Shirley Ann Jackson, Ruth J. Simmons, Robert L. Barchi, Phyllis M. Wise, Victor Dzau…

… the list of university leaders settling their greedy asses on corporate boards and drawing big money from them for doing nothing (except cutting into their university time by going to Hawaii for corporate junkets) is very very long; and even though they keep getting caught failing to disclose their several, often conflicted, board seats, these people keep doing it cuz man you don’t know greed and how it can drive you! You can’t hope to understand!

The latest corporate board scandal comes out of already insanely scandal-plagued University of North Carolina system, with its fake classes and shit. Take a place that’s already in deep doodoo and drive it yet farther underground: This has been the mandate of new head guy William Roper, who jest can’t seem to ‘member all the boards – some of whom do business with his institution – on which he has settled his ass. The local lamestream media insists on sticking its nose into his affairs, looking at forms he’s failed to fill out, etc., etc., and he’s pissed – as pissed as Shirley Ann Jackson used to get when people called her out (she had her people call her critics racists). From the height of his ass-cooling dignity Roper has issued statement after statement and you know what? It’ll work. UNC has suffered few negative consequences because it’s a jock-sniffing academic joke; Roper will suffer few negative consequences for his greed and deceit. UNC is what it is and life – in all its glorious scumminess – goes on.

Ubi est mea?

This was, you recall, Mike Royko’s famous proposed motto (Where’s Mine?) for the incredibly corrupt city of Chicago; it now clearly stands for the tragic city of Baltimore, whose already-hapless mayor has revealed not only her personal corruption, but – along the way – the corruption of the University of Maryland medical system board of trustees.

Tragicomic, really, since the latest confirmation of the link between urban collapse and systemic corruption comes from sales – make that non-sales – of children’s books the mayor wrote (maybe – maybe someone else wrote them for her), self-published, and then sold in bulk for permanent storage in a warehouse to the same UM med system on whose board of trustees she sat.

Nothing unusual about that arrangement, though — huge numbers of trustees were self-dealing through the hospital system. The head of the UMMS board of trustees is doing mucho harrumphing about “managed conflicts,” but the phrase managed conflict has about the same persuasiveness as the phrase managed massage in the mouth of Robert Kraft.

Oh and here’s another fraternity with no adults in the room (see the post just below this one).

Although in the case of this fraternity – a medical one – they don’t bankrupt, overmedicate, pointlessly medicate, or kill each other.  They do that to us.

Everybody knows.

A bunch of nasty stuff goes on among groups of elites that everybody knows about but can’t do anything about because it’s hidden. Only when someone – a reporter, a whistleblower – blows their cover does anything happen. And even then, nothing really happens. I mean, there’s a reason they’re called elites; there’s a reason people resent elites.


Two examples, starting with the more recent:

1. A very high-ranking cancer researcher at Sloan Kettering has for years and years failed to report his financial conflicts of interest. He just don’t do it, folks, and everyone has let him get away with it even though it’s an enormous no-no. (Best headline: “Top Cancer Expert Forgot to Mention $3.5M Industry Ties.”)

Ethicists say that outside relationships with companies can shape the way studies are designed and medications are prescribed to patients, allowing bias to influence medical practice. Reporting those ties allows the public, other scientists and doctors to evaluate the research and weigh potential conflicts.

This guy was chief medical officer.

Jeffrey S. Flier, who was dean of the Harvard Medical School from 2007 to 2016, said medical leaders should be held to a higher standard.

“The higher you are in the organizational structure, the more important it is that you fulfill those obligations,” he said. “You’re not just another faculty, you’re also a faculty to whom other people look up and your reputation is tied to the institution’s reputation.”

Like wink wink if he doesn’t do it we sure don’t have to do it. It’s a win-win situation and we all make lots of money. Look how much more he’s making than his paltry $1.5 million (in 2016; figure it’s significantly more now) salary! What a role model!


In statements to industry analysts and the American Association for Cancer Research, Dr. Baselga praised two drug trials that many of his peers considered failures, without mentioning that the trials’ sponsor, Roche, had paid him millions of dollars.


How much more?

Look, I’m too grossed out by the final paragraphs of the NYT article, which list his takings – I mean haha some of his takings because for sure he’s still hiding a hell of a lot even from the nosy NYT guys. Read them yourself.

My favorite part of these stories is always the boards these people sit on. Money for Nothing is the title of the best-known book about board-sitting, and this guy hauled in hundreds of thousands by doing absolutely nothing.

In an editorial, the NYT says: “Ban paid appointments to outside boards… [When] appointments come with payments that meet or exceed a doctor’s existing salary, the process is almost certain to be corrupted, and public trust is sure to be undermined.”


A letter-writer at the Times poses a really naive question:

[H]e received a salary in 2016 (the most recent data available) of more than $1.5 million from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he is the chief medical officer. This is a princely sum, which, given the work he does, no one should begrudge him.

But it appears he also earns uncounted millions more in consulting fees, director’s fees and ownership interests from businesses directly involved in the areas of his expertise, and he is criticized for not fully disclosing this in his professional writings evaluating the products of some of the companies that pay him large sums.

But I would ask another question: Why isn’t $1.5 million enough?

Recall the classic porn film – Never Enough.


The main point UD‘s making in this post, however, is that the scheme doesn’t work unless this guy lives in a closed world of fellow privileged who all agree to keep their traps shut in order to protect their privileges. The scheme works for years – the guy is about to turn sixty – until maybe some grotesque bad fortune falls out of the sky and an outsider squawks.

The guy resigned immediately.

But don’t worry about him. He’ll be fine.

2. The now-notorious letter sent secretly (or so its authors thought) to NYU, threatening to do whatever angry groups of elites do if you come down too hard on someone in their group, has generated plenty of anger and plenty of thoughtful writing about the same subject: How groups of powerful people (here professors) protect bad actors among them. As with the Sloan Kettering guy’s nondisclosure, what went down was routinely corrupt behavior until someone decided to intervene.

But again, as with the cancer researcher, the result of the exposure is embarrassment and some docked salary. A lawsuit or two. Things are a bit bumpy, and they’ll stay a bit bumpy for awhile, and then these groups will reconstitute themselves.

[T]he commonality of all of these people is the entitlement. Do as I say, not as I do. We see this so often in the exemptions politicians create for themselves, and the same can be said for highly profitable executives and physicians, whose organizations exempt them from scrutiny as long as the profitability is in their favor. Do you really believe CBS didn’t run a cost-benefit analysis on retaining or removing Les Moonves?


It’s just as Kurt Vonnegut said in Slaughterhouse Five:

Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.

This is why men make very poor media …


Cremo Brain

Applying chocolate to your football concussion is a surefire way to treat it, but only if you apply one specific make of chocolate, according to a University of Maryland study paid for in part by the maker of the chocolate.

Given that university’s recent move to a much rougher football league, these findings couldn’t be better timed. In fact it’s one of those win-win-win sort of things, making everyone happy – the chocolate manufacturer, the study’s author (the study has drawn national attention), the university, and chocolate-loving, concussion-prone Americans everywhere.


Sure, there are naysayers. There were naysayers when the University of West Virginia, with money from Coca Cola, produced research that showed sugary drinks have almost nothing to do with obesity.

Scientists like those at the University of Maryland must simultaneously publish their research (well, the Maryland research hasn’t exactly quite yet been actually what you’d call published) and endure the disconfiture caused their institutions by a cacaophony of critics.

It’s a dark, bittersweet chapter in the history of the University of Maryland.


UD thanks Elizabeth, a reader.

Update, Ezra Merkin.

[W]hat are we to do about those of dubious stature who procure naming rights to adorn their philanthropies? Teaching my section of [Columbia University’s] Contemporary Western Civilization, I have several times used a classroom designated the J. Ezra Merkin classroom. Philanthropists pay to name everything. Hospitals have named elevators and named water fountains. Mr. Merkin was a hedge fund tycoon who fed funds invested with him into the operations of the swindler Bernard Madoff. Sued by New York State’s Attorney General for (in the words of the New York Times) “deceiving his clients by collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in management fees, when, in fact, he was just funneling money to Mr. Madoff rather than investing it himself,” Merkin agreed to pay a $410 million penalty.


A Columbia University professor notes one of the few remaining public appearances of Ezra Merkin’s name outside of a courtroom (for background on Merkin, type his name into my search engine).

Ever since his BFF went to prison, Merkin’s life has been an absolute flurry of lawsuits, darling. Plus he had to sell all his Rothkos and stop being president of a synagogue and chair of Yeshiva University’s investment committee and all. He’ll spend the rest of his life in courtrooms. He’s being sued by everybody.

On the other hand, students contemplating contemporary western civilization can gaze up at a name supremely iconic of contemporary western civilization.


One bit of good news for Merkin: He will be immortalized by Lewis Black.

American Academe’s ‘Centers for the Absorption of Federal Funds’…

… chronicled in this book, are entertaining places, and no doubt this new year we’ll continue following them at their most efficient, at the nation’s for-profit colleges.

But this country’s Centers for the Absorption of Corporate Funds deserve equal attention. Indeed these are arguably even more entertaining places, because while the federal government simply acts the well-meaning idiot as it dispenses hundreds of millions of dollars to hedgies pretending to run schools, corporations are often brilliant operators with bad motives — and it’s always more fascinating to watch the strategic villain than the bumbling good guy.

UD doesn’t claim that corporations looking for academic respectability in order, for instance, to hook America on opioids, always exhibit strategic brilliance. Crucially, they must identify research units within American universities able to balance compromised data (papers and presentations must uncover the urgent necessity plus the safety of massively increased pain pill intake) with the continued appearance of scientific integrity, a scheme fraught with difficulty. It’s not uncommon for reporters, and even politicians, to notice that a place like the University of Wisconsin’s Pain and Policy Studies Group is an almost wholly owned subsidiary of pharma, as it stashes away more and more OxyContin money while pumping out more and more Oxy Rocks! research.

Coca Cola, fast food, over-prescribed anti-depressants, over-prescribed anti-psychotics for toddlers, Dr. Shkreli’s Miracle Elixirs… All of these substances need whitewashing, and the university is where that happens. When things get too obvious, or when from the start they’re mishandled (remember what brought down Virginia’s last governor), the Centers suddenly shut down, or suddenly announce they’ve decided to stop taking corporate money…

Wolves of Pharma at the Door – Way Past the Door – of the American University.

“[Martin] Shkreli has become the Wolf of Pharma Street — he’s basically come to represent everything … bad and wrong with pharma,” Art Caplan, a medical ethicist at New York University, said by phone. And while Shkreli may be reviled, said Caplan, “he’s not doing anything in terms of prices that other companies haven’t done.”

This blog, dedicated to universities, has over the year pointed out the ways in which America’s predatory pharmaceuticals industry has compromised our academic institutions. Some of pharma’s corruptions are crude and overt: Med students have been so hounded by pharma (and other health industry) reps – med students, right? not even docs yet, but people who will at some distant point be docs – that to defend themselves their organization (the American Medical Student Association) established its now well-known Conflict of Interest Scorecard (UD‘s own George Washington University languishes near the bottom), which ranks such delicacies as GIFTS, MEALS, and of course GHOSTWRITING (a category all its own here at University Diaries).

Several of the best-compensated professors at American med schools are walking around with the names of the very dirtiest companies (GlaxoSmithKline Distinguished Professorship). Quite a few professors are themselves little more than pharma shills, given the riches they’ve accepted from the industry. Because of pharma, academic experimental protocols and published results are often tainted; because of pharma, research subjects may be treated unethically. Because of pharma, the fifteen-million page Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (At Least One Billable Diagnosis For Every American!) has become a joke.

Some of pharma’s academic depredations are more covert. For instance, on the board of trustees of the University of Chicago sits Gilead’s John Martin, a far more powerful and destructive icon of greed than measly little Shkreli.

“There is a sense that the university is reeling.”

UD hasn’t encountered many totally corrupt American universities. We’re not like Italy and Greece, where one can find schools whose main function is to transfer all available funds to the institution’s leadership. The closest we’ve come is the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and even there they’ve had to shutter much of their shake-down operation after endless unpleasantness with the FBI. (I’m of course talking here only about legitimate universities. The for-profit tax syphons are almost entirely about transfer of all possible funds to management and investors. Whole other category.)

But the University of Louisville, some of whose students and faculty, as a local reporter notes, are “reeling” from one financial or sexual scandal after another, is emerging as America’s new UMDNJ. And it might be instructive to pause at its latest scandal – high-level med school resignations in the wake of an FBI investigation into allegations that (in the words of the only worthwhile UL trustee – a man who subsequently left the board in disgust) a university vice president “owns a piece of a company getting paid by a part of the university that he controls.” It’s alleged that he and several of his UL cronies have essentially stolen around eight million dollars from the university.

No bid contracts and bogus high-paying jobs to friends and family also seem to be part of this particular scandal. But that’s the typical threesome at corrupt schools, where no one’s around to stop you from total corruption:

1. conflict of interest for personal enrichment;
2. no bid contracts to cronies (these often feature kickbacks to you);
3. the creation of pretend jobs for cronies and relatives.

At schools like UL, you don’t do just one or two of these things; you do them all.

How does a school become systemically rotten in the way UL is systemically rotten? How did things get so out of control in virtually all areas of the school’s operation? (I’m not even going to talk about UL athletics, which has been a sewer for years.)

If you ask UD, this can only happen when absolute ignorance of – maybe even contempt for – the nature of a university prevails not only in parts of the local culture (that y’all and shut ma mouth land) but in the president’s office and on the board of trustees. UMDNJ was run by brainless Jersey wise guys; UL seems to be run by corporate backslappers. Even now, with the school in absolute tatters, UL has chosen as its spokesperson a look on the sunny side nitwit who attacks the press for its negativism, denies anything’s the matter, and says stuff that’s too stupid to parse:

“I’m not willing to cross that bridge and give you any information that’s going to appease your accusations.”


A school run – flamboyantly run – largely to make money for the people who lead it will attract unsavory people. Unsavory people want to work at places like UL, since it seems unlikely that anyone at the institution will impede their corrupt activities. This is the way that corrupt schools stay corrupt, and indeed tend to become more corrupt. They attract corrupt people.

UD predicts that UL will, under this extraordinary pressure, finally ditch its president, who has lost all vestige of institutional control. But getting rid of him will cost the school many millions of dollars, and the chance of replacing him with anyone better is small.

Temple’s Mount

Temple University’s most high-profile (and at the same time most low-profile — as a member of the board of trustees, Bill Cosby attended one meeting in thirty-two years) sort-of graduate likes to drug and mount women.

This predilection has caused some difficulty for the school, which did manage to dismount him from the BOT, but has not been able to sever the intimate relationship between Cosby and his defense lawyer, who doubles at chair of the Temple BOT.

Taking a page out of Yeshiva University’s book, Temple has decided that pretty much any conflict of interest can go down if there’s disclosure. We’ll see how that goes.

Why universities are always getting wedgies.

Paid shills are always wedging themselves onto university faculties. These people are essentially lobbyists, spokespersons, promotional writers, and any other form of cheerleader you can think of for corporate and government uglies desperate to look less ugly. Think pharma and big oil. Think rich dictatorial post-communist and middle eastern states. These guys want to look legit, and there’s nothing like a life-sized professor doll who, when you pull its string, says A liberal application of antipsychotics will make America’s children all better or Gaddafi represents the middle east’s great democratic hope or the fossil-fuel industry and climate change have nothing to do with one another or Azerbaijan is one hell of a country and a crucially important security partner for America.

These people are often outed, and when they get outed the university gets a wedgie, which is to say that nothing much happens except that the university gets its knickers in a bit of a twist. The Deniability Office is called into play, and it says This person isn’t on a tenure-track, pays her own salary, is an adjunct temporary visiting part-time what was the name again…? Most of these people don’t even lose their academic affiliation. Instead, petulantly, under orders from their department chair, they, okay, disclose on their stupid publications that, okay, their work is paid for by the people they’re praising in the publications, okay? Are you satisfied? Are you happy now? Sheesh!

“Potti’s mentor, cancer geneticist Joseph Nevins, pleaded with Perez not to send a letter about his concerns to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which was supporting him, because it would trigger an investigation at Duke, according to a deposition cited in court documents.”

It’s often only years later, when the lawsuits start teasing out emails, that you understand how certain harrowing instances of university research misconduct get to the point where, as at Duke University, “the methods used by [a] research group [weren’t] validated — and yet they [were] being used to assign patients to clinical trials.”

And just as in the University North Carolina Chapel Hill academic fraud case the (ignored, defamed) whistle blower was a person who ranked low in the local hierarchy, so in the Duke case, Bradley Perez was just a medical student, and when he complained to the now-notorious Anil Potti about the bogus research Potti was involving Perez in, the faker drew himself up to his full measure of fakery and told Perez “he takes it as a personal insult if people don’t believe in what he is doing.”

Perez persisted, casting about for other administrators who could help him put an end to Potti’s fraud. They weren’t helpful. They still aren’t. Two of Duke’s highest level administrators – Sally Kornbluth and Victor Dzau (famous Victor Dzau!) continue to insist they knew nothing about Perez’s early and frequent warnings.

Did Kornbluth know about the Perez case? Did Victor Dzau, who was then Duke Chancellor?

The answers are yes and yes.


One scientific observer, considering this case as it has now revealed itself, comments:

“There is more to this story than the heroic and principled actions of an erudite young man and the shame that has befallen a great university in blindly and selfishly defending its own. It is indicative of a lack of understanding of the scientific method among many scientists… The Duke scandal is extreme, to be sure. But irreproducibility in academic research is common. And the reward structure and complacency of universities is to blame.”

There’s money on the table, in other words, so let’s not fuck it up.

Barry Freundel, Yeshiva University Grad and Yeshiva University …

faculty member, brings yet more notoriety to that notorious campus, home of Bernard Madoff, Ezra Merkin, Zygi Wilf, and a whole cast of other conflict-of-interest-mad characters. Yeshiva University has for some time been American academia’s highest-producer when it comes to both sexual and financial scandal, and now, with the ribald rabbi and his radio, the school is definitely maintaining its record.


But then Modern Orthodoxy just seems to roll that way.

If the allegations against Freundel are true, they confirm the worst suspicions about the status of women in Orthodoxy: that the all-male rabbinical clubs support their own members in their efforts to control women’s bodies all the time. Freundel, after all, is suspected of using his authority to grab what he wanted from unsuspecting women.

… The award-winning film “A Tale of a Woman and a Robe,” by the Israeli filmmaker Nurit Jacobs Yinon, painfully demonstrates how the experiences of female converts in the mikvah violate their most basic dignity. Three male rabbis watch every woman dunk in the water, as she is naked except for a robe or sheet separating her skin from the rabbis’ eyes. Some rabbis interviewed in the film — including the Israeli modern Orthodox rabbis David Stav and Beni Lau — admit that this practice is humiliating for women, but describe their own helplessness in changing the practice.

… So did Orthodoxy make Freundel a sex offender? Not directly. But it enabled him. Orthodoxy creates an awfully comfortable place for men with sexist and misogynistic predilections and is built around a tight posse of men willing to support each other no matter what the crime.

Same tight posse of men works the Yeshiva University financial magic.

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.

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