Accountability and Vindication (Title VI)

On March 28, 2007, Inside Higher Education’s Scott Jaschik reported on the findings of the National Research Council study of Title VI. The article is here. Martin Kramer posted this comment at the site. Posted retroactively here at Sandbox.

This report names and quotes me as a Title VI critic who feels vindicated by the panel report. That I am. And the panel report’s demands for greater accountability go even further than those reported by Mr. Jaschik.

For example, one of our criticisms has been the disconnect between Title VI and the needs of the federal government. A key recommendation of the panel reads as follows:

“Congress should require the secretary of education, in consultation and coordination with the departments of State and Defense, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and other relevant agencies to submit a biennial report outlining national needs identified in foreign language, area, and international studies, plans for addressing these needs, and progress made. This report should be made available to the public.”

This revolutionary proposal directly links Title VI and other academic language programs to the need perceptions of the major national security agencies of the United States. The public, biennial report would give Congress and the public a basis on which to determine whether these programs are meeting “national needs,” and not just the whims of academics.

Likewise, the incumbent of the new position envisioned at the Education Department would not only oversee and coordinate programs. This “executive-level” appointee would “provide strategic direction, and consult and coordinate with other federal agencies. The position should be one that requires presidential appointment and Senate confirmation.” The report also calls on this appointee to have his or her own staff. In effect, this would be an accountability czar, who would owe allegiance directly to the White House.

These provisions, when combined with the requirement of independent reviews of all programs every four or five years, add up to an accountability machine that exceeds what we envisioned in an advisory board. We could not be more pleased.

As to bias, Mr. Hartle of the American Council on Education is cited as claiming that the leaders of the panel vindicated the position of academics that there is no bias in Title VI programs. In fact, only Professor Prewitt made that “finding,” and stressed that he did so on a personal basis. Coming from a professor at Columbia, where bias made the front pages of the New York Times, this is not much of a reassurance.

In fact, the report specifically says that the panel was not charged with investigating bias, and that “the committee considers it beyond our charge to reach any definitive judgment of the issue.” Can this be called vindication? Because this panel did not investigate the bias issue, it remains an open one, to be addressed separately should Congress choose to do so. There are important provisions that would do just that, in the Senate version of the Higher Education Act reauthorization.

I personally wish to take this opportunity to thank the panel for its work, and for the opportunity to appear before it to make a critic’s case. All of us have an interest in seeing these programs flourish. The report is an important step in that direction.