Senator Charles Grassley echt-American right-wing nerd – and Andrew Ross – left Euro hipster – find common ground in their disgust at the big-money machine New York University has become. Both wonder why a non-profit uses its extensive tax breaks to bleed its students for tuition, underpay its faculty, and give millions of dollars to administrators.

The culture gap between faculty and administration is pretty staggering lately. We’re scrambling to offer unpaid MOOCs; they’re looking for more Helen Dragas and Steve Cohens to put on the university’s board of trustees.

And indeed herein lies the problem, if you ask UD. Ross asks:

“Faculty who don’t necessarily get concerned with governance issues or for whom academic governance is not something that turns them on, these revelations I think turned the stomachs of a lot of people,” Ross added. “Just the scale of the payouts, multimillion dollar loans, multimillion dollar homes that were purchased, and the salaries. They really add up to a package of questions that have led to requests for further investigations.”

Part of the answer to this package of questions involves that board of trustees. NYU’s – like most fancy schools’- is dominated by hedge fund managers and the like. This means that over the last couple of decades the people with whom administrators consort on a daily basis are multimillionaires and even (Steve) billionaires. Larry Summers, Ruth Simmons – their immediate world has been the world of Goldman Sachs, where earning less than twenty million dollars a year is a mark of shame.

It’s not merely that high-ranking administrators these days consort with hedgies; like presidents Summers and Simmons, they often are hedgies, or they sit on the boards of hedge funds.

Trustees have always been rich, of course; but when ascending to an administrative university position now means that your compensation standard rises from six figures to seven or, uh, ten (Steve), you are going to feel compelled to shake down the school for big bucks. Otherwise you won’t be able to live with yourself.

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One practical recommendation for NYU from UD: Book a Greg Mankiw “politics of envy” talk and make faculty attendance mandatory.

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2 Responses to “Stomach-turning greed makes strange bedfellows.”

  1. dave.s. Says:

    “..they’re looking for more Helen Dragas and Steve Cohens to put on..”

    How should I chose?
    1. Helen Dragases and Steve Cohens
    2. Helens Dragas and Steves Cohen (prissy?! but fun?)
    3. ..more trustees in the mold of Helen Dragas and Steve Cohen..

    It’s not like the fundamental thing here is ‘Helen-ness’ or ‘Steve-itude’. Nor is it ‘Dragosity’ or ‘Cohen-ism’. I think the fundamental thing is ‘trustee of whom UD disapproves’ – right?

    Dragas seems kind of a bully, but she is trying very hard from all appearances to think what the institution needs in heavy weather ahead. Cohen’s problems seem to be related to his outside activities – have we heard stuff about his trustee activities having been positive or negative for the institution?

  2. Bill R Says:

    ..why a non-profit uses its extensive tax breaks to bleed its students for tuition, underpay its faculty, and give millions of dollars to administrators…

    Because they can.

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