Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Administrative corruption, part 1

Administrative Corruption, Part 1 of Many

By Professor Doom


     To take the Educational Research Methods course as a guideline, the following summarizes a graduate degree in administration: pay a large sum of money ($100,000 or more) to an institution for courses (plus additional fees if you need “help”), courses where there will quite conceivably be no actual learning of anything, then write a thesis supported by questionable statistics (again, “help” is standing by), and that’s it. The successful customer for these courses already has an administration position, and is basically paying off the institution to get a piece of paper, the better to qualify for vastly more pay and a promotion. So many administrators have these types of degrees that none of them look too closely at the supposed skills, lest their own bogus degrees are examined.

     In terms of personal growth, I can respect that someone, especially someone with much cash to blow, might want to “learn” this stuff in detail, even if I question the possibility of doing so in online formats. But administrators are paid quite well for having these advanced degrees, which seem to serve as nothing more than indoctrination into an educationist point of view. No student coming to an institution really cares if the administrators have excellent teaching and research skills, any more than they care if their McDonald’s cashier has excellent teaching and research skills.

     Considering the observed high proportion of customers looking for someone to write papers in Education or Administration, it’s no longer so odd that administrators don’t take a dim view of cheating, or have much respect for education…only the end goal of completing the program matters, not the means to the end.

     An entire culture was lured by the myths of higher education, little suspecting it was a system controlled top to bottom and beginning to end by an exclusive caste of rulers with no particular interest or respect for education, rulers that are in at least some cases holders of degrees achieved without learning anything, rulers who mutated higher education into their own image. Rulers paid very, very, well if they can but trap the culture into their own vision of education.

     Before moving on to examine tuition, I thought it best to list examples of outrageous administrative corruption suggested by how Administration programs operate. The Fall of the Faculty, by Benjamin Ginsburg, lists page after page of examples…at least 70 pages of examples, most only lightly discussed in a line or two, but I’m going to take some to time to write and examine a few of these in detail.

      First, I need to explain why this corruption is so easy, and why so many examples go on over the course of many years. There is no “check and balance” in the education system, due to a quirk of accreditation. Accreditation procedures, initially written by faculty over  a century ago, don’t address behavior of administrators—back then, faculty and administrators were the same people, with even high positions held by faculty members that had years of experience as faculty before becoming an administrator, and often intended to administrate for but a few years before returning to teaching and research, the primary goals of institutions of higher education (at least, before the administrative takeover).

     When administrators took over accreditation, they saw no reason to put rules on themselves…faculty have rules regarding inappropriate behavior, but not administrators. As an example I gave before showed, an administrator with bogus credentials won’t even be fired…while faculty with bogus credentials is removed from campus immediately.

     But it gets much worse. As you read these examples, realize, these are just the things that have been discovered. Much as it is almost certain the Sandusky Affair involved the rape of far more children than those specifically mentioned by witnesses in the trial, one should realize, due to the egregious nature of the examples given, that administrative corruption is almost certainly far, far, worse than I’m indicating, and this are not merely some long list of isolated examples.



      I begin with perhaps the weirdest case, that of Cecilia Chang, a Dean at St. John’s University in New York. Being a Dean, about the lowest level on the administrative rung, she made but a miserly $120,000 a year, over quadruple the average salary of a faculty member (at least when you factor in the low paid adjuncts). It wasn’t enough for her.

     To offset her crappy pay, she had St. John’s pony up $14,000 for her daughter’s wedding. St. John’s also coughed up her son’s law school tuition (meanwhile, an initiative for faculty to get tuition at their own institutions still dies every year….); her son also got a credit card, bills paid by the university.

     She wasn’t simply a loving mother, she also gave extravagant gifts to her superiors, at least $10,000 a year went to bribes gifts to keep her superiors looking the other way happy. Many of these things, including a Caribbean vacation, were clearly billed to the University…the weirdness of these bills somehow overlooked by the same type of financial officers that can’t find funds to replace light bulbs in our projectors.

     She gave the new University president, her new boss, an envelope full of $100 bills.  To his credit, he returned the money (the first envelope, anyway…), although once again there’s something between the lines that the new president missed: the only way she could have thought such a “gift” was appropriate for someone she’d never met was if she’d been doing the sort for quite some time.  I’ve been in academia for decades and I’ve never had a stranger hand me an envelope full of $100 bills, and those rare occasions where I, possibly, might have been offered a bribe were so circumspect (and so firmly turned down on my part) that I could never be certain.

     Bribery went both ways, of course, and Chang arranged for businessmen to receive “honorary” doctorates in exchange for donations.

     One the key themes of Ginsberg’s book is how administrators set up their own fiefdoms, and Chang is a great example of this—according to reports, she rarely even set foot on campus the last few decades of her 30 years “at” the institution. I guess administrators were too busy opening their gifts, and engaging in their own corruption, to notice something was odd, here.

     What really sets her over the top, however, was her scholarship program. Somehow, this administrator with no respect or appreciation for education (Chang had “assistance” in writing her doctoral dissertation in Education) was in control of awarding scholarships. She awarded these to the children of friends and acquaintances, with the obligation that they had to work 20 hours a week. This work was basically as her personal servants, from washing her car and household chores, to assisting in falsifying bills.


     “It’s nearly impossible to believe that she was able to behave this way without at least a wink and a nod from some at the school who benefited from her ‘generosity,’” said Alan Abramson, another of her attorneys.


     Finally, it was noticed that Chang’s fiefdom was costing around $350,000 a year (not counting her “scholarships for personal servants” program), wiping out whatever alleged money she was bringing in as a fundraiser. Finally, Change was brought to trial for extensive fraud; when it was clear she would lose, she went home, and committed suicide in November, 2012.

     Now, one might look at this as just a really weird case, but consider the decades she was allowed to openly engage in fraudulent behavior, think of her “scholars” washing her car…and consider how few questions were raised, even as her superiors were receiving cases of expensive wine on a yearly basis.

     Much as with the Sandusky Affair, a few brave souls did think it odd, but not enough. Chang probably committed an act of fraud every day for at least a decade before getting caught. What do you think the chances are of getting away with it for administrators that only commit fraud once a week?


Think about it.