Your Student Loan Dollars At Work

Given all the ink that's been spilled on corporate looting scandals (remember Dennis Kozlowski, with his Caligulean birthday parties in Sardinia and his $6,000 shower curtains, all courtesy of Tyco International shareholders?), it's refreshing that the Wall Street Journal has turned to the spending shenanigans of university administrators.

Dan Golden*, author of the recently published "The Price of Admission," yesterday profiled some of these high rollers:

  • the chancellor of Vanderbilt University, who reportedly spent $6 million without full board approval to renovate the university-owned mansion he lives in, and whom the university reprimanded after discovering that his wife was toking up in their lavish new digs, allegedly to relieve an "inner ear ailment" (wonder how many Vanderbilt students will use that defense when they're hauled into student court by their RA's?)
  • the former president of American University, who was ousted after auditors concluded he had spent university funds on European vacations at first-class hotels, and whose wife allegedly insisted on a stop-over in Rome en route to a university event in Dubai so that she could have her hair cut by her favorite stylist
  • the former chancellor of UC Santa Cruz, for whom the university graciously built a $30,000 dog run (she later killed herself over the scandal); that audit of the University of California revealed a total of $334 million in unreported pay and perks for administrators for the year ending June 30, 2005
  • the since-fired president of Texas Southern University, whom a grand jury has indicted for spending $1.9 million of university funds for her own benefit during her seven-year tenure (she's counter-suing for breach of contract -- that's chutzpah right there)

Universities are now considering Sarbanes-Oxley-style regulations to govern themselves -- if the government doesn't impose them first.

Anyone who thinks that non-profits are somehow immune to greed, sloth, hubris, and other assorted deadly sins hasn't spent any time in academia. Something to reflect on as you're writing next month's student loan check.

*Edit/update: Joann Lublin was co-author of the article along with Dan Golden.