Pay to play scandal just part of Higher Ed fraud


\"BESTIES:It really is amazing how ridiculously corrupt higher education is; any story that tries to focus on one scandal can’t help but running into two others. A recent article by Jon Cassidy at really drives home the point as it merely tries to cover one aspect of the fraud…but I’ll try to point out a few others going on that the article overlooked.

Pay-to-play scandal involves UT dean, Texas Exes

The short discussion of the scandal is as follows: in order for his son to get accepted into the business/graduate school, the father offered to pay a “donation” of $25,000 to the school/administration. The business school is hardly elite, accepting some 70% of applicants; the son had been rejected, however, and so the father was motivated to offer an extra enticement.

I’m not pro-bribery, mind you, but I’m not sure I follow the distinction here; administrators already get “bribed” via tuition money to let students onto campus (it’s why so many campuses are “open admission” now, after all). Having already accepted bribes, why is taking two bribes a scandal?

That’s the main gist of the piece, and while I mostly see their point, they gloss over other aspects of the immense fraud in higher education.

Anyway, the offer of the extra $25,000 payment was accepted, but there were some strings attached:

“…will be admitted into McCombs upon completing several of the prerequisites (e.g. Calculus, Statistics, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics) with good grades (around a 3.5 GPA). Will that work?”

This strikes me as a perfectly reasonable counter-offer…the son was clearly unqualified to enter graduate school. I can’t help but notice here that the son has seemed to have skipped over some of the “real” courses he needed to take. That’s a whole semester of hard core work he missed, more like a year. How did he get a degree without taking any courses like those? What was he taking instead? Why did his advisor put him in crap courses, leaving him totally unprepared for the graduate school that, apparently, the son wanted to go to? Those are some simple questions an article investigating bizarre goings-on on campus might ask…there are many frauds suggested there.

And so we’re at our first overlooked fraud. See, in times past, you really couldn’t get a degree in rubbish, and you couldn’t just register for rubbish, semester after semester, and eventually graduate. Instead, you had a faculty advisor, one who actually gave a damn about students, who would do things like ask the student what he wanted (eg, “do you want to go to business graduate school?”) and make the student register for the courses he actually needed to succeed (eg, “if so, then you need drop out of Women’s Studies and African Studies, and instead take Calculus and Statistics”).

Alas, those days are gone. Administration now controls higher education, and tricks students into taking years of crap coursework that don’t in any way help the students achieve their goals. It’s one of several good reasons we now have hundreds of thousands of college graduates in minimum wage jobs today. An educator cares about education, and would help the student. An administrator cares about retention, and thus stuck this poor kid into coursework that, while very easy and great for retention, left him far behind his peers and unable to work towards his goals. An extra $25,000 from the father still won’t help educate the son.

Of course, there’s one more fraud here that’s been missed. Imagine the deal is struck, and consider the faculty with the son in his Calculus class. He’s failing…but the faculty receives a phone call from admin, “You’ll need to pass the son.” The faculty will have no choice but to pass him (even if he fails the son, admin can just over-ride the grade anyway)….there’s nothing in accreditation to prevent this from happening, and, even if caught, the school will face no penalty from accreditation, as I’ve shown before.

Insult to injury, of course, is that none of the extra $25,000 bribe will go into the faculty’s pockets…instead it goes to the administration for their “fine work.”

And now back to the article.

“…Leshin is a founding member of the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group of Longhorn insiders established to maintain the status quo at UT. Members of the coalition and the alumni association have been quoted in dozens of news articles, creating the appearance of broad support for Powers.

Far from being independent voices, the email records obtained by find the coalition and the alumni association often looped in on message coordination emails from Powers’ PR staff…”

Now, this is interesting. In response to the scandal, the Poo-Bah has a bunch of supporters coordinate a PR campaign that says the Poo-Bah is a great fellow. At first glance, there’s nothing wrong this this: if the man has friends, they should be allowed to speak, even if they’re surreptitiously organizing their activities so it looks like they’re just people acting independently.

Yet in February 2013, when Powers’ hold on his job began to look tenuous, the Office of the President began paying the Texas Exes $100,000 every six months to support email blasts and other communications. The “game plan” for that campaign was coordinated with Powers’ deputy.

While the article focuses on the scandal of the Poo-Bah paying for his PR and calling them “just supporters”, it misses yet another fraud going on here.

The Poo-Bah isn’t just paying these guys, he’s paying them with university money. Your tax dollars at work! Keep that in mind, year after year faculty are told to tighten their belts because of money problems, but the Poo-Bah can casually throw away money for dubious things like getting PR to spin taking an extra bribe.

So, that’s like what, the 4th aspect of the pervasive fraud in higher education that the article missed, because it’s only looking at the second-bribe issue. Back to the article on the influence-peddling going on here:

“…admitting state Reps. Richard Peña Raymond and Eddie Rodriguez to the law school, although neither has been able to pass the bar despite repeated attempts…”

I don’t know about you, but I’m rather curious what classes these guys were taking, and what grades they got. The article only has so much ground it can cover.

“….Powers rewarded Beckworth by appointing him associate dean of the law school.”
–Powers is the Poo-Bah here, Beckworth is the head of the “fan club.”

And so another deanling is added to what I’m sure is a very bloated administrative bureaucracy at this school. Again, the article is right to point out the very obvious conflict here in the Poo-Bah hiring paid boosters to serve under him, but this only scratches the surface. Most of administration in higher education is appointed in a fraudulent manner, little different than this. As faculty, we sit by and see $100,000+ positions created from nothing, year after year, deanling after deanling after deanling.

Faculty include people that can smash atoms in their spare time, translate ancient languages nobody speaks into modern prose, describe the fundamental workings of reality without even trying….and not a one of them has been able to figure out what, exactly, any of these deanlings actually DO in their jobs. We also don’t have a clue how to get rid of them…but we sure wish we could.

It gets quite a bit worse, and the article hints at some of the other frauds going on, frauds that are everyday in higher education today.

Next time.


Leave your comment