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The Press Continues to Press
July 10, 2007 - 7:10am

By

UD

Not to get all sentimental about it, but one of the highest purposes of a free press is to expose corruption. For a variety of reasons, people don't think -- don't like to think? -- of universities as institutions particularly susceptible to corruption. We idealize the American campus insanely. Yet in the years that UD has kept a blog that follows American university life, she's spent a lot of time chronicling corrupt professors, administrators, trustees...

Last year's big university corruption story -- one that continues to resonate -- was the student loan scandal, which exposed rampant conflicts of interest among loan officers at a number of schools. Today's New York Times describes a related scandal, also involving university decision-makers extracting goodies from corporations eager for their business, a most whorish practice, in which you pay me for an hour or so of my time... you know, just to be with me... show me what you got...

As the Times piece acknowledges, Inside Higher Ed has been all over this one:

"For the last five years, CraigMichaels has organized a 'Higher Education Business Summit' that draws university financial officials and companies willing to pay thousands of dollars for access to them. It promises that any officials attending are senior enough to be decision makers.

A year ago, the online publication Inside Higher Ed raised questions about the ethics of the format. But the company has continued its conferences, and many university officials still attend. Besides the business summit, the company has held a 'K-12 Business and Technology Summit.' And coming up is a 'K-12 Business Operations and Facilities Summit.'

The sustainability conference here at the [New Mexico] Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa ... mixed university, school district and hospital officials who paid roughly $1,000 for three days."

The real sustainability question is whether, under public scrutiny, the prostitution of university officers can continue. I mean, the scheme's a great promotion-incentive device -- "Tamaya Spa... Must become a senior decision-maker..." -- but it also, to state the obvious, creates conditions for the overfondness you tend to feel for your main squeeze.

Longtime readers of UD's blog know that she is herself particularly fond of what she calls (following Saul Bellow) Reality Instructors. These people invariably rise to the occasion on occasions like these, lecturing naive and ignorant us about the ways of the world. Here's this story's RI:

'"It doesn't bother me," said Lisa Glover Henderson, director of energy initiatives at the University of Rochester. "That's part of the world we live in today. I don't think there is a conflict."'

Sing it, sister! Part of the world we live in today! Just the way it is!

Yet, again, once the slightest public attention presses on these sorts of practices, they're shut down, as in this farcical sequence:

'The American Council on Education, using a fund-raising technique worthy of a presidential campaign, created a President's Circle; corporations that pay at least $200,000, according to the Council's Web site, get opportunities for meetings with university presidents and chancellors. The money is used to support programs and research, officials said.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, said that the President's Circle was created two years ago and that no such meetings had ever been held. Mr. Hartle also said, just a few minutes after a reporter asked questions about the offer of access to senior officials, that the council decided to remove the provision.'

Inquisitive reporters and cynically ill-served students are also, after all, part of the world we live in today.

 

 

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