Even Before Pandemic - UNLV NewsCenter

Even Before Pandemic - UNLV NewsCenter Even Before Pandemic - UNLV NewsCenter Posted: 05 Oct 2020 12:00 AM PDT Even before the coronavirus pandemic propelled UNLV into remote learning in the spring, online courses at UNLV were prevalent.  "There's been a steady decrease in the number of students that have never taken an online course," said Elizabeth Barrie, the director of the Office of Online Education . She recently presented during The State of Online Education webinar event. It highlighted some of the initiatives and cross-campus partnerships that contribute to student achievement and shared how faculty prepared for online learning through the summer. She noted that 95% of students who graduated in spring 2020 with an undergraduate degree had taken at least one online course. And, compared to past years, there has been an increase in the number of students who have taken more than 30 credits, or two semesters, online. 

The US electoral college shows its durable power - Financial Times

The writer is a contributing editor at the Claremont Review of Books and author of ‘The Age of Entitlement’

The American electoral college, which meets on Monday to officially decide the US presidential election, has had a rocky month. Donald Trump sought to use its rules to claim victory in a race in which he lost the popular tally to Joe Biden by 7m votes.

Under the American constitution, the presidency is conferred by the 50 states, not the voters. The popular vote is a non-essential statistic, like hits in a baseball game. It generally correlates with an electoral victory but not always: Mr Trump’s victory in 2016 was the fifth time it did not. Despite loud claims of fraud, Mr Trump has presented no significant evidence that he ought to be the electoral-college winner, and has never been in a position to credibly challenge its outcome. But his efforts have brought discredit on the institution and energised those people who want to abolish it.

The electoral college is a reality only in the way the British constitution is. It has no physical location. When we say the college “meets”, we mean that the winning “electors” (carefully vetted loyalists who represent the candidates) gather in each state capital in accordance with state law and somehow send their votes to Washington DC.

When the constitution was drafted in 1788, monarchies were the norm and there were not yet “best practices” for picking a ruler on any other basis. Some drafters wanted a popular vote, others a sort of prime minister picked by Congress. Under a compromise each state was allowed to name as many “electors” as it had senators and representatives in Congress.

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Since each state gets two senators, regardless of its size, small states were handed disproportionate clout. The door was opened to results that cut against the popular vote winner. And since three-quarters of the states — including those that benefit from the system — must vote to ratify any constitutional amendment, the electoral college is in effect ineradicable.

Alexander Keyssar, a legal historian at Harvard’s Kennedy School and author of a new history of the electoral college, notes that critics have often compared it to the human appendix: “It was at best useless,” he told Jacobin magazine recently, “but could also be a source of inflammation”.

There is no doubting the inflammation, but few political systems devised in the centuries since have been as durable. Defending the interests of small states has merit. It may be “unfair” that Wyoming gets an elector for every 193,000 residents when California only gets one for every 718,000. But there are many countervailing unfairnesses. Federations and other systems of bundled sovereignties are always in danger of being bent to the interests of their strongest members.

The US has arguably had more success during the past 230 years at keeping big states from rolling over small ones than the EU has in the past 28 years (or, for that matter, in the past week). The UK has had such difficulty with this question since its creation in 1707 that many foreigners believe “England” is the name of the whole country.

Close-run things do arise with the electoral college. Gerald Ford would have won a resounding victory over Jimmy Carter in 1976 if he had shifted fewer than 50,000 votes in Ohio and Wisconsin, even though he trailed by 1.5m votes overall. We tend to think the system builds in a Republican bias. But had George W Bush received 119,000 fewer votes in Ohio in 2004, he would have won a majority, not just a plurality, of the popular vote and lost the election — something that has only happened once, in 1876.

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The electoral college is illogical, but not that illogical. The most commonly recommended fixes would not necessarily improve things. Some suggest a convoluted National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, in which states would pledge their electors to the winner of the national vote. Others suggest French-style run-off elections, although it is hard to imagine that a system that hands the presidency to someone who had won less than 20 per cent of first-round votes, as Jacques Chirac did in 2002, would win much favour with Americans.

The biggest problem with fixing the electoral college to impose one-person, one-vote is that the change would resonate through, and destabilise, other institutions, starting with the Senate. Just now, the Senate’s competing logic of one-state, one-vote may appear archaic and irrational. But we ought to have learned something from Tony Blair’s efforts at reforming the UK’s House of Lords in the 1990s. There is no institution so archaic and irrational that a good-faith effort at enlightened reform cannot make it worse.


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