Well. At least for the coaches, who once again rank as among the most highly-paid state employees in Maryland. And this database doesn’t even reflect what they can pull down through the athletic foundations which largely do not need to report their special deals.
“Suddenly, nothing seems off the table.” That seems to sum up an article about the campus efforts to nurture a sense of community that extends beyond the campus border. There is no news in this piece, from a Sun staff writer and UM alumna, so one wonders why it appears today, but it describes recent failed efforts and projects a rosy future under President Loh.
We can guess what triggers publication, though, since the article also sticks entirely to the Loh talking points and looks no further. The lead: “A gleaming new apartment building with restaurants and bars on the ground floor has replaced an old pizza place and tire shop.” Yup – the concrete examples to illustrate our successes involve providing more places to drink (Jerry’s Subs and Pizza, that was razed to make way, didn’t offer booze) and more high rise investment opportunities to sustain cash-flow for the well-heeled campus players.
The article is short on any detail, other than to mention that any initiative floated by campus in recent history has been shot down just as soon as details appeared. It is all about big dreams.
Also absent from the
Loh talking points Sun article: any mention of football, the driver behind so many decisions shaping campus policy on town-gown relations; the evolving prospect of the Purple Line bisecting our campus, rattling our buildings and flattening our unwary students now and then; and – oh heck, someone has to say it – scholarship. Seriously – doesn’t anyone in Main Admin think that the “vibrant community” we all want might involve the quality of academics and research which might draw us here in the first place?
That’s the takeaway from this objective study on spending as produced by Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, as reported by Bloomberg. The author, Richard Vedder, a scholar who teaches economics at Ohio University and is an adjunct at the American Enterprise Institute, paints a grim picture of what happens to schools that think they will climb to success by buying an expansive athletics operation.
The University of Maryland, with lavish spending on our transition to the Big Ten Conference, risks being the poster child for this phenomenon.
The full report is very much worth your close attention but for those who want to skip to the good parts, the data on College Park show that between 2005 and 2011 acdemic spending per FTE student rose 15%, athletic spending per athlete rose 22% and institutional funding for athletics per athlete rose 95%. In the same period, we have observed here that UM dropped in popularized national rankings of academics. (There is of course our rising status as a nationally-ranked “party school” as vetted by Playboy. Does that count?)
Once again the attention to detail draws question about what the office of Public Safety is really focused on – creating story lines for Main Admin or genuine safety practices. As of 8:30AM this morning, hours after locals learned of campus closure from the main campus web site or general news sources (e.g. WTOP), the usual alerts to faculty or students who signed up for them have not fully gone out, and we see the ultimate example of ‘mixed messages’ on the campus emergency site linked directly off the home page:
Open? Closed? There is something here to please everyone. (And of course … no one.)
Nothing really new here, just tracking the progress of approvals – “State university officials took an early step Friday in approving a high-end hotel and conference center that is expected to be a cornerstone of a major redevelopment plan for the University of Maryland, College Park and its surroundings.”
In other news, state officials decided that students could make do with the fast-deteriorating Carroll, Caroline and Wicomico residents halls for another year. Previously slated to be torn down, the timetable for getting state buildings for students has been pushed back.
University of Maryland – where the irony is served up fresh daily …
It’s the standard sort of puff piece that passes for news these days. The Post reports on a visit to College Park by politicians who make big promises in return for campus administrators who make big promises, all for a minor opportunity to get a couple column inches of ink. Obviously this one was set up by the state legislators, since poor President Loh – himself quite the aspiring politician – isn’t mentioned. Too bad for him.
Some of what is written should be troubling to us though. While the verbage is all standard boilerplate about how we are going to be top twenty (standard except for the refreshingly honest mention that nobody quite knows how we’ll measure that), any vehicles they mention for getting us there involved funding on the pet projects that help politicians, without getting at the core of what we’re supposed to be about.
“This is going to be a real college town,” said Eric C. Olson (D), a member of the Prince George’s County Council.
Off campus housing? Lots of spending on social programs to improve safety in an otherwise dysfunctional county? Yeah, these are all things that let locals get rich while pandering for more votes as if they are doing something real. No wonder the politicians are flitting about.
What about the academics?
That’s a whole different kettle of fish. Back to the article:
One key to making that happen is state funding. On Thursday afternoon, a handful of local politicians, business leaders and university representatives gave a fast-paced tour to Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D). An early stop: The fifth-floor game room of a swanky and privately owned apartment complex that houses U-Md. students. The group took in the view.
Seriously? They’re talking about top twenty while looking at the game room in over-priced commercial housing off campus?
If this is the mentality which drives decisions on strategic investments, then we might well make the top 20 for spending on pork, but we’ll never get there measured by scholarship. LT Gov Brown just showed he is the policy lightweight everyone thinks he is by running a campaign based on pandering to area businesses rather than demanding genuine excellence from the denizens of Main Admin for a change.
Remember that exit fee from the ACC conference when we abruptly joined the Big Ten after secret negotiations? Remember how President Loh dismissed that $52 million figure from the contract as just some sort of opening figure in negotiation? Just posturing. They’ll surely be good sports and negotiate that down to some modest figure that can be covered out of student funds by creative bookkeeping, so the athletic programs can keep getting rich.
Suitable bluster and fluster will follow with plenty of “it’s not our fault!” finger pointing, and eventually the UM counter-suit (filed in Maryland) will be heard. (It has been on hold pending any outcome down in NC.) But nobody can be surprised that we don’t have immunity as if a state agency (as our brainiac AG has argued – boy, did Gansler step in this one) since after all, this is a simple contract matter. Who is going to do business with any arm of the state if the state is free to not pay under terms of a contract, then deflect judicial redress by saying “nanna nanna boo boo, you can’t sue!” The answer is: it doesn’t work that way.
We’re not holding our breath for raises next year…
Hard on the heels of news that two students were beaten and robbed by a gang of 8 to 10 men behind the Varsity comes news that a sexual predator has been stalking students in Looney’s Pub – a bar in that building and one of the favorite local watering holes. The story seems to be that some miscreant (now arrested) was a beer pong aficionado, cruised the scene looking for drunk players and then sexually assaulted them.
Apparently it wasn’t just beer pong he was playing.
More great headlines for a campus administration that has not played tough with the burgeoning party scene or pushed back against the city’s chief revenue stream (booze and, increasingly, prostitution, at least if we believe other news reports repeatedly cropping up.) Go Terps!
Would it choke them to put a little message of thanks on the campus home page? Apparently yes.
We get greetings from President Loh for holidays of all sorts, but on Veteran’s Day, there is no message to our many vets who are on campus, either as students or (rarely) faculty/staff. In fact, there is an email message from Loh today – but it is to invite us all to be a part of the backdrop for his
Christmas holiday advertising (a photo shoot where participants will be given free T-shirts and cookies.)
On the campus home page our left-leaning leadership promotes a research link to show how supportive we are of vet’s needs via health research, prominently emphasizing mental health support services. Yes, this is how liberals on our campus see members of the military – people who should be given treatment, not thanks. The pandering may be well-intentioned … but it sure is ignorant.
“Millions of dollars in scholarship money that the state could have provided to about 8,000 needy college students has sat untouched, according to an audit released Wednesday. … Auditors from the Office of Legislative Audits found that the Maryland Higher Education Commission did not spend all of the money in its scholarship fund, with the number growing from $9.9 million in 2011 to $17.2 million this year. Auditors estimated that the $17 million could have paid for the scholarships of about 7,800 of the 16,400 students on a waiting list.”
Helping students in need was supposed to be one of the missions, but apparently we see at MHEC the same level of diligence and follow through as with other state agencies – operations that are happy to have the cash (for them) but lacking any fire in the belly when standing up for the constituents we serve.
Good for the auditors at OLA for doing what our leaders did not. But note too the fine print at the end: “State auditors also called for the MHEC to increase oversight of the application process for the need-based scholarships and to ensure that students complete any volunteer requirements that were a condition of the award.” Auditors can find the discrepancies on the money since those columns either add up or they don’t, but what are the odds that anyone will follow through on the award conditions? Pretty small is our bet. That would require exertion these agencies have no track record of investing. Far easier to check a box knowing nobody is likely to ever challenge the determination.