“Keene State Turns It Into Insanity.”

A townsperson’s comment on this year’s local Pumpkin Fest – a traditional event in the small town of Keene New Hampshire, where residents display carved pumpkins and celebrate the beautiful New England autumn together – could also stand as the motto of Keene State University, a very dangerous American location whose rioting students turn everything – including the Keene New Hampshire Pumpkin Fest – into insanity.

Keene State enjoyed a spot of fame when a man who barely survived teaching journalism there for a few years wrote, post-traumatically, The Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up on Educating Your Child and What You Can Do About It. Last weekend’s riot – pretty much unsurpassed, in the annals of college riots, for violence, injury, and destruction – can have surprised no one who, like UD, read Craig Brandon’s account of the gruesome brew that is Keene State. His book of course reviews the long history of student riots there. A sample:

[T]here were dangerous riots when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and 2007 [Note that Keene State shares with our most riot-torn campuses the practice of rioting when happy and rioting when sad]. Nearly a thousand students, about one out of five students at the college, started fires, broke windows, turned over cars, threw rocks and bricks at police, and threatened to go on a rampage through the middle of town until they were turned back by dozens of city and state police [Dozens, hah. Lots more than that - SWAT, tear gas, the works - at the Keene State Pumpkin Riot.] who had been put on active duty to prevent the riot.

Brandon’s main point about Keene and other tuition-starved universities is that the school will do anything to keep bodies in rooms (“[I]t was common practice to stack freshmen into [dorm] rooms like cordwood, with as many as four students assigned to a room designed for two. Why? So many freshmen leave the school during their first year – usually at least 25 percent – that colleges overstuff them in the fall to avoid having empty rooms in the spring.”). This means giving in to students on all matters – academic, recreational – and never making them actually study or anything (“I left my teaching position in 2007, right after the dean threatened to put me on probation unless I made my classes more student-friendly by removing grammar from my lesson plans and showing more movies.”). When you add social media’s ability to draw rioters from all over the state to an already large concentration of drunken louts, you turn everything into insanity.

And oh how “disheartened” Keene’s president is by this shocking unprecedented student riot. Disheartened, re-disheartened, re-re-disheartened, re-re-re-disheartened… The sorrowful lot of the university president.

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Oh yeah, UD? And what’s Keene State supposed to do?

There’s nothing it can do. The state will never close the place. As fewer and fewer students attend, the administration will make its lout-friendly atmosphere even more lout-friendly.

But God knows there’s something its local terrified populace can do. Move.

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Let’s end this year’s account of life at Keene State with a comment from another townsperson:

Lillian Savage brought her kids to the Pumpkin Festival on Saturday.

“All you could see was smoke, lots of screaming, lots of drunken rage really,” she said. “I have been coming here since I was a kid and I loved it and now this. I will never come back – ever.”

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UPDATE: You can’t buy this kind of publicity.

“The worst is not, So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.'”

Well, we can apparently say that these are the worst – the worst American colleges. UD has heard of very few of them, which isn’t surprising. The worst America colleges tend to fly under the radar – they’re often small, provincial, barely accredited year after year.

UD checked out the one Maryland school on the list (UD lives in Maryland) and it does in fact seem about to lose its accreditation.

Court records show the Internal Revenue Service filed three federal tax liens totaling about $5 million against the college in January and February.

Horrible schools are always losing students. Eventually they just run out of tuition money.

It might be a famous statement, but UD hadn’t run across it.

Robert Maynard Hutchins, founder of the University of Chicago, … famously said: “The present primacy of public relations in the management of universities, the view that they must ingratiate themselves with the public, and in particular with the most wealthy and influential portions of it, the doctrine that a university may properly frame its policies in order to get money and that it may properly teach or study whatever it can get financed — these notions are ruinous to a university in any rational conception of it.”

She found it in a solid presentation of the Steven Salaita debacle at the University of Illinois.

A Scroll Through Architectural Digest’s Best New University Buildings.

Here they are. UD comments on each one.

The writer starts with a new building at Yale, and there’s a reason he starts with this project. It’s the best. By far. Most of the others are quite bad, but the Edward P. Evans Hall, with its soft light ‘fifties modernism footprint is simply a pretty, non-jarring, non-aggressive addition to the campus.

Like a lot of contemporary buildings, its interior is so insanely open and abstract that things like privacy and the human specific seem totally absent. And while UD herself might not be keen on the tendency away from autonomy and individuality, she acknowledges that – especially in a business building – an architect has to reflect the digitized groupworld of the people who inhabit the construction. Evans Hall’s walls feature massive childish Sol LeWitt wall art, reflecting the thin bright bold everything-supersized world of postmodern hedgies (Yale has plenty of gothic architecture and brooding squinting portraiture for its humanities division).

Lee Hall at Clemson (AD’s #8), for its school of architecture, is also excellent. It mirrors the mini-Dulles-Airport, modestly soaring, white-sail-like, radically open floor plan, all-windows, exteriorized technology (see the Pompidou Center) thing the Yale building’s doing – and it does all of this well. And #9, the Reid Building, is equally fine, in the same almost-all-white, radically open, large masses luminescently lit way as Lee and Evans (a critic of the building notes that “Doors are in notably short supply, the whole interior presenting a Piranesi-like fluidity.”). You could argue that Reid is out of keeping with the bricky gloom of its Scottish street, but there’s nothing wrong with having a lighthouse to perk things up.

Eh, okay, so that’s the good stuff. The bad buildings all have stuff in common, just as the good buildings do. Mainly the bad stuff features pointless gigantic dead abstraction (see #4, which clearly has no context at all – I don’t see anything around it – and therefore randomly sprouts, a dying mushroom and a red oxygen canister trying to pump life back into it via an obscure connecting unit); yet more abstract gigantism plus deadly overhangs (#2; #7); desperate chaotic wedging in (#3); overhangs, gigantic abstraction, and dramatic Spiderman-like pointless design features (#5); and, finally, runty off-kilter deconstructed blah with overhangs (#6).

“…and that the first couple tried to help Mr. Williams set up scientific studies of a Star Scientific dietary supplement, Anatabloc, at Virginia’s public universities, to increase its credibility with investors and consumers.”

Sideshow Bob and the Missus are now in the spotlight, and the only thing of interest here at University Diaries is their effort to“deep south” Virginia’s public universities.

I guess there’s a reason we differentiate deep and … shallow? south. Apparently up in these parts (‘thesdan UD lives not far from Northern Virginia) you can’t get schools like the University of Virginia to run governor-mandated trials on your laetrile.

Speaking of deep and parts… You may know Sideshow Bob by his former name: Governor Vaginal Probe…

Apple Turnover

Clueless academic bastion of one of America’s most corrupt and incompetent outposts, the University of Hawaii is constantly losing presidents, chancellors, and – most of all – money.

Tom Apple, chancellor of the flagship campus, is now fired after two years of a five-year contract, so buying out those last three years will represent yet more pointless expenditure.

And when it comes to pointless expenditure, only the public university systems of Hawaii’s mentally challenged sister states – Nevada, New Mexico, and Alaska – compete. Put hawaii in my search engine for all the gruesome details of this truly comatose institution.

‘“Your school, this university, announced that it was going to examine its governance structure and that it was going to reform its governance structure in the embarrassment that happened over a period of time. And now you’re not willing to say that you would support … the release of a structure. If it was developed by the university by the person that you selected to chair this committee, then why wouldn’t you adopt these recommendations if it’s been done within?” Cantor corrected Sweeney’s statement that the task force was commissioned in response to the string of athletics scandals stemming from the men’s basketball player abuse controversy. “It wasn’t in response to any particular scandal, as you suggest, but rather because we thought that it would be an indication of good governance,” Cantor said. After he flippantly labeled it “just a coincidence” that the task force was commissioned “during the scandal,” Sweeney rebuked the Rutgers administration for its lack of transparency.’

So… there’s always a a little bit of hell to pay when the legislature has a chance to chat one on one with the people who run perennial scandal magnets like Rutgers University.

Of course, like most seriously fucked up schools, Rutgers reflects a seriously fucked up state. This is the state that gave us the gone but not forgotten University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. As one local columnist puts it:

[Stephen] Sweeney argues that scandals, including men’s former basketball coach Mike Rice penchant for hurling basketballs and epithets at players, have damaged the school’s reputation and “its ability to purse academic excellence.”

So [putting more political appointees on its board of trustees] would make sense.

Because nothing enhances a university’s academic reputation like a collection of Jersey pols.

You got your basic Scylla and Piscataway dilemma here… Jersey legislators… Jersey trustees…

Breaking the glass ceiling…

… at the University of Michigan.

The “Nearing Financial Disaster” Universities Covered by this Blog…

.. (UD‘s taking that designation from the headline of a recent article about South Carolina State University) could be understood to include pretty much every university ever, uh, covered by this blog. Harvard poor mouths. Yale poor mouths. UD‘s university – George Washington – recently found the cash to buy the Corcoran Gallery of Art; but last month UD attended a meeting where a professor said “if it weren’t for our students from China, I’m not sure the university could continue to be viable.” People say these things when they’re pitching new revenue-enhancing programs, or when they feel more comfortable hoarding than spending the endowment.

On the other hand, UD has covered a few universities which do indeed seem on the brink, though even they aren’t really. How often does a university close? Yeshiva University, embittered lover of rich bitches Bernard Madoff and Ezra Merkin, has been downgraded by Moody’s with such calendrical regularity that the Moody’s Downgrade Days Calendar threatens to replace the Hebrew one. South Carolina State – one big ol’ inept corrupt money-hemorrhaging machine – is certainly in deep doo-doo, but the long-suffering taxpayers of that state will bail it out in order that it may live to stage sports events again.

A significant driving force behind the $13.6 million deficit was a $6.67 million shortfall in last year’s athletic program.

[President Thomas] Elzey said the university is considering eliminating its women’s golf program as well as assistant athletic coaches. Elzey said the university is seeking private donations to help support women’s golf.

“It hurts me to do that,” Elzey said. “I don’t like the idea of retreating back in an area I love dearly, which is golf.”

His institution’s dying and he’s worried about his dead hand shot.

“U-M doctor overdosed on stolen drugs the same day nurse died.”

With more and more pain pill addicts out there, and with hospital personnel having greater access than most, these stories keep happening (UD has covered quite a few on this blog). It’s rare that two overdoses (a doctor and a nurse) occur at the same university on the same day, but that too will become less rare.

Professional leagues, and hedge funds, with educational institutions attached.

At one time, trading a scholarship for athletic performances made sense. There wasn’t much money available in college sports even in the revenue producing sports of football and basketball. But as TV money seeped into the industry, coaches were paid more and more money and colleges felt they needed to spend more money to get the best available coaches to recruit and instruct. State legislatures approved astronomical raises for coaches and in many states where public colleges are part of the college sports industry, the football or basketball coaches are the highest paid public employees… Millionaire coaches like Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim bristle at the idea of paying college players even though the industry is flush with money from television and marketing partners…

College sports are not-profits. The industry has a blanket antitrust exemption that allows schools who play in college football bowl games to skip paying taxes from bowl game earnings. Yet NCAA members are getting billions from TV, and hundreds of millions alone from the Final Four weekend. At the same time, players are no longer content with missing out on their earnings. Dr. Harvey Schiller may have predicted the future for the industry, becoming a professional entity because there is too much money at risk for it not to happen.

The professionalization of our academic McDonalds (billions and billions sold) continues, with increasingly insistent arguments being made against the maintenance of non-profit status for athletics money, and for endowment money. Because it’s the same thing, isn’t it? Athletics and endowment?

If Harvard University generates a thirty-five billion dollar endowment (a number of other Ivies are not far behind), all of it in very significant ways protected from taxation… And if because of this astronomical profit people like Harvard investment managers get multiple millions in salary each year from the institution, and people like coaches get multiple millions in salary each year from the institution, but very little of the billions left over are spent for academic purposes (Harvard notoriously hoards its endowment; revenue sports players aren’t paid), why should we be surprised that communities surrounding McDonald’s schools are constantly challenging their tax exempt status in court? That Felix Salmon’s much quoted statement has it that Harvard is “a hedge fund with an educational institution attached“?

All of this is a small element of the immense income inequality debate in America today. CEOs like Gilead’s John Martin taking home almost $100 million each year are the real attention-getters in this debate. Yet America’s John Martin problem is a straightforward one: It is about capital markets and unlimited greed. Easy to grasp that.

And of course most of the people in this country have no trouble – applaud, in fact – one man or woman pulling in any amount imaginable for themselves. Ten years from now, Martin’s yearly compensation with be five hundred million. Bravo! Job well done. No upper limits, and people who question upper limits are jealous losers who have to be restrained by the state or the next thing you know it’s Kristallnacht.

Fine, okay, but does the same psychology pertain to high-minded non-profit universities becoming greedy billionaires? Even in America, there’s some vestigial sense that universities are different from John Martin. That sense could grow, could come to understand itself more clearly. And if that happens, there’s trouble ahead for the most profitable McDonald’s franchise-holders in the land.

Two Morally Compromised, Cosmically Rich, and Sincerely Generous People…

… are the subject of this post.

Michael Milkin, as Ryan Chittum points out in the Columbia Journalism Review, “pleaded guilty to six counts of securities fraud, paid $600 million in fines, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, and spent 26 months behind bars. He was also banned for life from the securities industry…”

“SAC Capital Advisors L.P., the hedge fund of Steven A. Cohen… was fined a staggering $1.8 billion by the federal government for insider trading activities,” notes Adam Asher. “Eight of the fund’s former employees have been slapped with criminal charges, all of whom have either pleaded or been found guilty. SAC Capital — recently rechristened Point72 Asset Management — is no longer allowed to manage outside money …”

Milken has just given UD‘s George Washington University fifty million dollars for its school of public health; Cohen remains on the board of trustees of Brown University. Chittum is annoyed that Milkin’s history is being “airbrushed.” He thinks “journalists shouldn’t deep-six who Michael Milken was, no matter what he’s done since.” Asher, a Brown University student, thinks Cohen should be off the board. “I find it hard to imagine there isn’t at least one other person on Wall Street who can offer comparable financial counsel — someone who hasn’t been fined nearly $2 billion by the federal government.” But “I have no illusions about the impact of this piece.”

I think Chittum’s right to be indignant that a man who hurt many people and profited handsomely from it, a man who significantly damaged the public’s trust in our financial system, gets a pass because, years later, he has become a major donor to excellent causes. But I don’t (as I said in an earlier post) think GW should turn his money down. I think that routine acknowledgement of Milken’s misdeeds should accompany – however subtly – his presentation to the world.

As to Cohen – lordy, lordy. I’ve been for ages amazed at his retention on Brown’s corporation. Asher writes:

Since the investigation first became public, it has always been taken as a given that Cohen would remain on the Board of Trustees so long as he wasn’t sitting in a jail cell — and even then, I’m not sure he would have gotten the boot.

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UD thanks Roy.

Even in the context of spectacularly corrupt Illinois…

… Chicago State University, bankrolled almost exclusively by taxpayers (it has vanishingly few students, and is losing them at a rate of about 20% a year, so it’s certainly not getting much in tuition), stands out. I guess it stands out because it’s a university, and most of us continue to assume that universities have more dignity or whatever than other public institutions.

It may be because of this moral/emotional over-investment of ours that a Chicago judge and jury have recently come down so very hard on outrageously corrupt and inept CSU. As Jodi Cohen reports, having found in favor of a whistle blower –

[James Crowley was] awarded $2 million in punitive damages and $480,000 in back pay after a jury decided last month that he was fired in retaliation for reporting alleged misconduct by university president Wayne Watson and other top officials.

– the judge has now decided to increase Crowley’s award.

Circuit Court Judge James McCarthy decided to double Crowley’s back pay, as allowed under state law. Crowley had been earning $120,000 a year when he was fired. McCarthy also Tuesday ordered Chicago State to pay $60,000 in interest on the back pay. That brings the total payout to just more than $3 million.

The judge will rule following a hearing set for May on whether Chicago State should also pay Crowley’s attorney’s fees, and on terms of reemployment.

“It is quite clear from the verdict that Mr. Crowley is to be given his employment back,” the judge said.

The term slam dunk comes to mind. The sentence Someone is really really pissed. comes to mind.

Yet why (as UD has asked more than once before on this blog) does CSU exist? Why has it not been folded into another university? Why has it not been shut down? CSU is as much of a scandalous tax syphon as any for-profit school-for-scandal.

Josh Marshall on why he decided against becoming a professor.

… [I]t is important to understand that every incentive in academic life is geared against engagement with the world outside of academics. There’s no other way to put it. This has perhaps changed slightly in the intervening 15 or 20 years – with the Internet being a major part of that. But I suspect that’s more people acting in spite of these incentives and reacting to the increasingly straightened [Update: SOS thanks her Nabokovian reader, johnshade, for pointing out that Marshall needs to straiten this word out] job opportunities in the profession…

All the incentives of academic life drive against having the time, the need and in many cases the ability to communicate with a larger public. In some cases, that’s as it should be. In others, it’s about the straitened nature of academic life, specialization driven by bad job prospects, an over-abundance of Phds, and a deep, deep conventionality driven by risk aversion rooted in those other factors.

Dunned.

After seven months on the job, the president of Youngstown State leaves for another gig.

Dunn has a history of applying to presidencies, according to media reports. He was named president of Murray State University in Kentucky in 2006. He applied for several presidencies beginning in 2010 and his relationship with the university’s board of regents deterioriated.

Restless soul!

[T]rustees were unaware Dunn was seeking another job. Other trustees told the Southern Illinois University student newspaper The Daily Egyptian that they were blindsided and unhappy by Dunn’s actions.

To which UD can only say

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon Dunn’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.

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