Category Archives: The Corporate University

Cultural Logic 2017 – Scholactivism: Transforming Praxis in and Beyond the Classroom

The editors of Cultural Logic are pleased to announce that our latest collaboration with with Works & Davids is now available online.

This triple issue of articles, reviews, and poetry was edited by Joseph G. Ramsey.

Thanks to David B. Downing and his staff at Works & Days as well as Cultural Logic co-editor David Siar and Jarib Rahman for their technical assistance in publishing this issue of Cultural Logic.

Scholactivism: Reflections on Transforming Praxis in and Beyond the Classroom

In Memoriam, Edmond Caldwell

Contents

Articles

Editors
“Editorial Note”

Marc Bousquet
“Here We Come”

Joseph G. Ramsey
“Introducing Scholactivism
Reflections on Transforming Praxis in and beyond the Classroom”

Edward J. Carvalho
“The Activist-Scholar:
A Responsibility “to confront and dismantle
Interview with Ward Churchill”

Babak Amini
“Scholactivism:
A Roundtable Interview with Ricardo Antunes, Pietro Basso, Patrick Bond, Michael Lowy, Jose Paulo Netto, and Leo Panitch”

Carl Grey Martin and Modhumita Roy
“Narrative Resistance:
A Conversation with Historian Marcus Rediker”

Toby Miller
“We Are All Activists Now”

Patrick Colm Hogan
“Politically Engaged Scholars:
An Analytic of Positions and Norms”

The MLA Subconference Collective: Bennett Carpenter, Laura Goldblatt, Lenora Hanson, Karim Wissa, and Andrew Yale
“Schol…Exodus?
Learning Within/Against/Beyond the Institution”

Jeffrey Noonan
“Resolving the Contradictions of Academic Unionism”

Gary Zabel
“Critical Revolutionary Praxis in the Neoliberal University”

Bradley M. Freeman
‘”Better Days Ahead”
Teaching Revolutionary Futures and Protesting the Present’

John Maerhofer
“Lukács, Mariátegui, and the Dialectical Roots of Edu-Activism”

Stephen C. Ferguson II and Gregory D. Meyerson
“Shred of Truth:
Antinomy and Synedoche in the Work of Ta-Nehisi Coates”

Ian Butcher
“Student Evaluations, Neoliberal Managerialism, and Networks of Mistrust”

Demetrius Noble
“I am Not that Corpse:
A Working Praxis for Black Lives Matter”

Jill McDonough
“Amos D. Squire,
Chief Physician of Sing Sing 1914-1925”

Ali Shehzad Zaidi
“The Promise and Peril of the Virtual University”

Efadul Huq and Xavier Best
‘Untangling the Scholactivist Web
“What’s on Your Mind”‘

Sophia A. McClennen
“What’s Wrong with Slactivism? Confronting the Neoliberal Assault on Millenials”

Jeffrey R. DiLeo
“Top Cover:
On Administrative Activism in the Neoliberal Academy”

Katie Hogan
“Complicit:
On Being a WGSS Program Director in the Neoliberal University”

Vincent B. Leitch
“Letter on Scholactivism:
To Graduate Students and Young Colleagues”

Marisol Cortez
“Occupy Los Intersticios!
Or, In Defense of Carbon-Free Unicorns”

Tony Van der Meer
“Fighting to be Different in the Academy”

Kim Emery
“Rights and Rebellion: The Faculty Role, Revisited”

Victor Wallis
“Richard Levins and Dialectical Thinking”

Joel Woller, Courtney Maloney, Charles Cunningham
“On the Ground with David Demarest:
Toward a Methodology of Scholar Activism”

Christopher Craig
“John Trudell and the Spirit of Life”

Contributors

 

The Fear Created by Precarious Existence in The Neoliberal World Discourages Critical Thinking

I was recently interviewed about the impact of neoliberal capitalism on schools, universities, and education in general by Mohsen Abdelmoumen, an Algerian-based journalist.

Over the course of the interview we discussed a wide-range of issues, including: the fundamental conflict between neoliberalism and participatory democracy; the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) and the possibilities of transforming schools and universities into forces for progressive change and, in particular, academic freedom and free speech on campus, schools as illusion factories, curriculum as propaganda; what it means to be a dangerous citizen; and the role of intellectuals/teachers as activists.

The interview has been published in English and French, links below.

American Herald Tribune

Algérie Résistance II

Palestine Solidarité

 

Cultural Logic launches new issue #CulturalLogic21

Cultural Logic is a journal of marxism, literature, and radical politics, which has been an open access journal since it was founded in 1997.

The new issue, Cultural Logic 21, features the following articles and poetry.

Articles

Anthony Barnum
“Identifying the Theoretical Development of the League of RevolutionaryBlack Workers for a Pedagogy of Revolution”

Paul Diepenbrock
“Consolidating US Hegemony:A neo-Gramscian of Pantich and Gindin, and Konings”

Rich Gibson
“Sudents and Teachers! The Unasked Question:Why Have School?”

Matthew MacLellan
“The Gun as Political Object:Transcoding Contemporary Gun Culture and Neoliberal Governmentality”

Larry Schwartz
“The Ford Foundation, Little Magazines and The CIA in the Early Cold War”

Alan J. Spector
“Campus Activism Today — Some Lessons from Students for a Democratic Society”

Poetry

Alzo David-West
“1932, A Pseudo-Revolutionary Poem”

Cultural Logic 22 will be a massive 20th anniversary triple issue on “Schol-Activism” produced in collaboration with Works & Days. Look for it in the coming months.

Comments on Academic Freedom at the University of British Columbia

Comments on Academic Freedom at the University of British Columbia
Delivered at “Breakfast with the Dean” panel April 21, 2016

E. Wayne Ross, PhD
Professor
Faculty of Education
University of British Columbia

First of all I would like to thank Dean Blye Frank for inviting me to participate on this panel and thanks to all of you for coming out this morning to participate in a discussion on academic freedom.

On the surface, it’s easy to be pro-academic freedom, kind of like being for mom and apple pie. But, academic freedom is a contested issue in universities (and schools, but that is a very different matter).

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), describes a number of major academic freedom cases in Canada ranging from the University of Manitoba blocking a documentary film that reports findings of research on genetically modified crops; to irregularities that lead to the suspension of David F. Noble’s appointment to an endowed chair at Simon Fraser University; to Mary Bryson, the Faculty’s senior associate dean, and her battle with UBC over intellectual property rights. The arbitration decision in the Bryson case is described by CAUT as “landmark in the struggle to insure that faculty, not administrators, determine the content of courses.”[1]

In recent years there has been international attention given to the academic freedom cases of Professors Norman G. Finkelstein and Steven Salaita, who lost jobs as a result of social justice scholarship and activism, in particular, criticisms of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians living under occupation.

Threats to academic freedom are real and have a long history in Canadian postsecondary education and beyond.

CAUT defines academic freedom, in part, as including:

the right, without restriction by prescribed doctrine, to freedom to teach and discuss; freedom to carry out research and disseminate and publish the results thereof; freedom to produce and perform creative works; … freedom to express one’s opinion about the institution, its administration, and the system in which one works; … Academic freedom always entails freedom from institutional censorship.

Academic freedom does not require neutrality on the part of the individual. Academic freedom makes intellectual discourse, critique, and commitment possible.

Academic staff must not be hindered or impeded in exercising their civil rights as individuals including the right to contribute to social change through free expression of opinion on matters of public interest. Academic staff must not suffer any institutional penalties because of the exercise of such rights. [2]

In short academic freedom is essential to the mission of the university.

Dean Frank asked the members of this` panel to focus on issues of academic freedom in light of the current search to fill the new UBC position of Senior Advisor to the Provosts on Academic Freedom.

My first thought was that if we have provosts who need advisors on academic freedom, maybe they shouldn’t be provosts, really. But, perhaps I’m being too glib, even for a short breakfast talk.

Of course the creation of this new advisory position is the result of controversy created by the former chair of the UBC Board of Governors, John Montalbano, when he interfered with the academic freedom of Sauder School Professor Jennifer Berdahl, after she blogged about UBC President Arvind Gupta’s “resignation” after 13 months in office.[3]

Oh, wait a minute. Let me correct myself, like many of UBC’s self-investigation exercises the external report on the Berdahl case, written by former justice Lynn Smith, did not find fault with any individual university administrators.

“No individual intended to interfere with Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom, or made a direct attempt to do so… However, sometimes several relatively small mistakes can lead to a failure of the larger system.”

Despite whatever good intentions might lurk behind the creation of the new academic freedom advisor position – and I do believe that its existence is primarily a public relations effort – at best this position is a band-aid on a life-threatening wound and at worse it is yet another diversion – a manifestation of an ideological stance that is widely held in society and practically hegemonic in universities—liberal neutrality. I’ll briefly address both of these circumstances.

Corporatization of the University (The life-threatening wound)

The corporate takeover of education at the K-12 and postsecondary levels, facilitated is by governments that might best be described as executive committees of the rich.

The trouble begins when the framework for understanding the nature and aims of education and scholarship is as a tool vital for economic success. As Thomas Docherty argues in his book Universities at War, the university has become a servant of the national and provincial economies in the context of globalization. Its driving principles of private and personal enrichment are understood as necessary conditions of progress and modernity.

Docherty sees this circumstances as a radical impoverishment of the university’s capacities to extend human possibilities and freedoms, to seek earnestly for social justice, and to participate in the endless need for the extension of democracy. Docherty argues that we must take sides in this matter because market fundamentalists are on the march and the war is being fought not just for scholars but also for a more democratic, more just, more emancipatory way of life.

The Problem of “Liberal neutrality”

In her article “Why I’m Not a Liberal,” Robin Marie Averback argues that

“In the liberal imagination, education and accommodation are self-evident solutions, since the problem can neither be understood as a matter of brute power struggles nor as a product of structural inequality fundamental to the functioning of entire institutions … You can’t choose a side when liberalism insists there are no sides at all.”[4]

This notion, helps to explain how the Smith Report on the Berdahl academic freedom case creates a victim without a victimizer. This is a pattern played out in numerous instances at UBC in recently. See, for example, the reports on:

  • the privacy breach related to documents on the Arvind Gupta imbroglio[5]
  • Commerce Undergraduate Society Frosh Week “rape chants”[6]
  • UBC handling of sexual assault complaints[7]

Averback reminds us of the picture book version of social justice that we often see on walls of community centres,

“In this picture book version of social justice struggle, no one ever opposes freedom’s forward march. All the oppressed need to do is rise up and assert themselves; the world they are fighting for is realized simply by the act of self-declaration.”

At UBC everybody seems to be for academic freedom. It’s like a picture book version of academic freedom. But in the all-administrative university – a phrase coined by Benjamin Ginsberg in his book The Fall of the Faculty – the response of the administration to an academic freedom crisis is the creation of yet another administrative position, aimed at educating and accommodating.

This reminds me of a comment someone made in the context of the recent UBC Board of Governors debacle(s) and the compromised Presidential Search Committee, “UBC doesn’t need a new driver, because the problem is with the car.”

Here are some academic freedom issues that the new position will like never come close to addressing:

  • Intellectual property rights;
  • Corporate influence on campus academic programs and research.[8]
  • Faculty loss of control over academic programs (such as the teacher education program in our faculty)
  • Respectful workplace statements that become instruments that encourage bullying and mobbing of faculty with dissenting points of view or who merely ask questions that make people uncomfortable;
  • Middle managers, like those in Sauder, who intervene like their corporate counterparts to threaten the rank and file on issues of solidarity and criticism of management (e.g., the recent UBCFA no confidence vote);
  • People like those faculty members who have warned UBC Professor Jonathan Ichikawa (sponsor of the UBCFA no-confidence vote in the Board of Governors) that his activism would negatively affect his advancement at the university;
  • Students/faculty self-funding themselves;
  • Administrative efforts to “right-size” academic programs;
  • Tenure and promotion committees that forego evaluative reading of faculty scholarship and instead focus on impact factors or the amount of external dollars won in competitions.

When no one is understood as protecting a position of power (liberal neutrality) how do we combat these threats to academic freedom? I don’t think the answer is by appointing an advisor to the provost.

Questions for discussion:

To what degree are the new policies for academic speech inscribed in academic work, regardless of where it’s done? As the academic workplace is increasingly displaced and distributed, are academic policies displaced and distributed as well? Observed at work, monitored at home and tracked in between—these are not so much choices as the cold reality of 21st century academic work.[9]

BC Premier Christy Clark has warned provincial postsecondary institutions that they must do a better job of producing graduates who meet the needs of the private sector (2014 Throne Speech). What happens to academic freedom when universities are cast as servants to the provincial or national “economic success?”

Notes

[1] CAUT, Major Academic Freedom Cases: http://www.caut.ca/issues-and-campaigns/academic-freedom/academic-freedom-cases

[2] See full CAUT statement on academic freedom here: https://www.caut.ca/about-us/caut-policy/lists/caut-policy-statements/policy-statement-on-academic-freedom – sthash.0grFSra5.dpuf

[3] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/ubc-chair-john-montalbano-resigns-after-report-finds-academic-freedom-not-protected-1.3272776

[4] https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/07/why-im-not-a-liberal/

[5] http://universitycounsel.ubc.ca/files/2016/03/D-Loukidelis-Report-on-UBC-FOI-Processes-final-7-Mar-16.pdf

[6] http://president.ubc.ca/files/2013/09/Fact-Finding-Report-copy.pdf

[7] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ubc-sexual-assaults-complaints-expulsion-1.3328368

[8] See government appointments to UBC Board and U of Calgary/Enbridge relationship: http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/calgary/caut-ucalgary-uofc-dru-marshall-david-robinson-1.3531851

[9] See Petrina, Ross, & Mathison (2015). Threat convergence: The new academic work, bullying, mobbing and freedom. Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, 24, 58-69. Retrieved from http://ices.library.ubc.ca/index.php/workplace/article/view/186137/185332

Vancouver Observer: Professors blast UBC’s “failures of governance”

The Vancouver Observer recently published a commentary co-authored by Sandra Mathison, Stephen Petrina and myself (co-directors of the Institute for Critical Education Studies) on the recent failures of governance at the University of British Columbia.

Read the piece on the Vancouver Observer site, here.

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UBC Faculty Association and student society call for external review of Board of Governors; Momentum gathers among faculty for UBCBoG no-confidence vote

With UBC’s crisis of administration and legitimacy growing worse, the Faculty Association has re-issued its call for an external review of the Board of Governors and its operations. Clearly, there are failures of governance and shadow systems of decision-making from the ranks of middle management to the top of the Board. The FAUBC announced today:

As the collective voice of faculty, charged with representing faculty interests and perspectives relevant to unfolding events at UBC, the Faculty Association, through its Executive, feels compelled at this time to raise a number of serious concerns. It has become clear that the University of British Columbia is in the midst of a governance crisis.

The events of the past year or so, as information about them slowly leaks out, demonstrate a failure of governance that threatens the integrity and credibility of the University. This is a singular moment in the 100-year history of UBC, the solution to which requires strong actions on the part of the Board of Governors.

We have called publicly for an external review of the Board and its operations. At this point, we re-issue this call. Such a review is essential to restore public trust in the Board. To accomplish this, the leadership for such a review must have the support of the University community – of faculty, students, staff, and alumni….

Some current members of the Board, including the Chancellor of UBC, have been shown in recent, now public, documents to have been involved in activities around the resignation of Dr. Gupta that appear to contravene standard and expected Board practices. Improper conduct of Board business is a serious matter. The former Chair of the Board, John Montalbano, has resigned. What onus of response falls on these other Board members, given these revelations?

UBCFA has posed specific questions about UBC Board practices, which include:

  1. In the leaked documents from last week, we have seen several examples of secret meetings without any subsequent public documentation of these meetings. Does the Board’s current practice of holding some full Board and committee meetings without published meeting dates, agendas, and motions passed (and hence of decisions taken) meet the expectations for accountability and transparency for BC public bodies, and the obligations placed on the Board under the law?
  2. Has the Board been properly constituting and documenting all of its committees and their work? For example, a previously unknown ad hoc committee appears to have been created to manage the Board’s interactions with Dr. Gupta in the time leading to his resignation. Where is the documentation for the motions that created this committee? What processes were used, and what records kept of these processes? How many other such committees are there? Why is it necessary to keep the existence of any committee secret? Do all Board members know about each of the ad hoc committees? Is the Board operating in a way that meets all of its obligations under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the general guidelines for public bodies? Is it lawful for secret committees to take actions that are not publicly recorded and not available for public scrutiny?
  3. Two related concerns pertain to patterns of email business conducted by Board members. First, why are all Board members not using a UBC email address for all of their Board work? Second, how does that Board ensure that the work of the Board is properly recorded and archived? For example, the University’s response to one of the Faculty Association’s Freedom of Information requests for the Chancellor’s email correspondence around a critical event claims that Mr. Gordon had no emails that were captured by this request. However, other individuals covered under this same request provided several email chains relating to the event that included multiple emails to and from Mr. Gordon. Why were Mr. Gordon’s emails, which were clearly about University business, not provided by Mr. Gordon as the law provides? How are Mr. Gordon’s emails about university business thus archived? More generally, do the email processes of the Board meet all legal obligations applicable to the Board and to UBC as a public institution?

In addition to the UBCFA’s open letter to the UBC Board, momentum is gathering among faculty for a no-confidence vote on UBC Board. A rank and file group of university faculty members are currently mounting petition for a resolution to be presented to the UBC Faculty Association Executive Committee:

Whereas the UBC Board of Governors is required by law to act in the best interests of the University (BC University Act 19.2);

and whereas it has come to light that the Board has held secret, unannounced meetings of the Board, leaving no documentation of its activities;

and whereas Board members have formed secret ad hoc committees in which governance activities have been pursued without oversight and contrary to policy and procedural norms;

and whereas these committees and the Board have taken decisions or engaged in actions—such as declaring no confidence in the President with no formal review or input from faculty, declaring full confidence in the Chair after his role in interfering with a faculty member’s academic freedom, interpreting fiduciary duty to the university as pertaining to donors rather than its faculty, students, and staff—that are not obviously in the best interests of the University;

and whereas the Board has declined to explain such actions to the University community;

and whereas, consequently, we faculty members in good standing at UBC find that we cannot know—indeed, we have strong reason to doubt—that the Board has been operating in accordance with its legal obligations to the people of British Columbia;

therefore be it resolved that the Executive of the UBC Faculty Association, as soon as possible, bring a motion to its membership expressing no confidence in the UBC Board of Governors.

The UBC Alma Mater Society also publicly called for a review. The AMS urges the Board to enact the following changes:

  • That the incoming Chair of the Board of Governors instigate an external review process into governance practices;
  • That the Board of Governors delay approving any candidate proposed by the Presidential Search Committee until such time as the suggested external review is complete and incorporated.

UBC’s 100th year is turning into a year of memorial events, but it’s not the planned  superficial PR.

UBC faculty, staff, and students protest Board of Governors meeting #UBCClean [UPDATED]

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UBC faculty are not generally a rowdy bunch, but there were a couple of hundred out today protesting the Board of Governors meeting and demanding UBC management and Board accountability.

UBC faculty, staff and students were protesting the UBC Board of Governors Meeting held on campus at the R. H. Lee Alumni Centre, and demanding a clean up of the Board and university administration, in particular that:

  • the Board of Governors stops holding secret, undocumented meetings
  • the Board honours its duty to operate in a transparent and accountable fashion
  • an external review of its past practices takes place immediately.

For more background on the issues leading to this protest, see this letter from the Faculty Association of UBC, which details how the BoG has, among other things, held committee meetings that left no official record, and made decisions about personnel matters without formal assessments or performance reviews.

News coverage of protest:

The Tyee: UBC Faculty and Students Protest Board Handling of Gupta Departure

The Province:  ‘Secret’ board meetings prompt UBC protest

The Ubyssey: Protest disturbs Board of Governors meeting

CKNW: Protesters crash UBC board of governors meeting

Here are some photos and videos from today’s protest:

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More bucks than brains: James Ramey and the ruination of the University of Louisville

 

What was he thinking? - University of Louisville president posed for photo in sombrero, poncho at the his 2015 Halloween party

University of Louisville president James Ramsey  posed for photo in sombrero, poncho at the his 2015 Halloween party

In the late 1990s, Kentucky’s legislature initiated a program to upgrade and reform the state’s postsecondary education system, it was called “Bucks for Brains.” (The state’s promotional tagline at the time was “Open for Business.”)

I was recruited to the University of Louisville in 2001 and spent two-and-a-half years on the faculty there as a department chair and distinguished university scholar, which gave me an up close and personal experience with a university administration that’s, as they say where my family’s from, sigogglin.

John W. Shumaker, a classics scholar, was UofL president when I arrived and he proved to be an incredible fund raiser, increasing the university’s endowment from under $200 million to $550 million.

Of course, the UofL has long been the recipient of corporate largesse, especially from the Louisville’s corporate giants Brown-Forman (one of America’s largest spirits and wine companies); Brown & Williamson (which chemically enhanced the addictiveness of cigarettes, remember whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand? No? Well I’m sure you remember Russell Crowe playing Wigand the blockbuster movie The Insider); Papa John’s Pizza (UofL football Cardinals play in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium); and Yum! Brands (“feeding the world” crap food via KFC, Pizza Hut, and, of course, Taco Bell, more on the Mexican connection later).

The Brown & Williamson Club at the University of Louisville's Papa John's Cardinal Stadium

The Brown & Williamson Club at the University of Louisville’s Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium

After Shumaker left to head up the University of Tennessee (where he resigned in disgrace after 3 years), he was replaced by James R. Ramsey, who had been Kentucky’s state budget director under Gov. Paul E. Patton (who became wealthy by exploiting Kentucky’s coal miners).

Patton’s major achievement as governor was overhauling postsecondary education in the Kentucky. But Patton’s political career was de-railed by duelling scandals: (1)  an extramarital affair and a sex-for-favors scandal; and (2) pardoning four of his political advisers who were indicted for violating Kentucky’s campaign finance laws and for allegedly abusing his patronage powers.

All of this is just everyday Kentucky politics, so Patton wasn’t distracted enough to forget he had to find a soft-landing for his budget director, thus Ramsey, with no university administration experience, became the 17th president of the University of Louisville.

Since Ramsey has been in office the UofL, in endowment has continued to grow and is now pushing the $1 billion mark, which is really the only logical explanation for why he hasn’t been bounced because Ramsey’s administration has more ethical lapses than Carter has liver pills, pretty much proving that the UofL has more bucks than brains.

Robert Felner: Former Dean, Convicted Felon

Felner arrived in Louisville with some spiffy credentials: PhD in psychology from Yale; former head of the department of psychology at the University of Illinois; a CV packed with pages upon pages listing his publications in top journals and, most importantly for the UofL administration, a staggering number of grants.

Despite several red flags about Felner’s candidacy for dean of UofL’s College of Education and Human Development, Ramsey and his long time provost, Shirley Willihnganz, couldn’t wait to get Felner on campus.

Ramsey was in such as rush to land Felner he and Willihnganz forgot to tell the interim dean (and other finalist for the position) they hired Felner, so he was left to discover the decision when Felner call his secretary and started giving her instructions. So much for that HR seminar!

Things in CEHD soon started to fall apart.

I resigned from my department chair position two weeks after Felner took over as dean and later moved to UBC.

Within a few years, there had been 30 grievances filed by faculty and students against Felner for a wide range of abusive managerial practices and a faculty vote of no-confidence in Felner’s leadership of the CEHD. Reasons given by faculty for the vote of non-confidence included:

Public humiliation of faculty, work place harassment, retaliation for voicing opinions, little or no governance, decisions that hurt College, unacceptable and unfair hiring practice; rude, offensive, unethical behavior by CEHD representatives; denial of support for research to those who differ in opinion; and extreme inequity of pay. (See CEHD meeting notes published here.)

Despite the abominable conditions in CEHD, UofL Provost Willihnganz and Ramsey both supported Felner publicly.

One year after the vote of no-confidence, Felner announced he was leaving the UofL to become president of the University of Wisconsin, Parkside.

The Chronicle of Higher Education described Felner as “riding high” a couple of years into his deanship at UofL, well-paid, and having secured a $700,000 grant from the US Department of Education. However, he “pressed his luck” during his last weeks in Louisville.

Even though only $96,000 remained in the account, he implored Louisville officials to approve a $200,000 subcontract with a nonprofit organization in Illinois that had already received $450,000 from the grant. Perhaps, he suggested, the university could draw on a special fund that had been established by the daughter of a former trustee.

The Illinois group, Mr. Felner said, had been surveying students and teachers in Kentucky. That survey would “let us give the feds something that should make them very happy about the efficiency and joint commitment of the university to doing a good job with an earmark, as I know we will want more from this agency,” he wrote in an e-mail message on June 18.

But on June 20, his last day as Dean of CEHD before he headed off to Wisconsin, those big black SUVs with government plates (like the ones you see on Criminal Minds) rolled into the CEHD parking lot. US Secret Service, US Postal Inspectors, and UofL Police questioned Felner and escorted him off campus, along with his computers and records.

There was a simultaneous raid on UW-Parkside to confiscate material Felner had shipped ahead of his arrival there.

In October 2008, a federal grand jury indicted Felner on nine counts of mail fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion. According to the indictment,

the Illinois nonprofit group, known as the National Center on Public Education and Prevention, was simply a shell that funneled money into the personal bank accounts of Mr. Felner and Thomas Schroeder, a former student of his and the group’s “executive director.” Prosecutors say the two men siphoned away not only the $694,000 earmarked grant, but also $1.7-million in payments from three urban school districts, money that ought to have gone to the legitimate public-education center that Mr. Felner had created in Rhode Island.

In January 2010, Felner pleaded guilty to nine Federal charges, including income tax evasion.

In May 2010, Felner was sentenced to 63 months in US Federal Prison for his role in defrauding defrauding the UofL and the University of Rhode Island, where he had been director of the School of Education, of $2.3 million of US Department of Education funds earmarked for No Child Left Behind Act research.

aka Robert Felner

10775-033 aka Robert Felner was released from US Prison in May 2014

For a a short course on the felonious Felner see the PageOneKentucky.com summary of events. For a full course on the Felonious Felner and the incompetence and ethical lapses of Ramsey’s UofL administration click here. (Shout out to Jake at PageOneKentucky for excellent investigative reporting on Felner and the UofL.)

For Workplace Blog coverage of Felner click here.

And here is a Louisville Courier-Journal profile of Felner that pretty much sums up the guy that Ramsey defended until he pleaded guilty: Robert Felner profile: Arrogant, outrageous, abusive and duplicitous.

Felner Footnotes: Indians, John Deasy, Non-Disclosure Agreements & Ramsey as the Frito Bandito

(1) When Felner announced his resignation, UofL president Ramsey wroted to Felner and said he was worried about “letting the Indians get back in control of the reservation.” That’s some serious respect for university faculty and the idea of shared governance, eh?

(2) Los Angeles school superintendent, John Deasy, has had his academic credentials called into question. Deasy was given a PhD by the University of Louisville after he was enrolled for four months and received a total of nine credits.

Deasy’s doctoral advisor was, surprise, Robert Felner! Deasy had previously awarded $375,000 in consulting contracts to Felner, while Deasy was Superintendent of Santa Monica schools.

Ramsey appointed a “blue-ribbon” panel to investigate Deasy’s degree. The panel found that getting a PhD in four months at the UofL was not cause for concern, thus plunging the UofL’s academic reputation down into the neighbourhood of fly-by-night for-profit “higher” education.

Deasy is now working in an unaccredited training program sponsored by educational de-formers the Broad Foundation, which teaches school leaders business methods and supports charter schools and closing public schools.

(3) Ramsey has been making double retirement payouts to UofL administrators for their silence.

Records show that the school paid a full year’s salary to outgoing vice presidents Michael Curtin ($252,350) and Larry Owsley ($248,255) and to assistant to the president Vivian Hibbs ($66,391) to induce them not to “disparage, demean or impugn the university or its senior leadership.”

In March 2014, UofL made a $346,000.00 settlement with university counsel Angela Kosawha:

The University of Louisville is paying another large settlement in connection with the retirement of a high-ranking official — this time, $346,844 to its top lawyer. University counsel Angela Koshewa is on a three-month leave of absence before she officially retires June 1. Documents obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act show the university is paying Koshewa — who has questioned some expenditures and proposals backed by President James Ramsey and Dr. David Dunn, the executive vice president for Health Affairs — twice her final salary.

It costs a lot for Ramsey to cover up details of his administration’s incompetence and shenanigans, but remember there are lots of bucks at UofL.

(4) Provost Shirley Willihnganz stepped down as UofL provost earlier this year. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that

Under her watch, however, university employees have stole, misspent or mishandled at least $7.6 million in schemes at the health science campus, the law school, the business school and the athletic department’s ticket office.

Willihnganz also was criticized for approving about $1 million in buyouts for former high-ranking employees, some of which included agreements not to disparage the university or its leaders.

She also was forced to apologize to CEHD faculty in 2008 for failing to take any common-sense action against Felner for his intimidation, harassment, humiliation and retaliation against faculty, staff, students and alumni.

Willihnganz said at the time that she tended to dismiss the early complaints against Felner — including a no-confidence vote by faculty — because he was a “high performer” and because the complaints came from professors and staff “entrenched in their ways and resistant to change.”

She later told faculty at a meeting that she was sorry. “Mostly what I think I want to say is people have been hurt and something very bad happened, and as provost I feel like I am ultimately responsible for that,” she said.

No duh! She actually is directly responsible for the Felner disaster (along with Ramsey), that’s probably why she feels that way. And speaking of resistance to change …

(5) This next item has nothing to do with Felner, except that his former boss and advocate, James Ramsey, is also the long time boss of UofL basketball coach Rick Pitino who admitted to having sex with a woman in a swanky Italian restaurant in Louisville. Apparently that’s not a problem with Ramsey and the UofL because Pitino said it wasn’t rape.

And, now Pitino is using hookers and strippers to recruit high school basketball players to come to the UofL. See Dave Zirin’s pieces on the latest Ramsey supervised scandal:

(6) And I almost forgot. Remember the Taco Bell/Mexican connection. This week Ramsey had a little halloween party at the UofL. Ramsey goes racist (again). Yes, he dressed up like the Frito Bandito.

UofL President James Ramsey illustrating his knowledge of multiculturalism

UofL President James Ramsey says “Yo quiero Taco Bell.”

And you thought the HR training at UofL was bad, get that guy to the diversity office and cross your fingers that they’re better than the university’s accounting folks.

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Did UBC School of Kinesiology just scam its students to help fund a new building?

Tonight the University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society (AMS) Council—the elected student government—will consider approving results of a referendum in which undergraduate kinesiology students voted to increase their student fees by $250 to help fund a new building for the School of Kinesiology.

Yesterday, UBC Insiders reported that the School of Kinesiology spent over $40,000 on the referendum, including employing two people to work on the campaign. Based upon documents UBC Insiders obtained via a Freedom of Information request it seems clear that the the School of Kinesiology and its employees, including administrators, were the primary forces in the referendum, while the Kinesiology Undergraduate Society (KUS) was merely a veneer that made it seems as if the initiative to have students pay for UBC infrastructure on top of their already high tuition and fees was a grassroots idea and campaign .

According to UBC Insiders, the School of Kinesiology outspent the entire KUS budget on the student referendum:

In March 2015, the Kinesiology Undergraduate Society held a referendum for a new $250 student fee. This referendum was unusual for a number of reasons. First, the fee would go entirely towards paying for a portion of a new academic building on behalf of the School of Kinesiology. Secondly, it also became known that the KUS had little involvement in the referendum process and it was instead being led by a group called “Make Your Mark” (MYM). Thirdly, the MYM campaign carried the school’s branding and was being headed up by two individuals who were employees of the School of Kinesiology.

Despite these irregularities, the referendum passed. In May 2015, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request was filed asking for various records and correspondence about the referendum held by named employees of the School of Kinesiology. The results of that request, containing over 300 pages of records, can be downloaded here.

It’s quite unusual in the first place that a department of the university would be able to produce 300+ pages of documentation on a referendum supposedly run by a student group. Yesterday’s post contained a semi-narrative timeline of events outlining the School of Kinesiology’s involvement over 16 months.

Across its reporting on the referendum, which goes back to 2014, UBC insiders have identified myriad questions and concerns regarding the referendum (see four articles linked here: http://ubcinsiders.ca/tag/referendum/), including issues of ethics and conflicts of interest.

Here’s a summary of what UBC Insiders has learned:

The School of Kinesiology was involved in the planning and execution of a student referendum for a period of more than a year. It is an idea that had been contemplated by Bob Sparks, the school’s Director, as early as 2012. The School hired two employees who were specifically tasked with passing the referendum, and who reported to Bob. In doing so, the School likely spent more on this one project than the entire annual KUS budget.

Make Your Mark was a “yes” committee, led by employees of the school, that was allowed to write the very referendum question they were campaigning in support of. At various junctures, attempts to muddy the waters were made by trying to claim it was simply an informational campaign.

Bob Sparks and other employees in the School of Kinesiology were definitely kept in the loop of referendum-planning activities: helping to set up meetings, developing budgets, and encouraging faculty and staff to participate in the campaign. The involvement continued throughout, including approval of campaign materials, drafting of the referendum question, and asking UBC legal counsel for advice (presumably) on how to navigate the AMS. Even after questions were publicly raised about the appropriateness of the school’s involvement in the this referendum, nothing seemed to change, with school employees weighing in on media responses, and even editing the notice of referendum results submitted to the AMS.

The KUS, on the other hand, seemed to have little direct involvement in the referendum while it was being planned, a level of engagement which appeared to continue during and after the vote. It would be unfair to say that the KUS was deliberately marginalized from the campaign and referendum, but of everyone involved, the KUS seemed to have the least werewithal to run their own referendum, or even understand the process of doing so. The person eventually recruited to ensure elections rules were followed had been involved in the initial discussions with the school about hiring staff to organize the referendum campaign.

One narrative that has emerged from referendum supporters is that despite any issues surrounding how it was conducted, the results should be ratified because students voted in favour of the proposal. This point of view represents a willful blindness to the elephant in the room; if the student support expressed during this referendum is a genuine reflection of the opinion of the Kinesiology student body, why did the School of Kinesiology feel compelled to mount a $40,000, 16-month campaign? Beyond ignoring significant conflicts of interest and other unethical aspects of the campaign’s structure, this also implicitly posits that Make Your Mark had no effect on the outcome of the vote. On a more basic level, it manages to ignore the underlying fact that in the absence of MYM, there would have been no referendum. This referendum only existed because the School of Kinesiology wanted it to.

The issues raised regarding the School of Kinesiology student referendum demand a full accounting. I have requested that the conversation on these issue begin at the next Faculty of Education meeting on November 16, 21015. (The School of Kinesiology is a unit in the UBC Faculty of Education.)

In addition, I have requested that the Dean of the UBC Faculty of Education initiate an independent fact-finding investigation into the alleged conflicts of interests/ethic breaches related to the School of Kinesiology student referendum and deliver a report of its findings to the members of the Faculty of Education as soon as possible.

It seems to me the AMS council should at least ask some pointed questions, if not conduct their own investigation, before ratifying the referendum to raise the fees of kinesiology students.