President Loh announced a preliminary agreement between our campus and the Corcoran Gallery, effectively extending the University of Maryland’s reach into DC. We’ll get expanded course offerings (though nobody has said why our students couldn’t just get that content free via some MOOC), shared faculty (presumably each side gets to nominate colleagues to spend time at the other site) and, our best guess, a lot of invoices. The Corcoran has been failing fast, so unless Loh intends this as a bust-up takeover, it isn’t really clear what we get that will be of value to Maryland taxpayers.
As correctly pointed out in the linked article, all this depends upon details to be hammered out in the legal negotiations. Maybe Loh would be kind enough to keep a copy of that contract when it is done so we can all see what he agreed to (unlike the agreement in our Big Ten move.)
This university lags behind many Big Ten institutions in fundraising and will have to ramp up its efforts to better fit into the conference in time for its July 2014 move, a president’s commission found.
It thus took less time than we predicted for officials (in this case through the Big Ten Task Force appointed by President Loh) to begin acknowledging to the public just how hungry the Big Ten beast will be, and how much of our campus business processes must be refactored in order to feed it. This raises the ugly specter of campus fundraising – which might have gone to educational or research needs – being diverted to the athletic program. Let’s be clear: Education and research are already being shortchanged to feed the needs of empire builders, as we saw with construction of President Loh’s new mansion. Some campus funds were “re-purposed”, and others arrived in the right account after generous donors were asked to change how they wrote the check so it would go to a private foundation, not campus, after which officials piously claimed that no student needs were impacted. The athletic programs raise this sort of shell game to a high art.
This dynamic is laconically acknowledged in the DB article:
All of the fundraising working group’s research and policy recommendations have been driven by one central question, Clement said: “How does the fundraising for the athletic department integrate into the fundraising for the campus as a whole?”
Completely unanswered in this reporting – we think because there is no good answer – is why campus inherits some new fundraising obligations as a consequence of its athletics programs flipping to the Big Ten. Wasn’t the whole point of this move to make money? Now the implication is we must pay more to play. Maybe the tacit message is we will need bigger and more luxurious athletic facilities (gosh, who would have ever guessed that was in the cards?) but really, wouldn’t those come out of the newly-found profits from Big Ten sports?
You’d think so but Loh made sure nobody kept a copy of the contracts he signed so there is no way to check the fine print. Trust me, says the president. Yeah. Right.
More great PR for College Park. WTOP reports that freshman Akshay Rajshekar is arrested and charged with trying to arrange a sexual encounter with a 12-year old girl over spring break. (The “girl” turned out to be an undercover DC police investigator running a sting operation on the internet.) The news also reports this happens as he is already being prosecuted for possession and distribution of child pornography.
Quoting the WTOP article:
University of Maryland spokeswoman Crystal Brown tells The Examiner she cannot say why Rajshekar was allowed to attend classes this spring while awaiting trial on felony charges of possession and distribution of child pornography on the Eastern Shore.
Indeed. But let’s be clear. The issue isn’t why he came back to College Park for spring semester. It is why he was admitted here in the first place. While the formal court proceedings started in November, Maryland court records show the first of the 31 charges against him date back to June of last year – presumably well before he first arrived on this campus.
The University of Maryland not only stonewalled public access to the contract which President Loh signed with the Big Ten. It indulged in an apparent scorched earth campaign to make sure even campus leaders retain no copy of these materials.
Based on his own quotes and his counsel’s response to Public Information Act requests, President Loh has no knowledge of any details of what it was he agreed to.
Visit the free clinic and you will come away with a copy of the privacy agreement. Buy a basic mobile phone plan and you will get a copy of the terms of service. But agree to bind your campus to millions of dollars worth of obligations, and nobody needs to keep the pesky fine print?
Leaders on campus have touted the Big Ten move as having great academic value too. It isn’t clear that anyone actually kept a straight face when saying that, but now it is clear – they don’t actually know!
What are the odds that this will get in the way of their litigation to get out of the ACC agreements? Getting bigger all the time, is our guess. The credibility of this campus just dropped through the floor.
More discussion on-line about the culture around MOOC offerings, over which our campus leadership swoons. Here we see more evidence of the real cost of doing ‘free stuff’ on line – hundreds of hours of commitment from the instructors to make decent offerings. And more to the point of why College Park looks so closely at this, one instructor quoted in the article observed how this was all out of his own time. Free stuff from employees in addition to their regular duties? What’s not to like?
The questions keep getting asked, but so far there are no answers from Main Admin: what are they paying for the UM Coursera offerings? Either the early MOOC pathfinders on campus really are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts (in which case one wonders why excess capacity isn’t being allocated to cover the other pressing needs, where students aren’t getting enough seats), or they’re getting something that leadership has not yet owned up to (in which case tuition-paying consumers may reasonably wonder why they are paying for services so others – not them – can make progress on college courses.)
Will Central please own up to what’s going on sooner rather than later?
There is no surprise here. The state’s compliance board reached the same conclusion that others finally confessed to, that the Regents violated state law in how they and President Loh handled the Big Ten matter months ago.
There is no consequence, so for all practical matters this is not even story that will rise to a full news cycle. Laws without penalty are no laws at all when it comes to public servants who lack integrity. Loh, Chancellor Kirwan and the board are all free to do as they please in the future, subject only (ultimately) to what Governor O’Malley might choose to do in future appointments. And since he is too busy running for President, what we just said is … it will be business as usual with USM.
… but not necessarily in a good way. Police are investigating yet another murder in the area. Initial news reports – always sketchy of course – indicate this is gang related. Last spring College Park was described as the the prostitution hub of the east coast. Before that it was drug-related murders of a student (probably only hundreds of yards away from where the most recent students were shot across 193 from campus.)
Campus leaders seem eager to play state-level politics. What a pity they aren’t taking care of business back at the ranch.
Is it a case of credential inflation or the watered down content of our high school experiences? The difference may be moot since the effect is the same, judging by the linked article in the NYT.
Officials across the state will be pleased that Maryland escaped any mention …
UM becomes the latest campus to provide free entertainment devices athletes. According to the linked article, more than 500 of the devices have been distributed at a cost of only (wait for it) $300,000.
How awkward. That amount isn’t far off from what would have been needed to save some of the sports programs which were cut to save cash.
One might wonder how many real computers (not tablets that some think result in a net loss of productivity overall) this campus distributes to students based on other criteria than athletics, such as, oh, how about scholarship? Do we even know how many national merit scholars walk the campus? Anyone with literary awards? Performance art? How about winners of design competitions? (Architects? Engineers?) Never mind that there is no clearinghouse where those students are even tracked, one need not wonder long – the answer is zero. You pay for your own computers for any of that sort of scholarly activity, as students who win the various programming contests know.