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and Soltan isn't. For the life of me, I can't figure out her
politics, but she's pretty fabulous, so who gives a damn?"
(Tenured Radical)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A Bridge To FAU

The crucial thing to keep in mind, as the Barry Kaye/Florida Atlantic University story heats up (background here), is that this latest thing, this cruise, was educational.

That's why the university's president didn't use any of his vacation time for the eight-day first-class Caribbean jaunt Kaye gave him and his wife. He was learning something... or Barry Kaye was learning something... or something...

Let's try to unpack this, keeping in mind, please, that UD's mind isn't quite off the beach:

[President] Brogan did not take personal leave days for the trip because he was on official university business, according to the statement.

Kaye treated the Brogans to a first-class experience. Brogan and his wife stayed in Stateroom 1001, which according to the Crystal Cruises Web site is a 491-square-foot penthouse suite, complete with a private veranda, personal butler service, a Jacuzzi-brand bathtub, separate shower and bidet.

Bridge Holidays, the travel agency that booked the trip, paid $232 in gratuities. Bridge Holidays owner Roberta Salob said this is standard practice for travel agents. Bridge Holidays specializes in teaching the card game bridge to passengers [bolding UD's]. A financial form Brogan submitted to the state lists the trip as an "educational cruise."

"The term 'educational cruise' ... refers to the fact that this was an opportunity to educate Barry and Carole Kaye on the future growth of the university, and, in particular, the College of Business. It was not meant to refer to the 'bridge' component of the cruise," the statement [from the university] said.

Okay, so they book an agency that specializes in cruises that teach you how to play bridge... Did they get lessons? Even if they did, though, FAU students need to realize that their president isn't in fact calling a Caribbean cruise with bridge lessons an educational cruise.... No, it turns out that the education component of the trip was educating Barry Kaye in the future growth of the university's business school, a school he ultimately paid for.

Round these parts, we call that lobbying, not educating....

What else have we got here -- I'm reading through the recent article in the Sun-Sentinel... And keep in mind, too, all the sob stories you've been reading for the last few years about how devilishly hard it is to be a university president... the grueling nature of the job... which is why million-dollar compensation packages are to be expected... Here's an example of the sort of thing university presidents have to do: Eight-day first class Caribbean cruises for themselves and their wives on a donor's dime...

While Brogan's action appears to be legal, it shows questionable judgment, said Ben Wilcox, executive director of Common Cause Florida, a government watchdog group.

"If the president felt this was beneficial to the university, the university could have at least paid his way," Wilcox said. "If they're trying to cultivate [Kaye] for another large gift, you could argue that the university should be taking him on a cruise."

Yes indeed. In taking so much from Kaye, the university obviously puts itself in an awkward position.

"You want your president to be free of encumbered influences," said Mark Jackson, associate professor of chemistry at FAU. "You want him to make a decision based on what's good for the university, not Barry Kaye."

Earlier this year, some faculty members also questioned whether FAU was entering into a business relationship with Kaye when it co-sponsored two symposiums on life settlements, an area in which Kaye does business. With life settlements, private companies buy the life insurance policies of the elderly and collect when they die.

The newspapers have got their teeth in this one. There will be more stories. UD has already predicted at least a Pulitzer nomination for someone as they gnaw away at one of the more colorful university corruption stories around.

Thanks to Marcee.