“In the months leading up to his resignation in November 2013, Dobelle’s legal bills totaling approximately $100,000 had been submitted to the university, which in turn sent them to the state attorney general’s office.”

Eh. You don’t wanna know.

You do?

Go here. Scroll down. Start reading.

Oxygen Debt on Everest

Everest (cough) College, long perceived by observers as a towering fraud on all Americans, has now collapsed, hurling hundreds of suckers down to Base-Camp Debt.

In Canada, the government has forced the for-profit’s closure (UD thanks a reader, Jack, for this news); here in the States, Shit-Mountain Everest has shut itself down

as part of a deal with the Department of Education, which last summer froze the institution’s financial-aid payments after it failed to provide the DOE with a series of required records, including job-placement and attendance statistics.

Why was this stupid scheme allowed to go on for so long? And why are the many other Everests out there still allowed to strand American and Canadian debt-mountaineers? Is anyone really surprised that the latest thing to happen is a debt strike?

On Monday, [fifteen] people who took out loans to attend … announced that they are going on a “debt strike,” and will stop repaying their loans. They believe that they have both ethical and legal grounds for what appears to be an unprecedented collective action…

Wow, unprecedented. Who could have foreseen that if your country has no laws against criminal for-profit antics, suckers will fall for their ploy and eventually – with perfectly plausible moral justification – refuse to pay up?

“While the vast majority of travel conducted by staff members is in standard class, there may be some occasions where first class travel is required to allow for a more confidential working environment while travelling.”

I could explain what the fuck I mean by “confidential” in that sentence, but I’d have to kill you.

Econ 101: Intro Russian Oligarchs

[Penn State Professor Andrey Vavilov’s] foundation has donated more than $1 million to Penn State, where he is a visiting scholar. He appears to relish that connection, displaying a football signed by Joe Paterno, the longtime coach, in his Time Warner pied-à-terre, according to someone who visited there.

New York City: A Shell of its Former Self

“You are unlikely to bump into neighbors wandering the halls because only about a third of the owners live there at any one time,” explains the paper of record about one of several buildings in New York City full of condos purchased by shell companies and rarely lived in by human beings. “The building’s annual holiday party is a lonely affair,” not only because no one’s home, but also because a lot of the owners are, uh, not inclined to show up in public. On the advice of their lawyers.

One of these guys, Wang Wenliang, is on the board of NYU.

First, UD realized that the clever clogs at her own George Washington University were solving the …

… shrinking market for law students in a manner so byzantine it would take up a chapter of Corpus Historiæ Byzantinæ if Hieronymus Wolf were still alive. Then, after talking to a buddy on the Georgetown University law faculty, she began to realize that the very same byzantine practice goes on there, and is in fact spreading among all but the lowest ranked law schools in America.

The lowest ranked can’t do it because it involves netting (details here) huge shoals of second-year transfer students from law schools in the abyssopelagic rather than hadalpelagic zone.

Although I guess if you’re the nadir in the States – like, for instance, Arizona Summit (someone there probably thought it’d be clever … distracting? … to name the place Summit) you can try harvesting a school of foreign fish (though given many differences among legal systems, this would be a challenge).

The small fry are starting to fight back. Not only is Arizona Summit fucking with its first-year curriculum, making it difficult both to get a good grade point average and to have taken the sorts of courses you need on your transcript to move to the second year curriculum at many schools. Also:

Arizona Summit students have to meet with a dean at Arizona Summit before they transfer and before they can get their transcripts.

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Before their transcripts are released, female Arizona Summit students have to submit to a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound.

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Just kidding.

That’s not happening yet.

Think Skanks.

It’s so much easier to whore yourself when you’re a think tank than when you’re a university. Think tanks don’t really have any of the public accountability universities do. Washington think tanks are increasingly set up to make money by prostituting their intellectual work to paying foreign governments. Pressure is building for some of them to do the decent thing and register as foreign agents.

“It is particularly egregious because with a law firm or lobbying firm, you expect them to be an advocate,” [says one observer]. “Think tanks have this patina of academic neutrality and objectivity, and that is being compromised.”

UD ain’t sayin’ some professors at some universities (some departments at universities) don’t get away sometimes with whoring themselves to corporations and governments. This blog couldn’t stay in business without global pharma having its way on a semi-regular basis with some universities, and without econ professors issuing custom-built papers the real estate industry, for instance, pays them to write… She is saying that, as in the recent dual but failed assault on the university’s virtue by rich Jonnie Williams and handsome Governor Vaginal Probe, American universities tend to do a pretty good job of defending ye olde patina.

Think tanks? Meh.

“We allege the former president of this university blatantly misused public funds that were nothing but weeklong vacations with family and friends.”

To tell you the truth, UD‘s gotten pretty tired of Evan Dobelle, the man out to prove that even if you’ve got a long public record of misuse and maybe outright theft of funds, there’s always another sucker university out there to crown you president.

Evan Dobelle is the “Catherine” of the twenty-first century American university… Catherine being one of the many aliases of Theresa Russell’s Black Widow (“She mates and she kills.”). Catherine kept blatantly marrying rich men and almost instantly after that killing them, but no one ever seemed to notice, and new men just kept on marrying her. Cuz she was pretty and all.

In the case of serial president Dobelle, there wasn’t any Debra Winger around to scream at all the stupid male FBI agents that there’s a pattern here!… One after another school fell for his sweet talk and failed to do the sort of background check that might have uncovered his penchant for disemboweling universities…

So now the Massachusetts Attorney General is going to try to get some of the state’s money back from Dobelle-Trobelle Dobelle…

The AG’s lawsuit against Dobelle seeks damages, civil penalties, costs and attorney’s fees associated with the AG’s ongoing investigation, and the costs of the OIG’s investigation. The AG’s Office will continue to review the OIG’s recent detailed report. Today’s lawsuit does not foreclose the potential for additional action.

UD is tired of Dobelle because he seems to UD what she would call a mild psychopath and is therefore boring. UD and Mr UD have a longstanding endless argument about this. Mr UD says psychopaths are fascinating and UD says only movie psychopaths are interesting because the scriptwriter typically gives them bold slashing ambition and eloquent self-awareness (Catherine, Hannibal the Cannibal, Dr. Robert Elliott), whereas in real life most of them turn out to be – at one end – inarticulately compulsive anti-social nasty petty gameplayers (this seems to UD Dobelle’s type), and at the other end raving dangerous lunatics. Why, UD always asks when they enter this well-worn terrain, should UD waste a moment of time with either type? Except to learn about how to protect herself from them?

Anyway. UD wishes the AG well in her effort to recover some money from the guy. The problem is, he’ll keep playing legal games (he’s counter-suing his most recent ATM) until it’s not worth the state’s while.

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UD thanks James.

Buffaloed

UD just scored “Solid Liberal” on the Pew Political Typology quiz, and she’ll certainly vote for Hillary Clinton (unless Elizabeth Warren runs); but let her say again that Clinton should stop taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from American universities in exchange for giving speeches on their campuses.

It doesn’t matter that she takes their money and puts it in her charitable foundation; it doesn’t matter that the universities get the money they give her from ticket sales and booster organizations. It matters that

1. large sums of money that might have been used for education – and, at places like SUNY Buffalo, public education – are being syphoned off for the use of a politician; and that

2. the outrageously inflated amounts – in exchange for Clinton standing up for thirty minutes or so and reading a speech someone wrote for her – make Clinton look as money-grubbing as Eric Cantor.

“Wanton Acquisitiveness.”

Hillary doesn’t see the disconnect between expressing grave concern about mounting student loan debt while scarfing six-figure sums from at least eight colleges, and counting. She says now that she’s passing the university money to the foundation but, never Ms. Transparency, has refused to provide documentation of that.

Well, we’ve been following this story on University Diaries for awhile now, and because it’s about obvious high-profile hypocrisy, it was only a matter of time before Maureen Dowd got hold of it and majorly amplified it. So that has happened.

It’s an interesting business model… Raking it in while the university implodes…

… And while one could argue that it’s not in the long run a very good model — Howard University has so little money that it has now earned Moody’s lowest investment-grade rating — there’s no denying that it can be, personally, enormously rewarding.

Take Howard’s latest interim president. At his last job, as a high-ranking administrator at the university’s hospital, which runs huge operating losses, Wayne Frederick was amply rewarded:

Wayne Frederick, … then director of the cancer center at the university hospital, received [in 2010] a $97,006 bonus on top of his $586,335 base salary.

Naturally you’re going to have to increase tuition sharply, cut programs, and furlough staff to pay for those sorts of salaries and bonuses.

I mean, eventually, as one Howard trustee has noted, the school will have to close. But until then, there’s money to be made.

“[T]he cozy ties between pharmaceutical companies and …

university researchers” has long been a theme on this blog. UD‘s coverage has been local (“The [University of Wisconsin] Pain Group may have helped pave the way for OxyContin’s widespread use.”), neighborly, and much farther out, since this is a global phenomenon.

I’m not talking here about the massive, and I believe structural, fraud in most countries in the world, involving corporations openly bribing doctors to mis-prescribe and over-prescribe their meds. This is certainly the big picture, and every now and then someone complains, and newspapers cover the fraud, and corporations cough up penalty money and the fraud resumes. I’m talking – since this is University Diaries – about the corruption of universities by pharma.

Dennis Normile’s concise summary, in Science Magazine, of
the disintegration of Japan’s credibility as a site of research activity, ends by quoting a University of Tokyo official lamenting “a lack of awareness of research ethics.” But how can this be? Is he arguing that scientists at Japanese universities don’t know it’s wrong to make up research results in exchange for money from corporations?

An Addendum to UD’s Post About Hillary Clinton and the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Here’s my earlier post about students there protesting her $225,000 fee for giving a speech on campus. (Or, as Ruth Marcus lowballs it in the Washington Post, “flying by private jet to pick up a check for $200,000 to stand at a podium for an hour.”)

And here, from an article you should read in its entirety, is an excellent statement of what I’m calling the Spending Down problem:

There can never be enough super-rich Americans to power a great economy. I earn about 1,000 times the median American annually, but I don’t buy thousands of times more stuff. My family purchased three cars over the past few years, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. I bought two pairs of the fancy wool pants I am wearing as I write, what my partner Mike calls my “manager pants.” I guess I could have bought 1,000 pairs. But why would I? Instead, I sock my extra money away in savings, where it doesn’t do the country much good.

American university students will stop being shocked by politicians and other celebrities being paid $300,000 to give a speech at UCLA when they can be made to understand the Why would I? problem. This guy solves it by pointlessly stashing it away. Imelda Marcos solved it by buying up all the shoes in the world. Our universities’ foundations solve it by paying $300,000 for a dinner speaker.

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UPDATE: Noam Scheiber calls it “the plutocracy problem.”

There are lots of things to unpack, thinks UD, in the Hillary/UNLV dustup…

… in which student leaders at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (a school that’s a perennial source of ridicule on this blog, by the way) object to the – everyone’s trotting out the usual adjectives – obscene, outrageous, grotesque – payment she’s getting to give a speech at the school. The students, who attend a university constantly and, uh, outrageously raising tuition and fees, a school about to build a billion dollar football stadium, are shocked that anyone would be handed $225,000 to read an hour’s worth of platitudes (an hour? maybe less) written by someone else. (UD will enthusiastically vote for Hillary when she runs, so look elsewhere for an anti-Clinton screed.) (And don’t get me started on the mystery of who wrote her memoir.)

Not long ago, Clinton got $300,000 to do the same thing at UCLA.

UD ran the give a speech for $300,000 thing by Mr UD, and though far from a populist, he too was shocked. For him too something in this transaction – you fly me out, put me up in a nice place, watch while I read a speech, have one of your fund-raising arms give me $300,000, and fly me home – seemed very wrong.

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The dustup has me thinking about John Edwards, a presidential candidate with … call them money problems. Remember? This is a from a long profile in Esquire:

Edwards was taking a beating in the press. The two $400 Beverly Hills haircuts that were mistakenly charged to the campaign, his yearlong employment at a New York hedge fund, the revelation that he took large fees for speaking engagements — all of it has been drowning out his message.

“They’re calling you a hypocrite,” I said.

Edwards looked at me, kind of annoyed, kind of resigned. “The truth about me is that I come from a very normal background. Early in our marriage, Elizabeth and I had very normal lives. We got financially successful because I won a bunch of cases. So we had money far beyond what we would ever have expected to have. And I think that part of our life, the financial life, is pretty privileged. You know, that house you went to is a really nice house. But I don’t think either one of us has believed that anything’s changed about us.

“Yes, of course, having money, having people around me, being able to buy a nicer shirt or whatever without having to worry about it, or going to dinner and not having to worry about it, that’s all true, that has changed. But I don’t think it changes anything about me as a person. The people who are critical, well, they don’t know me, they’ve never been around me. They don’t know me personally. That’s what I really believe is the truth.

“Because of the background I come from, I always feel a personal connection with people who are struggling…”

Large fees for speaking engagements… though back then they were probably a piddling amount, like $100,000… Not long after he was president of Harvard, Larry Summers made $135,000 for one speech at Goldman Sachs… That’s nothing…

And what was Edwards’ defense? That despite the absolutely enormous house he’d built himself, despite all of the other gazillion dollar expenditures, he wasn’t a hypocrite because his essential ordinary humble self was unchanged.

Beyond the on-the-face-of-it unpersuasive nature of this argument – unimaginable sums of money clearly had changed him, as such a staggering life transformation would change anyone – there’s the deeper but even more obvious truth that how you use your wealth reflects your morality. Edwards used his in a profligate and narcissistic way; and to add insult to injury he did this while lecturing the nation on the shame of there being Two Americas.

And sure, there are two Americas, which is the heart of what Hillary’s up against. I mean, there are several Americas, but for the purpose of addressing this problem, her problem, there are two. There’s middle-class America, represented by the shocked UNLV students; and there’s Tom “Kristallnacht” Perkins’ America, represented by Brown University’s Steven Cohen (personal wealth $9 billion) and Harvard University’s endowment (approaching $35 billion). And the real problem, ironically enough, since UNLV is a university, is ignorance. The student leaders do not know about, let alone understand, this other America, the America whose one big daily existential issue is what to do with all of its money. People are always bothering Harvard about spending more of its endowment, but Harvard is kind of at a loss. They spend and spend – they’re building an entire other campus, for god’s sake – and it’s still around 35 billion. Cohen is constantly purchasing palazzos and Picassos, but, like some character in Alice in Wonderland, the more he spends the more he makes. This is The Spending Down Problem, the one problem that continues to bedevil our rich country’s large number of super-rich people and institutions. What the hell do we do with it all?

If you understand the problem from this angle, you’re not surprised when people come to your university, read some lines, and get a check for $225,000. The country is bulging with people desperate to dispense their money somehow, somewhere.

Since UD believes the students’ problem is essentially one of education, she has a proposal to make. Our universities should offer – perhaps in the business school – a History of Personal and Institutional Wealth in America, with an emphasis on the last ten years or so, when so much wealth has accumulated in private hands that most observers have trouble believing the numbers, much less the Spending Down Problem. (Review of required text here.) This course would allow America’s university students to look at $300,000 for a speech at their school (not to mention prepare them for the eventual escalation of these fees into the millions) without blinking.

Speaking of retrofitting America’s universities as advertising venues…

… (see post immediately below this one about the University of Michigan), it doesn’t get much more cutting edge than the University of Kentucky, whose recently inked agreement with various local vendors … well, let’s have UK’s vp for commercialization tell it!

Eric Monday, UK’s executive vice president for administration, said Monday that many universities were looking to form more partnerships with the private sector, partly to make up for decreases in state funding.

In UK’s case, that could be taking an athletics sponsorship deal and enlarging it across campus. Another example, he said, would be new signs around campus. Those could be paid for by a private company, which would get advertising on the signs.

Examples? Well, UK already has an oral history project – subject, Kentucky bourbon – paid for by “the Kentucky Distillers Association and Bourbon industry.” UK already has a dorm – name, Wildcat Coal Lodge - paid for by the coal industry. So what you do, see, is you put up big brand new signs directing people to the library and to the dorm, signs paid for by bourbon and coal, and the signs got a itty bitty part saying, you know, go here to find the library or the dorm, and then a BIG ol’ part that says

COAL: CLEAN AS A WHISTLE!

or, uh…

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