Paul Berger, a Writer for The Forward, has been able to make a career out of following…

… the amazing greed, hypocrisy and incompetence of Yeshiva University’s president, Richard Joel. The financial and moral ruination of that university at his and his friends’ hands (these include the current board of trustees and some former trustees, like Bernard Madoff and Ezra Merkin), its reduction to a Moody’s basket case, represents one of the most stunning university stories of the decade. Berger has been right on top of it throughout.

This is a university that has named one of its campuses after the Wilfs. Its Entrepreneurial Institute bears the storied name of Ira Rennert.

The latest dispatch from Berger captures two out of three Joel attributes: greed and hypocrisy.

As his college’s finances continued to crumble last year, Yeshiva University’s president, Richard Joel publicly took a pay cut. Then months later, he privately pocketed a deferred compensation payment of $1.6 million.

That payout took Joel’s total compensation for 2014 to $2.8 million, among the highest packages for college presidents nationwide.

… In the year that Joel received the $1.6 million payment, Y.U. ran an operating deficit of $150 million, according to recently released tax records.

That same year, Y.U.’s endowment fell by $90 million, the school was forced to sell $72.5 million in real estate, and Y.U. entered into negotiations to spin off its prestigious but money-losing medical school, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The investor ratings service Moody’s demoted Y.U.’s debt rating to junk status in January 2014 and it has not been raised since.

When you think of the various sorts of noise students and faculty are making at universities across America lately, it’s staggering to consider the almost-total silence at Yeshiva, where people who care about things like spirituality, ethics, and the value of serious study have allowed themselves to be ruled by cynical hedgies for years and years. UD feels confident Yeshiva’s next president (Joel retires soon, with full honors) will maintain its legacy of robbing the school’s mouse-like professors and students.

“I think of Baylor as a pro football team with a Bible college attached.”

Well, yes. We all do.

The Bible thing allows you to differentiate between the University of West Virginia, where locals call Morgantown “a drinking town with a football problem,” and Baylor, which seems to have low rates of alcohol consumption, but shares UWV’s burning commitment to recruiting the best players regardless of, er, violent propensities.

At both schools there’s an unsettling conflation of football and the school’s spirit of choice (alcohol, God). And at both schools, whether they regard their players as Christian Soldiers or Frat Boys on Steroids, violence appears to be totally okay.

Goes without saying that guns and gangs (Baylor’s home, Waco, is in the headlines for biker/police shoot-outs) make up much of the rest of the social fabric at these locations.


And don’t forget sex. Nobody competes with the University of Montana and Grizzlyville (used to be Missoula, but the football team is the Grizzlies) for broad-shouldered sexual assault. But Baylor’s in there trying.


Anyone with the intestinal fortitude to examine the deep structure of Baylor – as in, how do you actually produce places like Baylor and Waco? – will tend to gravitate toward the school’s board of trustees, where a Bobby Lowder-like figure name of Buddy Jones seems to run the school and the town.

Buddy’s real enthusiastic about Baylor. Back in 2012, when they won a few games and all, his response was this:

“We like to use biblical analogies, and this is a year of biblical proportions,” Buddy Jones, a regent at the university, told the New York Times in 2012. “As we would say in Christendom, it’s like an early rapture.”

When his vision of the proper role of the booster was threatened by the alumni association, Jones (then chairman of the board of trustees) wrote to a fellow zealot that he couldn’t wait to

put on camp (sic) and load my weapons and go hunting for BAA game. Licking my chops.

Buddy’s official trustee statement has a rapturous boy/girl thing going to explain the nature of the school:

“Baylor’s uniqueness is her commitment to quality higher education by adapting to the 21st century, while never straying from her deep roots in God’s word and her role in his plan for mankind.”

Was Buddy the genius behind the groom’s cake at his daughter’s wedding?

[The cake was] an edible replica of Baylor’s … new stadium with a saluting bear in the middle. But perhaps the most impressive part of the cake is the video screen, which looks like it actually works. At the very least, it had a light in it that gave the illusion of working.


So much of this comes together this Saturday night, when a match-up between two of the nation’s scummiest football schools – LSU and Bama – will feature a political candidate’s prostitutes and patriots ad. Layers upon layers upon layers.

Yeshiva University’s Ira Rennert.

Another day, another lawsuit.

Background here.

Having done all the damage he can to Yeshiva University…

… Richard Joel steps down as president, leaving this junk bond status entity to … Well, what does University Diaries live for but to watch universities implode? Let’s see whether Zygi Wilf, for instance, transfers his attentions from running the Vikings to running Yeshiva, where he is already a trustee.

Negative Theology.

[College of Faith] was held to negative 100 total yards against Tusculum College in Tennessee this season, an NCAA record. The final score was 71-0.

UD thanks Andrew.

The art of self-description for your home page…

… is a little tricky. Sure, you’re promoting yourself, making yourself look interesting, etc. But you don’t want to go too far. You don’t want to look like a braggart.

Of the many home pages UD has read, none has come anywhere near that of Jonathan Sacks for throwing humility – even faux humility – to the winds and beyond. Sacks, a rabbi, has in the past lamented that

Humility is the orphaned virtue of our age… Humility — true humility — is one of the most expansive and life-enhancing of all virtues … True virtue never needs to advertise itself. That is why I find the aggressive packaging of personality so sad. It speaks of loneliness, the profound, endemic loneliness of a world without relationships of fidelity and trust. It testifies ultimately to a loss of faith…

So let’s see… On his home page, Sacks introduces himself as a “moral voice for our time.” He quotes “H.R.H. The Prince of Wales” calling him “a light unto this nation.” He quotes Tony Blair calling him “an intellectual giant.”


As a moral voice for our time, Sacks has a whole lot to say about, well, morality. Pages and pages and pages on how we should live, what’s good, what’s bad. He obviously takes his moral voice for our time gig very seriously.

And yet beyond the perhaps small matter of his hypocrisy in regard to humility, there’s the more pressing matter of where he gets his money.

His academic position is funded by Ira Rennert. Sacks is the Ira Rennert Professor of whatever. And Ira Rennert has just been for the second time found guilty of looting one of his businesses to pay for a personal residence so psychotically ostentatious (it’s the largest and most expensive private house in America – kind of the concrete embodiment of the Sacks home page) that during his first trial his lawyer “demanded that photos of it not be shown, arguing that doing so would inflame the jury.” He bought a business, forced it into bankruptcy, took all of its money, and built a house for himself with it. Two judges have told him he has to give the looted money back. Rennert will, of course, keep appealing.


Oh, and he gave some of the looted funds to Sacks.

Also to another man of heavy virtue, Joseph Lieberman, Rennert Professor of something else.

There’s a lot of other stuff about their benefactor – involving payment of taxes, industrial pollution, and eh you don’t wanna know.

And Sacks and Lieberman certainly don’t want to know. That’s their prerogative. But they should stop posing as moralists.

All for Football! All for Football! …

… is how they seem to sing it at Baylor University, a Christian school apparently, but far more committed to football (and basketball) than to anything spiritual… I mean, if you go by the sorts of things that happen there…

For instance, it’s a very violent place, which seems to UD (she’s no expert) rather at odds with the Christian ethos. One of their basketball players a few years ago “punched Texas Tech forward Jordan Barncastle … breaking Barncastle’s nose and causing both benches to clear.” Although concussed during a recent game, Baylor’s quarterback insisted it was nothing and that despite some fogginess and a headache he’d be back out there again right away because nothing’s more important than winning at football. And

In January, 2014, Tevin Elliott, a defensive end out of Mount Pleasant, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for twice assaulting a former Baylor student in 2012. During that trial, two other women testified that Elliott assaulted them. A fourth alleged victim was not called to testify.

And now everyone’s abuzz with the latest Baylor violence: Under the same coach as Elliott’s, another football player is going to jail for sexual assault on a Baylor student. And this player had already been “kicked off the Boise State football team after punching and choking his girlfriend.” It looks very much as though the Baylor coach knew about this violent past.

But hey. If there’s one thing you’ve learned reading this blog, it’s that plenty of American universities will open their arms to woman beaters if the guys can catch a football. And the schools will do all they can to lie and cover up and victim-blame (Baylor carried out a wretchedly inept internal investigation.) until the bad stuff their football players do goes away. Or maybe it doesn’t go away.

And… uh… this seems to be the Christian way. I mean… One of America’s leading Christian universities keeps doing it.

Baylor’s president is Ken Starr. That Ken Starr. Investigator extraordinaire.


Read this if you can stomach it. Baylor is a sister school to Florida State University, with similar cooperation by local media and law enforcement. Absolutely disgusting.


UD thanks dmf.

Cosmic Convergence

Eight of the fifteen American university football teams that dominate the “most flagrant chaplaincies” list also dominate the “most team arrests” list.


Auburn University
University of Georgia
University of South Carolina
Mississippi State University
University of Alabama
University of Tennessee
Louisiana State University
University of Missouri
University of Washington
Georgia Tech
University of Illinois
Florida State University
University of Mississippi
University of Wisconsin
Clemson University



1) Washington State: 31
2) Florida: 24
T-3) Georgia: 22
T-3) Texas A&M: 22
5) Oklahoma: 21
T-6) Iowa State: 20
T-6) Missouri: 20
T-6) Ole Miss: 20
T-6) West Virginia: 20
T-10) Florida State: 19
T-10) Tennessee: 19
T-12) Alabama: 18
T-12) Iowa: 18
T-12) Kentucky: 18
T-15) LSU: 16
T-15) Marshall: 16
T-15) Oregon State: 16
T-15) Pittsburgh: 16
T-19) Arkansas: 14
T-19) Michigan: 14
T-19) Oklahoma State: 14
T-19) Purdue: 14
T-23) Auburn: 13
T-23) Colorado: 13
T-23) Kansas: 13

And he’s a man of the cloth!

Today’s announcement of the “biggest case of insider trading linked to the fast-growing threat of global cybercrime” is red meat to ol’ UD, who loves her some high-level hypocrisy.

Admittedly, the arrest of a Pat Robertson-trained preacher for his part in “an alliance of U.S.-based stock traders and computer hackers in Ukraine [which] made as much as $100 million in illegal profits over five years after stealing confidential corporate press releases” lacks the panache of Yeshiva University’s Bernard Madoff and Ezra Merkin – they, uh, handled far more money – but this apparent graduate of Regent University’s online (I assume he did these online) MBA and Divinity degrees certainly does know how to use computers, for school and for work.

He was described in this way a few years ago in some SEC correspondence:

Mr. Korchevsky holds a B.A. degree from Sukhumi University, Sukhumi, Georgia, a M.Div. degree from Regent University and an M.B.A. from Regent University.

You can watch oodles of YouTubes of Korchevsky preaching if you’d like. Helps to know Ukrainian. Just put his name in the search engine.


A local paper calls it “an incongruous mix of Christianity and criminality.”

Really? How incongruous is the use of religion as a cover for crime? I think the word the reporter is going for is congruous.

“We’re … subsidizing wealthy organizations sitting in the middle of poor towns. Yale University has an endowment of about $25 billion, yet it pays very little to the city of New Haven, which I (as a resident) can assure you needs the money. At the prep school I attended (current endowment: $175 million), faculty houses, owned by the school, were tax-exempt, on the theory that teachers sometimes had students over for dinner, where they talked about history or literature or swim practice.”

And there’s more.

Conservatives are footing the bill for taxes that Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit, doesn’t pay — while liberals are making up revenue lost from the National Rifle Association. I could go on. In short, the exemption-and-deduction regime has grown into a pointless, incoherent agglomeration of nonsensical loopholes, which can allow rich organizations to horde plentiful assets in the midst of poverty.

Readers who’d like to (re)visit UD‘s long-running amazement that Harvard University, sitting on close to 36.4 billion dollars (No, that’s silly. That’s crazy. “[W]hen it comes to these fancy universities the official endowment figures are a drastic understatement of the real wealth of the university. Harvard’s real-estate assets are mind-bogglingly valuable, for example, but not part of the endowment.“), continues to enjoy non-profit benefits, can click on the category harvard: foreign and domestic policy. You’ll find it at the bottom of this post.

America Votes.

Sen. Ted Cruz’s [father told a crowd]: “Did you know that the Bible tells you exactly who to vote for?”

… [One audience member said that] Sen. Cruz rose to the top of her list of 2016 GOP candidates: “I’m a real follower of Jesus, and when you have someone quoting the Bible, ‘This is what you do,’ you do it.

Baez in Bethesda

When Joan Baez received Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award this week, it made me nostalgic.

Baez hates nostalgia as only someone who has lived long enough to be the object of every old hippie’s nostalgia can be. For a lifelong pacifist, her language about it is positively violent: “I think I’m trying to strangle people into coming up to the present so much of the time, because people tend to live aeons ago.” But there’s nothing wrong with being knocked back to the past now and then, and the occasion of her award knocked me back.

It knocked me back to 1968, to after-school afternoons I spent in the biggest bathroom in my parents’ house in Bethesda (good acoustics), playing my nylon string guitar and singing Child ballads the way she sang them, the way I learned them from listening to her. Geordie, House Carpenter, Queen of Hearts — they were all songs of doomed lovers, all fraught tales set in the darkest of keys. Matty Groves, an adultery and murder ditty, had twenty three verses. I knew them all, and went into long trances, chanting them in my little echo chamber.

There are certain soprano voices – Kathleen Battle’s, Julia Lezhneva’s – equipped with an absolutely eerie high-piping perfection, a radically original and expressive force. Joan Baez was my first encounter with this type of unsettling sound. Long before I knew anything about the operatic voice, I was haunted by the folk treble, and spent hours trying to produce it myself. “Beauty brings copies of itself into being,” writes Elaine Scarry in her book, On Beauty and Being Just. Beauty inspires imitation. Wherever Baez was when those notes streamed out of her, I wanted to be there too.

Almost fifty years later, I still pursue that treble. I’m at my baby grand in the living room now (the guitar leans on a wall nearby), but the tattered Joan Baez Songbook remains my favorite thing to play. W.H. Auden called music “the best means we have of digesting time,” and I think that’s because – for me, at least – the making of music never changes. It’s always in some ecstatic way the journey back to tonal paradise.

Think of that whole “lost chord” idea in Arthur Sullivan’s famous song. The chord he keeps searching for was “the harmonious echo / From our discordant life.”

No doubt Baez will receive the Amnesty International award for her political work with a sense of irony. “I’m a little concerned about offering hope,” she said in a recent interview. “But one has to bash on regardless.”

At a young age I sensed the serene concord Baez had somehow made all the discordance of life yield; I sensed the way she summoned that harmonious echo again and again. And that’s also a form of bashing on – keeping the long song going, verse after verse, whatever the circumstance.

Having heard Baez, how can I (to quote the great old American folk song) keep from singing?

“Talansky sat on the board of Yeshiva University until last year.”

Morris Talansky: Yet another glorious chapter in the history of the board of trustees whose members include Bernard Madoff, Ezra Merkin, and Zygi Wilf (Wilf remains a board member).

Embarrassing. But at least Yeshiva’s finances are in order.

Mandatory Death Panels NOTHING.

Get ready for mandatory church panels.

Ten Bucks A Speech

Ten bucks to miss
Ted Cruz on campus,
A bargain at
Twice the price.

Ten bucks to stay
Clear of his presence
And do something
Much more nice.


Students were aware of the rule. One of them posted about it on her Facebook page. Citing another student, she wrote, “Students will either attend Convocation and lend to the illusion of widespread support for Sen. Cruz, or they will be subject to administrative punishment — specifically, four reprimands and a $10 fine — if they are absent.”

Next Page »

Latest UD posts at IHE