Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Revenue is Needed" Updates

September 26, 2007, 8:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m.

"Revenue is Needed" Updates

The day after I posted the blog entry, Nicholas Johnson, "The Bad News" in "UI Rips Off Students Because . . . 'Revenue is Needed,'" September 25, 2007, last Sunday's story continues to walk on very sturdy legs for a three-day-old (Clark Kauffman, "U of I, Iowa State use student data to sell credit cards," Des Moines Register, September 23, 2007, p. A1).

The "revenue is needed" phrase originated in Nicholas Johnson, "UI Loves Gambling" in "UI Held Hostage Day 410 - March 7," March 7, 2007: "Once 'revenue is needed' is the Polestar for a university's financial decisions its moral compass begins to spin as if it was located on the North Pole."

And for a more general discussion of the corporatization of the UI see, Nicholas Johnson, "It's the Mission of Higher Education -- Not the Naming of Buildings" in "UI's 21st-Century Mission," September 20, 2007.

Although I didn't watch the show, I'm told that last evening's "Boston Legal" dealt with corporatization of higher education issues (an allegation that oil company contributions to a university were affecting its research results). "Beauty and the Beast," Boston Legal, Season 4, Episode 69, September 25, 2007.

The Register has a follow-up story this morning. Clark Kauffman, "State Probes Citibank Promotion," Des Moines Register, September 26, 2007 ("free" food offer doesn't mention requirement to sign up for credit card before eating).

State Senator Joe Bolkcom and Regents President Michael Gartner are concerned about the Regents' universities' use of students' identities for credit card marketing as a part of the universities' ties to the credit card industry. Associated Press, "Schools' credit card deals draw concern; Bolkcom calling for limits; Regents to seek information," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 26, 2007, p. A1.

The Gazette has weighed in with a forceful editorial, Editorial, "Look Out for Students' Interest First," The Gazette, September 26, 2007, p. A4 ("when a college or university loses sight of protecting student interests and focuses instead on the revenue to be gained through an exclusive contract with a credit card issuer, a higher power needs to step in. . . . The state Board of Regents should step in and . . . prohibit the universities from actively marketing to students . . .. If the regents won’t step up, then the state legislature should . . ..").

And don't miss the comment appended to this blog entry by "anonymous" at 10:49 a.m. It's much more informed, detailed and powerful than anything I wrote yesterday or today.

And State29 once again takes me to task for my concern about these issues -- not because he necessarily disagrees on the merits, but because he thinks it's naive of me not to have caught on long ago that of course universities are in it for the money and are willing to rip off their students in the process. State29, "I'm Shocked SHOCKED To Discover That ISU and The University Of Iowa Pimp Student Data Out To Market Credit Cards," September 23, 2007; and State29, "Speaking of 'Revenue is Needed,'" September 26, 2007 ("What the Register ought to be looking at is how financial aid departments at the state universities are pushing student loans onto the kids. It would not surprise me in the least if the modus operandi of these universities is to drain every last borrowed penny out of their record number of students. . . . No wonder all the kids at Iowa's universities are binge drinkers! I'd become a miserable alcoholic if the next 20-25 years of my life were going to be nothing but huge loan payments . . ..").

Although the UI has clarified that professors can still call students by name in class without violating the students' privacy rights, Brian Morelli, "No More 'Hey, You': Name Rule Clarified," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 26, 2007, p. A1, it has said nothing as of yet regarding its practice of selling off all kinds of student information (as well as that of their parents) to the highest corporate bidder.

And an op ed in this morning's Press-Citizen at least alleges the Regents with what is in some ways an even more serious selective application of privacy rules. Gwen Gruber, "UI Has Other FERPA Issues," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 26, 2007, p. A13.

Gruber charges that the graduate student union, UE Local 896/COGS, and the Regents' collective bargaining process produced a contract in March 2007 that included the union's rights to "bargaining unit information" (which I take to be, presumably, contact information for the constantly shifting UI graduate student population). She alleges that "weeks after" the contract was signed the Regents filed a lawsuit seeking to nullify the union's contract right.

Yesterday the UI's Faculty Council, sort of an executive committee for the Faculty Senate, discussed among other things the so-called "21-Only" proposed Iowa City referendum. (I say "so-called" because it's "21-only" in the sense that illegal sales of alcohol to undergraduates can continue to take place prior to 10:00 p.m.) Brian Morelli, "Faculty So Far Mum on 21-Only," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 26, 2007, p. A3.

I wouldn't even mention that meeting, and Morelli's report of it, but for the revelations toward the end regarding why some faculty members were reluctant to support the measure: "Opposing arguments included that the referendum would . . . lead to reduced enrollment . . .."

And why do we probably have this concern about "reduced enrollment"? Because reduced enrollment means reduced cash flow from tuition payments, and more pressure to find income from elsewhere.

In other words, whatever binge drinking may produce -- dropouts, fights, missed classes, illness and injuries, sexual assaults, and occasional death from strangling on vomit or other causes -- is of little concern to these faculty members.

Why? Well, because "revenue is needed."

And from the "Owners Stealing the Bass Drum from their own Brass Band Department" -- the equivalent of "revenue is needed" in the world of commerce -- comes the report that the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce has been accepting advertising dollars for its newsletter from the Quad Cities Airport! Now you may agree with me that competition between Iowa cities is no way to promote economic growth in this state. But the fact remains that's the environment in which chambers of commerce exist these days. George C. Ford, "Ad draws ire of C.R. airport; Quad City airport’s 1-month sponsorship of C.R. Chamber newsletter questioned," The Gazette, September 26, 2007, p. A1.

Now there's a new twist for the UI "revenue is needed" folks. The UI Alumni Association could run ads for the Mayo Clinic, or the advantages of sending your kids to Madison rather than Iowa City. Think of the ad revenue it could raise that way. The marching band could solicit funds from fans of the opposing team to play their songs rather than the Iowa Fight song. Want to run the university more like a business? Take a page from the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce newsletter.

Finally, to bring all of this full circle, the Press-Citizen arrived this morning with one of those irritating stickers on page one covering up some of the news. It's message? The Riverside gambling casino is continuing to advertise the numerous advantages of its partnership arrangements with the UI athletic program -- with advertising on the scoreboard, sky box seats for high rollers, and transportation to and from the stadium from the gambling casino.

It was that partnership that got me thinking about the "revenue is needed" rationale in the first place.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Alumni Associations have used credit card come-ons as a way to finance themselves for decades. The intrusiveness into student's lives appears to be of relatively recent vintage -- 10-15 years. It is reported Univ of Tenn made 16 million dollars in a deal like this back in 1999.

So this isn't new news. It is on-going and escalating.

An important microscopic question is 'how can a university unilaterally release such sensitive information without the consent of the student'? Universities don't even release grades to the parents who may pay up to 45,000 per year in tuition for a child in college.

The important macroscopic question is 'when did the insidious slide into a revenue machine occur on our university campuses'?

As a lifelong academic I can tell you the 'revenue is needed' philosophy pervades every aspect of university life. The current leadership is intoxicated on revenue. The production of revenue has been on every agenda I have seen in the past 20 years.

A few examples:
- The 'mandatory' donations demanded of season football ticket holders
- The selling of preferred credit cards at athletic events (often for a free t-shirt)
- The pushing of high rate student loans to students with kickbacks to loan officers
- The obsession of certain 'paying' operations (read 'medical departments') with revenue-generating activities at the expense of teaching and public works
- The selling of rooms, buildings, hospitals, and college names to various foundations, banks, individuals, and corporations
- The fine offices of the fund raisers (in a new Alumni Assoc building) compared to the grubby quarters of many of the academics
- The use of University property to enrich the coaches (for camps, shoe endorsements etc.) which are now considered part of the compensation packages of these very very well paid public employees
- The reference of a Dean of Medicine (to a corporate structure chart, so complex as to be the envy of the mafia) as the 'Clinical Enterprise' which essentially lays bare some of the motivation of the UIHC
- The various deans pushing sweetheart deals with big donors, in which U of I educators engage in 'for profit' enterprises with private companies

An entire 2 year drama was played out as Wellmark stacked the Board of Regents, demanded a sweetheart deal from the UIHC, and sacked a university president for the honor of Wellmark surplus (revenue). Don't believe that was the only 'for profit' or 'for nonprofit' deal made with the Univ of Iowa. It was perhaps the largest scheme up to that point.

The 'revenue/profit' theme is now an accepted part of public and private universities. Not many people question the overall ideology of making money as the primary goal of the institutions.

It is pretty clear that the Univ of Iowa is 'University Incorporated'; it is not alone in that aspect.

How do the tax-payers, and the students/parents feel about that direction? Do they really understand the extent of the 'revenue is needed' money grubbing going on?

I have 2 overall questions:

1. Are university educations now fraudulent in many aspects? Have they developed a very inefficient educational system that in part educates students to live in the world, but also involves them in the revenue machine of the academy?

2. Is this the accepted mode of American education? Is this a workable mode? Will this weaken the educational system in the end.