Thursday, July 27, 2006


If you live in a college town you are likely to find your local newspaper complicit in the preservation of control of the University by the elites. The Gainesville Sun seems to be a good example. The Sun, despite open meetings and open records law appears to have little interest in examing the University of Florida and seems wary of any op-eders who challenge them to do so. In fact, all indications are that the preferred action is to look the other way. Recently the University constructed a $20 million Law School building that is vastly under utilized. This is because those with a sense of entitlement -- the faculty- resist efforts to spread classes over the full week or to offer summer school classes, unless taught overseas. The prime teaching times are 10-3 on Monday through Wed and that is when most of the classes are offered. Of course, the students are left out of the equation because classes are jammed into a short period of time creating many conflicts.
Our local paper evidently sees nothing wrong with this or with faculty junkets to far away places to meet with other faculty at conferences that were created so there could be faculty junkets to far away places. Foreign programs, centers, institutes and programs are evidently immune from scrutiny. (This was not aways the case. In the past, one President was discovered making huge increases to the budget of an institute he was destined to land in once he left the presidency and rewarding his closest staff with shockingly high raises. These revelation by the newspaper were instrumental in helping move us to a more responsible Presidency.)
What accounts for the failure of these monopolies to serve the public welfare. Frankly, I cannot say. It is possible that the need to have full access to sports news which then sells papers is at the root of it but this is not a theory I would bet on. Another possibility is the small social environment that exists in a college town. Publishers may be pals with local politicos or high ranking University officials and close scrutiny may damage these valued relationship. It is, in fact, a type of log rolling where those involved get what the want and the public is treated as though it is irrelevant.
Ironically, "my" local paper, The Gainesville Sun, ran a long editorial praising Judith Miller the NYT reporter who went to jail for journalistic independence. Yet, no one at the Sun seems to have similar backbone when it comes to scrutinizing University expenditures.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Recently I described to a friend a program we operate at my school. Each year we send several professors to Poland to teach Polish students about American law. We do this largely with money collected from Florida taxpayers. The students get a certificate that may make them more attractive to Polish law firms. It is not clear why since there are major language problems and their performance on exams, because of the language issues, is not good. No one has identified a benefit to the Florida taxpayers. It is a fun trip and essentially a charitable contribution to Poland from Florida taxpayers with the law faculty deciding who gets the contribution. When we got a new dean his immediate reation was that the program should be operated with private money only. (This view seemed to fade when his fundraising efforts were not successful and the fading did not change when it was discovered that the program was far more expensive than initially reported.) The program continues although as far as I know no faculty member feels so strongly about it that any personal money has been sent to Poland. Any efforts to examine the program are met with strong and personalized resistance. In effect, it satisfied the need to travel and feel that one is an internationalist.

My friend asked how can this be? How does such a narrowly focused program become immune from scrutiny? The answer is that the program is a piece of the process of log rolling. Sure, maybe only a few faculty actually care about the program but stopping it would mean that every other faculty member with a pet program could not count on the Poland supporters for their votes. This is not log-rolling in the traditional sense of, say, a Senator from Alabama agreeing to vote for funding a project in Alaska as long as the Senator from Alaska votes for funding an Alabama project. It is more subtle. There are no tit for tat arrangements. Instead, the academic log rolling process is one in which it is a given that no program sponsored by a faculty membr will be challenged because of the implicit understanding that the same treatment will extend to everyone. In effect, every faculty member actually has a stake in every program regardless of what that program is.