Sunday, October 07, 2007

"Oh, Never Mind . . ."

October 7, 2007, 9:10 a.m., October 9, 2007, 6:30 a.m. (addition of Register editorials)

Thank You, Des Moines Register

The Register did the University of Iowa a big favor this morning.

You see, the UIHC has run into a bit of bad luck with regard to its public relations recently.

First, a patient was permitted to wander off and was later found 800 miles away. I always thought that was a bit of a bad rap. We can't be expected to keep an eye on all of these patients all the time. And besides, it's not like she was lost. She did turn up, after all. Think of all those folks who disappear and are never heard from again.

But some overzealous bureaucrats made a big deal out of it. One was heard to say, "Wha' the ****!" Following which he ordered a general investigation to see what else might be going on at the nation's largest hospital-owned university.

Needless to say, they couldn't find anything. Well, there were those nine dead bodies. But at least they hadn't escaped from the hospital. Call it "locking the barn door after the horses are stolen" if you must, but we do learn. We are, after all, an institution of higher learning. And what we've learned is that if you keep the patients restrained to their beds they can't wander off. Good point. They may die, but hey, you can't have everything. And you can even minimize that public relations damage if you'll just not report the deaths.

Then there was the matter of storing clean and soiled items in the same room. But that's really petty. At least we have clean patient-care items -- which is more than you can say for some hospitals in impoverished third-world countries.

Anyhow, there's been a little confusion regarding the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report.

As is so often the case, the real problems with something like this are not so much about the substance as they are about the institution's response to the substance.

The Register asked for and was given a copy. It has now made the inspection report available online. Much to everyone's surprise, when the paper was asked to give it back they refused to do so, and decided to publish a big expose about it instead.

The paper claims the report contains "dozens" of alleged health and safety violations. I doubt that. After all, it's only 132 pages long. How could "dozens" of violations fit in such a tiny report?

From here on it gets a little confusing. The day the Register's story appeared the hospital held a news conference to defend itself -- but for some reason failed to notify the Register of that fact. The feds (CMS) want the report of its July and August findings to be withheld. But it turns out the inspection was actually conducted for the the CMS by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.

Having been reminded that the hospital is, after all, subject to the Iowa public records law, it is now making the CMS report available to those who request it.

But the CMS and State of Iowa officials are continuing to treat the public document as "confidential" and refusing to make it available.

So why do I say the Register has done the UI a favor?

Because they've kindly placed this embarrassing saga -- not on page one, not even in the first section of the paper, but on page B2. Clark Kauffman, "Some Officials Withhold U of I Hospitals Report," Des Moines Register, October 7, 2007, p. B2. [The story is available online as Clark Kauffman, "Some officials withhold U of I Hospitals report," Des Moines Register, October 6, 2007; and see, Editorial, "Make Public Any Problems at Hospitals Now, Not Later," Des Moines Register, October 5, 2007.]

"Oh, never mind . . ."

(. . . with credit to Emily Litella.)

Well, I guess I was wrong.

I guess the reason the Clark Kauffman story about the UIHC fiasco didn't make page one was only because the Clark Kauffman story about the UI credit card fiasco did. Clark Kauffman, "U of I, UNI refuse Regents' request on credit cards; They do disclose, along with ISU, that students' balances on the Bank of America cards average more than $1,000," Des Moines Register, October 7, 2007, p. A1. [And see, Nicholas Johnson, "The Bad News" in "UI Rips-Off Students Because . . . 'Revenue is Needed,'" September 25, 2007.]

There just wasn't room for a hospital story on page one this morning.

The UI finds itself in a credit card scandal and refuses to show the Board of Regents the contracts??!! You've got to be kidding. [See, Nicholas Johnson, "Stonewalling Not a Winning Strategy . . ." in "Regents Examine Credit Card Scam," September 28, 2007, and Editorial, "Regents should get credit-card contracts; Absurd that universities rejected request," Des Moines Register, October 9, 2007.]

Oh, my. This is not good.

Perhaps you'd like to talk about our athletic program and this fall's football team?

Oh, you don't want to talk about that either? OK. I guess that's all for now then.

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Anonymous said...

So the Univ of Iowa, or it's subsidiary the Alumni Association, has access to student's names addresses, social numbers, phone numbers, parent's names, addresses, and financial data (The FASFA) and season ticket holders etc. etc., releases all this information to Big Banks without so much as asking the students and their parents permission and then will not release the plan to the governing Board of Regents?

Are we living in the United States? Are we not a country governed by laws? And isn't at least one law violated in all this mess?

Like privacy (whatever amendment that is covered under?), freedom of information, or something???

Does this institution now exist for the benefit of the large banks? Or for the fund raisers, however they can sell data or exploit students and families?

Although the Univ of Iowa looks very bad here, there is one lurker out there who looks worse, in my opinion.

That would be Tom Miller our state attorney general.

Miller has been asleep at the wheel for the past 10 years it seems.

Miller let Welmark stack the Board of Regents, blocked CIETC records, from the public, and apparently allowed the Board of Regents to blatantly violate the open meetings law.

Now is Miller going to take some action to prevent this ridiculous policy by the Iowa Alumni Assoc to go unchallenged, and to accept the refusal to release the plan to the BOR?

Seems like Miller should be working triple overtime to protect the citizens of Iowa from people like the used car salesman who runs the Iowa Alumni Assoc.

Is the state sinking into one large scheme to suck all the money from students, parents, patients, insured, and taxpayers into the coffers of the rich and and well endowed?

What strikes me as saddest is the low that the institutions of higher education, those bastions of liberal thought and public service now exhibit.

It seems the colleges are nothing more than money grubbing corporations that they once loved to condemn. Not only that, the colleges use even more devious schemes than most businesses.

When did the academy become one more shyster seller in the Temple?

The academy is simply one more opportunistic marketer and not a place of free thought and liberal discourse.

This is tragic.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the University has become just another money grubbing institution. But why? They could have become more creative with financing and certainly been more efficient budget-wise. But who has the "no more taxes no matter what" agenda?

Anonymous said...

Face it: This is the result of declining state support that has been going on for years.

I can tell you how to get creative with the budgets; Eliminate overlapping programs at the 3 state universities. Move all liberal arts to IC, all education to Cedar Falls, and all engineering and sciences to Ames.

The people of Iowa through their elected representitives are simply not willing to support the UI, ISU and UNI at past levels. In order to keep it going, administration has had to get creative.

This is hardly surprising. Not only that; the UI may sell your name on a list to Bank of America, but they can't MAKE YOU get a credit card and run up debt.

Anonymous said...

I am am not sure these schemes are the result of declining state support. Iowa is generous with support. I would like to see the evidence. There is evidence of certain factors:

1. Administrative bloat. It takes more money to support the academy because of Gov't regs, and because of the bureaucratic machine running amok.

2. Increasing salaries. Top administration take more in relative salary than in prior times.

3. The self perpetuating cycle of fund raising hucksters. These organizations justify their existence with glowing reports of Univ giving, but often they use a significant proportion of the funds to continue their own bureaucratic existence.

Now the distribution of liberal arts to IC, education to CF, and engineering to Ames is laughable in it's simple-minded wrongness.

Where is the evidence that would save money?

Engineering and education students take liberal arts classes etc, thus students all over the state would have to attend IC just to meet graduation requirements.

Would suddenly 1000 eduction students be crowded into classrooms in UNI.

OK, that is not the solution, it's a ridiculous proposal that has never occurred in any state educational system.

Lastly the idea that 'students don't have to sign up' comes from those who have no ethics and see no problem in perverting any system for a buck.

From the New York Times on down, editorials have condemned these credit card schemes perpetrated on students who may not be aware of the problems with credit card debt, and the ramifications of high credit rates, and bad debt.

I always expect someone to say 'caveat emptor' because the group of people who see no problem with immoral schemes to trick people out of money will always exist. Obviously someone needs to keep the avaricious greed of certain used car salesman in check.

It is immoral for a public university to sell off student and parent data without asking the students and parents. It likely should be illegal.

And people should be beating down the doors of the Alumni Assoc in protest of their sleazy policies.

Anonymous said...

It's self evident...less people to pay...namely less tenured professors. Just allow the basic classes to be taken at the community colleges. They already do that to some extent. So no, they don't have to go to IC. They could go to Blackhawk or DMACC for those few requirements.

Why is it immoral for them to sell it? Again, I had a credit card in college...I ran it up to $500 back in 87. BFD. I paid it off. It is not an immoral scheme. I got credit card offers through UIAA for years. So what? A kid should know about credit cards BEFORE they even get to college. Quit making excuses for stupidity.

BTW, yes...the State Institutions get about 5% less in state support than the past.

Anonymous said...

Anon3:10 here

I absolutely agree that the community colleges should be integrated into the 3 large state university system.

Would eliminating professors actually reduce costs? Prove it. Don't the professors produce research and development that actually help the economy? Does that effect the cost of education? What are the facts.

Now 'excuses for stupidity'? Come again. Is allowing hucksters free range for personal data a chance to exercise intelligence?

As I said, there appears a huge 'caveat emptor' sentiment among businessmen who would take advantage of the vulnerable, then think nothing of screwing them out of money. That is a devastatingly sad, but true reality.

I contend that it is not only immoral but illegal for the Univ to release data to selected banks, then refuse to reveal their plots.

How does the Alumni Assoc, which uses the Univ of Iowa logo, the Univ of Iowa data, and the Univ od Iowa space, not answer to the freedom of information act?

Someone launch a class-action suit to take on these shysters.

Anonymous said...

Your personal data is sold all the time on various lists. The UIAA is a separate 501(c)3 corporation, not a government institution.

Yes, it will save money to eliminate duplication in departments. For example; How does the ISU Dept of Political Science create economic impact? You would also eliminate duplication of facility costs. You would also eliminate some administration.

How are college students vulnerable? How are they being screwed out of money? No one is FORCING THEM to run up credit card bills. Basic economic education used to be done back in High School. I guess if you consider the stupid a vulnerable group, so be it.

Anonymous said...

Barleykorn, you sure love to call names. I was wondering if the financial problems Enron suffered was from 'stupidity' too..or is it just college kids who are stupid?

It is entirely simplistic to think that eliminating programs by consolidating departments will save money. Very superficial.

For instance engineering. Move all engineering to Ames. Does this include biomedical engineering that interfaces with the UIHC? Or perhaps the 'human performance engineering' that interfaces with the Driving Simulator at Oakdale. Maybe you want to move the hydrological lab to Ames too, away form it's home on the Iowa river.

By saving money in consolidating engineering in Ames, you will critically damage tremendous research, education, and development efforts dependent on Iowa City engineering. That is millions of dollars of economic impact.

So we can shoot that merger down pretty easily.

How about moving liberal arts to Iowa City? Don't engineers and pre-vet students need to read and write? Do UNI students need liberal arts classes? Where will these students obtain their liberal arts gen-ed requirements? They have to take classes somewhere; won't those classes actually cost money no matter where they are located? Or are we to squeeze a few more thousand kids in the lecture halls in McBride?

Then take education. Should all education be moved to Cedar Falls? Does that include special education programs that treat kids with autism, ADHD, hearing problems and physical disabilities that rely on the UIHC, CDD, and Johnson speech and language center? Do we then wipe out the Bell and Blank Center in IC?

These very superficial and simplistic ideas may appear to save money by consolidating classes. However, the way things developed on the various campuses is actually complex.

Anonymous said...

If you read what I wrote earlier, you will note that you could easily use the community college system for the basic classes. The state schools already accept those classes for credit.

It's not a simplistic idea. It would save money. Some sacrifices would be made. Some things closed. Heck, there are departments that have been closed in the past. At one time the UI offered Dutch as a language.

As for Enron, that is just a false analogy. Totally different. One was a company cooking their books. This is about knowing that 20% interest can put you in a whole. It is fully disclosed up front per the law.

What does Enron have to do