Aug 28 - Dorm janitors cut

This is a double surprise -- to students and to maintenance staff. There was no notice to people affected, much less input from them on how cutbacks might best be handled. And this is just the beginning.

Watch for others.


Now some Friday morning thoughts from Fact Checker.

The Herald-Sun and its higher education reporter Neil Offen have had several stories recently uncovering important information -- slowly, fact by fact -- about Duke's financial crisis. Unfortunately, Offen does not use his archives to cross-check what he's just been told, for there is often conflict with data that Duke's administrators were touting just weeks or months ago.

For example, interviewing Kyle Cavanaugh, Duke's new, very well spoken vice president for human resources, Offen reports on Wednesday that Duke will "save" about $15 million per year because 294 employees have taken early retirement offers that gave them higher pensions earlier than they expected. We'll overlook that Duke's mouthpiece, VP Michael Schoenfeld, previously said the number was 295 and we'll round it at 300 for easier analysis.

On July 1, when 825 employees were first offered early retirement, the ever pleasant and communicative Tallman Trask, executive vice president, said that if 200 accepted, Duke would save between $15 and $20 million per year.

So how do savings come in at the lowest end of his projections -- even after 300 took early retirement, not 200?

It is discrepancies like these which defy reconciliation that are undermining the credibility of the Brodhead administration.

It is also the lack of specific information -- this morning we learned about cleaning the dorms; be assured there are many other areas that will be affected which I will list in a moment. All this makes a mockery of our administrators' oft-repeated pledge of "transparency" in all matters, but particularly in handling the crisis brought on by the world-wide financial meltdown. See Lange, Provost. See Blue, Trustee chair. See Annual Report, discontinued under Brodhead without a murmur. See website posting of President's quarterly Reports to Trustees and VP for PR's reports, discontinued under Brodhead without a murmur.

The careful reader of Fact Checker will also remember my pointing out that all of the early retirement offers were given to low level employees in an atmosphere of "take it" or face layoffs. Readers will also recall that all 4 speakers and the PR man moderating on stage at the April 21 explanation meeting were middle-aged white males, giving fresh meaning to Harvard Prof. Henry L. Gates Jr's declaration that his years at Duke reminded him of a "plantation."

The Brodhead administration has placed the entire burden of Duke's budget crisis on the people on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. Not one administrator has thus far been touched, and as Fact Checker is fond of pointing out, the bloat includes 16 academic deans of Trinity College who overlap with 10 Deans of Arts and Sciences who overlap with 10 Vice Provosts. Not to mention the platoon of new vice presidents and vice chancellors that Brodhead has added in his first five years.

There is also the question of size of the faculty, which has crept up from 2364 in 2003-2004 (before Brodhead) to 2730 in 2007-2008 and probably around 2850 at the moment.

This is not an economic situation; it is a moral one, to spread equitably the burden of our economic crisis.

(As for layoffs, the Herald-Sun's Offen revealed several weeks ago that two employees in the Primate Center were indeed let go. Fact Finder has been aware of no follow up, and of course The Chronicle has not bothered to seek these two individuals -- out of 33,325 working at Duke -- and show we give a shit about them or find out how come they're the big fulcrum in our budget battle).

Worse, in the Herald Sun report, Cavanaugh says the administration may drop (hint: the fix is in on this one, he just won't say so) entirely its plan to offer early retirement to higher paid employees. This clashes with what we've been assured.

Let Fact Finder remind readers of the procession of promises: on April 21 we were told such a plan was being formulated. Cavanaugh himself at one point said details would be announced early in July. And in mid-summer the university flack said details would be available by the end of August.

Dr. Trask, mindful that you do not answer e-mail or other requests, Fact-Finder nonetheless calls upon you to state:

A) what was the total salary of the 295 employees. We could not help scoffing at your earlier claim that $20 million might be saved in 2009-2010 if 200 retired because anyone with a Duke MBA could figure out this means $100,000 each -- and that ain't the salary of the grounds keepers, secretaries and food workers whom you attacked.

B) How many of the people who took early retirement are being replaced. After all, these people were not offered a deal to leave because their jobs were expendable or their duties combined. Rather they just happened to be old enough, and just happened to work at Duke long enough, so that their age and service totaled at least 75.

A good example of the need to replace -- and thus negate the savings -- is provided by the campus Police. You know, the people with badges and guns who protect sophomores from being shot and graduate students from being killed. Three lieutenants took early retirement, along with two patrol officers.

Dr Trask, this is still within the scope of your responsibilities (this not having been stripped away from you like athletics) so please assure us. What is the status of getting police replacements, of putting crucial new leadership into a police department that the Chronicle previously revealed to be falling apart. (*See Archive, Elliot Wolf's seminal columns).

And while you are at it, tell us if you still think armed cops should still be replaced with security guards earning less. You know, people hired from an outside contractor so we can avoid their health insurance and vacations, and of course never have these pesky pension issues. Fact Finder would like to relay your answer on this to the parents of our classmate who was just shot during a robbery in an area that Duke Police patrol, though it is off-campus.

C) How much will the first year retirement checks total for all these people? I trust you have subtracted this cost from what you regard as savings.

D) How is the retirement fund going to pay for 295 people getting checks immediately, for longer in their lives and at higher payouts than actuaries ever dreamed of. How much will this cost Duke in new contributions to its retirement system, which has lost 24.5 percent of its assets since the last annual report was issued.

Fellow Dukies, we have much work to be done in the budget area. We have yet to delve into how we will achieve the "smaller Duke" that President Brodhead has correctly defined as necessary, if in the first year of a three year phase-back, our budget is "flat" -- meaning these clowns in Allen Building are not saving anything at all.

Oh.... the budget is "flat" ....meaning the same as last year ... on even-numbered days.

On the odd numbered days, you'll hear them coo to each other they've cut $50 million.

No need to reconcile. Just shout GO DUKE


Aug 26 - New, expensive MBA program at Fuqua

Fact Checker

posted 8/26/09 @ 2:28 AM EST

Here's an opportunity for undergrads who want to avoid the reality of the job market: continue studying at Duke for $2,000 a day.

$2,000 a day? Come on Fact Checker, surely you are kidding.

Oh no, no. That's the price of Duke's new Cross-Continent MBA. Read on.

The 16 month program leading to this new degree costs $115,500 for the people just starting now in London. But for all future people, the cost jumps to $120,100.

So Fact Checker, how does that work out to $2,000 a day?

Simple. Despite the impression that Fuqua is giving, you only have Duke classes for 60 days.

There are two weeks in London to start with. Then you go home. Back to your job, your family, your dog.

Fuqua calls this next period "distance learning." This is the new term for what used to be called "homework."

You know, you crack the books at home, you talk to other students every so often on-line, and sometimes you consult with a professor. Homework.

After a while, you go to Dubai for nine days. Then home for homework. Then the cycle repeats: New Delhi, Shanghai, and finally St Petersurg (Russia, not Florida).

Total classroom time 60 days in 16 months!

Your $120,100 includes tuition, books, housing, meals. It does not include travel expenses.

They also want to sell you an overpriced computer, making you feel like a pauper and dunce if you come with your own.

Fuqua is also giving the impression that somehow, in dropping into these cities, you acquire "cultural experience"
in depth.

Dukies... these classes are in hotels! That's where you'll be morning, noon and overnight. My research associate spent two hours on Tuesday trying to find out the name of the London hotel where classes have just started, talking to 11 people in 15 phone calls to Fuqua in Durham.

The school is hiding the hotel name, not wanting you to know how thin this program is.

Though Fuqua talks of campuses in each of these cities, it's difficult to see how this will happen, given the fact that each city will only get 9 days use every 16 months. Of course by the standard of many professors, that may be full time!

Oh the Provost, who said he will be transparent in dealing with the fiscal crisis, dropped a bombshell at the May Academic Council meeting. He admitted that the proliferation of graduate level degrees at Duke stems from the loss of other revenues -- from the endowment, from contributions.

Our goal: to make a profit.

Get Arthur Frommer's new book: Duke on $2,000 a day!!

Aug 25 - Conflict of interest, student health plan

Fact Checker

posted 8/25/09 @ 2:33 AM EST

Ah hah.

Fact #1 (which I did not know previously, I must admit) Blue Cross of NC provided Duke students with health insurance for 30 years.

Fact #2 the president of Blue Cross became a Duke Trustee in 1970 and served as chair from 1971 to 1983, at which point he secured for himself a sinecure within the Duke Health System.

Rest assured, my fellow Dukies, there is no tie between #1 or #2.

Just like there was no tie between years of crappy food and Aramark (anyway, thanks for VonDerHayden Pavilion).

Fact Checker currently is studying conflicts of interest on the current Board of Trustees, and does not like what is turning up. Not at all.

News tip: this will be big and explosive.

Aug 24 - Evaluation of Convocation

Fact Checker

posted 8/24/09 @ 2:51 AM EST

It's true. The Convocation lacked the spark of prior years.

President Brodhead's speech was missing the eloquence of the past and was delivered -- in some spots -- too fast for maximum effect. Almost as if the Generalissimo, as he identified himself, was being chased by Germans in his D-Day scenario.

I sat wondering whether Brodhead had written this himself or if some ghost had learned that he constantly employs the word "deep" to describe thinking (letting us infer that this includes his own) and thus wove that adjective/adverb in yet again.

Still, it was good to find elements of the Brodhead who had charmed Yale, who Duke too often has missed: the grace, the twinkle, the avuncular affection.

Dean Guttentag overflowed not with real information but with alliteration almost to the point of boredom: freshmen coming from Nashua and Knoxville, LaPaz and LaJolla, from Quito and Reno.

He followed up with his list of funny e-mail addresses on applications, to wit "Fox the Great," "HaHa I'm Cooler" and "Innocent Coconut."

Not to mention two beekeepers and someone who had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro before accepting the challenge at the stratovolcanoe (my word, not his)called Duke.

Thus Guttentag missed the opportunity to tell us something vital and important about ourselves and the newest Dukies.

Last summer thanks to four professors, a secret report from the Provost's office saw the light of day, and startled Fact Checker in several respects. Elements of this merited inclusion in Guttentag's speech.

First, Fact Checker knew affirmative action brought us some students less qualified -- but the margin is far greater than imagined. Significant differences between whites and blacks when measuring Achievement, Essay, Personal qualifies, Recommendations. Not to mention SAT averages -- 1417 to 1281.

This information should be discussed out in the open. It should be augmented by information about other races (Asian SAT's higher than whites, 1464)(Latino's 1349).

More ominously, the secret report told us that no ethnic group at Duke lived up to its potential. Yes, despite the flow of A's and other high grades from professors with liberal grading policies, students at Duke actually pull averages lower than the admissions people thought. This gap is greatest among blacks, their actual grades averaging 2.90 when they reasonably had been expected, given their level of achievement upon admission, to pull down 3.44. It raises profound questions about their experiences here.

How about athletic admissions (talk about low numbers.. the last we saw are seven years old now but two key male teams hovered had SAT's hovering around 900).

And legacy admissions. And of course the sale of admissions, most often through the Annual Fund.

And Dean Guttentag, how could you in today's atmosphere not talk about financial aid? How many prospective freshmen asked for it, and how many got it? There is growing concern that Duke cherry picks -- for the secret report shows that 71 percent of the white students came from families earning more than $100,000 per year.

Fact Checker would also be interested to know if students that Duke most wanted where the ones who actually showed up -- or if we continue to lose favored admissions candidates not to Harvard or Princeton or Yale, but to schools ranked lower than us. One big surprise surfaced this summer at Harvard, where it was revealed that most blacks accepted at Harvard, say no to the invitation to attend! What happens at Duke, where the memories of institutional segregation are still fresh and the responsibility to correct an ancient wrong so vivid.

the other key speaker, Dean Nowicki, suffered from an attempt to seem cool that started with his informality during the procession in, and continued with his greeting, "Call me Steve."

Fact Checker did approve of his leading the GO DUKE cheer, but video available from the PR office shows a significant number of freshmen sitting there like bumps on a log.

They better get the message and soon!

Aug 17 - Chronicle has one source: Schoenfeld

Fact Checker

posted 8/17/09 @ 11:35 PM EST

Chronicle, count up how many stories in today's paper are attributed to the university flack, Schoenfeld.

Get to the real newspapers. Get to the primary sources.

Expand your rolodex and your mind.