Credentialism and Corruption: Vile College Presidents Edition

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I haven’t posted on higher education before, and a series of posts on credentialism really should focus on the institutions where those credentials are, in the main, granted. But rather than a serious analytical piece on the state of the university, this will be a light-hearted romp through some spectacular examples of executive malfeasance at NYU, Baylor, and Penn State.[1] (Tomorrow I’ll look at the adjunct system, and potential effects of yesterday’s NLRB decision. And there will be more posts to come on this topic, as I come to understand it better.)

Before I begin, though, let’s recall Zephyr Teachout’s definition of corruption. Not a quid pro quo — that’s the Citizen’s United doctrine, now supported by the Clinton campaign — but the use of public office for private ends. What does corruption look like in a university setting, given that some universities are private to begin with, and that “ends,” in the ancient and tricky academe, may not always be immediately evident?

Here’s a story from the University of Maine, Maine’s “flagship” university. Our last President, Robert Kennedy, gave the contract for sports broadcasting to ClearChannel, thereby moving the profits out of state, because he took the contract away from Stephen King’s radio station (yes, that Stephen King). Naturally, this ticked King off, and King — up to that point the university’s largest donor, and the funder of many good works round the state, like dental clinics and libraries — decided he would no longer give to the university. (Kennedy then rorated out to the University of Connecticut, for a hefty salary increase, where he was shortly axed by the Regents for a cronyism scandal. Dodged a bullet, there, Maine!) Dollying back to the larger picture, King came up through the much despised and derided English Department, in the humanities, which powerful institution forces in the administration and the Board of Trustees are shifting resources away from, in favor of more pragmatic, “business-friendly,” corporate majors (graduates, that is, that they themselves can hire[2]. Even though King was the university’s largest donor.)

Is there corruption here? I would argue yes, but I’m not sure that Teachout’s definition quite meets the case. The corruption I’m going to describe seems more along the lines of converting a public institution to serve private purposes (assuming higher education to be a public institution, which I do, because education is a public good)[3]. This is evident from the King story in two ways. First, Kennedy is only one of many university administrators who stay a couple years at an institution, punch their ticket, and move on to a higher salaried position elsewhere. Second, optimizing university curricula, grounds, personnel decisions, etc. for corporate ends is about as corrupt as you can get (as are the concomitant rationalizations and cover-ups that occur when scandal breaks). Now, human nature being what it is, a certain amount of empire-building and concern for one’s rice bowl has always been inevitable, but when greed for one’s self, or one’s class, becomes the institutional driver, it’s time for a thorough cleansing.

With that, let’s look at the case of John Sexton, once President of NYU. (NYU is an important nexus for the Democrat nomenklatura, so we’ll have more to say about NYU in the future.)

John Sexton, NYU

John Sexton (salary: $1.5 million) was President of New York University from 2002 to 2015, and for a portion of that time doubel-dipped as Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. For the connoisseur of corruption, his long tenure provides an embarrassment of riches — the union busting, the faculty no-confidence votes, the Abu Dhabi debacle (among other issues, the campus was built using slave labor), the lavish compensation packages, the tacos made from endangered shark meat — but I’m going to focus on just one. The apartments. No, I don’t mean the faculty apartment NYU remodeled for Sexton’s son:

NYU gave president’s aspiring actor son apartment on campus

Jed Sexton, whose sole affiliation with NYU was his status as the president’s son, for years enjoyed a spacious faculty apartment while the university experienced a “severe” housing shortage, The Post has learned.

In spring 2002, NYU ordered that a pair of one-bedroom apartments normally reserved for law school faculty be combined into a lavish, two-story spread in the heart of Greenwich Village, property records show.

The Harvard-educated Sexton, who was a 33-year-old aspiring actor at the time, shared the new duplex with his newlywed wife, Danielle Decrette, for the next five years, according to documents and people briefed on the situation.

That’s despite the fact that NYU officials, just weeks earlier, had warned in a written report of a “severe housing shortage” for faculty, “especially of larger units.”

How cozy! No, I mean the vacation properties, plural, that NYU under Sexton doled out as perks to insiders:

NYU Offers Top Talent a Path to Beachfront Property

New York University students carry some of the highest debt loads in the nation, a fact they are bound to remember through gritted teeth when they read the New York Times report about the school’s loans to top faculty for vacation homes in places like Fire Island and the Hamptons. The loans, which have gone to at least five faculty members in the medical and law schools as well as university president John Sexton, sometimes get forgiven over time as their recipients continue to work at the university. Mortgage loans apparently aren’t unheard of as compensation packages for professors and executives in tight real estate markets, but they’re usually for homes, not vacation properties.

From the New York Times, which broke the story, it seems that Sexton gifted himself a house, an “an elegant modern beach house that extends across three lots”:

The house, which is owned by John Sexton, the president of New York University, was bought with a $600,000 loan from an N.Y.U. foundation that eventually grew to be $1 million, according to Suffolk County land records.

Others, too:

Since the late 1990s, at least five medical or law school faculty members at N.Y.U. have received loans on properties in the Hamptons or Fire Island, in addition to Dr. Sexton.

NYU’s Chief Financial Officer Martin Dorph argued that arrangements like this are necessary to retain top personnel:

While that feeling is understandable, it is important to note the economic truth that the markets for different positions often dictate different levels of compensation, whether that is embodied in salary payments, loans, or an overarching agreement about terms of employment. And, when we commit to provide such compensation, we do so only when we are sure

that the benefit to the University far exceeds the cost.

First, CEO compensation and shareholder returns are inversely correllated; even if we grant Dorph’s premise, and a corporate model for the university, it’s just not clear that top compensation means top talent. Second, why doesn’t NYU simply pay its talent more? Why complicate matters by bringing in vacation housing? Why not just write a fatter check? The answer can only be arbitrage of some sort: NYU giving access to property that otherwise isn’t on the market, tax advantages of some kind, a better rate on the mortgage, or whatever; some way in which NYU uses its muscle on behalf of the compensated. But that is, precisely, converting a public institution to serve private purposes. Not to mention Sexton openly using NYU facilities to house his son and for his own vacation home on Fire Island. Come on. Why is that not self-dealing? And the rest of looks suspiciously like powerful faculty members feathering their own nests. “Why not? We deserve it.”

Naturally, NYU has learned nothing, and is in fact doubling down: “N.Y.U. President’s Penthouse Gets a Face-Lift Worth $1.1 Million (or More).” For Sexton’s successor, Andrew Hamilton (salary: not disclosed):

The 19th and topmost floor of the building will be turned into a master-bedroom suite, where Dr. Hamilton will have private exits — one from the bedroom and one from the bathroom — onto a terrace overlooking Washington Square and, to the south, the financial district skyline, according to documents filed with New York City.

“Private exits.” Perhaps he’ll need them.

Ken Starr, Baylor University

We now turn to the simpler case of Baylor President Ken Starr (salary: $1 million), last seen unloading a dumpster-load of lascivious footnotes onto the steps of Capitol Hill during the Lewinsky matter (thank you, Monica, for helping to save Social Security from Bill Clinton). Former Manhattan assistant DA Bennett L. Gershman has a good summation, in full “What did he know, and when did he know it?” mode:

Baylor University, the country’s largest Baptist university and a bastion of Christian values, has just been denounced in a blistering report by the University’s Board of Regents for “mishandling” — covering up might be a more apt description — credible allegations of horrific sexual violence against female students, especially alleged assaults by members of the football team. The Board of Regents said it was “shocked,” “outraged” and “horrified” by the extent of the acts of sexual violence on the campus, which covered years 2012 through 2015, and the failure of the University to take appropriate action to punish violators and prevent future violations. The Board issued an “apology to Baylor Nation,” fired the football coach, and “transitioned” (the Regents’ term) Baylor’s President, Kenneth Starr, to the role of Chancellor. Starr also was allowed to retain his lucrative Chair and Professorship of constitutional law at Baylor’s law school….

As Baylor’s president from 2010 to 2016, the vexing question is the level of Starr’s culpability for the “shocking,” “outrageous,” and “horrendous” sex scandal. What exactly did Starr know? The allegations of sexual violence on the campus were rampant and notorious, especially by the football players. Starr had to know something about the extent of the University’s response to the complaints, and most likely the failure to address these complaints properly. Indeed, there were several Title IX investigations by the Justice Department at the time that Starr must have known about. Moreover, there are plenty of egregious examples of sexual violence on the campus that had to have been reported. In one egregious case, an All-Big 12 football player was accused in 2013 of sexual violence against a student. Although Waco police contacted university officials, nobody in the university investigated the case until two years later, after a Title IX investigation was underway, and media reports highlighted the case. This was after several other Baylor football players were indicted and convicted of sexual assaults. It was only then that the University hired an outside investigator. Notably, the headlines also prompted a public outcry, and a candlelight vigil at Starr’s residence.

The Board of Regents Report describes the breadth of the independent investigation into the university’s failure to properly address the University’s dereliction. The investigators interviewed numerous University officials, but there is no mention whether they interviewed Starr, and if so, what he may have said. … Starr may have claimed to be unaware of the repeated failures of university officials to investigate these complaints, but is that contention credible? Starr presumably had to know that aggressively investigating these allegations — indeed, as aggressively as he investigated the sexual misdeeds of President Clinton — might have interfered with his intensive multi-million dollar fundraising efforts to build a new and lavish football stadium, which opened in 2014. And Starr may have believed that getting too deep into the mud of the roiling sexual scandal would undermine the public perception of Baylor’s “Christian commitment within a caring community” — again the Board of Regents’ description — as well as compromise the heroic efforts of the Baylor football team to win a national championship.

So Starr is no longer the university’s president. To be sure, it’s a demotion of sorts. He was allowed to keep his Chancellorship, which he just relinquished, but he still gets to keep his Chair and Professorship at the Law School. One might think this is not a very harsh result, certainly not if Starr knowingly violated federal law, or by his deliberate indifference allowed serious criminal conduct to take place at the university he led.

Alternet is, as one would expect, a bit more direct in connecting the dots:

Not to put too fine of a point on it, but Ken Starr is accused of ignoring sexual violence at Baylor University mostly because doing something about it would have jeopardized a cash cow.

(Note that the disgraced Baylor football coach’s salay, $6 million, was six (6) times college President “Judge Starr.” Starr will also retain his position on the faculty. Priorities!) The New York Times says what Alternet says, in its own more muffled language:

[Baylor] also fired the football coach, Art Briles, whose ascendant program brought in millions of dollars in revenue but was dogged by accusations of sexual assault committed by its players — an increasingly familiar combination in big-time college sports.

“Was dogged by.” What we have here is a football team acting as a standalone, dominating entity, rather like a parasite controlling the behavior of the host univeristy:

Among the firm’s findings was that football coaches and athletics administrators at the school in the central Texas city of Waco had run their own improper investigations into rape claims and that in some cases they chose not to report such allegations to an administrator outside of athletics.

By running their own “untrained” investigations and meeting directly with a complainant, football staff “improperly discredited” complainants’ claims and “denied them a right to a fair, impartial and informed investigation.”

Starr wanted the revenues. Briles wanted the revenues, the facilities, the salaries, the ticket to be punched, etc. Again, this is quite directly converting a public institution to serve private purposes. And like NYU, Baylor appears to have learned nothing. Starr still has a job, and was never censured. The full report was never released. And from an ad taken out by Baylor alumni: “Thank You Judge Ken Starr — For your integrity, leadership, character and humble nature.”

Eric Barron, Penn State

Finally, we come to Eric Barron, President of Penn State (salary: $1.2 million with incentives). I’m not going to focus on whether Penn State hiring Barron in the wake of his dubious handling of a festering rape scandal at Florida State was odd, or not. And I’m not going to focus on climatologist Barron’s relationship with Koch Brothers funding. Or his conflation of “incredulous” with “incredible”; who among us, etc. No, I’m going to focus on this amazing piece of puffery. From an interview with Barron on “entrepreneurship” and “proactive leadership”:

ERIC J. BARRON: We actually have launched a whole program, which is titled “Invent Penn State,” and there are several different elements of this. One is to do more to incentivize people on campus to get their ideas out into the marketplace. We have many, many student events that are competitions and have scholarship funds at the end of it. The second part of it is to add more visibility to our intellectual property. A third part is to build an ecosystem around our campuses that promote startups and partnerships with communities.

A general view, in my opinion, is that many universities are focused on this topic as a source of revenue, not as educational experiences for students and opportunities for them to do startups. We have a lot of effort on the student side. The minors have expanded. I think we have six or seven entrepreneurship minors now that are embedded in curriculum for different colleges if you want. Last year, we started having any student with any major to be able to get all the credits equivalent to a minor in business. There’s a lot on that side plus startup weeks and other activities with a scholarship side of it.

We have funded but have not yet cut the ribbon on a total of 20 incubators and accelerators around the state of Pennsylvania associated with our campuses. In March, we cut the ribbon on what’s called Happy Valley Launch Box, which is here in State College, with the idea of having 30 startups in there at any one time. I think we had about 15 before even 30 days. All of these have gone through some sort of vetting process or competition for which they were winners. It’s growing just left and right. Many of them, we’ve given them seed money and they’ve gotten many times more money from their community and other partners that want to enable the students.

Never mind converting an entire student population into “winners” and “losers.” Never mind that 90% of start-ups fail. Never mind that when startups succeed, it’s as much a matter of luck, and especially the luck of having been born into the right social network. Thomas Frank has already described Barron’s program, and where it leads. This is the innovation cult! Quoting Frank once more:

I just finished Thomas Frank’s excellent Listen, Liberal, and he has a great rant about “innovation,” of which I will show a great slab here, from p 186 et seq. Frank even helpfully quotes the more egregious bullshit tells, so I don’t have to highlight them! Do read it in full. After visiting hollowed out mill town Fall River, Frank goes to Boston:



Let’s also leave aside the issue of whether “innovation” culture increases “income inequality.” Suppose Penn State structures its curriculum to optimize for startups (and not for education as such; critical thinking skills, the construction of narratives, the sciences, research, even (relatively) humdrum majors like accounting). What happens to the students when 90% of their startups fail, as history tells us they will? What will they have to fall back on, if everything has been optimized for startups, and the rest of the university’s assets have been stripped?

The future lies ahead on that question. For now, I’m uncertain whether “the innovation” cult is corrupt as such, or not. Certainly it provides almost limitles opportunities for backscratching, logrolling, bezzle creation, and so forth. And Barron seems to conceive of it as a big revenue generating opportunity for Penn State (rather like the football team, if it comes to that). If the program fails, and is seen to fail, will Penn State learn from the experience? It’s hard to know, but Barron’s handling of the fallout from the Sandusky matter does not inspire confidence.


So, what we’ve got here is an NYU President handing a New York apartment, meant for faculty, to his son, and what looks rather like powerful faculty members feathering their own nests with cheap housing; we’ve got a Baylor President not wanting to cross a powerful and wealthy football team, even to the extent of failing to handle a rape scandal; and at Penn State we’ve got a President who’s a member of the “innovation cult,” when it’s not at all clear this will benefit the student body as a whole. Have any of these institutions learned from these experiences? No. Are these college Presidents personally responsible for corruption at their universities — for converting a public institution to serve private purposes? Sexton and Start, yes. For Barron, the jury is still out.

And these are the institutions of higher education that are granting credentials. Not a good look. More examples from readers welcome!


[1] I should disclose my priors and/or prejudices: I’m a university brat with a humanities background. Family tradition mandates that I instinctively distrust college administrators, Big Football, fraternities, and sororities (and, my parents would urge, for very good reasons). Only the first two will be at issue here.

[2] That is, they’re creating hires, as opposed to creating graduates some of whom might be creative enough to come up with businesses that compete with their own.

[3] If you think that implies that neoliberalism is intrinsically corrupt, since it will put everything up for sale, including itself, you’re not wrong.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. pretzelattack

    iirc starr’s work as independent counsel helped (was the biggest factor maybe) in getting the job at baylor.

    1. Adam Eran

      Yep, and the fabulous irony is that he lost his Baylor job for lack of thoroughness in investigating sexual assaults….proving God has a sense of humor.

  2. Anonymous


    ‘First, Kennedy is only one of many university administrators who stay a couple years at an institution, punch their ticket, and move on to a higher salaried position elsewhere.’

    I think this perfectly describes what I’ve observed with public school superintendents also. They are like ‘The Music Man.’ Selling dreams that our children will be smarter, better looking, and above average if we just get with the program. While our school district has a local in charge who appears to be here for the long term, a neighboring district had a ‘Music Man’ or rather, woman, who got the city to float a $10 million bond issue so every fourth grader could have an I-Pad. She then left to do the same (for a higher salary) in another state. Another, much poorer, district nearby wanted to get rid of a super who had allegedly threatened subordinates with bodily harm: they bought out her contract for $300,000. In a county with a population of 20,000 and ten percent unemployment.

    It is not only at the college level that those in charge are engaging is questionable behavior. It is a society wide problem.

    1. Jagger

      It is not only at the college level that those in charge are engaging is questionable behavior. It is a society wide problem.

      That is my impression as well-corruption is a society wide problem from top to bottom. The small town mayors, courts, police, newspapers, insiders, etc may be playing with small potatoes but corruption is corruption whether it is $1000 or a $1,000,000. I know it can’t be everyone with a little power but way too many. Makes you doubt the whole system.

  3. Arizona Slim

    Greetings from one of those coworking spaces that Mr. Frank took to task in Listen, Liberal.

    Let me tell you a dirty little secret about this place. And, no, I’m not talking about who left a lunch in the fridge for too long. This is an even dirtier secret. Here it is:

    Most of us are not innovators.

    That’s right. I said it.

    The truth is, most of us are working on things that are, well, pretty run of the mill. Guy behind me is doing digital marketing work for his out-of-state employer, an ad agency. Lady over there is doing marketing for a resort in Mexico. Oh, and the guy who’s my best friend here? We’re both photographers. His other main hustle is graphic design and mine is writing for business.

    We have a handful of what could be described as startups, but those businesses are definitely in the minority.

    1. a different chris

      Well we don’t need a sh&t pot full of “innovators”…. we need people that can do what they do well. Does everybody have to create something “new”?? I don’t think so.* Edison wasn’t the greatest guy in the world overall, but as he said getting something up is 99% perspiration and only 1% inspiration – I think he would have spit at the word “innovation”, btw.

      In fact, he has another lesson for the “innovators” in that a lot of his perspiration was generated due to his efforts in stealing ideas from other people. Which is going to happen to almost all of the (if we take their optimistic slices) 10% that do come up with something anybody cares about.

      *For a good example, I love the improvement of the American pub scene over the past few decades. But the best beer and grub isn’t the best because it is “innovative” — sometimes it is a bit different, sometimes not — but because it is very, very well done.

    2. Wait, we pay you enrich yourself?

      Slim, in your home town town there is one of the perfumed princes that could have fit nicely into Lambert’s post. Us AZ residents are paying neoliberal scumbag a premium price for their “talents” of enriching themselves.

      Super scum:

      Oh, and if you are referring to the same work space, I worked for a total pump and dump “startup”, there.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Oh, brother. Ann Weaver Hart. Don’t get me started.

        Okay, I am started. So, here goes …

        A couple of summers ago, I was meeting with a longtime acquaintance and potential client on the University of Arizona campus. Madame Presidente was about to move her office into Old Main, which is the UA’s oldest building. It’s revered as this sacred space. Or something like that.

        Any-hoo, I was in a pretty spacious office in a building near Old Main. But my meeting host told me that Ann Weaver Hart’s Old Main *bathroom* was bigger than that office.


        Oh, as for the work space, were you involved in the one that had a pirate theme? Because that place was — and is — full of pump -n- dump startups.

          1. Steven

            Used to be no one could touch Arizona for stupidity and corruption. Guess we are just going to have to try harder.

  4. Jim Haygood

    ‘King came up through the much despised and derided English Department, in the humanities.’

    Although not a product of the English department at my alma mater, Whatsamatta U., I knew some professors in the department.

    To a naive student with no experience in institutional politics, their stories of resentment, gossip, backbiting, and the politics of personal reputational destruction were like a glimpse into an unimagined world.

    1. Wait, we pay you to enrich yourself?

      It used to be that there was a saying in academe: the competition is so great because the stakes are so low.

      But, if there is a path to six or seven figures, now I see that there is serious cash to be banked to justify working in the university racket.

        1. Uahsenaa

          Nowadays I bristle when someone describes me as “faculty,” even though it’s technically correct, because it papers over the fact that some of the people doing the exact same job as me have full employment, a full salary, and fringe benefits, where the people in my position get paid per credit with no benefits. We are “permitted” to buy into university health insurance, at full cost, but that’s the extent of our bennies.

          If you’re getting to the employment situation in a further post, I’ll save my more extensive comments for that.

  5. DanB

    Update: one of the articles cited in this essay says Ken Starr resigned from Baylor Law School and severed all ties with the university this past Friday.
    As someone who has a university background, as a grad student in three different universities, and short stints as a faculty member and an administrator (I was shoved out/left in disgust from administration)- I attest that this kind of neoliberal thinking, which automatically generates converting public responsibility to private advantage, is commonplace. As readers here know, the university is a place where one must strive to present oneself -and simultaneously fool oneself- as creative and independent-minded within the confines of the matrix. This is most pronounced in the professional school because they are most beholden to corporate money. A final note: you will find the best to the worst of humanity in universities.

    1. Torsten

      David Riesman: “I would never advise anyone to go into teaching because the people are so nice.”

    1. KurtisMayfield

      You forgot to mention she was a Senator’s daughter. That one is a combo of both government, corporate, and university corruption. Well done!

  6. Torsten

    I have to repeat my favorite historical anecdote here (h/t the late, great Paul Goodman, from his Compulsory Miseducation, I believe).

    It seems that in the summer of 1650, while the faculty was away helping in the fields, Henry Dunster sold Harvard to a group of Boston businessmen, creating the first Corporation in the New World, and making himself “President” thereof.

    Now Wikipedia claims that Dunster “set up as well as taught Harvard’s entire curriculum alone for many years, graduating the first college class in America, the Class of 1642”. So perhaps Dunster was simply ahead of his time in creating the prototype for Trump University.

  7. Ulysses

    Administrators in academia hold themselves to the same high ethical standards as officials in government. In other words, they do whatever they can get away with, and then sputter about future “transparency,” and “doing better,” when their misdeeds come to light.

    This blather from Austin, Texas, could just as well have come from Washington, D.C.:

    “I’ve read the report a half-dozen times in totality, and I found no willful misconduct, no criminal activity on the part of any of the folks at the University of Texas at Austin, and have told the Board of Regents that I intend to take no disciplinary action,” he said.

    “Can we do things better? You bet,” he continued. “Should we have been more transparent? Absolutely. Are we going to get this fixed? No doubt about it.”

    Mr. Powers pushed back against the report’s suggestion that he had not been forthcoming, saying he had been “truthful and not evasive” in his dealings with investigators.

    Investigators took a different view…. “

  8. ekstase

    Just a hypothetical question: what would one do if they felt they were losing some of their idealism?

  9. Foppe

    My $2c; apologies that they’re a bit unpolished: One question you/we might ponder is how (a desire for) obvious nepotism engenders privatization, versus more “principled” demands for privatization of public goods/services. To give a very brief summary of the developments since WWII inspired by my reading of David Harvey’s The Enigma of Capital: privatization became important once western economies ‘matured’, because of how this meant that there were ever fewer (obvious) opportunities for growth. And secondly because, once more and more people started getting degrees, there was an explosion in the number of people who were “trained” (only) for middle/upper management positions; for who there was fairly little demand in public institutions, probably because workers had decent unions/voice, so that the people who ran those places couldn’t easily justify managerial metastasis and the taking away of job-related autonomy (to create demand for “decision-makers”) by creating cultures of institutionalized distrust (via yammering about the importance of “accountability”). (Though the latter was/is still an issue, it gets worse the more neoliberalized the organizational mode gets, because of neoliberalisms implicit (rational-actor) misanthropic world view.) Those developments strike me as separate from the more narcissistic (professional class/meritocratic-reasoning)-related forms of corruption/grift/etc. that you discuss above, though.

    1. Foppe

      (To clarify, Harvey doesn’t talk about professionalization; that’s just me combining observations made by Graeber with those made by Tom Frank in Listen, Liberal.)

        1. Foppe

          Harvey’s book is great; as for Frank & Graeber, I was thinking of Graeber’s remarks about what he (in Debt) calls the crisis of inclusion (which he’s also talked about elsewhere, e.g. in the Army of Altruists essay in Revolutions in Reverse). Graeber there (as I assume you recall) only talks about the fact that those who don’t belong to what Frank calls the professional class (and those who self-identify with them), only have the army and the church open to them if they wish to pursue goals other than accumulating money/power; yet the higher-ed explosion must’ve also had enormous consequences for the supply of people with managerial and similar training. But I only started pondering that question recently, after reading Frank woke me up to the obvious.

  10. Lord Koos

    How about Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha — who managed to screw up the school’s endowment that had been in place since 1859. Check out the movie “Ivory Tower”.

  11. Fool

    NYU is a school run by money, and it’s so transparent that for a board populated by billionaires, run by a press-shy guy who helped a lot of them become billionaires, that they prop up the flamboyant Sexton’s supposed fundraising abilities and “imperial” presidency. Fortunately for Sexton and NYU, he’s paid enough money to take the press’s lashings like a good boy. But surely such a mediocre pedant isn’t the mastermind behind the bloated, technocratic, real estate development company and vanity project (which also offers classes, which are taught by #publicintellectuals).

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        NYU: a real estate development company with a tax-exempt higher education subsidiary.

      2. Michael C.

        Lambert, please read prior to article on adjuncts. It may help you in researching the article.

        I am an adjunct in the Midwest at a public university made famous in May of 1970. Make sure your article on adjuncts includes public universities. Also, Ohio has this tidy language in the Ohio Revised Code (Chapter 4117: PUBLIC EMPLOYEES’ COLLECTIVE BARGAINING), with this handy language put in by the Republican controlled state house–along with the usual suspects from the other side of the aisle: “(14) Part-time faculty members of an institution of higher education.”

        Line 14 is the line that excludes part-time faculty (also known as adjuncts or contingency workers, part of the precariat class) from being recognized as a collective bargaining unit should they form a union.

        Part-timers are unable to get enough classes due to the ACA (Obamacare) since universities do not want to pay for health insurance and keeps them under 28 hours. They also make an estimated one third of what a full time tenure track teacher would make teaching the same class. Many, like Walmart employees, have to rely on public assistance and food stamps. And, they are being excluded from collecting unemployment in the summers, even though their short term contracts do not guarantee them work in the Fall, and even though their pay ends at the end of the Spring semester due to the contract. The legalise used by the university to deny them unemployment is that they have “reasonable assurance” they may work in the following semester, even though they have no reasonable that this is the case.

  12. Carolinian

    Pam Martens has written several posts at Wallstreetonparade talking about NYU’s corruption, connections to Wall St, and Jack Lew. Don’t have links handy but easy to Google.

  13. Anon

    I would like to point out that Chancellors Linda Katehi (UC Davis)and Nicholas Dirks (UC Berkeley) have both recently resigned under pressure from UC Top Honcho Janet Napolitano. It seems Administrator transgressions (impunity and self-dealing) are finding its way into the “sunlight”.

    1. Elizabeth

      Also at UC Berkeley, don’t forget the sexual harassment going on with the former law school dean, a world renowned astronomer and one of the assistant coaches who were all forced to resign because of the outcry from students and faculty- up until then the university took no action. Even though the law school dean resigned, he will be teaching law making most of his salary as when he was the dean. Same with Linda Katehi – she will be teaching electrical engineering making her enormous salary. Millions were spent on Nicholas Dirks’ mansion to install a fence around the property and escape exits when things get a bit rough.

      The corruption of our institutions in every aspect of our society is so pervasive I can’t keep up anymore.

  14. Knute Rife

    Some people starting up can get “small loans” of $1,000,000 from the old man and have those kinds of resources to fall back on if they flop. The other 99.99% of us? Not so much. How is this innovation dogma supposed to work for those of us who can’t buy our way into the Creative Class?

  15. Ain't going there

    Murdoch University, Australia

    Queensland University, Australia

    Monash University, Australia

    University of New England, Australia

  16. Synoia

    This is all very foreign to me. Universities in the UK did not have “endowments.”

    Mine, a college of London University, was state funded, state run, and not a place where one could consider working a job while attending university, as lectures and labs consumed 45 hours a week, and study another 20 to 30.

    If you failed a year, you were out. There was no accumulation of credits, it was up or out.

    There were no tests, no grading just one 3 hour exam, 5 question out of 8 (except for mathematics), for each subject per year.

    And the education was free. Only 3-5% of people in the UK attended University.

  17. Ché Pasa

    As many readers here point out, these examples mirror the general state of academe. And that state is mirrored throughout the finance, business, marketing, administrative and governmental realms at home and abroad.

    In essence, these levels of bad behavior and poor judgment are darned near universal among the class of people we’re dealing with. Not only are they not nice people, in many cases, they are dumb as a box of rocks — except when it comes to squeezing the teats of the system. There, they excel.

    Makes “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” seem quaint, now, doesn’t it?

    The question is, what do you do about it when it is universal?


  18. JamesG

    No sane bank officer would make a loan secured by a vacation house on Fire Island.

    Frequent storms have a way of turning such houses into piles of sticks.

  19. Penny

    Neglected but key to the mess described is the importance of student loans. These extravaganzas are funded by 18 years taking on debt which they will spend the rest of their young adult years repaying–that’s where the money comes from. And that is why they should be jailed.

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