‘Eventually, Piketty says, we could see the reëmergence of a world familiar to nineteenth-century Europeans; he cites the novels of Austen and Balzac. In this “patrimonial society,” a small group of wealthy rentiers lives lavishly on the fruits of its inherited wealth, and the rest struggle to keep up.’

What’s the good of majoring in English? Reading Austen will put you on a fast track to understanding the world to come, the world, according to the hottest book out there at the moment, that we are already beginning to see emerge. The concentration of unimaginable wealth in private hands, coupled with remarkable and increasing rates of income inequality, is producing Austenland.

And – to stay with the university for a moment, since it is after all the subject of this blog – we can, relatedly, see emerging … call it The Benefactor Quandary… or call it less formally the Madoff Mess… the Milken Mess… the… Firtash Mess?

Dmitry Firtash is a tragic figure, a harmless well-meaning oligarch caught up in the cruel tides of history. After quietly amassing billions and billions of dollars for himself and his loved ones through massive corruption, he made the mistake of simply being Ukrainian… And here comes the US government after the dude because he’s a friend of the Russkies and we’re pissed with the Russkies! So now he’s been arrested and he’s gonna be extradited to New York or Washington or someplace near UD‘s house so we can make mock of him and take all his money and throw him in jail.

But meanwhile, what interests us here at University Diaries, is this:

A Ukrainian energy tycoon who has made considerable donations to the University of Cambridge has been arrested, with campaigners saying the university must review its ethical investment and donations policy as a result.

Yes, Cambridge fell for Firtash’s oily (if you will) charm and now it’s official knowledge that he’s a crook whereas when they took his many millions in donations it was only privately bruited about that he was a crook.

What to do?

The guy’s been washing his rep via big bucks to Cambridge exactly the way so many somewhat crooked one percenters do at various academic institutions – remember, Steven A. Cohen is still a trustee in good standing of Brown University – and now Cambridge looks like an enabler. This for that – twenty million dollars in exchange for we shed our sweetness and light upon you…

Expect to see more of this as our wealthy rentiers go restlessly in search of legitimacy.

New York University Students: Say Hello…

… to the leadership of your university, the boys of Kappa Beta Phi.

While you’re at campus events listening to administrators intone about diversity and social justice, four of the people who run or have run your school – Fink, Langone, Lipton, and Grassomeet in secret to say what they really think.

Oh, and if you’re a student at the University of Richmond, or Columbia University, or … UD ain’t got time this morning to study the entire membership list (though she will say that any woman who belongs to this club should see a psychiatrist pronto), but there’s a fighting chance a trustee at your university is on it… But anyway for sure if you’re at Columbia or the University of Richmond you have an opportunity to get up close and personal with the leadership of your school…

UD will admit to being fascinated by the… pincer movement by which the contemporary American university is dominated on one side by mindless reactionary jocks and on the other by mindless reactionary vampire squids. No wonder our schools have to hire increasing numbers of earnest high-minded speechmakers – the pressure at either end is killing them. (As longtime readers know, this is UD‘s theory as to why, after Larry Summers, Harvard felt compelled to hire Drew Faust, whose manner is that of Ma Ingalls, to, er, re-rhetoricize the school. UD predicts that Faust’s successor will be Garrison Keillor. It’s getting truly desperate out there.)

The University as the Heart of Darkness

Enter the University of Nevada Las Vegas board of regents warily.

It is as Freud wrote of entering the darkness of the soul:

No one who, like me, conjures up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human beast, and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed.

It is as Joyce wrote of the obstetrical theater:

Enter that antechamber of birth where the studious are assembled and note their faces. Nothing, as it seems, there of rash or violent. Quietude of custody, rather, befitting their station in that house, the vigilant watch of shepherds…

The psychoanalyst conjures what is darkest in us; the obstetrician conjures the violence of the birth trauma. Yet both are shepherds, custodians, healers …

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art…

You see the paradox…

And, in some similar sense, to enter that antechamber wherein reside the darkest, most primitive forces of the American university, and then to enter into what Blake called Mental Fight with them, is to emerge scathed. To read – to try to understand – the words and acts of the most primal energies at work in that bastion of enlightenment, the university, is to sense what Marlow must have felt in the forest of shrunken heads.

Let us then in studious quietude listen to them, the trustees of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, as they give a football coach with a 12-37 record a vast raise; as they build for a university community that does not attend football games a vast new football stadium; as they generate a $2.7 million athletics program deficit and make students and taxpayers deal with it… Let us hear their words.

“Maybe we’re being a little generous, but I thought about some of the other factors that were occurring,” Regent Robert Blakely said. “We’re in the process of trying to build a stadium. Having a successful football team is the biggest linchpin. Giving the football coach more of an incentive probably isn’t a bad plan.”

“I’m not enamored with the contract either,” Regent Michael Wixom said. “But I don’t want to jeopardize the momentum (Hauck) has created. [The coach's most recent season was 7-6!] If we reject the contract, I’m afraid it will do immense harm.”

Regents directed Chancellor Dan Klaich to form a committee to look at best practices in contract negotiations with athletic coaches. However, Regent Allison Stephens said she wanted to see fair-market value and adequate compensation for coaches.

“I just fundamentally disagree that our role in fiscal management means that we have to nickle and dime and negotiate down people working in our institutions,” she said.

Some in the public, who came to support [the coach's] contract renewal, agreed.

A $200,000 annual salary increase “is peanuts in the long run,” Rich Abajian, general manager for Findlay Toyota’s board of governors, told regents. “Football is the program that can pull you out of budget problems. … You’ve got to pay money to make money.”

It’s official.

UD parses the latest story from the indispensable Todd Wallack…

… of the Boston Globe.

Wallack has way-doggedly gone after greed in academia and environs. When greedy academia and environs snarls back at Wallack with lawyers and public relations, Wallack just keeps going, publishing story after story until the truth is accepted by everyone except those whose livelihood depends on continuing to lie for greedy a&e.

And speaking of greed: Understanding postmodern American levels of greed is key to understanding Wallack’s latest story, about the ex-president of Brandeis University.

People are trying to explain the downfall of Virginia’s governor in terms of the insane disparity between the wealth of his fundraisers (with whom he and his wife hobnobbed) and the wealth of the guv and the missus. These two had to destroy their lives and make Virginia a laughingstock because of their need to keep up not with the Joneses but with people at the level of Jamie Dimon.

And speaking of Dimon, you cannot understand his just-announced 74% raise unless you understand that he operates within the same painful income-inequality-in-America reality. The gap between Bob McDonnell and other millionaires was as unconscionable as the gap between Jamie Dimon and other billionaires. One of these two was able to find justice legally; the other seems to have been driven to a life of crime.


Ainsi, once you grasp the levels of greed-jockeying we are now, Year 2014, talking about, little in the story of sadly undercompensated Jehuda Reinharz will surprise you.

… Reinharz earned more than $600,000 in 2011 to serve as president emeritus, a part-time advisory role, in addition to receiving $800,000 that year in his new job for a Cleveland philanthropy.

But when you throw everything else in

… Reinharz is expected to collect roughly $8 million from Brandeis after stepping down as president…

Pretty much everyone at the school except the trustees is outraged. Because

… the school has long claimed social justice as one of its core values. Reinharz’s pay also came at a time of rising tuition and as the university was facing steep budget cuts that forced it to slash employee benefits, lay off staff members, and even explore the idea of shutting down a beloved campus museum.

In response to the outrage, Brandeis has graciously decided to

… include a faculty representative on the committee that sets executive pay …

which means that right now they’re racing desperately around the business school looking for the richest b-school professor on the faculty. Only a professor also running a hedge fund can understand executive compensation at these levels.

The Brown University Observer

Like the New York Observer newspaper, Brown University must by now be well-practiced in observing its highest-profile trustee, Steven Cohen, as he tries to avoid going to jail.

… Nick Verbitsky, the director of To Catch a Trader, told [the New York Observer] that the FBI has confirmed they are looking at three other stock trades that Mr. Cohen could personally be charged on.

Yes, it’s quite the cat-and-trustee game. Keep your eye peeled, Brown.

“[W]hat [Steven] Cohen has done at SAC Capital is make a mockery of the fundamental sanctity of the capital markets, yet again raising the question of how and why such a rich and powerful man continues to avoid the prison time he appears to so richly deserve.”

Pish posh. The man is currently the highest-profile trustee of one of this nation’s great universities. How dare you say he deserves prison.

This preview of Frontline’s “To Catch a Trader”…

… (it’s on tomorrow night) features a great photo of Brown University’s most high-profile trustee, Steven Cohen. He’s dressed up as a king who plays golf.

Brown University to the SEC: Catch our Trustee If You Can!!

[The SEC's] pursuit of [Brown University trustee Steven] Cohen has been compared to Captain Ahab’s quest to vanquish the White Whale. Preet Bharara’s investigation into insider trading in the hedge-fund industry has already led to the convictions of former Galleon Group founder [and high-profile University of Pennsylvania donor] Raj Rajaratnam and former Goldman Sachs director and McKinsey managing director Rajat Gupta. Rajaratnam is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence, and last year Gupta was sentenced to two years in prison. Bharara says the U.S. Wall Street insider trading investigation is ongoing.

It’s become quite the cat and mouse game between Brown University’s Steven Cohen and law enforcement. Does someone in Brown’s English department teach Melville? There’s a great opportunity here to spice up the Moby lecture:

So powerful and persistent a metaphor has the Ahab/whale struggle become that we encounter it in the media’s account of our trustee Steve Cohen’s white whale-esque evasion of capture (so far!) by “Ahab” Bharara …

Tomorrow night, Brown has a rare opportunity to model for its students how to become a success in life: Frontline is featuring the university’s highest-profile trustee in a special report titled To Catch a Trader. UD hears echoes of To Catch a Thief in that title, but that’s probably just her.

“Why SAC Capital’s Steven Cohen Isn’t …

in Jail.”

Brown University’s highest-profile trustee misses it by a hair’s breadth. Whew!

Dressed down…

… but still sent up.

Brown University’s highest profile trustee sees another one of his employees go to prison. Is Brown’s Steven Cohen next? Will he preside over that university’s decision-making from prison?

“We also believe, however, that transparency, clarity about the causes and extent of the current financial problems—and accountability—are essential if we are to understand the institutional practices which have led to the current crisis and be able to move forward together in a productive way.”

The faculty of Yeshiva University, through all these years of scandal almost entirely moribund, begins to stir.

UD has no idea why they let shady trustees and their useful tool president fuck over the school for so long.

It’s too late, in any case, to avert disaster. UD recommends faculty stop calling themselves professors and start moving the word facilitator around on their tongues. It’s University of Phoenix time.

Finita la Commedia!

Or is it just beginning?

[N]o one could possibly be that good given the volatility of the markets. “As we know, markets go up and down, and his only went up.” … [Harry] Markopolos noted that during his tenure at Rampart, he traded with some of the biggest derivatives companies in the world, and none of them dealt with [Bernard] Madoff because they didn’t think his numbers were real.

Markopolos is talking about the year 1999. It wasn’t until Bernard Madoff was arrested in 2008 that Yeshiva University – under cover of night, without comment – erased his name as chair of its business school. This was farcical enough, but Yeshiva went farther: It invested huge sums with the financial criminal of the twenty-first century. “We thought he was God,” said his fellow trustee, Elie Wiesel.

One appreciates Wiesel’s honesty. He is willing to state openly just how stupid, just how grossly negligent, were the conflict-of-interest crazies running Yeshiva University.


The excellent Gavriel Brown, who writes for YU’s student newspaper, provides a detailed account of the manifold ways in which the very same fools, who continue to run Yeshiva, have now run it into the ground. The column even provides an edgy graphic (scroll down) complete with smugly grinning President Richard Joel. Brown concludes:

YU can no longer be an empire and President Joel can no longer be an emperor.

Yes, especially since he turns out to be Nero.


But the farce deepens yet more. The comments on Brown’s column are from outraged Yeshiva insiders who cannot believe that anyone in the Yeshiva family has the shamelessness to air this dirty laundry. How dare he! The next thing you know, someone will point out that the family that endowed an entire Yeshiva campus – the Wilfs – just got convicted of racketeering. That Ezra Merkin held as powerful a position as Yeshiva trustee as his partner in crime, Madoff. That the board of trustees has long been farcically rife with conflict of interest.

Of all the investment managers in New York City and around the world, the board chose one of its own to manage a significant portion of the university’s endowment. Given the conflict of interest, the trustees who approved the decision to invest endowment with Madoff should be held accountable if they failed to perform adequate due diligence.

Do you think anyone has been held accountable? Well, put it this way. Do you think that Zygi Wilf has been removed from Yeshiva University’s board of trustees?


You want farce? An American university priding itself on its piety as the higher education arm of the orthodox Jewish community resembles a criminal enterprise. It seems to be run by an emperor. It is cheered on to annihilation by idjits. That’s farce.

Attention, Brown University!

Once you finally get Steven Cohen off your board of trustees, here’s one hell of a target of opportunity: Daniel Vasella.

He just got here. Get him while he’s hot.

“The letter also called for … the creation of a committee that would vet potential new Corporation members.”

Yikes. Brown University couldn’t have that. Student input on Corporation membership would almost certainly have vetoed Steven Cohen and Steven Rattner.


UD thanks Roy.

The polite, incredulous Brown Daily News continues to cover the filth-accumulating career of the university’s highest-profile trustee.

What else can it do about the ongoing reign of trustee and national disgrace Steven Cohen? What other attitude can the student editors bring to its university’s leadership closing ranks around this man?

One of America’s great universities apparently means to wait until the head of the world’s dirtiest hedge fund is personally sent to jail.

[T]he threat of further criminal action still looms…


The policy of Brown University in the matter of Trustee Steven Cohen can be summarized by paraphrasing Robert Emmet.

When my trustee takes his place among the jailbirds of the earth, then and only then let his epitaph be written.

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