Awkward?

The 2014 faculty recipient of the Chatfield College prize that goes to the instructor who most “exemplifies the academic spirit and values” of the college not only looks like this (which is fine; remember the Prof or Hobo? quiz), but just got arrested with molto drugs and guns.

Awkward?

No. Not awkward. Maybe it’s just marijuana for individual use.

But he does seem to be selling large quantities of it…

Are the guns awkward?

No. Not awkward. He’s in a dicey line of work and needs protection and they’re probably all legal. This is America.

Real-life, or Nabokov?

[Professor] Tom Ferguson met [Professor Lloyd] Shapley … through their mutual interest in Kriegsspiel, a variation of chess where a player only sees his or her pieces on the board, but not an opponent’s. Acting as a referee, a third person provides information about the legality of each move as the game progresses.

UD takes the train up to Boston again today…

… to be with her relative who’s recovering from surgery. She will blog all along the way. She will in particular try to say something meaningful about professors who say outrageous things and professors who say outrageous things.

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Somewhere north of Philly. I seem to have said what I wanted to say in this post’s comment thread.

Another Strong Vice-Presidential Candidate for Donald Trump.

And drawn from UD’s own university.

Wen oh Wen do you take a professor’s university page down?

Does Washington State University exist? Last week, one of its engineering professors (natch) was arrested on way-serious federal fraud charges, and not only does Haifang Wen still offer his steely gaze on behalf of that university, but WSU spokespeople, when asked about our nation’s latest engineering department fraud (it’s as common as oxycontin abuse), say Huh? Dunno.

As longtime readers know, UD has proposed stationing armed guards at the doors of all university engineering professors (this would be easy at Texas universities, whose students could be offered work/study arrangements) in order to try to head their fake companies and pretend employees off at the pass… I mean, far be it from UD to malign an entire field, but in the many years she’s been blogging about universities she’s been amazed at the constancy with which engineering professors take federal research money and deposit it directly into their personal checking accounts.

UD has also proposed, since these guys make so much shit up, that they be transferred to Creative Writing, where they can be useful teaching students how to write fake investor letters. Wen in particular had a mind-blowingly elaborate series of fictions going.

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UD thanks Seelye.

The University of Louisville’s Whormitory: A Teachable Moment

Bravo, Theresa Hayden. She teaches Human Trafficking at the U of Smell, and since a form of HT is happening right under her nose (one of many smells emanating from the U of Smell), she has decided to add to her syllabus the book chronicling the provision of women for campus basketball players and recruits and the recruits’ fathers in the players’ now-notorious dorm.

The book’s co-author is the madam who, in association with an assistant basketball coach no longer (ahem) at UL, coordinated the buying and selling.

Because it’s a required class text, Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen does not appear as one slender singular upright copy among many other texts in the store; multiple copies loll sideways in the course stacks, making a striking statement…

From lemons Hayden has made intellectual lemonade; within a culture of smutty conspiratorial silence (similar to the silence that hushed up Peyton Manning‘s university past and the more recent rapes at Baylor University) she has taken a principled stand that will help her students absorb with dispassion the enormity of what the president of their university has allowed the institution to become. She has done what professors do.

“A California judge who ruled in favor of the plaintiffs compared Trump University to infamous con man Bernie Madoff, writing ‘victims of con artists often sing the praises of their victimizers until the moment they realize they have been fleeced.’”

Could Republican voters be the next awakened fleecees?

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In other Trump/university news: A foreign university has already revoked a Trump honorary degree. Now an American university – Lehigh – has begun talking about the whole honoring Trump thing.

The professor initiating discussion about the Trump degree at Lehigh University specializes in draining away gunk in order to stabilize environments.

“Speeding, without destination, after dark…”

Ravi Shankar, until recently a creative writing professor at Central Connecticut State University, writes about his favorite activity: driving at very high speed until he hits something and/or gets arrested.

I mean, the poem whose first line appears as this post’s title doesn’t really go on to describe

driving with a suspended license, and …evading responsibility for an accident that he fled from… two DUIs, operating with a suspended license, reckless driving over 85 mph…

(And that’s only his driving offenses! He’s also into shoplifting and credit card fraud and other stuff.)

No, no, the poem goes on, dutifully, pretentiously, emptily, to gush about a double rainbow. Shankar’s a bad poet (you can read some of his work here), which one would think would add up to two strikes against the guy in terms of being given permanent employment by a university: He writes bad poetry, and he’s always in courtrooms or jails. And he will always be in courtrooms and jails because there are quite a few cases pending against him. Plus I guess he’s still driving! Whatever.

Maybe he’s a helluva teacher! Hm, let’s see.

No midterm. Paper worth 50% at the end. I had him for a three hour class on Mondays and we always got out early. Did not give too much homework and we had to watch a movie one class. When it came time for the final I felt like I barely knew any of the material. However, if you want an easy 3 credits do good on the paper and go to class.

[He] missed 5 out of 15 classes (yet if you miss 3 you fail) & had us buy 100 dollars worth of books which were barely used (money down the drain). He liked my poems but was pretentious n rude to students whose work he didn’t like. If you go to him for help, he will ignore you.

Cut him some slack. Do you have any idea how many court appearances we’re talking about?

Great class, when he shows up. Had to meet online a few times, poetry is not the kind of class where online classes are really helpful.

Online, films, missed classes, routine early dismissal, no midterm – No wonder Bernie Sanders is calling for free public university education. This should definitely be free.

Maybe Bern can also look into professors assigning a hundred dollars worth of useless books.

And maybe Bern can figure out how this guy – who was promoted while in pre-trial confinement – got promoted.

UD dearly hopes someone recorded the discussion among his colleagues.

He’s a madman, a wildman, a Hunter S. Thompson right here in New Britain!

I love his scofflaw ways!

An artist, a bad boy, our own Robert Lowell…

Robert Lowell?

Robert Lowell went to jail for evading the draft.

He’s thrillingly sketchy, a swaggering anti-bourgeois with a lot to teach us and our students about going against the grain.

A lot of people would just say ‘career criminal’ and drop the guy, but what if they’d said that about Jean Genet?

Despite the university’s effort to keep him, the criminal renown of Shankar reached the stick-in-the-mud state legislature, which has today engineered his exit from the school.

“I like things that explode.”

Not just supernovae, but the explosion of his own and others’ careers, seems to attract Christian Ott, a Caltech astronomer. Ott has a fiery – and fire-y – personality.

Casey Handmer was a grad student in Ott’s group until June 2013, when he was fired partly because Ott didn’t want him to keep his bicycle locked up inside. “Either you accept my rules or you go look for another advisor,” Ott wrote him by email. “Your call!”

“As his student, did I have an obligation to manage his moods and pussyfoot my way around the extent to which a grown man is unable to control himself?” Handmer told BuzzFeed News. “I hadn’t come to Caltech to join some weird cult where you have to do whatever the leader says.”

Ott has now been suspended from Caltech, having been found guilty of sexual harassment. The details of not one but two cases against Ott have been shared in all their grotesqueness with BuzzFeed – indeed, the details were provided by the two harassed women, who are annoyed that Ott’s suspension will probably be temporary (he’s tenured). Here he is with one of the women:

Ott began messaging her late at night online, where they talked about their shared insecurities about work. Sometimes their chats were casual; he’d recommend that she read Charles Bukowski or listen to Leonard Cohen.

The recommendations transmit his subversive yet sensitive ways, which she should emulate… But eventually he fired her too, because he loved her too much. Not that the student understood his motivation; she just felt rejected by her mentor.

[She] didn’t find out about Ott’s feelings for her until June 4, when Caltech’s Title IX coordinator called her into her office and presented her with a stack of 86 poems Ott had posted about her on his Tumblr page.

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UPDATE: Since the Ott story has already inspired one of my readers to poetry (see comments), I thought I’d try my hand.

The Is/Ott Problem: Some Questions

Is Ott
The sort of lot
By whom we should we taught?

If not
Why ought
He have been so sought?

Once caught
Wouldn’t one have thought
He’d be sent to trot?

The Laurentian Psych Professor Gets More and More Interesting.

Background on Professor Persinger here.

One of his students recalls:

Autumn Daggett took the professor’s Brain and Behaviour course last fall. Although he didn’t ask students in that class to sign the statement of understanding, Daggett, 20, said he would sometime[s] use profanity.

She recalled that on the first day of the class he introduced himself to students by asking them to repeat after him: “F–k you, Dr. Persinger!”

UD readers who share UD‘s enthusiasm for the 1983 film, Local Hero, will immediately recall the northern-lights-loving tycoon played by Burt Lancaster. Felix Happer’s aversion therapist constantly bursts into his office and calls him a motherfucker, a piece of shit … In the scene at the end of this clip, the therapist scales Happer’s building to tape HAPPER IS A MOTHERFUCKER on his windows. (Start at 4:00.)

Persinger’s approach, drawing as it does on roomfuls of abusers, is superior.

“I know Gabriel has been suffering immensely over the past few years during this whole ordeal,” wrote Georgia Perakis, a professor of operations management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “For someone with Gabriel’s character, all this is already a huge punishment.”

UD loves this shit. A hugely influential, venerated, and privileged MIT professor spends years and years stealing more than a hundred million dollars from clients. He did business with Bernard Madoff.

The Bitrans [this was one of those adorable father/son things] paid themselves as much as $16 million in management fees over the life of the businesses and recovered $12 million of their own investments when the funds were doing poorly, the U.S. said in court filings, adding that the two discussed their scheme in e-mail exchanges.

In addition to defrauding investors, the Bitrans lied to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and sought to hide assets by transferring property to a relative without the relative’s permission, prosecutors said.

And a fellow professor gets up during sentencing (three years and nine months) to anguish over his suffering during the long ordeal of running a Ponzi scheme, and to praise his excellent character.

And how does his colleague know firsthand how he’s suffered? Because for all of those “past few years” – in fact, since 2009, long after his Madoff connection and wrongdoing were publicly known – he remained an influential, venerated, and privileged MIT professor. He was even an associate dean. He finally left the school in 2013.

*********************

MIT has said nothing and done nothing in all this time. UD doubts that even now – with Bitran suiting up for prison – MIT will say anything about having for years retained on its faculty a massive fraudster.

Meanwhile, all over MIT websites there are statements like this one:

Deputy Dean Gabriel Bitran discussed [with the Financial Times the importance of] producing leaders with a social conscience.

Like Bernard Madoff’s Yeshiva University, you can direct your IT people to erase all images and mentions of Bitran on the school website. I mean, I’m sure MIT is busy scrubbing scrubbing scrubbing right now.

When you ask yourself why so many people detest professors, think of MIT and the way it protected Gabriel Bitran.

*****************

Oh by the way. How were the thieves caught?

The scheme was uncovered by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission when, while investigating potential victims of the Bernie Madoff fraud, SEC officials asked for documentation to support the Bitrans’ returns claims. The Bitrans then made false statements to the SEC examiners and provided fabricated records.

Here’s a management tip direct from the Sloan School:

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.

Quotation of the Day.

Tenure is not immunity… [Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist James Tracy’s] harassment of the parents of murdered children was vulgar, repulsive and an insult to the academic profession. Faculty concerned about the status of tenure should, in fact, be relieved that [Florida Atlantic University] began termination procedures… While there are real reasons to protect tenure for academic research, Tracy’s ‘scholarship’ makes a mockery of what academics do. His termination both holds Tracy accountable for his despicable behavior and reduces pressure on elected officials to end tenure.

25% of the job at full salary.

Taub still draws a $300,000 salary but the cutbacks mean he’s “been fired from 75%” of his job, he says in an affidavit.

A Columbia University professor – Sheldon Silver’s BFF – keeps his job.

“Robert Van Order, the chair of the school’s finance department, said because courses for the [masters in finance] degree are taught exclusively on Fridays and Saturdays and are ‘more technical and time-consuming’ for faculty than teaching other courses, the elevated pay is a reasonable incentive to teach the courses.”

Tenured American university professors have a kind of built-in public relations problem. Many people view them as rather unpleasant entitled sorts — they’ve got permanent jobs with enviable conditions, they’ve got a remarkable amount of time to themselves (including paid sabbaticals), they are highly respected and pretty well-compensated, and they don’t seem to have bosses or supervision of any kind, etc., etc.

We can quibble about how accurate this description is, but there’s no denying that a lot of people think it’s accurate. And there’s some truth in it.

Given this problem, it seems to ol’ UD that tenured professors should make at least teensy efforts not to play right into the stereotype.

Among the academic units at her own George Washington University, there’s one that seems to your blogger to engage in this play — and with reckless abandon.

The business school.

There’s the reckless abandon of its last dean having overspent his budget. By thirteen million dollars.

How shall it be repaid?

Robert Van Order, the chair of the school’s finance department, said the about 60 faculty members at the meeting discussed where the burden should fall. Some faculty thought the University should forgive the $13 million budget deficit altogether because it was incurred two years ago.

UD understands that this was some faculty. She’s just saying that it’s real unfortunate any faculty at all said Hey ancient history fuck it. Make someone else pay.

********************

You’ve got a dean who just spent the school into the ground. You’ve got some faculty there who think the school shouldn’t have to pay anything back. So far, so bad.

It gets worse. Tenured professors who teach in the business school’s masters in finance program have now refused to teach in it (it’s not clear whether all, or many, have refused) because, as part of paying back the money the last dean overspent, they’re taking a pay cut. Here’s how it works, as the new b-school dean explains.

[The full time] professors who teach [masters in finance] courses were paid “a rate substantially higher than their counterparts” in other masters programs. She said faculty, who were teaching two-credit courses for the program, were compensated the same amount as faculty who are paid for three-credit courses.

Okay, so that’s already pretty amazing. Three-credit compensation for two-credit courses. That’s a lot more money.

But look again at my headline. The chair of finance explains that, first of all, faculty have to teach on Fridays. And Saturdays! No self-respecting professor will teach on those days without extreme compensation…

But wait. Let’s look at the program’s website.

In the first year, classes are held all day on Saturday; and in the second year, classes are held on Thursday and Friday from 6 to 10 p.m.

Okay, so the chair of finance forgot about the Thursday classes. And in the second year there’s no Saturday teaching at all.

Does this seem to you hardship duty? I mean, virtually all Americans work a full week, including Fridays. Millions and millions of Americans work on Saturdays.

And then there’s the chair’s “more technical and time-consuming” argument. What does this mean? Are some of these on-line courses (more technical)?

UD has trouble following the chair’s reasoning about these courses, as reported. (It’s possible that the journalist got some of this wrong.)

“From the standpoint of just thinking about the market, from the standpoint of faculty, for the same credits and the same credit hours, it’s easier to teach a core course than to teach an MSF course,” he said. “And so a lot of what’s been the debate over the past few years is how much extra should people get for teaching it.”

He added that the program was originally created to give faculty in the finance department more time and pay to do research – which officials have historically said is key to boost the school’s reputation. But without the original benefits from the program, there’s no motivator for those faculty to participate.

So these courses are harder to teach than core courses – though the chair doesn’t really say why this would be true… But okay. In all departments, some courses are harder and some easier to teach. UD has never heard of faculty getting paid more for harder courses. Perhaps it is a common practice, and UD didn’t know about it.

But if these are harder and more time-consuming courses, why does the dean go on to say that the program (she assumes he means here the masters in finance program itself rather than the financial incentive ‘program’ set up to attract tenured professors to the program) they’re in was created to “give faculty … more time and pay to do research”?

I mean, put aside whether it’s a bit tone-deaf to say a program was created to give faculty more time and pay to do research…

I mean… UD doesn’t see this in the program’s mission statement… We created this program in order to free up our staff for more research and pay them more…

Ask in any case why a program whose courses are more difficult and time-consuming to teach was designed to give faculty more time for their research…

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So to pay back some of what’s due back from the b-school to the university, the decision’s been made to start paying faculty at the two-credit rate.

“We have now aligned the credit hours compensated for with the actual number of credit hours taken by students in the MSF program,” [the dean] said. “This alignment matches the MSF faculty compensation with that of our other specialized master’s programs in a reasonable and equitable manner.”

At this, virtually the entire tenured faculty (it appears) resigned from teaching in the program, leaving it in the hands of less qualified adjuncts, and the quality is apparently going down the tubes.

Keep in mind that these programs charge students a fortune. If you start taking the program now, taught by adjuncts, some of whom have never taught in the program before, you are paying $77,280 for the privilege.

*********************

And oh yeah. If you design an expensive degree and you can’t get your own faculty to teach its courses without amazing incentives, a degree program your faculty dump in seconds if you take any component of those incentives away, you need new degree designers.

Coming to America’s Big-Time Sports Universities: Litmus Tests for Economics Professors

The latest econ professor to squawk about his or her university’s sports program – Colorado State’s Steven Shulman – reminds UD to mention that she thinks we’ll see, in a few years, at some schools, litmus tests for new hires in this field.

Are you an avid fan of football and basketball? Will you sign a pledge attesting to your intention to attend home games into perpetuity, your willingness to cancel class when a match-up will take place within 72 hours of a scheduled course session, your commitment to give C or higher grades to revenue athletes in your classes, and – most important – your promise never to subject the athletic program to economic analysis or talk to news outlets about your economic analysis of the program?

Econ professors are a seriously weak link in the American jock school chain. This blog has covered tons of economists who, with their specialized knowledge, subject their athletics departments to withering critique and then tell everyone about it. Here are some instances of professors, who, like Shulman (‘“Of course it sucks resources out of the academic side of the university,” Shulman said. “And it’s dishonest to deny that it does that… We are a land-grant university, and our mission is grounded in service to the citizens of Colorado. And to me what that means is keeping tuition low and affordable.”’), go after the game boys.

Remember Reed Olsen? Back in 2010 he told everyone at Missouri State University that their expensive new JQH stadium would not only not be profitable (the university insisted it would be profitable) but would hemorrhage money, and he caught hell for it. But of course he was right. As he explained in an email to UD at the time:

Let’s say that we are looking at a $2M ongoing loss in the arena. This is slightly more than 1% of the operating budget of the university. The university, because of a new state law, cannot raise in-state tuition more than [the] increase in the CPI. And for the last 2 years all universities in the state have agreed to not raise tuition at all in return for mostly stable state funding. So that means that most of this $2M must come out of cuts from other parts of the budget or the small increases in student fees from increased out of state tuition or other types of student fees. Students are assessed a fee for [the arena] which supposedly pays for free student seats at BB games. However, that revenue is included in the accounting, still leaving $2M left to pay. Faculty concern is that it comes out of our pocket.

If you’re Missouri State you definitely do not want people like Reed Olsen on your campus – people with the capacity to reason about the finances of your sports program. A simple interview questionnaire teasing out Olsen’s prejudice against sports programs would have saved MSU a lot of grief.

Then there’s Mark Killingsworth at Rutgers, a person just as persistent and tough-skinned as Olsen. Here’s a sample Killingsworth editorial. Excerpt:

The program is a financial disgrace. Since 2003-04, it has racked up $287 million in deficits. The university’s financial plan for sports calls for $183 million in additional deficits through 2022 — despite new revenue from the Big Ten Conference.

These deficits have been funded with subsidies from student fees (students have no say about that, of course) and university general funds. As even the university president concedes, athletics is “siphoning dollars from the academic mission.”

Then there’s Dick Barrett, once a University of Montana econ professor and now a state senator. He routinely offends UM regents by pointing out that their accounts of the athletic budget are full of shit.

Barrett called “bogus” the regents’ argument that millions of dollars in tuition waivers for athletes shouldn’t be counted as subsidies because no cash changes hands.

Tuition waivers for athletics totaled $8 million last year for all campuses, including $2.8 million at MSU, according to Frieda Houser, University System director of accounting and budget.

The university could have decided to “sacrifice revenue” in other ways, Barrett said. “It could decide not to charge other students as high a tuition.

“Students are subsidizing athletics, not just in their (athletics) fee, but they have to pay higher tuition so athletes can pay lower tuition,” he said.

There’s UD‘s pal Bill Harbaugh, econ, University of Oregon, exploding the myth of the program’s self-sufficiency. Vanderbilt econ professor John Siegfried is amusing on the subject of his and other schools’ prisoner’s dilemma. There’s Marilyn Flowers, chair of economics at truly sports-fucked Ball State:

… Ball State has more than $14 million budgeted for its athletics programs. Approximately 80 percent of the budget is paid for from student fees – almost $9 million – and institutional support – almost $2.5 million.

“When it costs so much for kids to go to school, and you charge them $800 a year and most of them don’t go to any games, that I think is really unfortunate,” Flowers said.

Even Auburn hears occasional squawks from its econ department. The chair of economics there warns that sports is so autonomously powerful on campus that it represents “a second university.”

As jock schools escalate their policy of robbing students and taxpayers to give multimillionaire coaches raises and pay back crushing stadium debt, the last thing they need is financially literate people exposing their … complex… bookkeeping. The entry interview is their only opportunity to head these people off at the pass.

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