state level thanks to the USDOE’s interpretation of ESSA and thanks, too, to Betsy DeVos’ decision to back off on USDOE suits brought against deregulated for profit schools.

— On for-profit education: “We need new systems of learning to compete with traditional four-year schools,” the platform says. “Technical institutions, online universities, life-long learning, and work-based learning in the private sector.” See above…  

— On recent campus protests and student activism: As it has in previous years, the platform laments “political indoctrination” on college campuses. This year, the document specifically criticizes “zones of intellectual intolerance or ‘safe zones” — adopting the term that some student activists have used to describe spaces on campus where marginalized students feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues. Some conservatives have said such efforts keep out contrary viewpoints and infringe on students’ free speech rights. “Colleges, universities, and trade schools must not infringe on their freedom of speech and association in the name of political correctness,” the platform says. The war on “political correctness” continues while unbridled racist, sexist, and xenophobic insults persist. President Trump’s reaction to the confrontations in Charlottesville VA underscored this change in direction from the top. Unfortunately some campuses have reacted badly, blocking the free speech of academics whose views are distasteful which reinforces the Alt Right’s contention that “political correctness” is a form of totalitarian thinking.

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