[Harvard University professor Lawrence Summers] consults not only for hedge fund DE Shaw but for venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, asset-management and advisory firm Alliance Partners, stock-exchange operator Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., and for financial services firm Citigroup. He also has a healthy income from speaking — more than $100,000 earlier this year, for example, for a single speech to a conference organized by Drobny Global Advisors.

That is a busy schedule for a full-time faculty member who, like other professors, is allowed only a day a week for consulting — and Summers also chairs the advisory board of the Minerva Project, an online university startup, and holds an administrative role as Director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School.

This is the same Lawrence Summers who told Professor Cornel West to stop spending so much time on his outside activities and get back to his scholarship — because more was expected of a University Professor.

Harry Lewis, Huffington Post.

“The rating is under review for downgrade and during the review period we will monitor liquidity, FY 2013 preliminary financial statements (GAAP-based results) and ability to stay on budget during FY 2014, fall 2013 enrollment, and progress in recent litigation and results of an independent investigation into allegations of past sexual and emotional abuse at Yeshiva University High School for boys. An inability to demonstrate improved operating results during FY 2014, hit interim budget targets, and further improve monthly liquidity could result in a rating downgrade in the near term.”

Yeshiva University’s Moody’s rating has just been downgraded to Baa1 from A2; Moody’s is currently reviewing the university for further downgrades.

How does a university get to such a disastrous place?

It was not the work of a day. Yeshiva had to make itself so notorious that students didn’t want to enroll, and alumni didn’t want to donate. This took about five years, starting with the brilliant idea of putting Bernard Madoff and Ezra Merkin – both YU trustees – in charge of Yeshiva’s money. Conflict of interest? Who cares.

The financial and reputational hit was a biggie. But Yeshiva was just getting started.

Instead of dealing forthrightly with its misbehavior, Yeshiva said nothing and simply erased Madoff’s name from all mentions on its website. (It couldn’t erase everything: “Madoff’s name was prominent in the program for Yeshiva’s annual Hanukkah dinner and convocation, a major fundraising event, held on Dec. 14 at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, three days after he was arrested.”) It then went about characterizing itself as an innocent victim of this mean man and his friend Ezra.

With the Madoff/Merkin mess already destroying Yeshiva’s integrity, extensive sexual scandal now hit the newspapers. Decades of important Yeshiva University rabbis preying on children, or looking the other way while children were preyed upon, are the talk of the town. Yeshiva will probably have to settle hundreds of millions of dollars on the traumatized people suing it.

A third crucial component of Yeshiva University’s catastrophe is its inability clearly to admit wrongdoing, coupled with the continued prominence of people reportedly associated with wrongdoing. Take Hershel Schachter.

The power of the rabbinical school rabbis to intervene in student intellectual and extracurricular life could also undermine [Yeshiva University’s] efforts to compete with secular colleges. Rabbi [Hershel] Schachter, who objected to the study of the Christian Bible, also [said] he sees the work of Geoffrey Chaucer as expendable and that 50 percent of an art history course is probably ‘avodah zara and gilui arayot’ (idolatry and licentiousness).”

Okay, so far just a jerk, the sort of anti-intellectual endemic on fundamentalist university campuses. But there’s more.

Earlier this year a prominent scholar at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, was caught on audiotape at a conference in London telling Orthodox leaders that Jewish communities should set up their own review boards to evaluate any complaints of child sexual abuse and determine whether to bother with the police. This contradicts state laws on mandatory reporting for teachers, counselors, physicians and such.

Schachter further discouraged police involvement by warning that accused abusers could wind up “in a cell together with a shvartze, in a cell with a Muslim, a black Muslim who wants to kill all the Jews.” Shvartze is a harshly derogatory racial term. Yeshiva University condemned the remarks but seemingly didn’t discipline Schachter, who didn’t respond to my request Monday for comment.

No comment, of course; and Schachter retains a high rank at YU. So does Kenneth Brander.

Better recruiting is [YU President Richard] Joel’s answer to declining enrollment. Back in June, he tasked Rabbi Kenneth Brander, head of the Center for the Jewish Future, with a special assignment: to “re-invent recruitment strategies,” as Joel put it to the Stern College student newspaper, The Observer, in an October interview.

And here is Brander in the Jewish Daily Forward:

[T]wo men have told the Forward that they tried to warn … Kenneth Brander, about Andron. Brander led the Boca Raton congregation from 1991 until 2005, when he took a post as dean of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future.

One man who said that he was molested by Andron for three years told the Forward that he called Brander during the early 1990s.

“I told [Brander], he’s definitely a pedophile,” the man said, referring to Andron. “[Brander said] he would look into it, and he never called me back.”

Another man said he tried to warn Brander about Andron a little more than a decade ago.

The man said he tried to call Brander “four or five times,” but Brander did not respond. So the man said he “had to leave a very uncomfortable message” with someone in the Boca Raton Synagogue office. Later, a “third party” from the synagogue contacted the man to say that the allegations against Andron were “rumors” and that “in any case, it’s behind him,” the man said.

Brander may well be innocent of these charges; but as far as YU’s future goes, it doesn’t matter. The school is in free fall.

“… a board meeting in New York to attend by conference call, a memoir to check in on …”

George Packard provides context for the Robert Barchi story. Read and understand.

With Brand New Rutgers University President Robert Barchi on the Edge of his Seats…

UD rides into town to save his ass.

Barchi wants to hold on to two corporate money-for-nothing seats. Who wouldn’t? But as the leader of the state senate points out, they are both grotesquely obvious conflicts of interest. The corporations in question even do business with Rutgers.

Barchi would be an idiot to turn down hundreds of thousands of dollars of free money, yes. But his job, and whatever reputation Rutgers has left after its zillions of other scandals, are in peril. What to do? Hm, hm, hm…

So far, Rutgers hasn’t done much of anything. Barchi seems to think he can wait this one out, stonewall until everyone loses interest. UD isn’t sure this is a good move. UD can think of a better move.

Barchi can take for his model here the NCAA’s chief legal counsel, who warns that Ed O’Bannon’s class action lawsuit (details here) “threatens college sports as we know it.”

Take the high road, in other words. Go the dignity route. University presidents on corporate boards, university football and basketball – these are beautiful things, with venerable traditions… things we threaten at our peril… things that are simply the heart and soul of the great American university. When you threaten a president’s ability to double her compensation by attending biannual meetings with a biotech at the Regis Bora Bora, you threaten university life as we know it.

Yeshiva University: Where It All Ends.

University Diaries, I’ve had occasion to say, couldn’t exist without Yeshiva University. Yeshiva is part of a tiny American university elite, a group of schools so arrogant, so dishonest, so mismanaged, so inbred, so simply without a clue, that their unceasing scandals provide a good deal of this blog’s content.

Yeshiva, furthermore, is a religious institution, which makes its very bad behavior that much more astounding. To a man (there aren’t any women in positions of authority there), the Yeshiva representatives UD has experienced appear to her to be pious hypocrites.

Yeshiva’s latest catastrophe was totally expected. Let me quote in its entirety the short notice the Jewish Daily Forward just placed on its website.

Yeshiva University’s credit rating has been downgraded by a major ratings agency amid large and growing deficits, a falling endowment and fears of costly litigation stemming from recent allegations of sexual abuse at its high school.

Moody’s downgraded Y.U.’s debt from A2 to Baa1, putting it below the median credit rating for similar institutions.

The agency says that the litigation prospects of the alleged sexual abuse victims will largely determine if the debt is downgraded further.

Since its peak in 2007 Y.U.’s endowment has cratered, falling 45%, doing handily worse than the stock market. Y.U.’s reliance on hedge funds, in particular, has been extremely damaging. It was also slammed by the financial crisis and damaged by its entanglement with Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scam.

Meanwhile, the federal lawsuit filed last week by former students at Y.U.’s affiliated high school, alleging administrative negligence in response to abuse they suffered there, is demanding over $380 million in damages. According to Moody’s the attendant publicity may have large consequences for Yeshiva’s fundraising efforts.

As a commenter on this notice writes, “the major damage to the YU bond ratings is not just because of the lawsuit, but because YU has probably lost the confidence of donors.” One Yeshiva donor, Andrew Sole, tried to warn Yeshiva as far back as five years ago. Read his letter calling for the resignation of the entire board of trustees here. The letter, it goes without saying, was ignored.

And note the word “entanglement” up there, relative to Bernard Madoff’s scheme. Madoff, you recall, was a high-ranking, much-venerated trustee of Yeshiva University up to the moment he was taken into custody. Ezra Merkin was also on the board of trustees at that time, working, in consort with Madoff, the sort of financial magic that has become the stuff of legend. Yeshiva tried to make itself out to be a victim of Madoff’s, but it was an enabler, it made plenty of money off of him while the making was good, and it looked the other way when anyone could see that Madoff’s returns were totally impossible.

“Moral bankruptcy,” Algemeiner newspaper said of Yeshiva University earlier this year. That moral bankruptcy has so disgusted donors that it threatens to become financial bankruptcy.

“Rutgers pays Barchi $744,000 a year if he hits his bonus marks, along with a house, a car and other perks. Surely he can squeak by on that.”

But can he? The problem with – call it the Squeak Assumption – is that, as economists remind us, one’s perception of one’s financial condition has everything to do with what other people in your immediate world earn.

A few years ago, several of Harvard’s money managers resigned in protest because instead of making the industry standard for their job description (with bonuses and all, around thirty million a year at that time), they were stuck (because of alumni protests about over-compensation) at around ten, fifteen million. A few years ago, a University of Chicago law professor with a household income of close to half a million dollars cried poor in the national press.

If Steven Cohen, whose personal worth is between eight and ten billion dollars, sits on your board of trustees, you, as president of Brown University, are going to be challenged to maintain your self-esteem. No one likes to be poor.

If you want to understand why the new president of Rutgers, Robert Barchi, is, like a total idiot, continuing to engage in flagrant, self-serving conflict of interest, and thereby adding one more outrageous scandal to the ten others going on at that university, you have to understand what I’m trying to tell you. You have to try to put yourself in Barchi’s shoes. In his corporate-board world, clearing one million dollars a year is the absolute minimum, the barest acceptable situation. One million dollars is in fact for Barchi squeaking by. If Barchi has to drop his corporate money-for-nothing and suddenly plummet to $800,000 a year, this is what his world will look like to him:

One walks along a very rough path of the river bank, in between clothes posts and washing lines, to reach a chaotic group of little, one-storied, one-roomed cabins. Most of them have earth floors, and working, living and sleeping all take place in the one room. In such a hole, barely six feet long and five wide, I saw two beds—and what beds and bedding!—which filled the room, except for the fireplace and doorstep. Several of these huts, as far as I could see, were completely empty, although the door was open and the inhabitants were leaning against the door posts. In front of the doors filth and garbage abounded. I could not see the pavement, but from time to time I felt it was there because my feet scraped it…

Unless you understand Barchi’s world, from Barchi’s perspective, you cannot possibly understand how he came to assume the presidency of a university barely recovering from years of financial corruption and immediately set about securing his corporate board memberships.

“Rutgers has moved from storm to storm…”

I suppose it’s some sort of compensation, when the story about your young, already totally blighted university presidency jumps to the New York Times, that the quality of prose being produced about the fiasco significantly improves – even to the point of poetry. Rutgers has moved from storm to storm is lovely, lilting, memorable writing; even as the article in the Times rehearses all the stupid stuff Robert Barchi has overseen in the months since he took over at Rutgers, it sweetens things somehow with this poignant formulation…

UD thinks the poetry resides in the word moved… Think of the similar E.E. Cummings line

my father moved through dooms of love


Perhaps, as John Updike wrote, life’s a shabby subterfuge; certainly the last few years at Rutgers and the UMDNJ have been shabby in the extreme. Under its latest leader, a man who does not even understand the concept of conflict of interest, Rutgers straggles on. And the rain it raineth every day.

Crime Library

Context matters. If you’re the new president of a crime- and scandal-ridden university, you want to watch yourself. Given the scuzzy reputation of the joint, you want to do all you can, personally, to model a new, less scuzzy ethos.

So for instance if you’ve just taken over the notorious University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, a school UD has long described as having rolling prison admissions (scroll down and enjoy), you want to set a personal example of probity and non-greed and all the things UMDNJ has never before known.

You’ve taken over America’s most financially corrupt university as part of its recent merger with Rutgers University. And oh yeah that’s another thing. If at Rutgers you’re running a national laughingstock (thanks to endless sports scandals culminating in a Saturday Night Live skit about your sadistic basketball coach — again, scroll down… forever…) and a fiscal disgrace (thanks to your bankrupting the school to pay for your sports program), you really, really, really want to set a moral example as you begin to run the school.

But hey. It’s Jersey. Whaddya expect? You expect a president who can be content with his legitimate close-to-a-million-dollars-a-year salary? It’s fucking Jersey!

“It smells to high hell quite frankly,” said Jay W. Lorsch, a professor at Harvard Business School who focuses on corporate governance.

Yeah! The place stinks already; how ’bout bringing your own stink bombs to the game? President Barchi’s particular stink bombs are of course all about sitting on corporate boards – as the New York Times points out in this article, it’s the done thing if you’re a university president panting to make (as the title of a recent book about the practice has it) money for nothing. And Barchi adds an extra jolt of stink by sitting on the boards of companies who do business with Rutgers.

What with perennially expensive sports scandals, and a sports program that in any case is bankrupting the school, you won’t be surprised to hear that tuition at Rutgers is so high that student protests escalate by the day. It can only make things better for students to realize that instead of running the school Barchi is off to relax-and-rejuvenate corporate retreats. What better way for the president of a struggling, scandal-ridden, public university to comport himself?

“The study was led by professor Hiroaki Matsubara, and included among its researchers an un-named Novartis employee, who was identified as an adjunct lecturer at Osaka City University.”

No better way to optimize your Novartis-funded results on a Novartis drug than to place a Novartis employee on your faculty and put that person in charge of statistical results. This research protocol all but guarantees that your results will be in line with corporate efforts in this case to establish the drug as effective for pretty much any human ill you can think of. And that is just what happened!

The Novartis plant held the same position in four other Japanese university labs. Truly an impressive effort on the drug-maker’s part.

Northern Exposure

“Canadian medical schools have some explaining to do.”

A recent study reveals practically non-existent conflict of interest policies at many med schools there.

Northern Ontario School of Medicine takes pride of place, having apparently zero meaningful conflict of interest policies, but the main point is clear: In common with some med schools in the United States, ghostwriting, as well as general corporate influence in the classroom and lab, is rampant up north.

Canada shares the pain…

… of pharma-compromised universities, to which we in the US have become accustomed. As is almost always the case in these scandals, only because a medical student at the University of Toronto bothered to look into both the financial interests of one of his professors, and the origin of the pain management textbook the professor used in a mandatory course, did it become clear that even as “Canada’s opioid addiction epidemic took root,” he and his classmates were being encouraged to prescribe arguably the most dangerous of prescription opiates. Although more powerful than morphine, oxycodone was consistently described, in the book and by the professor in his lectures, as among the safest of this class of pills in terms of addiction.

The student, now a doctor, discovered that the professor was a consultant to Purdue, the drug’s maker, and that “quotes [in the book] that endorsed the drug never actually existed.” That is, the professor (who wrote the book, presumably with help from the manufacturer) apparently made up positive statements about the drug and put them in the book.

The professor protests that he did the lectures “for free.” Which UD guesses means he’s boasting that the university didn’t pay him. Why should it? I’m sure Purdue paid him far more than the university ever could.

Anyway. What’s done is done. “In 2000, less than 4 per cent of the opiate addicts in withdrawal treatment at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) were addicted to oxycodone, the primary ingredient in such prescription drugs as OxyContin, Percocet and Percodan. By 2004, that figure had climbed to 55.4 per cent.”

One assumes plenty of other pharma consultants remain in teaching positions in other Canadian universities. How often does the odd whistle-blower among the students come along and discover how foully he and his fellow students are being corrupted? Almost never.

“An absolute scientific nightmare”…

… to you, maybe… But to the American Psychiatric Association, with its eminent leaders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is an absolute goldmine.

“Ladies and gentlemen, for today’s lesson…

my hubby!  (♥!!)  Fill out these forms and help us get him elected!”

“This institution has not provided policies for assessment after numerous attempts to contact via email and phone. As a result, their grade remains an F.”

Once UD gets tired of chronicling the depraved big-time sports programs at the University of Tennessee, she can turn to the UT med school in Memphis.

‘Several top universities have taken steps in recent years to ban or limit their professors from accepting pharmaceutical payouts. In 2010, the Harvard Medical School issued a new conflict-of-interest policy that prohibited professors from speaking for drug companies or accepting gifts, travel, or meals. Earlier that year, Stanford went even further, banning pharmaceutical representatives from patient-care areas and prohibiting its faculty from using industry reps to ghostwrite articles. Stanford medical school dean Phillip Pizzo warned at the time that without the changes, “our reputation can be tarnished.”’

Prohibiting your faculty from using industry representatives to ghostwrite their articles! Now I’ve seen everything! The gall.

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