University heads and interior decorators

Thomas Lifson
What is it about being appointed to run a major university campus that causes the appointee to hire an expensive interior decorator? A trial just begun in Houston exposes yet another case of a senior administrator in state-funded higher education feathering her nest with lavish appointments courtesy of taxpayers. The New York Times reports:
With Texas Southern University struggling to survive as one of the nation's largest historically black colleges, the former president once hailed as its savior faced a state jury here Friday, charged with misspending hundreds of thousands of dollars on personal luxuries.

A $1,000 silk canopy for a four-poster bed, $138,000 for landscaping and $61,600 for a security system are among the items that prosecutors say the former president, Priscilla Slade, fraudulently billed the public for and kept secret from trustees from 1999 to 2005.

The charges being considered in Harris County District Court carry penalties from probation up to life in prison.
This is awfully reminiscent of the notorious wish list handed to the University of California by the late Denice Denton when she became Chancellor of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Denton most notoriously got a $30,000 dog run in the backyard, but also other luxury goodies for the mansion she inhabited, plus a $192,000 job for her lesbian partner, plus a $60,000 housing allowance for said partner, plus other perks totaling about $600k.

Denton faced no legal liability because she went through channels to get her perks, whereas Priscilla Slade, the former head of TSU is alleged to have spent the money on herself without proper authorization.  Denton, however, later killed herself by leaping from the roof of a skyscraper apartment building.

The mess at the University of California system, where a culture of top management helping itself to lavish salary and perks while obscuring responsibility and accountability for spending the university's $20 billion annual budget, has gotten so bad that Richard Blum, gazillionaire husband of Sen. Diane Feinstein and chair of the Board of Regents, has issued a scathing denunciation of mismanagement at the top, calling for seerious reform.

Face it: higher education is one of the biggest industries in the country, and it is one heavily subsidized by taxpayers, directly through state schools, and indirectly through federal loans, grants, contracts, and other payments. Over the four decades I have spent studying at, working in, and observing higher education, the field has grown fat, all the while mercilessly squeezing out tuition increases at double the rate of inflation, pushing higher education into a luxury category, requiring deep sacrifices from all but the wealthiest.

Reform is long overdue. But with the professorate heavily contributing to Democrats, they have a defender class of politicians. It is too bad that indictments are necessary to send a signal of the need for reform.

University administrators deserve adequate compensation, but they cannot treat the public coffers as a personal windfall to be tapped for all the luxuries of their dreams. It is time for the gravy train to be halted.
What is it about being appointed to run a major university campus that causes the appointee to hire an expensive interior decorator? A trial just begun in Houston exposes yet another case of a senior administrator in state-funded higher education feathering her nest with lavish appointments courtesy of taxpayers. The New York Times reports:
With Texas Southern University struggling to survive as one of the nation's largest historically black colleges, the former president once hailed as its savior faced a state jury here Friday, charged with misspending hundreds of thousands of dollars on personal luxuries.

A $1,000 silk canopy for a four-poster bed, $138,000 for landscaping and $61,600 for a security system are among the items that prosecutors say the former president, Priscilla Slade, fraudulently billed the public for and kept secret from trustees from 1999 to 2005.

The charges being considered in Harris County District Court carry penalties from probation up to life in prison.
This is awfully reminiscent of the notorious wish list handed to the University of California by the late Denice Denton when she became Chancellor of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Denton most notoriously got a $30,000 dog run in the backyard, but also other luxury goodies for the mansion she inhabited, plus a $192,000 job for her lesbian partner, plus a $60,000 housing allowance for said partner, plus other perks totaling about $600k.

Denton faced no legal liability because she went through channels to get her perks, whereas Priscilla Slade, the former head of TSU is alleged to have spent the money on herself without proper authorization.  Denton, however, later killed herself by leaping from the roof of a skyscraper apartment building.

The mess at the University of California system, where a culture of top management helping itself to lavish salary and perks while obscuring responsibility and accountability for spending the university's $20 billion annual budget, has gotten so bad that Richard Blum, gazillionaire husband of Sen. Diane Feinstein and chair of the Board of Regents, has issued a scathing denunciation of mismanagement at the top, calling for seerious reform.

Face it: higher education is one of the biggest industries in the country, and it is one heavily subsidized by taxpayers, directly through state schools, and indirectly through federal loans, grants, contracts, and other payments. Over the four decades I have spent studying at, working in, and observing higher education, the field has grown fat, all the while mercilessly squeezing out tuition increases at double the rate of inflation, pushing higher education into a luxury category, requiring deep sacrifices from all but the wealthiest.

Reform is long overdue. But with the professorate heavily contributing to Democrats, they have a defender class of politicians. It is too bad that indictments are necessary to send a signal of the need for reform.

University administrators deserve adequate compensation, but they cannot treat the public coffers as a personal windfall to be tapped for all the luxuries of their dreams. It is time for the gravy train to be halted.