BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Martin Anderson, author of Impostors in the Temple, who was Stanford professor Alan Cox and what relevance did he have to your book.
MARTIN ANDERSON: The story I tell at the end of the book illustrates one of the more extreme examples of what I call hubris on today's campus, the degree to which, I think, the institution of our universities has lost in integrity.
Alan Cox was a very well known professor at Stanford, 60 years old, world famous biophysicist. In fact, he is one of the fellows, I believe, that had discovered that the pulls of the earth had reversed from north to south. A very famous beloved teacher, very popular with the students, lived in the dormitories. At the end of his career he was the vice president for all research, for all Stanford. This is one of the top people in the field. A few years ago, one Saturday morning, he was out riding his bicycle. He was in excellent physical condition. Early in the morning, he came down a steep hill in the foothills near Stanford, and he failed to make a turn at the bottom. The bike went off the road, wheels went into the dirt. He sailed up over the handlebars and went head-first into a tree. They found him about 200 feet away and his skull was cracked or crushed and he was dead. Now, the next Monday at the campus there was a tremendous wailing and anguish and people bemoaning the loss of their beloved professor. I believe it was that same day one of the reporters for the Stanford Daily, a student newspaper, went out to the site, writing up the story, and ran into a deputy sheriff and got talking to him.
The deputy sheriff said in so many words, "Well, just as well. We were about ready to arrest him today anyway," so the student inquired into this and wrote the story. It turns out -- there were a number of stories in the local press -- that what had transpired is that Professor Cox, some five years ago, had a doctoral student at Stanford that he was supervising and the fellow was an older fellow, married, who has a 14-year-old son. The allegations were that the professor began a sexual affair with the 14-year-old son of his doctoral student. This continued for some five years during which the father got his degree, left Stanford, went to Washington State. Then, so the newspaper reports go, Professor Cox followed him up there to Washington State to continue his affair with the young boy. Then they are not quite sure what happened, but the father eventually found out, called Cox and according to newspaper reports, the professor agreed to pay for psychological counseling because the young boy was seriously disturbed. Finally the father decided to press charges in Washington State, and they were going to come down to arrest the professor.
The essence of the story is that this is the kind of thing that could happen in any profession -- law firms, politicians, maybe even media people for that matter. But what I thought was extraordinary was the response of the Stanford community. I thought at first, my God, they're going to be very upset about this. They are going to say, "Gee, how about all these other students?" First thing that happened, they had a major eulogy service on the campus -- and nothing wrong with that. But they went far beyond extolling his virtues as a world class professor. Instead, they praised him as a person and said he was a man of fine character. They even talked about the excellence of his relation with students. Then a few weeks later, the Stanford faculty met in the faculty center, which is a representative body. They passed a written memorial which they put on paper and signed off -- all of them. Again, I thought they would have sidestepped the question that he had committed suicide when he was under these allegations, but instead they glorified his character. Then finally -- I guess this is the part that astounded me the most -- they went beyond the defense to a glorification of the man.
A few months later they gave him one of the perhaps most unique, best honors that any professor could ever hope of getting. Stanford University minted a medal in his honor -- a beautiful heavy bronze medal. That medal is given out annually to a faculty member. It's one of the major prizes now at Stanford. It's been given out for about four years now. It's given out for fostering research and undergraduate education. There are a number of criteria, and I believe at one point in one of the flyers that came out, one of the criteria was relations with students. By the way, they changed the award somewhat this year. Now in addition to the medal, they also get the income from the Amoco Foundation of Chicago, so you get a $1,500 cash prize in addition.
LAMB: Did they ever prove all the allegations? Suicide and his relationship with the young boy?
ANDERSON: The police department issued a report a few weeks after that saying that they had ruled it was a suicide in response to the fact that he was going to be arrested on the charges.
LAMB: Obviously, you felt comfortable enough to publish this in the book, though. Has anybody disputed the facts of your story?
ANDERSON: No. In fact, this particular story was widely discussed in the local press around Stanford and in the campus newspapers. In fact, there had been editorials in student newspapers raising some of the same questions that I do in the book. No one has ever disputed any of it.
LAMB: Why does that fit in a book called "Impostors in the Temple?"
ANDERSON: It's an extreme example. This is right at the end of the book. The basic purpose of this book was to take a hard look at American intellectuals, which, by the way, I divide into two categories -- professional intellectuals like yourself and academic intellectuals.
LAMB: Like you?
ANDERSON: I think I've slid back into the professional category.
LAMB: Explain why.
ANDERSON: There's one group of intellectuals which I call academic intellectuals, basically the faculty of our universities and colleges, and there are 650,000. They're hired primarily to teach. They do research along the side sometimes. The research they do affects how much they get paid, but, basically, they are hired to teach. This is what they do for a living.
Your professional intellectuals are a much different breed of people. These are people that write books for commercial houses. They write national columns. They do radio talk shows. They do television talk shows. They are the fellows in the think tanks. Basically, they think and write for a living. They have no teaching responsibilities, and it tends to focus their attentions wonderfully because that's how they pay the mortgage and send their kids to college.
If you look at it through these two groups, I think a lot of things become much clearer as to how America's intellectual life operates. I think one surprising thing about this group is that it is fairly small. You start counting them up and there aren't many of them -- national columnists, maybe 300 or so, people on television who engage in commentary and analysis. I think you'd have to really push it to get over 1,000. Fellows in the think tanks -- I took the 20 top think tanks in the United States and decided to count them up. I always thought there were 5,000 to 10,000 of these fellows all over the place. If you leave off the RAND Corporation and the Urban Institute, which are government funded, and look at the private think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Brookings Institute and Hoover, I can't get more than between 250 and 300 depending on how you count them and eliminating duplications. Anyway, you're not talking about in total perhaps no more than 1,000 or 1,500 people of these professional intellectuals. What I think is, again, striking about this, is that if you look at what these two groups do, the academic intellectuals have an enormous amount of prestige and status, but not much influence. In terms of driving the intellectual debate in this country, I would argue that most of it is done by this relatively small group of professional intellectuals. That's where the real vitality comes. They don't have much status and prestige, but all they have is all the influence and the money.
LAMB: You personalized it by saying I'm a professional intellectual. I have never considered myself an intellectual.
ANDERSON: I'm sorry. I take it back.
LAMB: But you have to define that term for me. What's that mean?
ANDERSON: When I was doing research on the book, I must have read close to a couple of hundred books. The one thing they all agreed on is that they all had a different definition of intellectual. So, I've given the book my definition of intellectual, and I'm sure people will disagree with it. I think, for example, in terms of professional intellectuals, they're essentially people who work with ideas, especially in the area of ideas that deal with people, whether it's politics, public policy. Generally, people who work with scientific matter, we call them scientists. But this is primarily in the area of the humanities, politics, public policy.
LAMB: What do you do for a living?
ANDERSON: I am a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
LAMB: What is the Hoover Institution?
ANDERSON: It's one of those think tanks. It's a unique think tank in that it's a integral part of Stanford University, but it has a great deal of independence and basically sets its own policies.
LAMB: Where does it get its money?
ANDERSON: Most of the money comes from endowment funds, private gifts. We use to get a little tiny amount, like a few percentage points, from the federal government. I think we stopped doing that. It was just too much trouble to fill out the forms. Then part of the Hoover Institution is a major international library and a large private archive of the papers of famous people in government. That is open to all the people at Stanford and, in fact, scholars from around the world. So about 25 to 30 percent of our budget comes from Stanford University, which primarily pays for the cost of the library and the archives.
LAMB: What is the relationship between you and Ronald Reagan and Ronald Reagan and the Hoover Institution and Ronald Reagan and Stanford?
ANDERSON: As part of my misspent youth, I was formerly Ronald Reagan's policy advisor. I traveled with him within 1976 and 1980 and then served in the White House as the Mexican economic policy advisor for the first couple of years for President Reagan. Before he ran for office, the connection between the Hoover Institution is that when Reagan left being governor of California, he donated all of his papers to the archives at the Hoover Institution and was named one of the distinguished fellows of the Hoover Institution and had an office there for a short period of time until he started running for president.
LAMB: How would you define the politics of the professors and intellectuals at Stanford and then the same thing at the Hoover Institution?
ANDERSON: Let me preface that. I'm happy to go into that, but I think one of the conclusions I reached in my study is that we've had a lot of discussion about corruptions on the campus in terms of politization and political correctness. The main point I want to argue in this book is that I don't think that's the main problem. I think that's a relatively minor problem, a manifestation of a much deeper kind of a corruption. But if you want to go back to the politics, sure.
LAMB: The only reason I want to do this is that after you describe that, I want to ask you about the Reagan Library so you could make all those connections and eventually discuss the suggestion that Hoover ought to move away from Stanford.
ANDERSON: Oh, no, we would never move away. I like it there.
LAMB: Was there ever talk about that by some of the professors on the staff?
ANDERSON: Yes. You have so many good questions here. First of all, the politics of the faculty at Stanford is pretty much exactly what it is with the politics at every elite university in the United States, whether it's Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, MIT, whatever. Especially in the humanities, the vast majority are registered Democrats. I'm not talking 55 or 60 percent. We're talking, in some departments, 75, 85, 90, 95, 100 percent, like in sociology.
LAMB: How do you know that?
ANDERSON: One of our fellows here a few years ago did the unthinkable. He actually went out, and instead of asking professors and listening to what they say, he went out and look up their registrations, which is public information in California. He got the names of the professors and found out what town they were living in, went over and looked up what their registration was and then correlated that with their departments. I publish the list in the book. That's how we found out.
LAMB: The Hoover Institution. The politics of that?
ANDERSON: We're roughly split, about 50-50 registered Democrats, registered Republicans. I think probably now we've got a few more registered Republicans. I would have argued over the years, we are often portrayed as being a conservative right-leaning think tank. I prefer to look at this way -- and I think it's accurate -- that the politics of our fellows much more accurately reflects the general politics of the country. We just happen to look that way compared to the rest of Stanford or any other elite university.
LAMB: What are some of the other names that we might recognize that are associated with the Hoover Institution?
ANDERSON: In economics, the Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman; science, Edward Teller, the famous physicist; political science, sociology, Seymour Martin Lipset, who is a good Democrat.
LAMB: Is George Shultz associated?
ANDERSON: Yes. George Shultz when he left being secretary of state, is now a fellow at the Hoover Institution, finishing up his book.
LAMB: Reagan Library?
ANDERSON: First let me try to tell you about the Hoover Institution when the professors tried to take it over. They didn't try to kick us off the campus. We have an endowment of $125 million, $130 million.
ANDERSON: Yes, and the professors kind of like the place. We have a very nice building, and I think some of them think our offices are better than theirs. We have carpets on the floor.
LAMB: Right on the campus?
ANDERSON: Right in the dead center of the campus. In fact there's a huge tower which is often used as the symbol of Stanford, and that's the Hoover Tower, which is primarily books and a few offices, but it's Hoover. No, the proposal as put forth was that they would take us over. They would take the building, they would take the endowment and we could leave.
LAMB: Who are they proposing this to?
ANDERSON: It was a group of faculty that proposed it to the whole community there. We had a big debate and discussion about this. Actually, the relationship is like a marriage. I think what both parties realized is that neither party could leave without paying a high price. Actually, to just sum it up, the Hoover Institution is good for Stanford and Stanford is good for the Hoover Institution. There are tremendous interactions, and I think that a lot of those arguments and discussions that we've had in the past pretty much have gone by they board. Actually relations are pretty good between Stanford University and the Hoover Institution. A lot of professors now have joint appointments with us and we interact. We are a powerful resource for the university.
LAMB: Is it fair to say that Stanford comes in for a lot of criticism in your book, various aspects of it?
ANDERSON: I tried not to do it, but I plead guilty to using more instances. The main reason is that I read all their newspapers every day. If I was at Ohio State or Harvard University, I can guarantee you there would be far more stories. For every story I used in the book, I've got 10 more in my files. It's just that I'm more familiar with those stories, but I really tried to look around. Every time you look at another university, there are comparable stories. This is not about Stanford. This is about American universities.
LAMB: Speaking of money, you said the endowment is $100-and-some million?
ANDERSON: How about $130 million?
LAMB: What's the endowment for the university?
ANDERSON: Oh, for Stanford? Gee, last time, I think it was close to a couple of billion dollars. These are big operations. This is not little small-time stuff.
LAMB: How much federal money a year goes to Stanford University for research?
ANDERSON: I think the last time I looked, it was close to 25 or 30 percent.
LAMB: Of the budget?
ANDERSON: Oh, sure. For private universities across the country, it's around 20 percent. Federal funding is extremely important for these private universities.
LAMB: The Reagan Library.
ANDERSON: At the time, it seemed like a good idea, but in retrospect, it was a mistake. Some of us thought that a presidential library on the campus would be a great intellectual resource, and initially everyone agreed. It was going to be a $50 million asset. It would tie in with the whole national library system of public archives and everything. Anyway, a long, long story, but it was proposed; it was a bitter fight for three years. Finally, the trustees accepted a watered-down version. Basically they said, "Look, you can have the library, but you can't have an exhibition center because we're not going to glorify this fellow." Then President Reagan said, "Fine, we'll go along with that." We had the building designed. We had the site all picked up. We had the model made of it.
And then the faculty started making really outrageous charges. I remember one particular resolution the faculty senate passed to the effect that, they just want it on the record that while the library would honor the presidency of Ronald Reagan, it should in no way be construed as honoring his person. Then the next thing they tried to do, they said, "Gee, there's a second story on the building." One professor was quoted as saying he couldn't stand the thought of President Reagan looking down on the campus from the second story, so they proposed we get rid of the second story.
I'm paraphrasing now. President Reagan didn't say it, but basically the thought was, look, life is too short for this, and he just yanked it. We took the library down to Southern California and had 30, 40 different sites made available, and he finally picked the one he wanted. Now, it sits pristine and unsullied on 100 acres north of Los Angeles.
LAMB: Did any of these things we're talking about trip your button when it came to writing this book?
ANDERSON: No. I think to many people any one of these stories would have gone through and seem like a major outrage, but after you've spent 30 years in academe, these are relatively minor outrages. I've been thinking about this and saving notes ever since I got my Ph.D. at MIT, 30 years ago now. What really triggered it is that I had been observing it and studying it and looking at it, and then, maybe it was Alan Bloom's book that came out. People started asking questions and being outraged at some of the things they were seeing in it. My initial reaction was, why all the outrage? This happens all the time. I didn't think there was a book out there that explained not what happened, but how the institution works, how it operates, what kind of an animal this is.
And then most importantly, and this may be where I differ from all of the other books, I think there are ways in which you can fix it, in which you can make universities which are demonstrably good universities, better than any in the world -- primarily because the others are so bad but still relatively better. But they have a potential for greatness, which I don't think they are achieving. There are some, I think, much worse things going on than questions of political correctness and political bias -- even some of the more outrageous scandals we've been reading about lately. I think the real corruptions go to the heart of the university, which is in the teaching of the students and in the research the professors do.
LAMB: Where did you go to undergraduate?
ANDERSON: Dartmouth College.
LAMB: Where did you get your master's?
ANDERSON: Dartmouth College -- a combined master's in engineering and business.
LAMB: What was your undergraduate degree in?
ANDERSON: Liberal arts.
LAMB: How about your Ph.D.?
ANDERSON: I went down to MIT for that, and the Ph.D. was in the School of Industrial Management. I majoring in economic theory. I studied under Paul Samuelson and Charlie Kindleberg and all those good fellows.
LAMB: "Elite" universities you referred to earlier. How many elite universities are there in the country and why are they elite? What does that mean?
ANDERSON: I think we'd all make up a different list, whether we stop at the top 10 or 15 or 20. What I did was to make up my list in the book, and I list 10. I say, look, I think these are the 10 most prestigious, primarily in terms of academic prestige -- Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, University of Michigan. We can argue about who can be maybe eight, nine, 10 and then maybe we should add three or four more to the list, but I don't think anyone disagrees that those are the elite universities of the United States.
LAMB: There's so much that you talk about academia in here -- the fact that there are teacher's assistants teaching instead of professors and that the boards of directors aren't paying attention to what goes on, and we could go down through the list. In those elite universities, do they have the same problems all the rest of them do that you talk about here?
ANDERSON: Yes. In fact, in most of these cases, the elite university is where they have the worse problems. One of the things I argue in the book is that -- again this is a speculation and we'll see how it works out, but I think that whenever an institution goes wrong, something happens. People, I think, today realize that education is in deep trouble in America. In fact, in public opinion polls, education has gone up to the top of the list and they say, "Hey, what's the biggest problem?" Most people are thinking about the grammar schools and the high schools and so on. I would argue that whenever you want to see what's wrong with an institution, start at the top. That's where the problem starts.
LAMB: What's the top?
ANDERSON: The elite universities.
LAMB: I mean, at those elite universities, what's the top? You list in the back the boards and directors.
ANDERSON: Let's jump to the end. Again, I like to assign responsibility for things that go wrong. If you look at the universities and what's wrong today, I don't blame the students. I think the students are brighter and better than ever. In fact, they're the main victims. I don't even blame the faculty that much. They are in an institution. It's very difficult for them to make changes and act in concert. I don't really blame the presidents of the universities. The presidents have relatively little power. You cannot simply announce a change in policy and make it happen. There are all kinds of examples of that. The reason why we have a real problem with the universities is it's a very special kind of an institution.
In the United States, we think of things as either public property or private property. The university in many cases is neither, especially the great private universities. So they're not subject to public control through the voters. For example, whether it's Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, ask the question, "Who owns the university?" You usually get a blank stare because nobody owns the university. You can't sell it. It's not controlled by the voters. If you look at it, you discover that it is controlled completely by a small governing board. Sometimes we call them trustees, sometimes regents, sometimes overseers. In the private universities, it's a self-selecting board, and they have the power to make changes. In the book we discuss, I think, some of the things that are wrong and should be changed. If we really want to have an effect and not just talk, then we're going to have to address the trustees because they and only they have the power to make the changes.
LAMB: There are bunch of politicians on these boards. Dartmouth College has the governor, Judd Gregg. Pete Wilson, the governor of California, is on the University of California Board of Regents.
ANDERSON: Al Gore is on the Harvard Board.
LAMB: Senator [David] Boren is on the Yale Board and there are others. How do they get on these boards?
ANDERSON: In the case of California, this is a case of a public institution and the governor is on, I believe, it's written in the constitution -- he's simply put on. In other cases, they are often put on because of some of the reasons why people are made trustees. I think the more interesting question is how do you get to be a trustee? This is a very prestigious position. I would argue it's harder to get to be a trustee at one of these major universities than it would be to get elected to the United States Senate.
ANDERSON: Highly desired, great prize, enormous prestige and status. People just love to be trustees.
LAMB: What have you found that trustees don't do?
ANDERSON: Basically, they don't do what their fiduciary responsibilities call them to do.
LAMB: What does fiduciary mean?
ANDERSON: It means they have a responsibility to act in the best interests of the university.
LAMB: Is that a legal responsibility?
ANDERSON: They haven't been sued much. I would hope they'd be sued more often in the future and maybe more carefully define this. But let's take a look at the typical board. When you look at the composition, you find they are made up of men and women who are very distinguished, very accomplished, highly intelligent, usually very wealthy. One problem, about 75 to 80 percent of them are businessmen, financial executives, bankers, investment bankers, and while they may know their business, they know very little about the academic business. As a consequence, there is a great tendency to focus on fundraising and general administrative matters and building buildings, but they are loathe to get involved in what is the main business of the university, which is teaching and research.
LAMB: How many of them are women and how many of them are other than white?
ANDERSON: Let me see. I believe it's about something like 80 to 90 percent are men, and 90 percent of them are white. The typical trustee is a white, older, male businessman.
LAMB: How do you change that? This stuff has been going on for a couple hundred years in this country. How can you change it?
ANDERSON: Can I get into what I think is the main thing that is wrong with them?
LAMB: The boards?
ANDERSON: No, the teaching.
ANDERSON: Then we'll get into how we can change it, because unless we know what it is that we want to change -- next month millions of young men and women are going back to school.
LAMB: Some this month.
ANDERSON: Some this month, right. Those going in for the first time, a lot of them are going to be in for a big surprise. Their parents are writing out a check for $10,000 or, in some cases, $20,000. Most of them expect that they are going to walk into a class and be taught by a professor. When I say "teach," I mean, you give the lecture, you conduct a discussion, the interaction, you make up the exams, you grade the exams, you counsel the student, the whole thing. Instead, in many cases, especially in the big research universities, a major part of the teaching is going to be done by other students. They're going to hit graduate students who are called teaching assistants. Sometimes these teaching assistants will give the entire lecture or run the whole course. Sometimes the professor will lecture to a huge audience and then break it up into discussion groups and the teaching assistant will take over the interaction, the discussion, the dialogue. The teaching assistant often will grade the examinations, grade the student, and this becomes part of the record.
LAMB: How old is the teaching assistant?
ANDERSON: Oh, they can be anywhere from, I suppose, 21 and up. When I get into my second problem, some of them are up in their 30s and 40s. But they're still teaching assistants. They are students. They are not professors. I would argue that this is a complete corruption of the system. This is not what the catalogs say. They don't say, "Give us your son or your daughter and we'll give them the extraordinary experience after you pay us all this money of being exposed to the wit and wisdom of our graduate students."
LAMB: Did you have teaching assistants at Dartmouth?
ANDERSON: No. Dartmouth is one of the few large colleges remaining that has professors teaching. They didn't back when I was there in the 1950s and still to this day. Amherst is another one for example.
LAMB: What about MIT?
ANDERSON: At MIT when I was in the graduate program, all professors. At the time, I had fellowship aid so I didn't need financial aid and I didn't have to teach. Then we have the second part, which affects the graduate students. The question is where do they get all these greater students to do the teaching? It's quite simple. Today, 82 percent of all financial aid to graduate students comes in the form of teaching assistantships or research assistantships. So basically, if you can't afford to pay for it yourself and you need financial aid, you don't get a loan, you don't get a fellowship, you work and you pick up part of the research and teaching responsibilities of the professor.
Now, when economic coercion doesn't work, a number of universities simply require now that in order to get the degree you must teach so many semesters before you qualify for the degree. As a consequence -- and this is one of the unseen things which I think is a real tragedy -- the length of time it takes to earn a Ph.D. is lengthened enormously. There are other contributing reasons, but I think the main reason is that we require the students to do so many other things than pursuing their own course of study. The Ph.D. normally should take three, maybe four years at the maximum. I spent three and a half years. I always thought it was six months too long. Today, the median time to earn a Ph.D., total time spent after the bachelor's degree, is now 10 and a half years.
LAMB: But you say in your book that the statistics show that it's different between men and women and whites and blacks.
ANDERSON: Yes. Ten and a half years on average for everybody. For women it's 12 and a half years; for African-Americans it's 15 years.
LAMB: Why the difference in time?
ANDERSON: I don't know. As far as I know no one has ever looked into this. I discovered this when I was doing the research for the book. By the way, there is another big new study out coauthored by the new president of Harvard University called "In Pursuit of the Ph.D." He has another, maybe more startling statistic. We're worried about the drop-out rate in high schools. Do you know what the drop out rate for Ph.D. students? Fifty percent.
LAMB: They don't make it, in other words, once they get into the program?
ANDERSON: Sure. This isn't someone who comes in and stays there for six months and leaves. Most of these people have been in there for five, six, seven years and then fade out.
LAMB: You say that 33,000 Ph.D.s are given every year?
ANDERSON: Every year, yes.
LAMB: Why does someone need a Ph.D. anyway?
ANDERSON: In the academic world, it is exactly like the union card -- no Ph.D., no work. There is a very powerful culture that says that if you don't have the Ph.D., if you haven't written a dissertation, you can't be a professor. In fact, one of the reforms I recommend is that we reform that whole process. Again, I think, one of the great wastes is that there are a lot of people out there that are fully capable of mastering the material for the Ph.D. -- in other words, the course-work -- who are not good at research and who don't want to do research. We should not require them to get that particular thing done before they're qualified to be a university professor. I recommend we should give the Ph.D. after you've demonstrated the mastery of the field. We could also append to it later on if you write an important book or do a big piece of research and say "with research distinction" or something like that. Fine, we know that's an important thing to do. But this idea that unless you do a piece of "original" research, you can't be a college professor, I think, is robbing us of a lot of people.
LAMB: We can come back to all this, but I want to ask you a little more about yourself. Where did you grow up?
ANDERSON: Northeastern Massachusetts. I was born and raised in Lowell, Massachusetts. I went to high school in a small town called Northborough, Massachusetts.
LAMB: Where did you first get interested in learning?
ANDERSON: I think I've always been that way. I remember when I was 3 or 4 years old -- I'll tell you how I learned to read. My grandfather use to sit and read me the funny papers. He said when I was 3 or 4 years old, finally one day I took them away and said, "I'll read them," because I could read them faster. I always liked science, but I guess my first intellectual experience was the funny papers.
LAMB: What were your parents like?
ANDERSON: Mother was a registered nurse. My father was a farmer, ran a dairy farm.
LAMB: Did they read or were they educated?
ANDERSON: Yes, they read, but there was no great urging.
LAMB: Were you a good high school student?
ANDERSON: Oh, I was all A's.
LAMB: How did you get into Dartmouth? Why did you go to Dartmouth, more importantly? It's obvious with all A's you can get in there.
ANDERSON: I don't think anyone's ever asked me that. Because they gave me a full tuition scholarsh -- paid everything. They gave me this huge scholarship.
ANDERSON: Based on my grades and my record. I actually did not know much about Dartmouth before I went up there. I heard it was a good school, and it was recommended by a friend of the family. I had no knowledge of this whole world of higher education. I thought it was an interesting place. For the longest time, I thought Yale was a lock factory.
LAMB: Would you go back to Dartmouth again?
ANDERSON: Yes, put it this way -- I think there's a real question as to whether it's anywhere near as good as it was. I guess as you get older you always have that tendency to look back. But on the other hand, they and a few other schools have one powerful advantage over the big research universities. We can complain about a lot of things they do, but they do have professors that teach the courses, interact with the students, make up the exams and grade them. That's a very powerful experience.
LAMB: Were you political in college?
LAMB: Were you political at MIT?
ANDERSON: I got elected president of the graduate student body. But that wasn't so political. I basically did it to see if I could do it. That's the last time I ever ran for elective office.
LAMB: What did you do after MIT?
ANDERSON: I became a professor at the graduate school of business at Columbia University, went to New York City and taught there for almost six years.
LAMB: Were you political there?
ANDERSON: I got a little political, yes. In fact, among the number of stories I didn't tell in the book, I had written my doctoral dissertation on a government program, the urban renewal program. Originally I was interested in the finance -- where are they going to get all the money to finance this urban renewal? But as I got into it, I got fascinated because nothing seemed to track out, and in the end I recommended the abolition of the entire program because it was having just the opposite results. It was hurting poor people and kicking them out of their homes and destroying them. It was extraordinary. The purpose of the program was just the opposite -- a better home in a better neighborhood for every American. I remember when I was writing that my thesis adviser was Eli Shapiro, who was a very senior professor at MIT. I remember coming in and showing him my conclusions. He said, "You can't say that." I said, "Why not?" He said, "They'll murder you." We didn't know about political correctness in those days. He said, "I'm just telling you, this is not acceptable." I, being young and brash, figured he was overly concerned so I went ahead and put them in anyway. Then later, I turned it into a book. It was published by the MIT Press, and I found myself in an enormous amount of controversy.
ANDERSON: The book had recommended the abolition of the urban renewal program. I'll tell you a story. I was a young professor at Columbia University, and by coincidence a few months after my book came out, Columbia University announced a huge urban renewal program around the university. So my book was at odds with official university policy. I figured that shouldn't be any problem. There were several stories.
I remember one time -- I guess I'd been there a couple of years. I was asked to give a university seminar, which at the time was quite an honor for a young non-tenured assistant professor. So I said sure. It was on the urban renewal program. I went there. It was at night and professors from the city planning department, economics department and political science all showed up. I presented my case. Then my recollection is that it's probably the most nasty seminar I ever participated in in my life, and I've done a lot of nasty ones. They were just screaming at me. Finally, when it was over, the fellow who was the acting head of the city planning department smiled when I was leaving and said did I mind if he walked along with me? So I said fine. It was a nice evening up by 116th and Broadway in New York, and we were walking along. And he smiled again and said, "Gee, that was a fascinating seminar." I thanked him. He said, "What you're saying could be dangerous to the urban renewal program." So I allowed as I sure hoped it was dangerous. He smiled again. "You know," he said, "it might even be dangerous to you. Now, do your bosses here at Columbia know what you're saying? Do you have tenure?" That was my first experience with a direct threat.
LAMB: I just wanted to ask you what tenure meant.
ANDERSON: Tenure would mean I'd get a guaranteed job.
ANDERSON: Oh, sure.
LAMB: Until what year -- until age 65?
ANDERSON: Until you die. As a practical matter, it's until 65, although I believe they're changing the law. The federal government passed a law that you can't force retirement, so it's pretty much as good as a Supreme Court justice.
LAMB: In other words, when you get tenure in a college or university, that's it? They cannot fire you?
ANDERSON: Theoretically you can fired for great moral turpitude, but it almost never happens.
LAMB: I'm sorry. I interrupted your story.
ANDERSON: That was the first time I was ever threatened for my political views. The next morning I went and made an appointment with the dean of the business school and sat down and told him what had happened. The dean was an old curmudgeon who had been an executive with Standard Oil. He hadn't been in the academic world very long and believed in academic freedom. I remember he slammed his fist on the desk and said, "By God, they're going to find they've got academic freedom in this school." For a couple of weeks I told every professor I met this story. They backed off, and the next year I was given tenure.
LAMB: How long did you stay at Columbia?
ANDERSON: Almost six years.
LAMB: Then what?
ANDERSON: Then a friend of mine introduced me to some people who were planning the 1968 campaign for a guy named Richard Nixon, and all during 1967 I met informally with the people. You probably remember some -- Leonard Garment, Pat Buchanan. I use to take the subway and go down to their law firm and sell them part of Manhattan and discuss policies and issues. I eventually ended up in charge of all the policy research for the campaign. Then I traveled on the plane with him in 1968 and went into the White House and spent two and a half years as a special assistant to the president -- functioned as deputy to Arthur Burns, who was the counselor for economic policy and domestic policy.
LAMB: Can you define your philosophy as being ideological?
ANDERSON: Yes, in some ways, I considered myself to be conservative. Some people have said I'm libertarian in some ways. Some people think I may even be a little liberal here and there. I prefer to think of myself as an Andersonian, which is the only safe thing that I can think of.
LAMB: What has been your experience on college campuses among professors? Do they believe in balance and objectivity in the teaching of politics?
ANDERSON: That's a very interesting question. I think, by and large, most professors are pretty professional in the classroom. You will hear horror stories from time to time. I think where you see their bias, to the extent there is political bias, is when it comes to the hiring of people, the promotion of people. Maybe there's a better explanation as to how a department of a major university -- let's say in political science or sociology or economics -- can get to be 80 to 90 percent of one political party. One professor I quoted in the book had said that a lot of these departments in the humanities at the more elite universities probably are more monolithically left liberal than the staff of the Democratic National Committee. Maybe that happens by accident, but I don't think that happens by accident. I think it happens by deliberate unprofessional conduct on the part of these professors.
LAMB: Do you think you'd be as upset with all this if the universities were full of right-wing professors?
ANDERSON: Well, they used be many years ago. I think you had some of the same problems then. I think one of the points I make in the book is that a lot of what I'm talking about here really doesn't have much to do with politics. For example, when you're talking about who should teach the undergraduates -- professors or graduate students -- that's not a political issue. If we get into what I think is the second major corruption of the universities is the relevance and importance of the research work because this is what they spend most of their time on. This is how you get promoted and the salary increases and the prestige. If we take a look at what is being produced, very little is political. They write for the so-called prestigious academic journals. This is not a political issue. This is a question of intellectual integrity. We're talking about something which is important or not important.
LAMB: You say that in all your political experience, you've never heard anybody in a discussion reference one of these research journals in the development of public policy and government.
ANDERSON: While I was in government, that's true. In fact, you rarely heard them discussed in academic circles.
LAMB: Is this another world? Does the average person know what you're talking about here? If they don't, explain what you mean by research journals. What do they look like, who reads them, how much they cost and who publishes them?
ANDERSON: The research journals, in concept, are a really good idea. Basically, it's a way for intellectuals in the academic world to communicate with one another. Let's say, you're working on a project and you have this interesting idea. You write it up in small paper, and then you'd like to share it with other people. Well, you can't get it published in Time magazine, and you're not going to get on McNeil-Lehrer, so we have journals. They usually publish four times a year. A typical journal might have a dozen articles. The purpose is to share these ideas with other intellectuals. Great idea in concept, but it subsumes that what you're writing is important, relevant, is written clearly and so on. I think that what has happened over the years is that there's been such prestige and status attached to them, and, as more and more people try to write for them -- see, one of the things that's happened in the last couple of decades is we've had an enormous increase in the number of professors.
During the 1960s and '70s, the college population more than tripled. Hardly anyone has asked the question, where did they find all those professors? Well, 350,000 new professors who came in. They're all subject to this ethos where you must -- you've heard the old thing about publish or perish. Basically, I wouldn't put it that way. You don't perish, but if you don't publish, you don't, shall we say, profit. With this incredible competition to write something, unfortunately I think that we're falling into the practice of things being written in jargon, so they're very difficult to understand unless you know the jargon. It's like a foreign language. They write in the language of their fields.
Two, a great deal is written in mathematical formulae, so that most people can't understand the math. So as a practical result, a lot of these journals are written in Chinese. Most people have generously assumed that it must be important stuff. I mean, this is peer reviewed. Other professors say it's good, and they publish it and they exchange them and so on. I would contend that if you look at these journals and read through them, you will discover when you disentangle them and pull back the mathematical formulae and pull back the jargon and look at what's left -- there are exceptions, but for the most part, there's not much there.
LAMB: How much does a professor make?
ANDERSON: It varies enormously depending on the degree of eliteness of the university and what field. But if you're looking at a major university, the top 15 or 20 big universities, easily $100,000 a year in basic salary. That's just to begin with.
LAMB: You got a figure in the book, and you can explain the math on it, that for the average student in the university, it costs them $70 an hour to go to class.
ANDERSON: I took an example of one of these universities and said let's take one of the top universities where it's about $20,000 now in tuition fees to go there for a year and translate that and say, how many courses do you take, how many hours a week, how many hours in total, and divide the number of instruction you get for your money. In that particular case -- it will vary from school to school -- but around $70 is not a bad number.
LAMB: Do you have tenure?
ANDERSON: When I became a fellow at the Hoover Institution -- I had tenure at Columbia, so I could have stayed there for life. When I left and went to the Hoover Institution, fellows do not have tenure.
LAMB: How long does a fellow stay there? Is there a contract?
ANDERSON: There are two kinds of appointments. One is called a continuing appointment. It means you're hired and you're there until you're fired. The other appointment is for a specific time, like three years, five years. So I have a continuing appointment. I've been there 21 years and haven't been fired yet, although, there is that possibility.
LAMB: How long did you work for the Ronald Reagan administration?
ANDERSON: Let's see, I worked a year and a half.
LAMB: Are you going to do any more politics?
ANDERSON: I'm a delegate to the Republican National Convention at large from California, so I'm going down there Sunday. That's about the extent of my political activity.
LAMB: Do you ever intend to run for office yourself?
ANDERSON: No, I have no intention of doing that.
LAMB: In the book, you also publish some salaries of major university presidents. One of them is at least $300,000.
ANDERSON: That's just the base salary. It doesn't say anything about the value of the housing and the cars and the chauffeurs and the maids and the travel. I would say the total compensation package of a president of a major university is easily in the half-million-dollar range. Let me say one thing about this -- I have no objection to that. Another thing that we're not too aware of -- these universities have become huge business. They are billion-dollar operations, many of them. For example, Harvard's got $4 billion to $5 billion in assets they must manage just in their endowment fund. My quarrel isn't how much they make. My quarrel sometimes is that they don't like to tell you about what they're making. They are not living a life of poverty. Let's put it that way.
LAMB: If you were to open up the Anderson University somewhere and had everything exactly the way you wanted it, name the environment, name the cost of the education. What would you change?
ANDERSON: That's a good fantasy. If I were the president of a university, I think the first think I'd do is that I'd determine who were my best professors. Who are the people who could really turn students on, the ones who are exciting, who lecture and interact with students and who love what they were doing. I think everyone probably remembers one or two people like that from their college days. Those are the people I'd have teach the freshman and the sophomores. In other words, I'd just reverse what the situation is today.
I think that if you take young people and you turn them on to the intellectual life, they stay turned on and they pretty much go on their own after that. If you turn them off, I think it's very hard to ever turn them back on again. That's the main thing. I don't think it would cost any more money. There's a very interesting proposal in the state of California that they're talking about for the University of California system. They're having terrible financial difficulties out there. They propose that the professors should teach more classes, because the number of classes taught has declined quite substantially in the last 20 or 30 years. The professors, as you can well imagine, have squealed about that. There's one quote from one person in the bureaucracy there who said, "Gee, don't worry about that. We're not asking you to work more because we'll cut back on the committee work and the research work you do. So we're just saying a little reallocation of time priorities."
LAMB: Would you have tenure for professors in your university?
ANDERSON: No, I think that's a bad idea whose time has gone.
LAMB: Would you take federal money for research?
ANDERSON: I'm not sure about that, but let me go back to the tenure because there is a reason for tenure. The purpose of having it I don't disagree with -- the idea that a professor should not be fired for taking controversial views. I feel particularly strong about it after having written this book, by the way. Tenure is not something in which the federal government passed a law. This is a custom. Any university is fully capable right now of the trustees saying, "Look we have a policy you cannot be fire for taking controversial views on politics or sex or whatever it is. However, you can be fired for being incompetent or for not teaching well." It's a very different thing. That's why we have to get rid of tenure.
LAMB: Would you allow credit for athletics?
ANDERSON: Absolutely not.
LAMB: Who does it now?
ANDERSON: This is a corruption of the process. I just kind of stumbled across it at Stanford, and, frankly, I was a little stunned because this is one of the best universities in the world. But today, for example, you can get degree credit for playing football, and you can also get it for playing basketball.
LAMB: You said that 7 percent of credit hours can be for doing this stuff?
ANDERSON: Yes, but Stanford has limits. You can't get your whole degree doing that. So they say only up to 7 percent of the total number needed for the degree. Then not to discriminate against the less athletically inclined, like myself, if you play badminton, you could get credit or tennis or golf, or if you go backpacking you can get degree credit. In fact, if you play in the college band during the half of the football game, credit. Probably the most interesting one of all, if you're a cheerleader at Stanford, you can get credit for cheerleading.
LAMB: At Anderson University, how would you pick your trustees so that they wouldn't develop the way these have?
ANDERSON: I'd do several things. I think you need a small nucleus of real intellectuals as trustees. You need more than one or two.
LAMB: What kind of intellectuals, professional or academic?
ANDERSON: Both. I think it might be real fun to have someone from the media. I'd like to see Abe Rosenthal or Bill Saffer on a board of one of these universities, or George Will or William Buckley. Sure would be fun.
LAMB: Doyle McManus from the Los Angeles Times on the Stanford Board?
ANDERSON: Yes. We ought to ask him about his experience. Why hasn't he fixed things up?
LAMB: What else would you do?
ANDERSON: I'd also think very seriously about paying them. Right now, this is a great honor and they do it as a charity. This is part of what they do for their community. Unfortunately I think most of them, when it really gets down to it, treat it as a charity. I think we should do what we do for the boards of directors of major companies -- pay them not a large amount, but enough so they take it seriously.
LAMB: What's the most serious criticism that you've had for this book? Who's it coming from?
ANDERSON: Two extremes. On one side, I get people I have enormous respect for like the old dean of the professorate from Columbia who said it was a great book and Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize, and other people like that who said, "Hey, right on, this is correct." They're not quite sure we can fix it right away. At the other extreme, the people I'm writing about in the book. I'll give you an example -- a senior professor at Princeton, Alan Ryan in the Department of Politics. In response to the things we've been talking about that are in the book, he wrote a book review for the Washington Post and in a very intellectual manner described my book by not denying a single charge, not defending a single practice, but giving me a wonderful ad hominem attack in which he called -- let me see if I get this straight -- After writing this, I was a nasty mendacious bigot and everything I had written was silly dribble. The president of Stanford declared, again, not arguing with anything ...
LAMB: Donald Kennedy?
ANDERSON: He sniffed and said the book was badly written. I do a lot of things badly, but I don't write badly.
LAMB: Our guest has been Martin Anderson. This is what the book looks like, and the title of it is "Impostors in the Temple: American Intellectuals are Destroying our Universities and Cheating Our Students of Their Future." Thank you for joining us.
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