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What makes a good CFO in College Park? Now we know.

by on Apr.16, 2014, under Leadership

That didn’t take long.

On Monday, President Loh announced Carlo Colella as new chief financial officer, a role he had been filling as interim and now wins without a national search.

Fast forward a day – the gestation period for a planted story with one of the reliable campus flacks – and WaPo reports on UM’s plans to flip properties outside of direct state control in order to construct a luxury high rise hotel. Ramrod for this project? You guessed it – Carlo Colella.

Obviously President Loh needed a demonstration of fealty before deciding whether Colella had the right stuff to be a Main Admin henchman. Like Pharaohs of old, deciding who would gain favor by building the biggest pyramid in his name, Loh needed to know Colella was on board with the luxury hotel before sealing the deal. Equally obvious – he looked at the plans and found them to his liking. Carlo gets the no-search appointment.

What killed the old plans? Not enough graft opportunity for local profit-making. By flipping the property out of state oversight, there is more payola floating around, fewer pesky unions that must be hired to do the work (not that this reduces costs – the profit margin just gets bigger) and greater flex in how they … err … deal with county and city officials.

What a pity. In the past we at least gave lip service to scholarly missions, but now the motivation for a luxury hotel is blatantly about our growing party and sports operations. Quoting the article:

“I already know that when Ohio State comes here, there will be about 30,000 fans,” Loh said. “They are going to make a big weekend out of it. They will go to see the sights of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. But where will 30,000 people stay? Even our hotel is not going to be large enough to accommodate them.”

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Main Admin raises more red flags

by on Apr.14, 2014, under Leadership

President Loh today announces that Carlo Colella’s permanent appointment as Vice President for Administration and Finance.

In doing so, he raises more red flags to those who care to pay attention to them.

It was last June when Loh abruptly appointed Colella as interim, a surprise move given that his then very-recent appointment to that role, Rob Specter, was just barely on the job. Specter arrived with a speckled history, but remains on campus as “Special Assistant to the President” – whatever that is.

To date no public explanation for this sudden change has ever been offered. In industry, a surprise switch of a corporation’s chief financial officer would raise serious concerns among stakeholders and trigger immediate demands for an explanation. So far we only hear crickets chirping in College Park – and Annapolis.

Colella is a long-timer at this campus and worked his way up through facilities. Equity and employment issues spilled out of that division into public view on his watch, and we know him as a ‘company man’ from his taking point on the efforts to streamline the Purple Line through campus. For example, after Loh endorsed the Purple Line, and it was confirmed that the famous “M circle” on Campus Drive would be ripped out, Colella assured everyone it would be an “enhancement” even though nobody knows for sure if – much less where – the campus icon would be reconstructed.

In making today’s announcement, Loh by-passed standard practices in order to confirm Colella to the job. “I requested and was granted a search waiver because of his outstanding work and the turnover in this position over the last ten years.” Translation: “I just packed my leadership team with another yes-man who will be more loyal to me than to the campus mission.”

To give this move some perspective: Remember that Maryland, unlike almost all other major universities, places Admissions operations under the CFO. No member of professorial faculty is involved in decisions involving academics of students who are invited to the flagship campus. Today Loh confirmed at top of this org chart a man who made his bones working in the campus physical plant.

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Thanks for a great time, sorry about the drapes

by on Apr.10, 2014, under Leadership

In a mass email this morning, President Loh reports to the campus community on how we fared in the recently-concluded legislative session. He is quite the Martin O’Malley fan-boy and makes clear he would be first in line to go steady if the governor ever came on the market again. The message is thus less a report than a morning after love note.

Awkwardly, in his eagerness to suck up to the administration he either hammers home some news that the governor’s campaign advisors might want to have simply forgotten or he gives thanks to officials for deals which he somehow had overlooked mentioning to the campus community here. [His message is excerpted later in this post. You might check it now.]

The bad part is its pure spin – in effect ‘great news, we’ve capped tuition hikes at three percent, just like it has been for the last five years!’ Huh? The old timers around these parts remember eras of, say, Harry Hughes or Marvin Mandel – governors who lived and died on promises to keep University of Maryland tuition constant. Martin O’Malley championed five years of super-inflationary tuition increases? Tuition hiking up faster than cost-of-living? Yeah, more revenue is good news – for Wallace. But the rest of us working here won’t see it, and it is bad news for tax payers. (In fairness, once he has been punked, what else is President Loh going to say? Besides perhaps a more dignified nothing.)

Some awkward parts –

  • “Additional funding that enables us to educate hundreds of additional STEM majors will continue next year.” Huh. Wonder what that is? You’d never know it from news given to us schlobs who work here.
  • “H. J. Patterson will be renovated to re-open a damaged wing.” Patterson was damaged? When? Are they talking about a minor fire that happened way back? (In which case, it took them this long to get their act together on way forward? Never mind it has been in use throughout…) Or something else we don’t know?
  • “A science wing consisting of chemistry teaching labs will be added to the St. John Learning and Teaching Center.” We haven’t even broken ground yet and we’re already whittling on the building and adjusting how it will get used.

Silence might have been a lot more dignified.
* * *

Date: Thu, Apr 10 2014 07:23:40 -0400 (EDT)
From: "President Wallace D. Loh"
To: "University of Maryland Community":;
Subject: Report on 2014 MD General Assembly Session

April 10, 2014

Dear University of Maryland community:

As the legislative session closed this week, once again Governor O'Malley and the General Assembly found ways to uphold the affordability and quality of Maryland public higher education. We are grateful for their continued support.

With the state facing both a structural deficit and declining revenues, it had to make significant cuts to balance next year's budget. Therefore, the state reduced the University System of Maryland's base operating budget by $6.7M. USM will also transfer $31M in fund balances to the state. Our campus will absorb its share of these reductions.

However, our leaders in Annapolis also mitigated the pain, honored previous commitments, and protected our priorities. Even with money tight next year, we will see important benefits campus-wide:

(1) As in previous years, tuition for in-state undergraduates is expected to rise 3%, keeping UMD more affordable than most of our peers.

(2) Merit and cost-of-living salary increases for faculty and staff are protected: an average merit increase of 2.5% this July 1, and a cost-of-living increase of 2% next January 1.

(3) Additional funding that enables us to educate hundreds of additional STEM majors will continue next year.

(4) Additional funding to support our joint research and tech commercialization with the University of Maryland, Baltimore -- our "MPower" collaboration -- will also continue next year.

With respect to capital funding, state leaders kept our most critical building projects on track and even expanded:

(1) A science wing consisting of chemistry teaching labs will be added to the St. John Learning and Teaching Center, which will break ground this spring. Constructing this science wing as an integral part of the St. John complex saves money and accelerates the availability of these urgently needed labs. This substantial expansion is the brainchild of Provost Mary Ann Rankin, who has been a fearless advocate for enhancing our facilities in the life sciences.

(2) H. J. Patterson will be renovated to re-open a damaged wing.

(3) Construction will begin on schedule for the state-of-the-art Bioengineering Building.

(4) There will be a new STEM building at Shady Grove. It will support biotechnology and bioscience teaching and translational research along the I-270 corridor.

(5) Pre-authorized seed funding the following year for a sports performance and research facility.

(6) Funding that will enable us to catch up on deferred maintenance. More than one-third of our buildings are more than 40 years old.

Under the leadership of Governor O'Malley, Maryland is now the #1 entrepreneurial state in the nation, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Maryland is #2 in the nation for the economic impact of its research activities, according to the National Science Foundation. Building on our state's competitive edge, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch jointly introduced bills that connect research and innovation with commerce.

The General Assembly approved "E-nnovation" legislation that leverages private philanthropy with matching public dollars to create up to $100M for endowed faculty chairs in STEM fields. This will enable us to attract more top STEM talent to UMD. It approved the "Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise" (RISE) legislation that provides tax credits that will incentivize private development around universities and federal laboratories. This will increase our ability to attract more retail and community enhancements around College Park to revitalize it as a top university town.

The General Assembly also enacted a new minimum wage of $10.10, phased in over a four-year period. When this full rate is reached, it will benefit over 5,000 employees at UMD. The vast majority will be undergraduate students working on campus, since most other employees' pay is above the new minimum wage floor. The estimated added cost to the University will be about $12M annually.

All in all, a tough budget season turned out far better than we could have imagined back in January. I want to thank Chancellor Kirwan, USM staff, UMD administrators and staff, as well all the UMD students who lobbied in Annapolis for all their hard work to strengthen higher education in our state.

And, I want to thank the Governor and legislative leaders in Annapolis for recognizing and supporting UMD's educational, research, and economic impact on the state. With them behind us, we can shine.

Sincerely,

Wallace D. Loh
President, University of Maryland

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UM is top party school

by on Apr.09, 2014, under Campus Life

Just in time for admitted freshman to decide where they want to end up in fall, WTOP reports that UM ranked number three nationally as party schools, according to the study done by PayScale.com.

Wohoo! (If you’re in Undergraduate Admissions anyway. For the rest of us … not.)

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Trouble in Paradise??

by on Mar.31, 2014, under Leadership

Enrollment down.

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/umuc-to-lay-off-70-amid-declining-enrollment/2014/03/29/0cc85068-b75d-11e3-b84e-897d3d12b816_story.html

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It’s official: “We were flying by the seat of our pants.”

by on Mar.28, 2014, under Leadership

In testimony before Congress on the data breach, President Wallace Loh confirmed what most observers have thought for years: “We were flying by the seat of our pants.” We’re betting he didn’t get that line from the very expensive crisis management consultants, who are helping run up the tab on this multi-million dollar mess. Seems a far cry from the original messaging – you know, where they touted how they recently doubled IT staff and made big investments in cyber security. Maybe Loh’s testimony is an admission that they hadn’t hired the right people or purchased the right tools.

Be sure to catch the video. Best quote from Loh’s WJZ interview: “The reason people steal social security numbers is they are valuable. So, Congress should pass a law forbidding financial institutions from requiring social security numbers.”

Really?

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College Park features one of America’s “best college bars”

by on Mar.20, 2014, under Campus Life

Helping reinforce our growing image as a trashy sports campus rather than flagship for the state’s top scholars, the Cornerstone Grill was just named one of America’s great college bars. “A Terrapin dream!”

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Terp running back drove in a drive-by shooting

by on Mar.11, 2014, under Can you believe that?

The clinical terminology made it sound a lot less severe before. “Involved in a confrontation.” The Sun paper, however, just published more details.

“[A]ccording to court documents in a wide-ranging prosecution of Black Guerrilla Family gang members in Baltimore, [UM football player Wes] Brown told police that he was behind the wheel of a vehicle involved in the drive-by shooting last June at a birthday party for an alleged high-ranking gang leader.”

Brown was suspended at the time, but not charged because prosecutors were convinced (likely by Brown attorney’s, and possibly with influence from UM?) that the search warrant was not well supported. What did the search find? The handgun from that shooting which Brown stashed, among other things. It was in the course of handling that matter that police got the statement from Brown about his role as driver.

Swell.

Brown is back with the team. Apparently UM’s standard is, so long as you’re not actually caught stashing a dead body, then you’re eligible to play for the Terps.

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“Maryland fans are the most obnoxious in the region”

by on Mar.08, 2014, under Leadership

More great national publicity, just in time for the big push to yield top students for the entering fall class. (Not.) In our experience, the criticism heaped on Maryland by this author is well deserved. If anything, he is way too kind.

So many other vignettes about how our image is tanking. Changing planes this weekend, and waiting to board, a chance exchange with a Terp alum who had proudly brought his soon-to-be high school senior to visit campus on the canonical spring tour – but we’ll be lucky if they ever set foot again in the state, much less apply next fall. (We’ll guess this bodes poorly for alumni donations as well.) I was horrified at the detailed accounts of the most ridiculous treatment by Admissions staff. A tour of some Res Hall party aftermath, complete with vomit and other bodily fluids in the stairwells? Heavy emphasis on the athletic facilities (and the party, party, party opportunities associated with ‘big games’) but inability to answer basic questions about academics?

Another colleague from industry brought her son to the visit day last week but in conversation later, as I cheerfully asked how things went, the polite answer was we did a great job of recruiting for Georgia Tech’s engineering programs. One visit to College Park was sufficient to convince the Columbia resident that UM isn’t for him, and the parents are happy with this too. No evidence of scholarship, inability to connect the prospective student with anyone in his desired area (biomedical engineering) but hey, lots of balloons, cheering, focus on athletics, all under what sounds like a ‘challenged’ day logistically.

The neighbors in a nice Montgomery County subdivision. Three kids grow up together, go to public schools together, all get comparable track records and performance – but they can’t get in to College Park together. The growing reputation of our Admissions practices is that we have a capricious standard. When the kids all know who has what capabilities, then see the unfathomable decisions, they conclude that our decisions are based on something other than hard work and performance. They’d be right. The contempt these families have for UM is palpable. And the kids’ younger siblings are looking at Virginia schools.

Main Admin isn’t listening. At what point will the officials in Annapolis hear their constituents and do something?

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Purple Line on campus: “Get used to it”

by on Mar.06, 2014, under Leadership

The Diamondflack is starting to roll out Main Admin’s spin on upcoming construction changes due to the Purple Line. The messaging starts early, so they must know it is going to be bad. The article also overlooks little details like, the iconic M circle will need to be ripped out. But as the author suggests, they need to ease the public in on effects of President Loh’s political dealsmanship.

Our nomination for best inadvertent telling of the awkward truth: “University departments are just starting to be informed about the renovations. Department of Transportation Services Director David Allen said the department does not have enough information to know what changes it will have to make to its services.” (Yup – what better demonstration of how little shared governance we have here than decisions roll forth while campus stakeholders aren’t even told, much less consulted, about impact. This is indeed a 100% Wallace Loh affair.)

Then there is: “Greater access to public transportation could cut down on vehicle traffic, which is in line with this university’s sustainability efforts, … and might improve conditions for pedestrians around the campus.” And maybe someday our unicorns will fly. The models don’t project volume reduction because that isn’t the goal – in the best case scenario, they will hit the mark of increasing capacity at not much worse than the present level of congestion. Anyone who thinks otherwise should study the fine print very carefully.

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