Monday, November 21, 2011

The Rot and Enronification of Universities: Part 5: Self Dealing

Self dealing is the last of the characteristics associated with the Eronification of Universities. One has to be careful in using this term. I do not know of any University administrators who have actually fattened up their own bank accounts by stealing directly from their institution. And, I have to be extra careful because many readers assume my complaints are always about Florida, more specifically the Law School. That would be wrong. Sometimes I do not care for my Dean's decisions and decision making approach but he is as hardworking as anyone I have known the the idea of self-dealing just does not fit. What I mean by self-dealing is spending the institution's funds on yourself in the sense of making your life more comfortable regardless of the benefits to stakeholders.

Here is an example of what mean. John Lombardi, the topic of the article, is now President of Louisiana or something like that. His activity at Uf sounds like making people comfortable who made him comfortable. I believe at the time he was in the process of being tossed out, I read that he was making sure the University department to which he was headed was especially well-funded. Ironically, one of last significant acts was to appoint an acting dean at UF Law who, again this is hearsay, while in that post, transferred funding from faculty slots to the unit to which he would return. If true, this is the administrative version of apples not falling far from the tree. The interesting thing to me is that this is all evidently viewed as part of the business. Lombardi, as I noted, ended up being sought after for other administrative posts and his acting Dean pal is revered in some circles.

So the self dealing stops short of writing yourself a check. On the other hand, it is putting your comfort and the security of your post ahead of the overall interests of the institution. Or it might mean, as I think it does a UF, supporting a program in which one has a deep personal interest. It is a form or shirking. That is, unless there is a consistent coincidence that what is good for administrators is good for the institution.

Is it unfair to compare this characteristic of Universities to Enron? Of course it is -- to Enron that is. At least in the case of Enron, there is some chance of discovery, auditing and shareholder action. In a public university these activities, with the help of University counsel, the "not technically a lie" culture, an aversion to transparency and rules that are created on the spot can persist indefinitely.

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