Europe’s Silicon Valley? No thanks

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CAMBRIDGE, England — This city wears many crowns: the fastest growing in Britain, the world’s most intensive research cluster and the university with the highest number of tech founders.

It also has Britain’s second highest level of inequality and one of the lowest amounts of rainfall of any U.K. city.

The tension between those titles has come to a head in the government’s bid to turn Cambridge into “Europe’s Silicon Valley.” Housing Secretary Michael Gove wants to build more than 150,000 new homes there by 2040, more than doubling the city’s size and triple the number local planners had earmarked for the area.

“Nowhere is the future being shaped more decisively than in Cambridge,” Gove said in a speech in December. “Its global leadership in life sciences and tech is a huge national asset. But until now… its growth has been constrained.”

He envisaged a new quarter with “beautiful Neo-classical buildings, rich parkland, concert halls and museums.” A new development corporation would be established to deliver the vision “regardless of the shifting sands of Westminster,” Gove said.

But in the face of mass house-building and water shortages; the investors, city leaders, businesses and environmentalists POLITICO spoke to for this article were skeptical of the scale of the government’s ambitions for their city.

They say they have other ideas.

Growing in a drought

The biggest obstacle to the city’s growth plans is a shortage of water. 

Plans for 9,000 homes and 300,000 square meters of research space, including a new cancer hospital, are being held up after the Environment Agency raised fears about water scarcity. Meanwhile, the area’s local water utility, Cambridge Water, is having to rework its latest management plan to account for the government’s inflated target.

The city pumps its water from underground chalk aquifers, but its rivers and streams are drying up. Levels in the River Cam have been 10 centimeters below their 2013 average for the last four summers.

“There is absolutely no point talking to us about expansion… unless you can solve the water problem,” said Cambridge Science Park director Jane Hutchins.

The science park wants to build a new campus and Hutchins said “we need to be able to accommodate growth at pace and in a timely manner, but we are all very conscious that we can’t do it at the cost of the environment.”

The Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire has expressed similar concerns.

Plans for 9,000 homes and 300,000 square meters of research space are being held up after the Environment Agency raised fears about water scarcity | Cambridge City Council

The government has put £3 million into a water scarcity group and hopes a new reservoir in the Fens will solve the problem. But that is at least ten years away. In the meantime it is looking to rainwater harvesting, reducing consumption and a new pipeline.

Gove said in December that “new steps to help manage demand for water in new developments” would come in the new year.

Investors, tech founders and university leaders told POLITICO the water supply problem can be overcome, but environmentalists see it as an existential threat.

Sitting in a rooftop restaurant above the Cam, Tony Eva, whose film Pure Clean Water examines the city’s water crisis, said: “How many times can you say we will solve the problems caused by growth with more growth?”

“The shortage of water is not a new feature, we have known [about it] for 60 to 70 years… These clever people have sat on their hands and now they are having to do something. In one sense it is too late.”

Grow your own way

Wendy Blythe, chair of the Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations, agreed.

She argues that Cambridge has had enough growth and the “goodies” should go to less affluent parts of the country. Critics of Gove’s plan point out that the minister in charge of “leveling up” is putting forward a policy that could do the opposite.

“Lots of things are happening to Cambridge to become a ‘Silicon Valley,’ and ordinary residents are paying for it,” Blythe said.

Grappling with these problems is Tabitha Goldstaub, a tech entrepreneur and executive director of Innovate Cambridge, a group set up by the university and investors to come up with a more sustainable innovation strategy.

“We’d like to be as successful [as Silicon Valley] but we don’t want to be as socially unequal,” she said.

Income inequality in Cambridge, measured as the gap between the poorest and richest residents, is the second highest in England and Wales, only behind Oxford, and it is widening.

But Goldstaub said the city had “woken up” to the challenge and that supporting local people was a key pillar of an innovation strategy which it unveiled in October.

Income inequality in Cambridge is the second highest in England and Wales | Cambridge City Council

Innovate Cambridge hopes to get the wider population behind that strategy by showing the benefits of living close to so much research, such as better cancer survival rates at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

It has also set up a community fund for founders to pledge a percentage of money they make from selling their startups in the future. 

Pro-vice-chancellor for enterprise at Cambridge University, Andy Neely, said: “We need to make it clear to people why the research and cluster is improving the quality of their lives.”

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities says investing in Cambridge will reduce regional inequality. A spokesperson for the department told POLITICO: “We must be ambitious and expand the city and we will only do that through sustainable development.”

We’ll think, you’ll make

On the three-minute walk from the city’s main railway station to the office of VC firm Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC), you pass offices for Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. But the city is more proud of the startups which have spun out of its university.

New arrival Gerard Grech, who has joined the university to lead a program supporting tech founders, said he was astounded by the innovation in the city. “In my first week here I met someone who had sold businesses to Google, to Apple and to Microsoft. I could not believe it,” he said.

The area around the station is also where Goldstaub hopes to build a new innovation center, where she sees VCs, researchers and startups mingling and coming up with new ideas.

But despite its concentration of creativity, some say the government’s “Silicon Valley” ambitions should be spread across larger parts of the country, rather than focusing on Cambridge.

The city has recently signed a partnership with Manchester to pitch their respective tech hubs as a single cluster to investors, and Goldstaub says such deals should be “the exemplar” going forward.

Semiconductor firm Pragmatic provides a model for this type of development. The company is aiming to become the U.K.’s biggest semiconductor manufacturer, and its founders moved from Manchester to Cambridge for its talent. It is still headquartered in Cambridge, but does most of its manufacturing in Sedgefield, north-east England.

CIC was an early investor in Pragmatic, which completed a £500 million funding round this month.

Andrew Williamson, managing partner at CIC, said this was an example of “a hub and spoke” model which Cambridge excels in.

A report on the university’s economic impact suggests it is generating £30 billion of economic value in the U.K. and supporting 86,000 jobs | Cambridge City Council

“Where the model differs from Silicon Valley is Cambridge is 150,000 people… so we are tiny. What we can do here is fundamental research and the first few steps of the commercialization of that research, but we’re clearly not going to do manufacturing at scale.”

Sai Shivareddy has learned that over the last two years. He co-founded Nyobolt, which designs and manufactures super-fast chargers and batteries for EVs.

The company spun-out from the university and was valued at £300 million last year, but it has struggled to find suitable manufacturing sites in Cambridgeshire. Shivareddy said he is now looking to manufacture in north England or Scotland, as well as Asia.

Giving out the goodies

A report on the university’s economic impact suggests it is already helping the leveling up agenda by generating £30 billion of economic value in the U.K. and supporting 86,000 jobs, more than 30,000 of which are outside the east of England.

“The way the U.K. will compete with Silicon Valley is to think in large clusters,” Neely said, pointing to the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and the Manchester partnership. 

“Cambridge can play a really powerful role providing the boosters but it can’t just be Cambridge.”

Rebecca Simmons, chief operations office at Cambridge quantum firm Riverlane, agreed. “I don’t think Cambridge can do it all,” she said. “If we want to get bigger, we have to do it across the country. Particularly in the quantum world — Oxford, Bristol, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, they’ve all got good hubs mostly based around universities.”

“It’s important that we step up and connect the dots between the various cities in this country,” said Grech, who led startup incubator Tech Nation for a decade. “For me, Silicon Valley is a mindset. I think we should basically adopt its mindset and apply it everywhere.”

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This Nvidia Cofounder Could Have Been Worth $70 Billion. Instead He Lives Off The Grid

If Curtis Priem, Nvidia’s first CTO, had held onto all his stock, he’d be the 16th richest person in America. Instead, he sold out years ago and gave most of his fortune to his alma mater Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

By Phoebe Liu, Forbes Staff

Curtis Priem wanders across a wooden stage before coming to a standstill a few feet right of center. It’s one of the “acoustic sweet spots” in the 1,165-seat Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute concert hall that the Nvidia cofounder donated $40 million to construct between 2003 and 2008. Bathed in warm stage lights, Priem, 64 and dressed in suit and red tie, gestures toward the thousands of uniquely curved wood panels lining the walls and tightly-woven fabric specifically tuned for air permeability and mass on the ceiling—all built for ideal acoustics. “This is the most technically advanced performance space in the world,” the electrical engineer beams, describing the Troy, NY, venue that is named after him: the Curtis Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center.

It’s part of a much bigger commitment to his alma mater that most recently includes helping it become the first university in the world to house an IBM Quantum System One computer. Expected to be operational by next spring, it will be the cornerstone of a new computational center that will hopefully help RPI and the surrounding area attract top talent.

Since 2001, Priem has given $275 million to RPI, accounting for 40% of RPI’s total gifts during that period, and he’s pledged approximately $80 million more. Only half that amount has ever been publicly acknowledged as gifts from Priem. An anonymous pledge of $360 million was announced by RPI in 2001 around the time Priem started giving, but neither he nor the school would comment on whether he is the donor.

What’s even less known is Priem’s own story. An inventor who has almost 200 patents, he helped design the first graphics processor ever for PCs in the early 1980s and later cofounded semiconductor firm Nvidia, where he spent a decade working as its first chief technology officer.

Following Nvidia’s 1999 IPO, he transferred most of his shares to a charitable foundation, after deciding it was an “excessive amount of money” to hold onto. A few years later he left the company, in part due to a highly litigious first marriage that ended in divorce and domestic violence allegations against his ex-wife. By 2006 he’d sold off his remaining shares. Had he held onto his entire stake, he’d be worth $70 billion. Instead, Forbes estimates that Priem has a fortune that’s closer to $30 million, just over one tenth of what he’s given to RPI.

That includes a $6 million home near Fremont, California where he lives off the grid with unreliable cell service and writes “manifestos” filled with equations about how to solve world problems like “repairing the earth.” (None have been published anywhere). He says he often communicates by giving out unique email addresses—sixteen-digit strings of numbers including one given to this Forbes reporter, as a way of avoiding spam (he says he hasn’t gotten any since 2000). He also owns a Gulfstream G450 private jet, named Snoopy, that he bought in 2021 and now uses to fly to RPI four times a year.

In an interview on RPI’s campus in the historically blue-collar town of Troy, NY, Priem opens up about his donations, why he left Nvidia and a few regrets. “I did a little crazy thing, and I wish I’d kept a little bit more [Nvidia shares],” admits Priem, who says he still thinks of Nvidia twice a day—when he puts on and takes off his Omega Speedmaster X-33 Mars watch, the same model worn by Thunderbirds and Space Shuttle astronauts; it was a gift from Nvidia on his fifth company anniversary. For him, RPI has become the place not only to put his money but also to find meaning and solace. “Hell was happening for me on the outside, and [RPI] was actually my retreat,” says Priem of his work with RPI, where he has served on the board of trustees since 2003. “It became my purpose and my sanity.”

Priem chose RPI over the better-known Massachusetts Institute of Technology thanks in part to it having a fancy IBM computer he wanted to use. It turned out to be an ideal place for Priem, who had always been interested in the intersection of technology and the arts. In high school, after moving “all over the east coast” as a child, his family settled outside Cleveland, where Priem took cello lessons with the Cleveland Orchestra’s Donald White, the first Black musician to play in a major orchestra, and spent two summers at an intensive camp for classical musicians in North Carolina. He also played the trombone. At RPI, he played cello in its orchestra all four years, and credits much of his creativity in the electronics industry and his work at RPI to his musician upbringing. “To perform, you have to practice, right? And you have to be creative,” Priem says. “So I started applying that to electronics and computer science.”

He graduated from RPI with a degree in electrical and computer engineering in 1982, and went to work as a staff engineer for PC company Vermont Microsystems, followed by a stint as a hardware engineer at electronic test equipment firm GenRad. He later moved to California to work at Sun Microsystems for seven years.

The idea for Nvidia was hatched in 1993 at a Denny’s in Silicon Valley. That’s where he, his Sun Microsystems colleague Chris Malachowsky and their friend Jensen Huang, an engineer who worked at LSI Logic, would meet up to brainstorm how to build a better chip. Priem describes his role early on as the architect creating the underlying blueprint that allowed engineers to design algorithms for Nvidia’s chips, working mostly behind the scenes. “There was a saying at Nvidia to never put Curtis in front of a camera, and never put Curtis in front of a customer,” Priem quips. (CEO Huang’s response: “Curtis was actually excellent with customers.”)

In 1999, Nvidia had two major breakthroughs: It went public with a $1.1 billion market capitalization and it invented its graphics processing unit, or GPU, which was initially used for video editing and gaming but eventually reshaped the computing industry. That July Priem also married his first wife, Veronica, and two months later, established the Priem Family Foundation in which he put more than three quarters of his 12.8% (at IPO) Nvidia stake–about 100 million shares (in today’s share count). Part of the reason for the big gift, he said, was that he didn’t want the government to get the money if he had sold a bunch of shares and owed taxes on them.

It was also around that time that Priem looked at his shareholding and thought he’d end up with around $50 million. “My saving grace was that I couldn’t predict the future,” he says somewhat wistfully about his decision to sell off shares in the now $1.2 trillion (market cap) company.

After initially donating to a handful of causes including The Nature Conservancy and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Priem shifted away from his goal of alleviating human-induced suffering to preventing it, mostly through education-focused giving. “Adam and Eve had free will and chose a sinful path which originated suffering … our belief is that most suffering can be avoided since it is within our control to begin with,” stated his foundation’s early website, drawing on his family’s roots in the United Church of Christ (Priem doesn’t practice the religion, but his father, sister and grandparents were all ministers, he says).

In 2000, Priem went back to RPI to receive the university’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award for his work at Nvidia. “I walked onto campus, and it’s like, okay, this is sort of my calling,” Priem says. He says he donated $1 million to RPI in 2000 and again in 2001. Then in the fiscal year ending in June 2002, the Priem Family Foundation began disbursing at least $10 million a year to RPI—and has done so ever since.

More than 40% Of Gifts to RPI Since June 2001 Have Come From The Priem Foundation

Things at Nvidia, meanwhile, weren’t going as well. According to Priem, he was distracted by personal issues at home and not contributing at the level he wanted, so he left.

The next decade of Priem’s life was a mess, he says—a court found that Veronica had a “history of domestic violence” against him. He alleged in 2013 court filings that the violence had “generated 19 written police reports, five arrests, three criminal convictions, three criminal protective orders, one civil temporary restraining order, and three probationary periods.” According to the same document, Veronica claimed that Curtis “triggered her violent reactions by provoking her verbally” and mentioned a “lack of severity associated with her misconduct.” (Her lawyer did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) At one point, Curtis Priem says he met with California state senator Bob Wieckowski to advocate for an amendment that would make it harder for alleged perpetrators of domestic violence to receive spousal support. The amendment, SB 28, passed unanimously in a 2015 Senate vote. His ex-wife pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence, and he never paid spousal support.

Throughout this time, Priem continued to help RPI, which he said had financially “floundered” for decades. He wanted to help “turn this super tanker around.” First, his donations went to the essentials—hiring more faculty, building renovations and acquiring lab equipment. Then came contributions to what’s now the Shirley Ann Jackson Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies and to the performing arts center, which opened in 2008.

The idea for his biggest contribution yet came just months ago at a board retreat in Carlsbad, California. That’s where Priem suggested to RPI’s new president Martin Schmidt that they try to bring a quantum computer to RPI, an interesting idea but one Schmidt thought would be too costly.

“We left Carlsbad with me agreeing that I would drive down to see Dario Gil, the head of IBM research … to see if we could convince him that IBM should put a quantum computer on the RPI campus,” Schmidt told Forbes. Just three months later, in June, RPI formally announced plans to bring an IBM Quantum System One computer to campus next year, which will make it the only university in the world to house one.

“Now, with quantum computers, RPI will be at the forefront of ushering in a completely new paradigm of computing that offers profound possibilities for the exploration of a range of previously intractable problems across areas such as material design, sustainability, pharmaceutical development, healthcare and much more,” Gil said at an October groundbreaking event for the quantum computer.

Priem’s latest $95 million pledge to bring the computer to campus and set up a new center for it is, in his words, setting his foundation on the “glide path to zero.”

“This weekend is actually the termination of our foundation,” Priem said at the groundbreaking event, where he explained to a packed crowd of students, faculty, alumni and other guests that his funding for the computer would be his foundation’s last major gift and use up most of its remaining funds. He made the announcement standing in front of a gleaming “quantum chandelier,” the heart of the forthcoming quantum computer because it contains the quantum chip and is surrounded by intricate gold wiring to keep the 2,000-pound computer cold enough to operate, at around -460 degrees Fahrenheit. The computer is expected to be operational sometime in spring 2024 and will sit under four stained-glass windows in a former chapel.

Priem’s family foundation currently has $160 million in assets and is on track to wind down by 2031, he says, but he isn’t sure the money will last that long, given all the new initiatives he keeps deciding to fund at RPI. “We can’t stop spending, so it’ll probably be a lot sooner than that,” says Priem, who adds that “when the money runs out, I get to retire.”


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Ohio Higher Ed Bill Requires Equal Time For Climate Change Deniers, Racists

The Ohio state Legislature is taking its own shot at eliminating all the liberal indoctrination Republicans are certain is running amok in universities, with a bill that not only prohibits most diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and “implicit bias” training, but also requires that instructors not promote any particular view on any “controversial topic” like climate change, diversity, abortion, or foreign policy, among others. The bill has already passed in the state Senate, and is now being considered in the state House, which has a Republican supermajority. The official title of Senate Bill 83 is the “Higher Education Enhancement Act,” but I’m just going to call it the Flat Earth Equal Time Act if you don’t mind.

For all “controversial “topics, instructors would be required to “allow and encourage students to reach their own conclusions” and “shall not seek to inculcate any social, political, or religious point of view.” Should be fun when a student sues to have openly white supremacist materials included in a syllabus. Or an oil company sues over climate science being taught accurately.

When he introduced SB 83 in March, state Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Did We Have To Say?) explained that

it was his idea to include climate change as a “controversial” belief or policy, and that he “didn’t actually consult with climate people.”.

“My agenda was not to use this bill to impact energy policy,” Cirino said. However, he also said, “What I think is controversial is different views that exist out there about the extent of the climate change and the solutions to try to alter climate change.”

So yeah, that translates to “let’s not actually limit greenhouse emissions, because as the copyrighted 2009 cartoon by Joel Pett in USA Today asked, ‘What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?'”

Naturally enough, actual scientists are aghast at the bill, pointing out that there really is no “other side” to the fact that humans have caused global warming by burning fossil fuels, which add carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, causing dangerous heating of the planet. There also isn’t any actual controversy over what’s needed: We need to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions — and eliminate them altogether — as quickly as possible.

There are plenty of discussions about the best way to achieve that goal, which we suppose may fit Cirino’s suggestion that there’s “controversy” over “the solutions to try to alter climate change,” but not a single one of the options includes “keep burning coal and oil.” Really!

Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, warned that if the law is enacted, it’s “going to have a chilling effect” on science education, since many instructors might decide it’s safer to not say much about climate change at all if they think they have to include climate denial nonsense and “alternative” views. Jeez, you scientists, isn’t some chilling exactly what we need to counteract all this warming?

The bill’s language is particularly vague and circular when it comes to even defining what topics are “controversial” and in need of both-sidesing in classes. It specifies some, but the language is very open-ended:

“Controversial belief or policy” means any belief or policy that is the subject of political controversy, including issues such as climate policies, electoral politics, foreign policy, diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, immigration policy, marriage, or abortion.

Got it? A controversial topic is any topic that “is the subject of political controversy,” so tread carefully and include all sides. Including, we guess, advocacy of plural marriage and mandatory abortion? And of course, many evangelicals consider evolution controversial, so Ohio biology curricula could be in for a surprise.

Hilariously, though, another provision of the bill makes clear that some “foreign policy” matters should have only one side, since it limits a wide range of cooperative agreements with China, and specifies that Ohio universities “may endorse the congress of the United States when it establishes a state of armed hostility against a foreign power.”

Another section of the bill shoehorns in the now-familiar cookie-cutter prohibitions on “divisive concepts” that must not be taught, like the very ideas of inherent bias, white privilege, or systemic racism.

Previously In The Syllabus:

Georgia Schoolchildren Will Just Have To Learn All History From Confederate Statues

David Duke Thanks Tucker Carlson For Spreading ‘Great Replacement’ Lie

Federal Judge Stops DeSantis’s ‘Stop WOKE’ Law, Because ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING HIM

The bill’s multi-pronged attack on diversity, equity, equity, and inclusion also led to widespread condemnation, obviously, because most university faculty, students, and officials aren’t consumers of rightwing media who are worried about the Great Replacement conspiracy theory.

That said, Dayton TV station WKRC did manage to scrape up one professor at the University of Cincinnati, criminologist John Paul Wright, who fretted about the school’s diversity and inclusion webpage, and who claimed he heard a colleague say they “will never hire another white male.” Dude is a proponent of some seriously racist “science,” and has called for more research on “the role biology plays in criminal behavior.” I’d say that this guy and his calipers account for all the “intellectual diversity” Ohio universities can stand, honestly.

Shortly before the Ohio Senate passed it, The Board of Trustees of The Ohio State University officially opposed SB 83, stating that it raised First Amendment issues and warning that it could harm the university’s ability to “attract the best students, faculty, and researchers.” It further said the bill could affect “the quality of higher education at all Ohio public universities,” even the ones that don’t insist on having a capitalized definite article in their names.

During debate on the bill, however, Cirino insisted Ohio wouldn’t experience any such brain drain, and would actually make Ohio schools more gooder by attracting … well, people with calipers, basically:

“When all is said and done here, our universities are going to be better,” he said. “We are going to attract more people who have been turned away because of the liberal bias that is incontrovertible in our institutions in Ohio.”

In addition to the gross limitations on academic freedom, which are lawsuit bait if we ever saw it, just like Ron DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE” law, SB 83 would ban strikes by academic workers, require all students to take a course in American history of government — presumably, only the GOOD parts — cut the terms of university and college boards of trustees so they can be replaced by patriots, and would weaken tenure protections.

And if it passes in the state House, will GOP Governor Mike DeWine sign it? How’s this for some impressive waffling? Earlier this month, before it passed in the Senate, DeWine simply said it was still “a work in progress” and that “I have not seen the latest version.” Sounds to us like he wants to follow the spirit of the bill and not take any particular position at all. We’d like to hope the near-universal condemnation of the bill, which will dumb down another great university system, might put his feet to the fire — as long as it’s burning green hydrogen, of course.

[Ohio Senate Bill 83 / Ohio Capitol Journal / USA Today / Ohio Capitol Journal]

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Ron DeSantis Achieves New Dickishness Personal Worst

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has had a busy week, signing several bills that will further encrappen the state and make life miserable for LGBTQ folks, all in the hope that he’ll prove himself authoritarian enough to appeal to Republican primary voters next year. He’s been traveling across America’s Dangling Appendage signing bills restricting people’s freedom while claiming that Florida is the home of freedom, as long as you’re a rightwing evangelical. (We think we’ll just stop at “evangelical” from here on, since adding “Christian” to it just makes baby Jesus sad.)

Monday, DeSantis went to New College of Florida in Sarasota, the nice little liberal arts school he’s ruining to turn into a rightwing indoctrination center, to sign several bills aimed at purifying Florida colleges and universities of “wokeness.” It was his way of twisting the knife a bit, to remind the Liberal Elites who’s in charge. Your fascists love that kind of symbolic humiliation shit, like how a former German corporal insisted in 1940 that France surrender in the same railroad car where the 1919 Armistice was signed.

But sometimes the vanquished just won’t cooperate and admit they’ve been crushed, darn them. As Yr Wonkette noted Saturday, the official graduation speaker for New College’s commencement was Dr. Scott Atlas, Donald Trump’s Infect Everyone and Let God Sort ‘Em Out COVID adviser, which was supposed to be a sick burn on the libs. Instead of going along, New College students scheduled their own commencement for tonight, and civil rights attorney Maya Wiley will deliver the keynote speech. It’s as if those libs don’t even know they’ve been owned. Sad!

We Don’t Need No Education

As we say, DeSantis went to New College to ritually defile the corpse of his enemy, by signing bills that will further his goal of ramping up white grievance against higher education and nonexistent “liberal indoctrination.” The biggie is Senate Bill 266, which defunds and prohibits “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (DEI) programs in higher education, because as we all know from racist memes, diversity is just code for white genocide. DeSantis kept a lid on the open racism and went for the respectable old dog whistle of “reverse racism” instead, saying,

“If you look at the way this has actually been implemented across the country, DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination. […] And that has no place in our public institutions.”

DeSantis proclaimed an end to diversity, crowing that “This bill says the whole experiment with DEI is coming to an end in the state of Florida. We are eliminating the DEI programs.”

In addition, the bill also cracks down further on academic freedom, specifying that general education classes — the core of classes for all undergrads — may not “distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics,” and must not be based on

theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.

Lasting effects of Jim Crow? Certainly not in Florida! America is perfect in Florida! A history prof could teach about redlining, presumably, as long as they don’t suggest that it created a structural imbalance in how wealth is accumulated in the US, because it’s just pure coincidence that some people inherited homes in neighborhoods that had restrictive covenants, while other people never saw such generational wealth transfer. Discrimination vanished after the Fair Housing Act in 1968, because it’s right in the name of the law, and how dare you suggest that the playing field was never level?

The bill also demands that gen ed classes of all kinds emphasize “Western Civilization,” the best civilization there is, and requires that humanities classes include works from the “Western” canon, although studying inferior books from less important cultures will be tolerated for now at least.

Other bills DeSantis signed Monday included House Bill 931, which prohibits colleges from requiring a “political loyalty test” — i.e., from committing to diversity or anything like it. It also requires that all “public policy events” include equal time for opposing views, which as far as we can tell means that if you have a Pride event you have to invite Matt Walsh.

Finally, another measure will weaken tenure protections for professors, who need to be kept in line with the threat of being fired if they get too mouthy about any of this.

‘Don’t Say Gay’ On Steroids, And Worse

To mark yesterday’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which commemorates the World Health Organization’s 1990 removal of LGBTQ+ identity from its list of “mental disorders” — Jesus H Christ on a Segway, it took that long! — DeSantis signed four anti-LGBTQ measures into law, ensuring that civil rights attorneys and activists will at least have a booming business for the next few years as they work to shut that shit down. Honestly, it’s well past time that, instead of the Bugs Bunny gif, we instead force Florida back into the US of A and make it respect all its residents’ rights.

Florida’s state medical board last year adopted rules restricting gender-affirming care for trans youth. Yesterday, DeSantis made it a matter of law by signing Senate Bill 254, which prohibits puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery for minors (as we always point out, gender-affirming surgery is already extremely rare for patients under 18).

As indy journalist Erin Reed notes, this one’s far worse than the usual run of such bills, because it also bans nurse practitioners from providing any gender-affirming meds, which won’t just deny care to minors but to adults, since according to Florida healthcare provider SPEKTRUM Health, up to 80 percent of gender-affirming care in Florida is provided by NPs. As Reed reports, this has already led to appointments being cancelled and people losing access to medication.

The bill became effective as soon as DeSantis signed it, and the Human Rights Campaign reports that parents who are already suing to block the state medical board’s anti-trans measures are seeking an emergency order to block SB 254 immediately. Other lawsuits are certain to follow.

DeSantis also signed what might be the most restrictive “bathroom bill” in the country, HB 1521, as Reed explains.

The wording of the bill states that if a cisgender person is in the bathroom with a transgender person, an employee can tell the transgender person to leave. Should the transgender person not leave immediately for any reason, they will be charged with criminal trespass, which can carry sentences of up to 1 year in jail. […]

While the provisions do not ban all bathroom usage, they cast a wide net over an alarming number of locations that would fall under definitions of “public” in the bill. This includes all buildings owned or leased by any governmental entity, educational institutions spanning from elementary schools to private colleges and universities, numerous hospitals owned by universities, many sports arenas, convention centers, city parks, beaches, airports, and more.

The bill makes no exceptions for trans folk who have updated their gender status on official documents like birth certificates or drivers licenses, instead defining sex as a matter of chromosomes and genitalia, which opens the hellish possibility that people trying to relieve themselves in a stall with a locked door will be subjected to freaking medical investigations. It’s also a no-win situation, as Reed notes, since

Transgender people who are androgenous or pass as their gender identity will likely be challenged in the bathroom of their birth sex. Those trans people will then be forced to undergo the same investigation into their gender. In essence, it amounts to a ban on bathrooms for transgender people entirely.

HB 1521 goes into effect on July 1 — avoiding Pride month, isn’t that cute? — by which time the lawsuits challenging it may have made headway, we hope. If it isn’t already enjoined by then, get ready for lots of pushback, too, from cisgender folks who are challenged by toilet vigilantes. Sadly, in Florida, those cases may get the most media attention, because oh no, the “wrong” people are being harmed.

DeSantis also signed HB 1069, which expands the already awful “Don’t Say Gay” law to 12th grade, and will prohibit trans students from asking to please be addressed by their correct pronouns, as well as encouraging even more vicious censorship of books in classrooms and school libraries. It too becomes effective July 1. A final member of the shitshow quartet, SB 1438, expands Florida’s “obscenity” laws to include drag shows; it’s almost certain to be used to attack Pride parades. Reed notes it has “already led to cancellations of pride events, including the Treasure Coast Pride Parade.”

All of the bills DeSantis signed this week are blatantly unconstitutional, so this might be a good time to donate, if you can, to groups like Lambda Legal, the Human Rights Campaign, or the ACLU of Florida. As the inevitable lawsuits against this fuckery ramp up, we’ll bring you more information on how to help. As Yr Wonkette likes to point out when we discuss the climate crisis, things are pretty fucked, but we have the advantage of being on the right side. Americans do not want this crap, and there’s a lot of mobilization to do — like the major federal lawsuit that’s just been launched by Florida parents, PEN America, and Random House against school library censorship, about which we’ll have more shortly.

Be an activist. Be an ally. Fight this shit with love and passion and smartassery (but don’t mistake snark for activism, you in the back, there). This humbug shall not stand, man.

[NBC News / NPR / Erin in the Morning]

Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please give $5 or $10 a month to help us help you keep that fire in your heart.

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Concern grows around US health-care workforce shortage: ‘We don’t have enough doctors’ | CNN


There is mounting concern among some US lawmakers about the nation’s ongoing shortage of health-care workers, and the leaders of historically Black medical schools are calling for more funding to train a more diverse workforce.

As of Monday, in areas where a health workforce shortage has been identified, the United States needs more than 17,000 additional primary care practitioners, 12,000 dental health practitioners and 8,200 mental health practitioners, according to data from the Health Resources & Services Administration. Those numbers are based on data that HRSA receives from state offices and health departments.

“We have nowhere near the kind of workforce, health-care workforce, that we need,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders told CNN on Friday. “We don’t have enough doctors. We don’t have enough nurses. We don’t have enough psychologists or counselors for addiction. We don’t have enough pharmacists.”

The heads of historically Black medical schools met with Sanders in a roundtable at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta on Friday to discuss the nation’s health-care workforce shortage.

The health-care workforce shortage is “more acute” in Black and brown communities; the Black community constitutes 13% of the US population, but only 5.7% of US physicians are Black, said Sanders, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

“What we’re trying to do in this committee – in our Health, Education, Labor Committee – is grow the health-care workforce and put a special emphasis on the needs to grow more Black doctors, nurses, psychologists, et cetera,” Sanders said.

At Friday’s roundtable, the leaders of the Morehouse School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Howard University and Charles R. Drew University called for more resources and opportunities to be allocated to their institutions to help grow the nation’s incoming health-care workforce.

“Allocating resources and opportunities matter for us to increase capacity and scholarships and programming to help support these students as they matriculate through,” Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president of the Morehouse School of Medicine, told CNN.

“But also, the other 150-plus medical schools, beyond our four historically Black medical schools, owe it to the country to increase the diversity of the students that they train,” Rice said, adding that having a health-care workforce that reflects the communities served helps reduce the health inequities seen in the United States.

Historically Black medical schools are “the backbone for training Black doctors in this country,” Dr. Hugh Mighty, senior vice president for health affairs at Howard University, said at Friday’s event. “As the problem of Black physician shortages rise, within the general context of the physician workforce shortage, many communities of need will continue to be underserved.”

A new study commissioned by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities estimates that the economic burden of health inequities in the United States has cost the nation billions of dollars. Such inequities are illustrated in how Black and brown communities tend to have higher rates of serious health outcomes such as maternal deaths, certain chronic diseases and infectious diseases.

The researchers, from Johns Hopkins University and other institutions, analyzed excess medical care expenditures, death records and other US data from 2016 through 2019. They took a close look at health inequities in the cost of medical care, differences in premature deaths and the amount of labor market productivity that has been lost due to health reasons.

The researchers found that, in 2018, the economic burden of health inequities for racial and ethnic minority communities in the United States was up to $451 billion, and the economic burden of health inequities for adults without a four-year college degree was up to $978 billion.

“These findings provide a clear and important message to health care leaders, public health officials, and state and federal policy makers – the economic magnitude of health inequities in the US is startlingly high,” Drs. Rishi Wadhera and Issa Dahabreh, both of Harvard University, wrote in an editorial that accompanied the new study in the journal JAMA.

The Covid-19 pandemic “pulled the curtain back” on health inequities, such as premature death and others, Rice said, and “we saw a disproportionate burden” on some communities.

“We saw a higher death rate in Black and brown communities because of access and fear and a whole bunch of other factors, including what we recognize as racism and unconscious bias,” Rice said.

“We needed more physicians, more health-care providers. So, we already know when we project out to 2050, we have a significant physician shortage based on the fact that we cannot educate and train enough health care professionals fast enough,” she said. “We can’t just rely on physicians. We have to rely on a team approach.”

She added that the nation’s shortage of health-care workers leaves the country ill-prepared to respond to future pandemics.

The United States is projected to face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034 as the demand outpaces supply, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The workforce shortage means “we’re really not prepared” for another pandemic, Sanders said.

“We don’t have the public health infrastructure that we need state by state. We surely don’t have the doctors and the nurses that we need,” Sanders said. “So what we are trying to do now is to bring forth legislation, which will create more doctors and more nurses, more dentists, because dental care is a major crisis in America.”

In March, Bill McBride, executive director of the National Governors Association, wrote a letter to Sanders and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy detailing the “root causes” of the health-care workforce shortage and potential ways some states are hoping to tackle the crisis.

“Governors have taken innovative steps to address the healthcare workforce shortage facing their states and territories by boosting recruitment efforts, loosening licensing requirements, expanding training programs and raising providers’ pay,” McBride wrote.

“Shortages in healthcare workers is not a new challenge but has only worsened in the past three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Burnout and stress have only exacerbated this issue,” he wrote. “The retirement and aging of an entire generation is front and center of the healthcare workforce shortage, particularly impacting rural communities.”

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Ron DeSantis Desperate For Wingnut Students, Faculty To Come To Nice Little College He Wrecked

Ron DeSantis and his personally appointed wrecking crew of rightwing ideologues are looking for some students and faculty to come help them turn New College of Florida into a bastion of rightwing higher education, a “Hillsdale of the South,” as DeSantis aides have put it.

Unfortunately for the DeSantis crew, led by professional Culture War grifter Christopher Rufo, New College already came with a faculty and student body who don’t at all fit the mold of Gov. Orban’s ideal institution. The place has historically been delightfully idiosyncratic, with students encouraged to design their own degree programs, and instead of grades, an end-of-course conversation with the prof about what students learned. Think Washington’s The Evergreen College, but with palm trees instead of geoduck clams and rain.

So in February, the Florida Lege directed $15 million to help the new New College recruit a more suitable crop of students and faculty. The budget amendment said the funds were to be used, at the Board of Trustees’ discretion, “for hiring faculty, offering student scholarships, and covering additional operational costs necessary to transition into a world-class classical liberal arts educational institution.” We assume that would also help purchase every new student their very own AR-15 lapel pin.

To help attract the Right kind of students, New College is getting help from rightwing groups like the “Florida Family Policy Council” and its mailing list. That group’s president, John Stemberger — a longtime Bible-Banger — sent an email to “friends with college-age students” plugging the scholarships, with the topic line “Students should consider New College in Sarasota quickly being touted as the Hillsdale College of the southeast,” which is a run-on sentence.

The email also passed along a message from Richard Corcoran, New College’s interim president. Corcoran, a big mucketymuck in Florida Republican circles, had previously been speaker of the state House and a state education commissioner under DeSantis. Corcoran’s message said the $10,000 scholarships will be available to “each qualified first-time-in-college or transfer student,” in addition to other financial aid. Good deal! The message said that New College is

the place for the rapidly growing population of students who are looking for a place to explore their intellectual curiosity, pursue their passions, and gain a better understanding of the world without having to abandon who they are and what they believe. [emphasis added — Dok]

Translation: You can be a rightwing Christian nationalist and no one will ever suggest that’s a bad thing.

The “Tomorrow Belongs To You” boosterism was a bit less subtle in a story from a thing called “The Florida Standard,” a website seemingly created to tell the world how great Ron DeSantis is, and that he makes the very best three-headed gophers ever, and should make more. The headline and subhed make clear that if you a student from a stock photo, you should very definitely get $10,000 to enroll at NCF — and did you know that it is “touted as the ‘Hillsdale of the South'”? (It’s like that running gag in the movie version of Get Shorty, touting the Oldsmobile Silhouette as the “Cadillac of Minivans”)

The hard-hitting press release rewrite touts — in another internal heading and in the text — that NCF is out to become the Cadillac of Hillsdales, without even the least hint that up until now, New College has been a haven for liberals, intellectual stoners, and a very LGBTQ+ -friendly culture. (We do hope that even after the takeover, the school’s knitting club can keep the name “Anarchy Deathsticks.”)

Last week, a New College professor made a bit of a splash by saying in his resignation letter that the effort to remake New College as [yes, you know the phrase now] left him feeling almost ready to “burn the college’s buildings to the ground,” but for his love for the students and what the place used to stand for.

In the kind of excellent invective that we assume means he doesn’t need to worry about making his next mortgage payment, Aaron Hillegass, the director of applied data science at New College, tweeted a copy of his resignation letter to Corcoran, noting that he’d been hired just prior to DeSantis’s hostile takeover.

Hillsdale College is bad for America. It cultivates prejudice against immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, minorities, and non-christians. It pushes a nativist and nationalistic agenda that would isolate the US from other nations.

When a governor guts the leadership of a state school in an effort to make a facsimile of Hillsdale, that is fascism. Not the shocking Kristallnacht-style fascism, but the banal fascism that always precedes it.

The nation is watching this experiment. If it is successful, the academic freedom of every state school under a conservative governor will be in peril. I love New College, but for the good of our nation, I hope the school fails miserably and conspicuously.

If I were more patriotic, I would burn the college’s buildings to the ground. However, the soft spot in my heart for the students and faculty who remain prevents this. Thus, I will (not outraged, just moved by a nagging sense of duty) vote with my feet, and simply walk away.

Note: I am taking the $600K that I pledged to the New College Foundation with me.

When my employment contract expires on August 22, I will not be renewing it.

Hillegass later added that no, he would not really do a arson, and that the line was simply a “poetic flourish that sounded cool until it showed up in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.” Heck, we bet he only burned metaphorical bridges with the letter. Wingnut Media must have gone after him, because yesterday he tweeted that he really is a capitalist, and that one of his ancestors was “Michael Hillegas who was the treasurer of the Continental Congress.”

So put that in your tricorn and smoke it, teabaggers. In the replies, they all call him a hypocrite for not being tolerant of fascists, the end.

[Florida Standard / Tampa Bay Times / Semafor / Photo: Alaska Miller, Creative Commons License 4.0]

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Mental health struggles are driving more college students to consider dropping out, survey finds | CNN


Isabel, a 20-year-old undergraduate student, is no stranger to hard work. She graduated high school a year early and spent most of 2021 keeping up with three jobs. But when she started college that fall, she felt like she was “sinking.”

She knew that she wasn’t feeling like herself that first semester: Her bubbly personality had dimmed, and she was crying lots more than she was used to.

It all came to a head during a Spanish exam. Isabel, who identifies as both Latina and Black, overheard a video that other students were watching about racism in her communities. Negative emotions swelled, and she had to walk out without finishing the test. She rushed back to her room, angry and upset, and broke her student card when hitting it on the door to get in.

“And I just started having a full-blown panic attack,” she said. “My mind was racing everywhere.”

Isabel says she begged her parents to let her stay on campus, but they insisted that she make the three-hour drive home, and she soon took a medical withdrawal.

A new survey shows that a significant number of college students struggle with their mental health, and a growing share have considered dropping out themselves.

Two out of 5 undergraduate students – including nearly half of female students – say they frequently experience emotional stress while attending college, according to a survey published Thursday by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation, a private independent organization focused on creating accessible opportunities for post-secondary learning. The survey was conducted in fall 2022, with responses from 12,000 adults who had a high school degree but had not yet completed an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

More than 40% of students currently enrolled in an undergraduate degree program had considered dropping out in the past six months, up from 34% in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the survey found. Most cited emotional stress and personal mental health as the reason, far more often than others like financial considerations and difficulty of coursework.

Young adult years are a vulnerable time for mental health in general, and the significant changes that often come with attending college can be added stressors, experts say.

“About 75% of lifetime mental health problems will onset by the mid-20s, so that means that the college years are a very epidemiologically vulnerable time,” said Sarah K. Lipson, an assistant professor at Boston University and principal investigator with the Healthy Minds Network, a research organization focused on the mental health of adolescents and young adults.

“And then for many adolescents and young adults, the transition to college comes with newfound autonomy. They may be experiencing the first signs and symptoms of mental health problems while now in this new level of independence that also includes new independence over their decision-making as it relates to mental health.”

An estimated 1 in 5 adults in the United States lives with a mental illness, and young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 are disproportionately affected. The share of college students reporting anxiety and depression has been growing for years, and it has only gotten worse during the Covid-19 pandemic.

An analysis of federal data by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that half of young adults ages 18 to 24 have reported anxiety and depression symptoms in 2023, compared with about a third of adults overall.

Mental health in college is critically important, experts say.

It’s “predictive of pretty much every long-term outcome that we care about, including their future economic earnings, workplace productivity, their future mental health and their future physical health, as well,” Lipson said.

And the need for support is urgent. About 1 in 7 college students said that they had suicidal ideation – even more than the year prior, according to a fall 2021 survey by the Healthy Minds Network.

Isabel knew that she was struggling, but it took a while to realize the extent of her mental health challenges.

“The number one thing I struggled with was feeling overwhelmed and like I had space to even remember to eat,” she said. “People were like, ‘You don’t know how to take care of yourself.’ But no – I had five papers due, and assignments, and I also had to work and go to [class] on top of that. And then I also had to find time to sleep. Most of the time, I was chugging an energy drink. And God forbid if you have a social life.”

For Isabel, as with many college students, thinking about or deciding to leave a degree program because of mental health challenges can often bring its own set of negative emotions, such as anxiety, fear and grief.

“For a lot of students, this isn’t what they saw their life looking like. This isn’t the timeline that they had for themselves,” said Julie Wolfson, director of outreach and research for the College ReEntry program at Fountain House, a nonprofit organization that works to support people with mental illness.

“They see their friends continuing on and becoming juniors and seniors, graduating and getting their first job. But they feel stuck and like they’re watching their life plan slipping away.”

It can create a sort of “shame spiral,” Lipson said.

But mental health professionals stress the importance of prioritizing personal needs over the status quo.

“There’s no shame in taking some time off,” said Marcus Hotaling, a psychologist at Union College and president of the Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors.

“Take a semester. Take a year. Get yourself better – whether it be through therapy or medication – and come back stronger, a better student, more focused and, more importantly, healthier.”

They also encourage higher education institutions to help ease this pressure by creating policies that simplify the process to return.

“When a student is trying to do the best thing for themselves, that should be celebrated and promoted. For a school to then put up a ton of barriers for them to come back, it makes students not want to seek help,” Wolfson said.

“I would hope that in the future, there could be policies and systems that are more welcoming to students who are trying to take care of themselves.”

Appropriately managing mental health is different for each person, and experts say a break from school isn’t the best solution for everyone.

Tracking progress through self-assessments of symptoms and gauges of functioning, like class attendance and keeping up with assignments, can help make that call, said Ryan Patel, chair of the American College Health Association’s mental health section and senior staff psychiatrist at The Ohio State University.

“If we’re making progress and you’re getting better, then it could make sense to think about continuing school,” he said. “But if you’re doing everything you can in your day-to-day life to improve your mental health and we’re not making progress, or things are getting worse despite best efforts, that’s where the differentiating point occurs, in my mind.”

Understanding the support system a student would have if they return home, including access to resources and treatment providers, is also a factor, he said.

For a while, experts say, it was a challenge to articulate the problem and build the case for broader attention to the mental health of college students. Now, the mental health of students is consistently cited as the most pressing issue among college presidents, according to a survey by the American Council on Education.

As the need for services increases, however, college counseling centers are struggling to meet demand – and the shortage of mental health professionals doesn’t stop at the edge of campus.

But colleges are uniquely positioned to surround students with a close network of support, experts say. Taking advantage of that structure needs buy-in to create a broader “community of care.”

“Colleges have an educational mission, and I would make the argument that spreads to education about health and safety,” Hotaling said.

College faculty should be trained in recognizing immediate concerns or threats to a student’s safety, he said. But they should also understand that students can face a range of mental health challenges and know the appropriate resource to direct them to.

Isabel recently graduated from Fountain House’s College ReEntry program and is back at school – this time at university that’s a little closer to home, one that a close friend from high school also attends. It helps her to know that she has a strong friend group to support her and an academic program that supports her professional goals – to become an art curator.

Things are still challenging this time around, but she says she feels like she now has the right tools to cope.

“This foundation I am building is constantly in need of maintenance. There’s like a crack every day,” she said. “Back when I was trying to figure everything out, I feel like I was looking for a screwdriver when I needed a hammer. Now, it’s not that I know I can handle it – but I know that I have the healthy coping mechanisms and strategies and people to help. That gave me confidence and stamina to do it again.”

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Why, O Why, Won’t Liberal Professors Please Save Republican Party From Itself?

In one of the strangest calls for bipartisan — or maybe transpartisan? — unity we’ve ever seen, the New York Times (gift link) yesterday offered an op-ed by Jon Shields, a history prof at the very very conservative Claremont McKenna College, arguing that if liberals in academe would like to help save America, then liberal professors should “rescue the GOP” — by becoming mentors to bright young conservative students and by teaching courses on conservative thought. This, Shields argues, would be good not only for the students and for conservatism, but also for universities and American politics.

Honestly, it’s such a naive argument, and so utterly divorced from modern political reality, that I kind of want to pat the essay on the head and say “goodness, you mean well, don’t you? Have you looked outside, though?” It’s as if David Brooks were huffing the concentrated vapors of uncut Kumbayah juice.

The are you kidding me? You’ve got to be kidding me! vibes start with the first sentence and continue throughout the whole mess:

When conservative undergraduates look around for mentors these days, who do they find? Not conservative professors, at least not very often. Our ranks have been slowly vanishing since the 1980s. Instead, those students find organizers from the MAGA-verse who teach them how to own the libs. That’s who is instructing the next generation of Republican leaders, modeling how to act and think like good conservatives. It’s a squalid education, one that deepens their alienation from the university and guarantees that the next generation of elected officials will make Ron DeSantis’s war against higher education look tame.

Who will mentor these poor wandering conservatives? All they have is the poisonous MAGA people, and they aren’t conservatives, they’re wild people!

Shields doesn’t exactly say why conservative professors are so hard to find in universities these days, although there’s certainly an implication that liberals drove them out because that’s how progressives just do things. Nor does Shields give even a moment’s discussion to how it is that conservative intellectuals have become so rare, much less why the MAGA folks have driven all the sensible smart conservatives from the GOP. (The abbreviation “RINO” appears nowhere in the essay, even though it’s key to understanding how the wild-eyed crazies have ejected whatever intellectuals were still in the party.)

Still, Shields thinks it would really be a great thing if all the liberals who now make up the bulk of academe could help out and nurture conservative thought on campus, like a captive breeding program would help restore a species that’s on the verge of extinction. Liberal professors can fix this sorry situation and teach conservative students

how to become thoughtful and knowledgeable partisans — by exposing them to a rich conservative intellectual tradition that stretches back to Enlightenment thinkers like Edmund Burke, David Hume and Adam Smith. They could mentor their conservative students, set up reading groups, help vet speakers and create courses on the conservative intellectual tradition.

Conservative academics are apparently now so rare in the wild that they can’t do any of that themselves, so perhaps liberal profs can hand-feed the fragile conservative nestlings, like how the San Diego Zoo fed California Condor chicks by using puppets that looked like adult condors — you wouldn’t want the young conservatives imprinting on a liberal prof who might infect them with postmodernism.

On and on it goes, with suggestions for how liberal profs could be trained in summer seminars on how to teach the great conservative thinkers, and a recommendation for “the uninformed and skeptical alike” to read at least the intro to Jerry Z. Muller’s Conservatism: An Anthology of Social and Political Thought From David Hume to the Present, just to understand why conservative ideas are important for liberals to understand, because shouldn’t we conserve the best things of our culture and institutions?

These systems of social control are complex, easy to dismantle and difficult to rebuild. For these reasons, conservatives are leery of campaigns that promise to liberate us from a host of norms and institutions that the left sometimes sees as unjust, like marriage, religion, gender roles, the police and sexual repression.

Mmm-hmmm, sure. Liberals want to completely throw all that away, don’t we? By way of further example, Shields says he always has his students, “most of whom are quite liberal” (and they chose Claremont McKenna?), read books by conservative thinkers with companion books by liberals, so they can appreciate the value of the Old Ways. Like marriage, for instance, which in its traditional form

builds wealth, softens men and creates an ideal environment for privileged children to flourish, while for most everyone else, the expansion of sexual and romantic freedom has undermined family life, deepening inequality in its wake.

Look, you knew we were going to get to the “unmarried commitment-free fucking leaves you empty and unfulfilled” part eventually, right?

In any case, we liberals need to promote thoughtful conservatism for the good of America, and to call attention to “the wisdom it still has to offer us in an age in which the G.O.P. has descended into madness.” Why, one student who read a book on marriage even told Shields, “I think I need to rethink my life.”

Powerful. Then, no doubt the student went home and stopped selling death sticks.

Shields really wants liberal profs to help him, though, as if they were his only hope. Just look how terrible the role models for tender young conservatives have become!

The people now teaching them to think and act like conservatives mostly belong to Trumpist outfits like Turning Point USA, which recruits and trains young conservatives to be campus activists. (Turning Point has taken to hosting deliberate provocations like affirmative action bake sales, in which students are charged different prices, depending on their race.)

The point of these stunts isn’t just to provoke liberal outrage on campus; it’s to alienate conservative kids from their surroundings. Turning Point’s bombastic founder, Charlie Kirk, a college dropout, wants his young protégés to feel every bit as contemptuous of higher education as he does. As he told Fox News, “Anything but college.”

Conservative students, though, might start saying “Anything but Trumpism” if they learn about a more enlightened alternative.

Hmm. We do hope Professor Shields is aware that rightwing students started getting hilarious mocking larffs with “affirmative action bake sales” as far back as 2003, a decade and a half before Charlie Kirk was in diapers (at least the second time), yes? And that rightwing contempt for higher education is probably older than William F. Buckley’s attempts to bring some erudition to segregation?

Even if Shields comes off as a daffy naif in his essay, his idea does have at least this much to recommend it: If liberal profs actually did start teaching today’s young conservative students about the beauties of the conservative intellectual tradition, the young righties might decide to reject conservatism altogether, since clearly Burke and Hume are nothing more than commie indoctrination.

[NYT (gift link) / Wonkette photoshoop made using DreamStudio v1.5 AI]

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Only 5.7% of US doctors are Black, and experts warn the shortage harms public health | CNN


When being truly honest with herself, Seun Adebagbo says, she can describe what drove her to go to medical school in a single word: self-preservation.

Adebagbo, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in Boston, said that as a child, she often saw tensions between certain aspects of Western medicine and beliefs within Nigerian culture. She yearned to have the expertise to bridge those worlds and help translate medical information while combating misinformation – for her loved ones and for herself.

“I wanted to go into medicine because I felt like, ‘Who better to mediate that tension than someone like me, who knows what it’s like to exist in both?’ ” said Adebagbo, 26, who graduated from Stanford University and is now a third-year medical school student in Massachusetts.

“The deeper I got into my medical education, the more I realized, if I’m in the system, I know how it works. I not only know the science, but I also know how the system works,” she said of how in many Black and brown communities, there can be limited access to care and resources within the medical system.

This has enabled Adebagbo to connect with patients of color in her rotations. She recognizes that their encounters with her are brief, she said, and so she tries to empower them to advocate for themselves in the health system.

“I know what to ask for on the patient side if I’m worried about something for myself. But then also, for my parents and my family,” Adebagbo said. “Because the way you have to move in the system as a Black person is very different, especially if you’re coming from a background where you don’t have family members that are doctors, you don’t know anyone in your periphery that went into medicine.”

Seun Adebagbo presenting her poster presentation as a first author at an international symposium and annual meeting of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Only about 5.7% of physicians in the United States identify as Black or African American, according to the the latest data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. This statistic does not reflect the communities they serve, as an estimated 12% of the US population is Black or African American.

And while the proportion of Black physicians in the US has risen over the past 120 years, some research shows, it’s still extremely low.

One reason why the percentage of US doctors who are Black remains far below that of the US population that is Black can be traced to how Black people have been “historically excluded from medicine” and the “institutional and systemic racism in our society,” said Michael Dill, the Association of American Medical Colleges’ director of workforce studies.

“And it occurs over the course of what I think of as the trajectory to becoming a physician,” Dill said. At young ages, exposure to the sciences, science education resources, mentors and role models all make it more likely that a child could become a doctor – but such exposures and resources sometimes are disproportionately not as accessible in the Black community.

“We can improve our admissions to medical school, make them more holistic, try to remove bias from that, but that’s still not going to solve the problem,” Dill said.

“We need to look at which schools produce the most medical students and figure out how we improve the representation of Black students in those schools,” he said. “That requires going back to pre-college – high school, middle school, elementary school, kindergarten, pre-K – we need to do better in all of those places in order to elevate the overall trajectory to becoming a physician and make it more likely that we will get more Black doctors in the long run.”

Many US medical schools have a history of not admitting non-Whites. The first Black American to hold a medical degree, Dr. James McCune Smith, had to enroll at the University of Glasgow Medical School in Scotland.

Smith received his MD in 1837, returned to New York City and went on to become the first Black person to own and operate a pharmacy in the United States, and to be published in US medical journals.

A few decades later, in 1900, 1.3% of physicians were Black, compared with 11.6% of the US population, according to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in 2021.

Around that time, seven medical schools were established specifically for Black students between 1868 and 1904, according to Duke University’s Medical Center Library & Archives. But by 1923, only two of those schools remained: Howard University Medical School in Washington and Meharry Medical School in Nashville.

In 1940, only 2.8% of physicians were Black, but 9.7% of the US population was Black; by 2018, 5.4% of physicians were Black, but 12.8% of the population was Black.

“The more surprising thing to me was for Black men,” said Dr. Dan Ly, an author of the study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine and assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Data on only Black men who were physicians over the years showed that they represented 1.3% of the physician workforce in 1900, “because all physicians were pretty much men in the past,” Ly said. Black men represented 2.7% of the physician workforce in 1940 and 2.6% in 2018.

“That’s 80 years of no improvement,” Ly said. “So the increase in the percent of physicians who were Black over the past 80 years has been the entrance of Black women in the physician workforce.”

Over more than four decades between 1978 and 2019, the proportion of medical school enrollees who identify as Black, Hispanic or members of other underrepresented groups has stayed “well below” the proportions that each group represented in the general US population, according to a 2021 report in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Diversity in some medical schools also was affected in states with bans on affirmative action programs, according to a study published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine. That study included data on 21 public medical schools across eight states with affirmative action bans from 1985 to 2019: Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington.

The study found that the percentage of enrolled students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups was on average about 15% in the year before the bans were implemented but fell more than a third by five years after the bans.

Now, the United States is reckoning with medicine’s history of racism.

In 2008, the American Medical Association, the nation’s largest organization of physicians, issued an apology for its history of discriminatory policies toward Black doctors, including those that effectively restricted the association’s membership to Whites. In 2021, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared racism a “serious public health threat.”

One encouraging datapoint says that the number of Black or African American first-year medical school students increased 21% between the academic years of 2020 and 2021, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, which Dill said shows promise for the future.

“Does the fact that it’s higher in medical school mean that eventually we will have a higher percentage of physicians who are Black? The answer is yes,” he said.

“We will see the change occur slowly over time,” he said. “So, that means the percentage of the youngest physicians that are Black will grow appreciably, but the percentage of all physicians who are Black will rise much more slowly, since new physicians are only a small percentage of the entire workforce.”

But some medical school students could leave their career track along the way. A paper published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine found that among a cohort of more than 33,000 students, those who identified as an underrepresented race or ethnicity in medicine – such as Black or Hispanic – were more likely to withdraw from or be forced out of school.

Among White students, 2.3% left medical school in the academic years of 2014-15 and 2015-16, compared with 5.2% of Hispanic students, 5.7% of Black students and 11% of American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students, the study found.

The researchers wrote in the study that “the findings highlight a need to retain students from marginalized groups in medical school.”

During her surgical rotation in medical school, Adebagbo said, she saw no Black surgeons at the hospital. While having more physicians and faculty of color in mentorship roles can help retain young Black medical school students like herself, she calls on non-Black doctors and faculty to create a positive, clinical learning environment, giving the same support and feedback to Black students as they may provide to non-Black students – which she argues will make a difference.

“Despite the discomfort that may arise on the giver of feedback’s side, it’s necessary for the growth and development of students. You’re hurting that student from becoming a better student on that rotation, not giving them that situational awareness that they need,” she said. “That’s what ends up happening with students of color. No one tells them, and it seems as if it’s a pattern, then by the end of the rotation, it becomes, ‘Well, you’ve made so many mistakes, so we should just dismiss you [for resident trainees] or we can’t give you honors or high pass [for medical students].’ “

Seun Adebagbo, right, with the site director (second from left) and two peers on her last day of her surgery rotation.

Adebagbo says she had one site director, a White male physician, during her surgery rotation who genuinely cared, listened and wanted to see her grow as a person and physician.

“He has been the first site director who has legit listened to me, my experiences navigating third year as a Black woman and tried to understand and put it in perspective – a privilege I’m not afforded often,” Adebagbo said. “He made making mistakes, growing and learning from them a safe and non-traumatizing experience. Not everyone may understand the depths of what I’m saying, but those who do will understand why I was so grateful for that experience.”

But not all attending physicians are like her “mentor,” as she calls him.

For Dr. David Howard, one question haunted his thoughts in medical school.

During those strenuous days at Johns Hopkins University, when all-night study sessions and grueling examinations were the norm, his mind whispered: Where do I fit?

Howard, now a 43-year-old ob/gyn in New Jersey, reflects with pride – and candor – on the day in 2009 when he completed his doctoral degrees, becoming both an MD and a PhD.

At the time, “I felt like I didn’t fit,” Howard said. “I’m sure I’m not the only person who has thought those thoughts.”

Howard was one of very few men in the obstetrics and gynecology specialty, where most providers were women – and he is Black. He saw very few peers who looked like him and extremely few faculty in leadership positions who looked like him.

“When you’re going through a really difficult training program, it makes a big difference if there are people like you in the leadership positions,” he said, adding that this contributes to the disproportionate number of Black medical school students and residents who decide to leave the profession or are “not treated equally” when they may make a mistake.

Early on in his career, Howard shifted his thinking from “Where do I fit?” to “How do I fit?”

He even authored a paper in 2017, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, about this self-reflection.

“Only slightly different semantically, the second question shifts focus away from the ‘where’ that implies an existing location. Instead, ‘how’ requires me to illustrate my relationship with existing labels and systems, rather than within them, allowing a multitude of answers to my question of ‘how do I fit?’ ” Howard wrote.

“Despite the challenges and realities of the medical field today, I fit wherever and however I can, actively shaping my space and resisting the assumptions that first prompted me to ask where I fit,” he said. “To finally answer my question: I don’t fit, but I am here anyway.”

The United States has made “some progress” with diversity in both clinical medicine and research – but diversity in medicine is still not at the point where it needs to be, said Dr. Dan Barouch, a professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who has been an advocate for diversity and inclusion.

That point, essentially, would be where diversity in the physician workforce reflects the diversity in their patient population.

“It’s particularly important to have a diverse physician workforce to aptly serve the patients,” Barouch said. “We want to increase diversity in academia as well, but it’s particularly important for doctors, because having a diverse workforce is critical for the best patient encounters, and to build trust.”

Service to patients and patient trust are both among the cornerstones critical to the status of public health, according to researchers.

One example of broken trust between physicians and Black patients happened in the 1930s, when the US Public Health Service and the Tuskegee Institute launched an unethical study in which researchers let syphilis progress in Black men without treating them for the disease. The study ended in 1972.

Among Black men, “there were declines in health utilization, increases in medical mistrust and subsequent increases in mortality for about the 10- to 15-year period following the disclosure event,” when the true nature of the study was exposed in 1972, said Dr. Marcella Alsan, an infectious disease physician and professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School.

Yet research suggests that when Black physicians are treating Black patients, that trust can be rebuilt.

For instance, the impact is so significant that having Black physicians care for Black patients could shrink the difference in cardiovascular deaths among White versus Black patients by 19%, according to a paper written by Alsan while she was attending Stanford University, along with colleagues Dr. Owen Garrick and Grant Graziani. It was published in 2019 in the American Economic Review.

That research was conducted in the fall and winter of 2017 and 2018 in Oakland, California, where 637 Black men were randomly assigned to visit either a Black or a non-Black male doctor. The visits included discussions and evaluations of blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol levels and diabetes, as well as flu vaccinations.

The researchers found that, when the patients and doctors had the opportunity to meet in person, the patients assigned to a Black doctor were more likely to demand preventive health care services, especially services that were invasive, such as flu shots or diabetes screenings that involve drawing blood.

“We saw a dramatic increase in their likelihood of getting preventive care when they engage with Black physicians,” said Garrick, who now serves as chief medical officer of CVS Health’s clinical trial services, working to raise awareness of how more diverse groups of patients are needed to participate in clinical research.

Initially, “it didn’t look like there was a strong preference for Black doctors versus non-Black doctors. It was only when people actually had a chance to communicate with their physicians, talk about ‘Why should I be getting these preventative care services?’ ” Alsan said.

The researchers analyzed their findings to estimate that if Black men were more likely to undergo preventive health measures when they see a Black doctor, having more Black doctors could significantly improve the health and life expectancy of Black Americans.

The nation’s shortage of Black physicians is concerning, experts warn, as it contributes to some of the disproportionate effects that infectious diseases, chronic diseases and other medical ailments have on communities of color. This in itself poses public health risks.

For example, in the United States, Black newborns die at three times the rate of White newborns, but a study published in 2020 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that Black infants are more likely to survive if they are being treated by a Black physician.

Black men and Black women are also about six to 14.5 times as likely to die of HIV than White men and White women, partly due to having less access to effective antiretroviral therapies. But Black people with HIV got such therapies significantly later when they saw White providers, compared with Black patients who saw Black providers and White patients who saw White providers in a study published in 2004 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

And when Black patients receive care from Black doctors, those visits tend to be longer and have higher ratings of patients feeling satisfied, according to a separate study of more than 200 adults seeing 31 physicians, published in 2003 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

“There’s plenty of evidence, and other research has shown that the more the workforce in a health care setting really reflects the community it serves, the more open the patient population is to recommendations and instructions from their doctor,” said Dr. Mahshid Abir, an emergency physician and a senior physician policy researcher at the RAND Corp., a nonpartisan research institution.

But it can be rare to find health systems in which the diversity of the workforce reflects the diversity of the patients.

During her 15-year career as an emergency physician, Abir said, she has worked in many emergency departments across the United States – in the Northeast, South and Midwest – and in each place, the diversity of the health care workforce did not mirror the patient populations.

This lack of diversity in medicine is “not talked about enough,” Abir said.

“The research that’s been conducted has shown that it makes a difference in how well patients do, how healthy they are, how long they live,” she said. “Especially at this juncture in history in the United States, where social justice is in the forefront, this is one of the most actionable places where we can make a difference.”

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Paging Dr. AI? What ChatGPT and artificial intelligence could mean for the future of medicine | CNN


Without cracking a single textbook, without spending a day in medical school, the co-author of a preprint study correctly answered enough practice questions that it would have passed the real US Medical Licensing Examination.

But the test-taker wasn’t a member of Mensa or a medical savant; it was the artificial intelligence ChatGPT.

The tool, which was created to answer user questions in a conversational manner, has generated so much buzz that doctors and scientists are trying to determine what its limitations are – and what it could do for health and medicine.

ChatGPT, or Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, is a natural language-processing tool driven by artificial intelligence.

The technology, created by San Francisco-based OpenAI and launched in November, is not like a well-spoken search engine. It isn’t even connected to the internet. Rather, a human programmer feeds it a vast amount of online data that’s kept on a server.

It can answer questions even if it has never seen a particular sequence of words before, because ChatGPT’s algorithm is trained to predict what word will come up in a sentence based on the context of what comes before it. It draws on knowledge stored on its server to generate its response.

ChatGPT can also answer followup questions, admit mistakes and reject inappropriate questions, the company says. It’s free to try while its makers are testing it.

Artificial intelligence programs have been around for a while, but this one generated so much interest that medical practices, professional associations and medical journals have created task forces to see how it might be useful and to understand what limitations and ethical concerns it may bring.

Dr. Victor Tseng’s practice, Ansible Health, has set up a task force on the issue. The pulmonologist is a medical director of the California-based group and a co-author of the study in which ChatGPT demonstrated that it could probably pass the medical licensing exam.

Tseng said his colleagues started playing around with ChatGPT last year and were intrigued when it accurately diagnosed pretend patients in hypothetical scenarios.

“We were just so impressed and truly flabbergasted by the eloquence and sort of fluidity of its response that we decided that we should actually bring this into our formal evaluation process and start testing it against the benchmark for medical knowledge,” he said.

That benchmark was the three-part test that US med school graduates have to pass to be licensed to practice medicine. It’s generally considered one of the toughest of any profession because it doesn’t ask straightforward questions with answers that can easily found on the internet.

The exam tests basic science and medical knowledge and case management, but it also assesses clinical reasoning, ethics, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

The study team used 305 publicly available test questions from the June 2022 sample exam. None of the answers or related context was indexed on Google before January 1, 2022, so they would not be a part of the information on which ChatGPT trained. The study authors removed sample questions that had visuals and graphs, and they started a new chat session for each question they asked.

Students often spend hundreds of hours preparing, and medical schools typically give them time away from class just for that purpose. ChatGPT had to do none of that prep work.

The AI performed at or near passing for all the parts of the exam without any specialized training, showing “a high level of concordance and insight in its explanations,” the study says.

Tseng was impressed.

“There’s a lot of red herrings,” he said. “Googling or trying to even intuitively figure out with an open-book approach is very difficult. It might take hours to answer one question that way. But ChatGPT was able to give an accurate answer about 60% of the time with cogent explanations within five seconds.”

Dr. Alex Mechaber, vice president of the US Medical Licensing Examination at the National Board of Medical Examiners, said ChatGPT’s passing results didn’t surprise him.

“The input material is really largely representative of medical knowledge and the type of multiple-choice questions which AI is most likely to be successful with,” he said.

Mechaber said the board is also testing ChatGPT with the exam. The members are especially interested in the answers the technology got wrong, and they want to understand why.

“I think this technology is really exciting,” he said. “We were also pretty aware and vigilant about the risks that large language models bring in terms of the potential for misinformation, and also potentially having harmful stereotypes and bias.”

He believes that there is potential with the technology.

“I think it’s going to get better and better, and we are excited and want to figure out how do we embrace it and use it in the right ways,” he said.

Already, ChatGPT has entered the discussion around research and publishing.

The results of the medical licensing exam study were even written up with the help of ChatGPT. The technology was originally listed as a co-author of the draft, but Tseng says that when the study is published, ChatGPT will not be listed as an author because it would be a distraction.

Last month, the journal Nature created guidelines that said no such program could be credited as an author because “any attribution of authorship carries with it accountability for the work, and AI tools cannot take such responsibility.”

But an article published Thursday in the journal Radiology was written almost entirely by ChatGPT. It was asked whether it could replace a human medical writer, and the program listed many of its possible uses, including writing study reports, creating documents that patients will read and translating medical information into a variety of languages.

Still, it does have some limitations.

“I think it definitely is going to help, but everything in AI needs guardrails,” said Dr. Linda Moy, the editor of Radiology and a professor of radiology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

She said ChatGPT’s article was pretty accurate, but it made up some references.

One of Moy’s other concerns is that the AI could fabricate data. It’s only as good as the information it’s fed, and with so much inaccurate information available online about things like Covid-19 vaccines, it could use that to generate inaccurate results.

Moy’s colleague Artie Shen, a graduating Ph.D. candidate at NYU’s Center for Data Science, is exploring ChatGPT’s potential as a kind of translator for other AI programs for medical imaging analysis. For years, scientists have studied AI programs from startups and larger operations, like Google, that can recognize complex patterns in imaging data. The hope is that these could provide quantitative assessments that could potentially uncover diseases, possibly more effectively than the human eye.

“AI can give you a very accurate diagnosis, but they will never tell you how they reach this diagnosis,” Shen said. He believes that ChatGPT could work with the other programs to capture its rationale and observations.

“If they can talk, it has the potential to enable those systems to convey their knowledge in the same way as an experienced radiologist,” he said.

Tseng said he ultimately thinks ChatGPT can enhance medical practice in much the same way online medical information has both empowered patients and forced doctors to become better communicators, because they now have to provide insight around what patients read online.

ChatGPT won’t replace doctors. Tseng’s group will continue to test it to learn why it creates certain errors and what other ethical parameters need to be put in place before using it for real. But Tseng thinks it could make the medical profession more accessible. For example, a doctor could ask ChatGPT to simplify complicated medical jargon into language that someone with a seventh-grade education could understand.

“AI is here. The doors are open,” Tseng said. “My fundamental hope is, it will actually make me and make us as physicians and providers better.”

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