Tuesday Links Soldier On
Then, when you turn the corner and look at what hulks across the street from the main Cooper Union building, you can see where a huge amount of the money went: into a gratuitously glamorous and expensive New Academic Building, built at vast expense, with the aid of a $175 million mortgage which Cooper Union has no ability to repay.
The bland name for the building is a symptom of the fact that Cooper’s capital campaign, designed to raise the money for its construction, was a massive flop: no one gave remotely enough money to justify putting their name on the building. It’s also a symptom of the fact that no one on the board had any appetite for naming it after George Campbell, the main architect of the scheme which involved going massively into debt in order to construct this white elephant.
Campbell, pictured grinning widely in a now-notorious 2009 WSJ article, claimed that Cooper was a financial success story when in fact it was on the verge of collapse. He’s the single biggest individual villain in the Cooper story, and it’s a vicious irony that Cooper’s latest Form 990 shows him being paid $1,307,483 in 2011 — after he left Cooper’s presidency. (Cooper Union explainsthat the amount represents six years of “deferred compensation/retention payments”, but the timing couldn’t be worse.)
Campbell’s enablers and cheering squad were a small group of trustees, many of them Cooper-trained engineers gone Wall Street, who had so internalized the ethos of the financial world that it never occurred to them that they shouldn’t be constantly trying to get bigger and better and shinier. Campbell was paid $668,473 in his last year at Cooper — he was one of the highest-paid college presidents in the country, despite running a naturally small institution with serious space and money constraints. Board-member financiers enabled his dreams of growth and glory, hoping that some of the glamor from the newly-revitalized institution would reflect back on themselves. Naturally, when the whole project turned out to be a disaster, they scurried ignobly off the board as fast as they could.
* Duke University faculty members, frustrated with their administration and skeptical of the degrees to be awarded, have forced the institution to back out of a deal with nine other universities and 2U to create a pool of for-credit online classes for undergraduates.
* At this point, both parties really just represent different fractions of the 1%; Wall Street funds both, but where the Republicans are supported largely by business, especially the extractive industries, the Democratic Party has become that of the upper echelons of the professional and managerial classes: of university administrators, museum board directors, doctors, lawyers, designers and marketing consultants.
* The debt debate is reminiscent of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. In a grand inversion, minor characters have usurped center stage, while the more important ones are out of sight. The Debt We Shouldn’t Pay.
* Also at NYRoB: Wikipedia’s Women Problem.
* The right to work less: Not only does the U.S. economy tend to produce lots of bad jobs, U.S. workers tend to spend far too much of their time doing them. In 2009, the average U.S. worker worked 1,681 hours compared to 1,390 in Germany. Germany’s experiments withkurzarbeit, a government program that provides income support to workers who accept reduced hours, has helped it avoid the problems of high and long-term unemployment that confront us here in the U.S. Instead of fighting for more work, much of which is likely to be bad, how about fighting for less work for everybody? This could be a very effective way to make sure that there are enough jobs to go around for everyone while limiting the amount of time workers spend in deadening, alienating labor.
* Science! “Our findings confirm that beardedness affects judgments of male socio-sexual attributes and suggest that an intermediate level of beardedness is most attractive while full-bearded men may be perceived as better fathers who could protect and invest in offspring,” the researchers wrote.
* What is the legal justification for signature strikes? What qualifies as a “signature” that would prompt a deadly strike? Do those being targeted have to pose a threat to the United States? And how many civilians have been killed in such strikes? The administration has rebuffed repeated requests from Congress to provide answers – even in secret.
* And just in from the local tourism board: 100 things to do in Wisconsin this summer.