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When it comes to university presidents looting their schools, America lags well behind Greece, where the chancellor of Pandio University set the standard by leading (he was only found guilty of failing to note the illegal removal of ten million dollars of university funds, but he seems to have personally benefited from said removal) an extensive conspiracy of robber-administrators. The Greek state gave the school money; the school’s leadership took the money – that seems to have been the straightforward approach – and bought the stuff listed in this post’s headline.

Here in the States, the business of leaders draining millions and billions of university funds is more subtle, more complicated. President Lawrence Summers’ mad insane interest rate speculation cost Harvard one billion dollars but I mean … you know … he meant well. Yeshiva University’s trustees no doubt thought they were enriching the school as much as themselves by their extensive conflicts of interest coupled with avid investments in pieces of work like fellow trustee Bernie Madoff. In the event, they cost the school $1.3 billion.

Not that we don’t boast a few Greek-style university presidents. Karen Pletz, while president of Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, allegedly paid for her Lexus convertible and a series of amazing foreign trips by the simple expedient of removing what these things cost from the university’s reserves and placing those sums in her private account.

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James Ramsey, now routinely described as the disgraced ex-president of the University of Louisville, stands somewhere between high-minded removalists like Summers and flat-out Ferrari larcenists. UL let him, over the years, grow to a big strapping tyrant with his fingers all over every money source available at this public institution in one of America’s poorest states.

I say let him, but as Pandio and other examples suggest, it takes a village to pillage. Ramsey surrounded himself with what one retired UL professor, reviewing the school’s sordid history, calls fellow pirates – people who took as much pleasure in pillaging as he, and who of course had no cause to expose his piratical deeds.

Dennis Menezes, who spent almost forty years at the U of Smell, takes a sentimental journey through some highlights:

Robert Felner, the former education who ended up doing jail time for misappropriating millions of dollars; Alisha Ward siphoning of hundreds of thousands of dollars from U of L’s Equine Industry Program; “Sweetheart contracts” at the College of Business, where administrators continued to receive their significantly higher salaries even after stepping down from their administrative positions, a practice rarely seen at other universities; the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen by Perry Chadwyck Vaughn at the School of Medicine…

At some point the leadership of a university gets so notoriously filthy that career criminals like Felner make a point of applying to work there, thus amplifying the pirate-load. I mean to say that when Menezes tries to puzzle out what makes a university a criminal enterprise, he fails to land on the obvious: Once your university is known to tolerate – nay, encourage – piracy, pirates from all over the world get on board.

The journey to just awful is smoothed by other campus assets, in particular — natch — sports. Let me suggest how this probably works at places like U of L, where, you recall, an entire sports dorm was transformed into a whorehouse for the use of recruits and their fathers. The pattern at sex-crime-crazed places like Penn State, Baylor, and Louisville is for the president to be invisible while the AD, the actual president of the school, does whatever the fuck he and his massive program like. At criminal enterprises like U of L, a president like Ramsey actively takes advantage, let’s say, of all the big scandalous sports noise in the foreground to quietly do his removalist thing.

More than that, enormous sports programs tend to bring quite a few truly scummy and twisted people to a campus and reward those people with enormous salaries and enormous respect (if they win games). Over time the powerful and often scummy sports contingent defines the ethos of the whole university, as in: Jerry Sandusky was EMERITUS PROFESSOR Sandusky at Penn State, I’ll have you know. UD attended a Knight Commission meeting in DC where a coach at a local university stood up and insisted that athletic staff at American universities should have professor status. “They’re educators as much as anyone else. It’s elitist to think otherwise.” So athletics, at many universities including Louisville, certainly does its bit to vulgarize and corrupt everyone, making it much easier for already sketchy people like Ramsey to assume they’re living in a sleaze-friendly world.

UD ain’t saying you must have a big sports program for endemic corruption, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

Anyway. This post is long enough. We’ll be following U of L as they try to decide whether it’s worth suing Ramsey and his pirate crew to get back some of the many millions they removed. We’ll also follow U of L’s difficult effort to find a new president. Would you want to preside over a school suing your predecessor for millions of dollars? Hell, the thing could even end up in criminal court.

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2 Responses to ““The court heard of the building and refurbishing of luxury villas, the acquisition of expensive cars such as a Ferrari, holidays on exotic locations and so on – paid from university funds.””

  1. charlie Says:

    So a coach thinks he and his cohorts are educators as much as anyone else. As a former teacher, I knew my ability could only be measured by the academic achievement of my students. Were they more critical in their thinking, could they intelligently discuss the subject’s first principles, that sort of stuff. I guess if a quarterback can call an audible, or a corner recognizing a pass pattern, could only come about from good coaching. So that coach might be on to something regarding teaching. But what nation regards sports as an academic discipline? I learned poker from my uncle. I guess he’s a professor.

    UD, a question. Could you have written this post when you began this blog? When did you become knowledgeable enough of uni sport’s corruption to put this piece together? This should be a guest op-ed at a journal of record..

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Thank you, charlie. And that’s a good question. I don’t think it’s so much knowledge as years of acquisition. I’ve been blogging a long time, and my memory is still pretty good, and I’ve collected tons of stories. So when any particular story breaks, I’ve got lots of stuff to pull from and think about.

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