Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Can someone explain to me how conservatives can look themselves in the mirror after they say things like this?
What was determinative is that the two political parties view the American people very differently. The Republican Party has become the party of individualism, believing that free enterprise, market economies, and individual choices give people the best chance of a good life; that if ordinary Americans are left alone to make their own decisions, they will generally be good decisions, so they--not the government--should have the power to make them.
That's Pete Du Pont in today's Wall Street Journal. It's beautiful rhetoric, but too bad it has little to do with the reality of most Republicans today.
Aside from the obvious fact that government has grown enormously in the last four years, and that very few Republicans have actually supported clear moves in the direction of more free enterprise, I'd sure like to know when the Republicans have let me alone to decide what substances I can ingest, whether to continue a pregnancy, who I can marry, whether or not my tax dollars should subsidize God's presence in the public schools, what sorts of things I can watch/listen to on broadcast TV or radio, not to mention that whole "war is the health of the state" thing.
In a point I've made before, the wall that conservatives attempt to build between the market and the culture is completely a product of their imagination. If you really believe in free enterprise and individual choice, then you have to recognize that the growth of wealth and evolution of the marketplace is bound to produce cultural change in their wake. In the example I know best and seems most obvious, the changes in the American family, from the increase in female labor force participation rates to the increased visibility of gays and lesbians, to the current debate over same-sex marriage, to the higher divorce rate, are all to some large degree a consequence of the dynamic change that a market economy generates. (I'll be happy to spell out those arguments in detail if anyone wishes.) To imagine that one can unleash the unpredictable forces of economic change yet turn back the cultural clock is utopian in the worst sense of the term.
For this reason alone, we should all doubt claims by social conservatives to be champions of the marketplace. They simply cannot have it both ways: either you really do believe in free enterprise and thus recognize and accept its unpredicatable feedback on the culture, or you really believe in "traditional values," which entails that you attempt, probably in vain, to intervene in the market to squeeze the toothpaste back in the tube. I think this is just another way to cut Virginia Postrel's "dynamist vs. stasist" framework.
Of course this argument is also a challenge to those on the left to recognize the "capitalist underpinnings" of cultural change. So much of the cultural change that the left applauds has been made possible by the growth in wealth that can be, in my view, attributed to the forces of free enterprise. Capitalism is, on this argument, a highly progressive force, while attempts to squelch it are ultimately reactionary. One good piece to read on this, for my friends on the left, is John D'Emilio's "Capitalism and Gay Identity." In that essay, he gets at why capitalism has made gay identity possible, yet spends the last two pages with the obligatory "of course, this doesn't mean 'we' should support capitalism" and he then goes on to the usual laundry list of bogus problems with capitalism. (Here's another nice blog piece that includes some discussion of D'Emilio's argument.)
What's nice about Postrel's "dynamism" is that it gives us a language to start to build conversation and coalitions across the usual ideological boundaries that could help those who claim to support markets see why they of necessity produce (desirable) cultural change and help those who like the changes see why this a crucial good thing that markets do and that other economic systems can or do not.
In the meantime, someone hit Pete Du Pont over the head with the ever-expanding Federal Register and the FCC fine list.
Robert L. Campbell
The University of Southern Mississippi, after two and a half years of misrule by President Shelby F. Thames, has been hit with a one-year probation by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Thorough coverage by the Hattiesburg American and the Jackson Clarion-Ledger is well worth a read.
Stunned by the outcome, Thames is hastily denying responsibility but has yet to recover the presence of mind to designate a scapegoat. He will need one, particularly since SACS officials have now told the press that the probation was two years in the making. Soon we will know which of Thames' remaining administrative henchpeople has all of a sudden become expendable.
Everyone will want to know how the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees is going to react to the latest fiasco; the Board meets later this month.
My admittedly cynical prediction is that Thames' chief sponsor, Roy Klumb, and his allies on the Board will publicly deplore the probation and declare that of course Thames will succeed in getting it lifted--while privately rejoicing, and fully expecting Thames to finish the job by getting USM deaccredited.
Further breaking news: the USM chapter of the American Association of University Professors has formally requested an investigation of USM's administration by the national AAUP.
Robert L. Campbell
A great many alumni from the University of Southern Mississippi cared little about Shelby Thames' attempts to fire Frank Glamser and Gary Stringer. Consequently the public controversy, which raged for about two months, died down after the Institutions of Higher Learning Board, which controls the state universities in Mississippi, imposed a settlement on both sides, and kept Thames on as president of USM.
Since the Board reaffirmed its sponsorship of his regime in May of this year, Thames has not exactly gotten a free ride in the media. But overall he has sustained little further damage, despite regular embarrassing revelations about the condition of the university under his rule. Even the announcement in August that USM had sunk from the 3rd to the 4th tier among national universities in the US News and World Report rankings posed no apparent threat to his job security.
Now, however, Thames is reaping the consequences of putting a low institutional priority on the academic assessment efforts, the academic strategic planning, and the detailed report writing that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools expects to see during every 10-year reaccreditation cycle. Add to that his propensity to fire or reassign or drive off just about every administrator with any real competence in these areas, his utter disregard for any knowledge or expertise that faculty members might be able to bring to bear on them, and his narcissistic refusal to register any and all negative feedback, and Thames may really have gotten himself into trouble at last.
Because USM has been put on one year of probation by SACS--after Thames was given a warning 2 years ago that he apparently believed superior beings do not need to heed-- alumni are waking up to the threat that Thames' total mismanagement is posing to the value of their degrees. Even those who care about little more than the fortunes of the USM football program have to acknowledge that the threatened loss of accreditation will make it harder to recruit athletes.
Meanwhile, Thames is still unable to decide who to offload the repsonsibility onto:
Though Thames said he did not want to place the blame for the probation on any single person - or name that person - he said he had been reassured by staff members that there wasn’t a problem.Thames claims that it will cost $500,000 to hire a new administrator in charge of assessment. This despite the fact that he has on his current staff a well- compensated Special Assistant who is supposedly responsible for such things-- yet professes not to have known that SACS was about to bring down the axe.
Thames has tentatively renominated former Provost Tim Hudson for the scapegoat position. But Hudson was not in charge of the main campus of USM during the entire two-year period. Besides, Thames has already blamed Hudson for the August tierdrop, and for an embarrassing episode in which USM sent an unauthorized report on the performance of certain tenured professors to the IHL Board and tried to pass it off as the result of a formal post-tenure review. Out of sheer desperation, Thames has even tried to push the blame all the way back to Horace Fleming, who was the president of USM from 1997 to 2001. (A timeline being circulated by Thames' immediate dependents in USM's upper administration seems intended to transfer responsibility to Fleming. But even if the account given is historically accurate--and there is no reason to believe that, when it comes from a source with no credibility remaining--it does a better job of chronicling the ineffectuality of Thames and his henchcrew than of exonerating them.)
Eventually Thames will try to staple the blame to his Special Assistant, Joan Exline, or to the current provost, Jay Grimes (who was in charge of the Hattiesburg campus during part of Thames' term in office), or to someone else who is still employed by USM.
But naturally all of the obstacles in the path of reaccreditation will remain, so long as Thames is in charge. SACS is not likely to make his removal from office a condition of reaccreditation--accrediting agencies routinely ignore blatant mismanagement at the universities they evaluate. But Thames can be counted on to devalue and obstruct any serious efforts on the part of administrators or faculty members to do the planning and assessment and produce the reports that will be needed to get the probation lifted.
Members of the IHL Board, which will meet December 15 and 16, are either keeping silent or temporizing with Thames. But making light of the probation is not an adaptive strategy, as SACS' own official in charge of the USM case has made clear:
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools monitored the University of Southern Mississippi’s failure to comply with reporting standards for two years prior to putting the school on a one-year probation this week, a SACS official said Thursday.
"In terms of the procedure itself, they had run the string out,” said Gerald Lord, SACS associate executive director who is the accrediting group’s liaison to Southern Miss. “They had exhausted the maximum two-year monitoring period and had not come into compliance."
But of course the Board can't just call a press conference and proclaim that deaccreditation is what its ruling faction was shooting for all along. IHL Board members are now, finally, in danger of forfeiting their credibility with USM alumni, and convincing the wider public that their true agenda is demolishing the institution. The only way they can dispel the impression that they are out to ruin the university is to remove Thames from office at their next meeting.
If today's editorial in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger is any indication, in getting USM put on probation, Thames and his henchcrew have now exhausted the patience of the local media:
This problem lies squarely at the steps of the president of the university. It's embarrassing. The College Board should intervene and send in personnnel to ensure corrections are made. The board also should be discussing Thames' future with him, or whether there should be one.
And don't miss Marshall Ramsey's cartoon on USM's postseason bowl prospects.
As always, check the message board of the USM chapter of the AAUP for breaking news.
A little more on my ongoing favorite subject of the causes of leftist numerical dominance of academia:
Some of you may have seen this Jonathan Chait LA Times piece (requires quickie registration and hat tip to PrestoPundit). There are some decent points in this piece, but this paragraph caused me to reach for the Maalox:
The main causes of the partisan disparity on campus have little to do with anything so nefarious as discrimination. First, Republicans don't particularly want to be professors. To go into academia — a highly competitive field that does not offer great riches — you have to believe that living the life of the mind is more valuable than making a Wall Street salary. On most issues that offer a choice between having more money in your pocket and having something else — a cleaner environment, universal health insurance, etc. — conservatives tend to prefer the money and liberals tend to prefer the something else. It's not so surprising that the same thinking would extend to career choices.
Of course the notion that conservatives/libertarians are so strongly interested only in their financial well-being and don't care anything about a cleaner environment or better health care, etc., is offensive enough, but we've seen that before.
What strikes me more this time is that Chait and other lefties tempted to make this argument need to remember the other side of their brain's focus on the "vast right-wing conspiracy," which is full of all of these "corporate-funded" think tanks all over the place. Well just who the hell is it who is working at those places for $30K/year? Lots of people who would prefer the world of ideas and policy to the business world and its higher incomes. Those of us here know many of them. Numerous conservatives and libertarians have chosen the world of ideas (and its associated relative poverty), but they didn't make that choice in academia. The world of the think tanks (and the blogosphere) are among the most intellectually exciting places I've ever been, and are filled with people committed to the importance of intellectual activity without being too concerned about how it increases their bank accounts.
Not only is Chait's answer wrong, he's not even asking the right question. The question to be answered is not why are there no conservative and libertarian intellectuals, but why they are engaged in that activity in places other than academia. Whether it's accurate or not, the perception of many of those folks is that academia is not open to them, and it's not because they don't have the "chops."UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge raises many of the same points in a TCS column from earlier this week.
Julian Sanchez over at Hit & Run has picked up on a piece in Psychology Today that I read awhile back and had thought about blogging on, but never got to. The article is called "A Nation of Wimps" and explores the multiplicity of ways in which parents of young people today are so over-involved and over-protective that kids are simply not used to failing and coping with that failure. I can't really capture all the nuance of the piece, but I heartily recommend it for anyone who deals with adolescents and college-aged students. You will find much in this piece that explains the behavior of your students, and especially some of the changes that those of us teaching for a decade or more have seen. It certainly helps to understand the heightened demand for counseling services and mental health medication by this generation of students.
One of the more interesting observations in the piece is the role played by cell phones (and I would add Instant Messenger and text messaging) in keeping a sort of digital umbilical cord between students and parents. As the author says:
Think of the cell phone as the eternal umbilicus. One of the ways we grow up is by internalizing an image of Mom and Dad and the values and advice they imparted over the early years. Then, whenever we find ourselves faced with uncertainty or difficulty, we call on that internalized image. We become, in a way, all the wise adults we've had the privilege to know. "But cell phones keep kids from figuring out what to do," says Anderegg. "They've never internalized any images; all they've internalized is 'call Mom or Dad.'"
I would further add that it also provides an excuse for first-year students to not have to get out and make new friends and new connections on campus. Between the cell and IM, they are still in touch with their friends from home and in touch with them through the same media as they were when they were geographically closer. The effects of this technology on their ability to adjust and deal with the realities of college life, especially on a residential campus, are just beginning to be felt. (Add to this the problem that the vast majority of incoming college students have never had to share a bedroom before college, and you can only imagine how hard it is for many students to adjust to life in a college residence hall.)
The Psychology Today piece is long, but well worth the effort. Share it with your friends, especially those who are parents.
Robert L. Campbell
The shock waves are still traveling, after Thursday's revelation that the University of Southern Mississippi had been put on one year of probation by its accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
A positive factor in all of this has been the Hattiesburg American's decision to put a hard-working reporter who knows how to ask questions on most stories about USM. As soon as you get past the misleading headline that someone else stuck on today's story, you can see how Kevin Walters has begun punching holes in the wall of excuses that USM President Shelby F. Thames, his Special Assistant Joan Exline, and his personal spinmeister Lisa Mader have been putting between themselves and the media.
Thames has been insisting that no one in his administration had told him that USM was in trouble with SACS. In fact, the story points that he was warned less than 6 weeks after he took office in May 2002:
News of the SACS probation surprised both Thames and Exline.
But an e-mail was sent from former associate provost Bradley Bond to former provost Andy Griffin and Thames on June 24, 2002, telling them Southern Miss"is not now in compliance with SACS mandates."
Thames met with SACS officials in September 2002 about the matter, flying to Georgia. After that, Thames said he and the President's Cabinet were told Southern Miss would be in compliance by the time a final progress report would be sent to SACS in September 2004.
Soon enough it will come out what SACS told Thames USM needed to be doing in September 2002. Whatever the particulars, however, Thames saw no particular urgency in addressing them. How could an outside agency like SACS pose any threat to USM, when Shelby F. Thames was in complete control? So he concentrated for the next two years on the only things that mattered to him: hiring hatchetpeople, firing anyone who wouldn't tell him what he wanted to hear, and bloviating about the"world class" status that USM had attained on the day that the Mississippi IHL Board made the truly brilliant decision to put it under the sole control of Shelby F. Thames.
Major catch-up work will be required, over a period of less than a year, to get the probation lifted. Thames served notice today that hiring people who know how to handle accreditation matters, or letting those at USM who understand the process take charge, will not solve the problem so long as he is around. For he would much rather interfere with accreditation efforts than court the danger of seeing someone else get them right:
"My feeling is if I'm going to have the responsibility, then I'm going to take full authority," he said."I have been criticized for being a micromanager. In my effort not to be a micromanager or not to ask for daily activity reports and appear to be a micromanager, at this point in time, I'm suffering some of the consequences of that."
Meanwhile, the editorial page of the Hattiesburg American has called on the IHL Board to conduct a full investigation of the reaccreditation fiasco.
Those on the Board who have spoken to the press all deny ever hearing of possible accreditation problems, from either Thames or any other USM official. Presumably nothing was said because Thames had convinced himself that the problems weren't real. Failing to address accreditation deficiencies for more than 2 years, while withholding any news about them from its governing board, constitutes more than adequate grounds for firing any university president.
So the Board has one remaining chance to save USM and begin repairing its own damaged reputation. Board members can fire Thames at their next meeting on December 16, bring in a president who specializes in restoring dysfunctional universities to health, and spend the next few months informing themselves about what is actually happening at the university by talking to faculty members, students, staff people, and lower-level administrators. If they do not take these steps, no doubt is likely to remain in anybody's mind about their true plans for the University of Southern Mississippi.
Robert L. Campbell
As we head into the next meeting of the Institutions of Higher Learning Board, which runs the 8 universities in the Mississippi state system, the University of Southern Mississippi is under the most intense media scrutiny it has gotten since April.
USM's President Shelby Thames and his public relations machine keep on thrashing. On Sunday, Thames' hastily concocted guest editorial ran in the Biloxi Sun-Herald. (Today, it was picked up by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.) At no point does Thames' article suggest that he has learned one thing about the requirements that universities need to meet for reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. But the events of the last few days have convinced Thames that, for some inexplicable reason, a lot of other people think accreditation matters, so from now on he has to pretend that he does, too.
Thames can't even keep his own lies straight. In his op ed, he declares that,"We take our SACS accreditation seriously. In 2002, when we became aware of the concerns of the commission, we began working immediately to address them." Just three days before, Thames was assuring the media that from the day he took office in May 2002 until shortly before the probation was announced in December 2004, no one at SACS or in his own administration had told him that there were any obstacles to reaccreditation.
The Sun-Herald, I might note, is the only Mississippi newspaper to come out editorially in favor of the Thames regime during the probation crisis. On Sunday, it weighed in with an editorial about poor Shelby who always does the wonderful things he promised to do, yet is being picked on by critics who are blowing the probation issue all out of proportion. The Sun-Herald has done no original reporting on the probation crisis, and carried as little from other sources as possible, even though USM's Gulf Park satellite campus is practically in the newspaper's backyard.
Meanwhile, the Hattiesburg American continues to do what newspapers can so rarely be counted on to do: it is asking questions. An editorial that ran today makes far too much of the supposed "four-year gap" in communications with SACS on file at USM. Those four years (1997-2001) happen to coincide with the administration of Horace Fleming, a predecessor whom Thames despises, and it has yet to become clear how much needed to be on file during that portion of the 10-year accreditation cycle, which began in 1995. Barring evidence to contrary from the accrediting agency, the most plausible interpretation is that SACS was largely satisfied with the information it was getting from USM during that period. It is also possible that there was material on file, but it was lost during the mass firings and games of administrative musical chairs that Thames indulged in after taking office in May 2002. But if the American keeps digging, there is a chance that we will learn the truth in a little while. In any event, if Fleming's administration dropped the ball on reaccreditation, that would have made it Thames' responsibility to give the accreditation process top priority in 2002. We already know that he did the exact opposite.
For an eloquently unvarnished assessment of USM's plight, see today's letter to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger by Noel Polk. Polk, an internationally renowned expert on William Faulkner, is the professor who was fired by USM's Dean of Arts and Letters Elliot Pood on September 2. Pood's gesture was a little late and more than a little superfluous, as well as gratuitously mean-spirited, since Polk, after accepting a position at Mississippi State, had written a letter of resignation two days earlier and mailed it to Pood. But Polk had been a thorn in Pood's side, as well as Thames', and that's all that counted. No wonder many insiders at USM are sure that Pood will be the next Provost, should there continue to be a Thames administration.
USM faculty members face a dilemma. Their university will not emerge from probation without their contributions to a masive program assessment effort, which will involve huge amounts of data collection and report writing. But such activity is categorized as"service," which means that to nearly any university administration it is far less worthy of reward than published research (especially grant-funded research). Thames, in fact, has deep contempt for any faculty activity that is not grant-funded research. Yet, since Thames neither understands the accreditation process nor respects the accrediting agency, he and his remaining underlings will not be able to do the job themselves. In fact, should Thames remain in power, he will actively impede the work of the faculty, and of those administrators who actually know something about accreditation.
But what if, despite it all, everyone perseveres, and pulls together to save USM from deaccreditation... Thames will appropriate the credit for their work, declare victory, and demand another four-year contract from the IHL Board. Which means that from 2006-2010 he will continue to tear pieces off USM and spit on its faculty, while declaring that he alone, in his infinite sagacity, saved the university from the ruin that a horde of lazy, whining professors was sure to inflict on it.
At its meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, the IHL Board can release USM's professors, and the competent members of its administration, from their dilemma. But to do that it has to fire Thames immediately, and hire an accreditation expert as interim president. More deeply, it has to turn its own complacent assumptions upside down, realizing that the faculty of USM are the ones who can get the job done, while the man it put in power in 2002 will never be up to it.
We will have a much better idea what is going to happen to USM on December 16, when the Board makes its announcements to the press.
As always, check the AAUP-USM message board for breaking news and discussion.
Robert L. Campbell
The University of Southern Mississippi remains in crisis, after two and a half years of epic mismanagement by President Shelby Thames have led to the university being put on probation by its accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
A couple of news items in the Hattiesburg American today cast further doubt on the self-excusing narrative that Thames and his personal spinmeister, Lisa Mader, threw together in response to the initial stories about the probation, which appeared just last Thursday.
First, a story by Kevin Walters shows that there was no ominous gap in USM's communications with SACS over reaccreditation between 1997 and 2001. The most innocuous explanation for there being nothing in the file, as I suggested yesterday, is that USM was giving SACS what it needed during that period, so there was no need for further correspondence. Gerald Lord, the SACS official who is handling USM's reaccreditation, made the comment to Walters that"... to have a four-year hiatus, with the exception of routine annual reports, would not be unusual." Joan Exline, Thames' special assistant in charge of the accreditation effort, told the American that"the gap that we were talking about in the communications, that's put to rest." She thereby laid to rest Thames' effort to blame USM's accreditation woes on Horace Fleming, who was the institution's president from 1997 to 2001.
Putting a brave face on it, Exline asserted that"we inherited a situation where assessment of the institutional effectiveness wasn't part of the fabric of daily life at Southern Miss." She failed to note that no recent administrator at USM has been less committed to assessing institutional effectiveness than Shelby Thames. What more could anyone need, as proof of institutional effectiveness, than the fact that Shelby Thames is at the helm? Unless it might be his constant proclamations that USM is a"world class" institution.
Meanwhile, Thames is no longer able to keep his own lies straight. Two day after admitting that he knew of difficulties with SACS during his first year in office, he has reverted to his"nobody told me" excuse:
Thames, who has said he had been told by Provost's Office officials the university's problems with SACS were going to be corrected, said he did not know things were so bad. He said he asked repeatedly about the status of the university's accreditation process, but staff members failed to tell him the truth about where things stood with SACS or that the organization had been scrutinizing Southern Miss for two years prior to putting the school on probation.
Second, Exline announced that USM had hired Joy Hamilton, currently a manager at the university's Center for Applied Research and Evaluation, to a brand-new position as Director of Assessment. Exline let slip that the position had been advertised and candidates interviewed back in November. Let's put aside the question whether Hamilton, whose knowledge of the accreditation process is not documented, was the only candidate actually considered (Shelby Thames has made it a practice to hire upper administrators without a search). The fact that the position came open in November indicates that Thames and company weren't 100% blindsided by the SACS announcement on December 8, as they insisted in their initial press releases. By November 2004, they actually knew they were in trouble.
There is no sympathy for Thames' excuses to be found on the editorial page of the Hattiesburg American. Today's entry opens with these blunt words:
As the state College Board meets this week, there are several serious questions that members must ask both of themselves and of University of Southern Mississippi President Shelby Thames.
Not the least of these is whether Thames' presidency has become too much of a liability for him to effectively lead the school he has served for decades.
The editorial writer has no patience with the"no big deal" attitude expressed by Thames and his supporters:
It would be easy to dismiss this problem as merely a failure to shuffle enough paper. After all, some might reason, it will only take a year and at least $500,000 to fix the problems, and then Southern Miss may return to good standing with SACS.
This line of thinking trivializes what is an amazing lapse of due diligence - one that hasn't occurred at a Mississippi, state-funded, four-year university in at least 20 years based on College Board records.
Unfortunately, Eric Stringfellow's vacillating column in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger buys into the trivializing line. Stringfellow is partly aware of Thames' miserable management record, but seems to think that keeping him in power will guarantee reaccreditation instead of dooming it. And he holds out false hope by noting that Auburn University just emerged successfully from a 12-month SACS probation. He fails to note that Auburn is a much stronger university to begin with--2nd tier in the US News rankings, instead of 4th tier and tumbling downward--or that Auburn's president was promptly fired after the probation was imposed.
To be continued.
For the latest, as always, check the AAUP-USM message board.
Robert L. Campbell
A little more has emerged about the Director of Assessment that the University of Southern Mississippi just hired.
According to sources in the USM community, the position was created (and briefly advertised on the Web) in early to mid-November.
Was the new Director of Assessment, Joy Hamilton, chosen on account of her expertise in dealing with the accreditation process mandated by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools? Well, she holds two Masters degrees from USM, and in early 2003, she was managing the Center for Community Health at USM, where she reported to the center's director, Joan Exline. And now, as Director of Assessement, she will report to a Special Assistant to the President for Accreditation, Articulation, and Planning, whose name happens to be... Joan Exline.
So all we have here is a cozy internal hire. Hamilton may be a whiz at evaluation research, but she was chosen in the expectation that she will obey Exline, who in turn will obey Thames.
It's pretty clear now that the position was not created to deal with SACS problems, as I incorrectly concluded yesterday. It was crafted in October to pump up the upper administration, which has been shorn of a few Thames loyalists over the past few months. When the probation hit on December 8, a new rationale for the position was hastily retrofitted for the benefit of the media. Apparently, Hamilton hasn't received her full set of marching orders, so Thames and his PR machine don't want her in front of the media just yet:
The position was posted and advertised in November. Asked why officials did not introduce Hamilton at last week's news conference, Exline said both parties were still in negotiations. Hamilton will earn $72,000 annually.
If USM is to have a prayer of emerging from probation, it needs to do what universities in trouble over accreditation often do: hire someone from the SACS Consultants Network. But, of course, an experienced SACS consultant isn't going to jump when Shelby Freland Thames says,"Jump!"
In another item of breaking news today, the USM chapter of the American Association of University Professors will be issuing a concisely worded, highly effective statement of the case against entrusting Shelby Thames with the reaccreditation effort. For now, you can see it on the AAUP-USM message board.
Robert L. Campbell
More holes were punched today in President Shelby Thames' excuses for failing to pay attention to reaccrediting the University of Southern Mississippi.
At the Hattiesburg American, reporter Kevin Walters is staying on the case. Today's article on the accreditation crisis features Myron Henry, a Professor of Mathematics at USM who served as Provost from 1998 to 2001. Henry denied that the university encountered any snags with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools while Horace Fleming was president and he was provost. In fact, Henry spent a year on strategic planning, producing a detailed document in 1999 that has been completely ignored by the Thames administration.Thames' special assistant, Joan Exline, retorted that USM has no need of the 1999 plan. Thames and crew have put together something a whole lot better:
But Southern Miss officials have created a new strategic plan for the university which was begun last year and a draft of it has been distributed to administrators, Exline said.
"This is not an issue anymore," she said.
The all-important monthly meeting of the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees began at 1:30 this afternoon. Thames was supposed to appear before the Board today to answer questions about USM being put on probation by SACS. ( Another item on the agenda was USM's request for"legal assistance" to deal with requests under the Mississippi Public Records Act. It seems that that the USM Faculty Senate and the Hattiesburg American are demanding to see a lot more USM documents than used to be the case.)
In the end, however, Shelby Thames never showed up for the Board meeting this afternoon in Jackson. Provost Jay Grimes was summoned in his place. Grimes added to the mystification by refusing to say what agenda items he had been brought in to address, and insinuating that the Board might not get around to considering USM's accreditation problems at all (!). The Board's spokeswoman also insisted that any discussions of USM's being put on probation would take place in executive session. Apparently the fact that many are calling for Thames' removal from office over his mishandling of accreditation is sufficient to turn accreditation into a personnel matter.
The 6 PM news on WDAM-TV has it that Thames will make his appearance in Jackson tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.
Robert L. Campbell
Today USM's infamous President, Shelby Thames, made his belated appearance before the Insitutions of Higher Learning Board in Jackson, Mississippi. (Still unexplained is his absence yesterday, and the Board's last-minute summons to Provost Jay Grimes to stand in for him.)
Although Thames was called before the Board to explain how he had allowed the University of Southern Mississippi to go off course in its efforts to secure reaccreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Board dealt with the entire matter in executive session. Apparently, the mere fact that many were calling for Thames' prompt dismissal converted accreditation into a personnel matter.
Unfortunately, there is no such danger. Instead of firing Thames for failing to inform it about two and a half years of trouble with SACS, the Board toothlessly announced that it was going to develop a policy requiring that the universities in the system keep it informed.
The Board's President, Roy Klumb, acted as though everything would have been fine had the media not revealed that USM was in trouble over accreditation:
The rapid spread of news about the probation disappointed Klumb.
"If this is not USM or this is not Dr. Thames, you guys (the media) might not have even heard about this or learned about it until January when the actual written report came out," he said.
Perhaps Klumb, who is said to have preferred an appointment to the Mississippi Fish and Game Commission over a place on the College Board, simply does not grasp the importance of accreditation. Or perhaps, as I have suggested in some past entries, he and his allies are secretly bent on demolishing USM--in which case they are actually looking forward to the day in September 2005 when it could very well lose its accreditation.
Two members of the Board did criticize Thames in public. Virginia Shanteau Newton blasted Thames' failure of leadership on accreditation:
"I am deeply disturbed we find ourselves in this situation," she said."I find it deplorable."
Newton continued:"This is the worst possible situation for USM to be in."
Board member D.E. Magee also questioned Thames. He compared SACS to the IRS.
"If this was the IRS you would have been on it," he said.
But Newton, who was the only Board member to vote against hiring Thames in 2002, and McGree are in the distinct minority. The rest of the Board either defers to Klumb or is actively allied with him.
Has Thames learned anything? Here is a quote from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:"'I'm the guy who's ultimately responsible,' Thames said after the sometimes-tense meeting. 'I'll fix it.'" After this reassuring declaration, Thames and his special assistant in charge of accreditation, Joan Exline, jetted off to Atlanta to talk to Gerald Lord, the SACS official who serves as a liason to USM.
Of course, Thames will not fix the problem, precisely because it was his managerial incompetence that brought it about in the first place. His assertion of responsibility cannot be trusted when he kept making excuses all the way through the Board meeting:
Thames reiterated earlier statements that while he was aware there was a problem, his staff didn't tell him how serious it was.
The Hattiesburg American remains on the case, doggedly ripping up one version of Thames' excuses after another. (In some versions, he has denied knowing that there were any difficulties with SACS at all.) Another one of today's articles by Kevin Walters shows that Thames was notified by letter on two occasions that USM was in trouble with SACS. Both letters were addressed to him personally, not to the Provost or some lesser functionary.
The first was dated January 10, 2003. It specified what USM needed to do to be in compliance with SACS' requirements and warned that in less than two years, the university could be on probation or worse. Thames must have been too busy planning to fire all of his deans and hire more hatchetpeople to take note.
A second letter, dated January 16, 2004, repeated exactly where USM was deficient and demanded a report by September 22 of this year. Apparently Thames was preoccupied with reading intercepted emails from Frank Glamser and Gary Stringer and attending vitally important meetings about getting rid of tenured professors who dared to criticize him or his top administrators.
The fact that both of these letters were presented to the entire IHL Board during today's meeting by the Interim Commissioner of Higher Education--yet Thames kept his job--is proof that the fix is in. The Board seems determined to back Thames no matter how much damage he inflicts on USM.
Faculty members at USM, staff people, and administrators not initiated into the Thames henchcrew, are now faced with the terrible choice I alluded to a few days ago. They can pull together and provide what USM needs to get off probation, only to prolong the misrule of Shelby Thames, who will keep right on despising the very people who saved him. Or they can look for jobs elsewhere, doing everything in their power to escape from Hattiesburg before September 2005.
That many professors at USM seek the alternatives in these stark terms was made very clear yesterday evening, during an emergency meeting of the Faculty Senate. Joan Exline exhorted everyone to pitch in:
"Assessment isn't something that's top down,"..."It's everybody. I'm asking you, regardless of your feelings, to pull together and fix this."
She was met with appreciable skepticism:
The perceived communication gap will keep some colleagues from volunteering for teams being set up to work on accreditation, said Dave Duhon, managing and marketing associate professor.
"I don't think we're going to have a lot of faculty jumping to volunteer because their previous experience wasn't fruitful," he said.
That's precisely the response she deserved. She will continue to deserve it, so long as Shelby F. Thames remains in office.
Robert L. Campbell
To avoid further sanctions from its accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the University of Southern Mississippi will have to turn in a report that adequately covers all of the areas of institutional effectiveness that it has neglected to assess over the past two and a half years. The report is due on August 2, 2005.
At its meeting last Thursday, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees left Shelby Thames in office as President of USM, despite documented evidence that
- he had been notified on 4 different occasions (June 2002, September 2002, January 2003, and January 2004) that USM was in trouble with SACS
- he lied to Board members and the media when he denied receiving any warnings
- he withheld information about the existence of the problems from the Board from June 2002, shortly after he took office, until December 6, 2004, when SACS decided to put USM on probation.
One person Thames evidently isn't fooling is Richard Crofts, Mississippi's interim IHL Commissioner:
"I think institutions that get this kind of letter would not think this is subtle," Crofts told Thames and members of the College Board on Thursday."If you put this letter (dated Jan. 16 ) with the policy on sanctions, it's pretty clear that there's a moment of truth coming for the University of Southern Mississippi."
During the Board meeting, Thames was finally constrained to quit dodging and admit that he had actually seen the warning letter of January 16, 2004. In fact, he had written"T.H., your task--report to KC" across the top of it. T.H. meant Tim Hudson, who at the time was the Provost on the Hattiesburg Campus. KC stood for"kitchen cabinet," i.e., Thames'"president's cabinet" minus non-administrators, like the Faculty Senate President. Whether Hudson ended up giving a report to the Kitchen Cabinet or not, Thames paid no further attention to the matter.
Crofts further made it clear that SACS officials were displeased with Thames' dodging, particularly his complaints to the media that they hadn't given him adequate warning.
[Crofts] spoke with SACS executive director James T. Rogers on Wednesday night and told board members there is"a little bit of concern at SACS" about newspaper stories that have appeared since the probation that quote Thames and Exline as being surprised by news of the probation and how there may have been missing communication between SACS and Southern Miss [between 1997 and 2001]...
"I assured the executive director that this board was going to take an active role in this," Crofts said."And this was not a problem that belongs to SACS. This is a problem that belongs to us."
The Board further signaled its distrust of Thames and his administration by directing Crofts to bring in an outside consultant to monitor USM's progress with accreditation.
In an editorial on Saturday, the Hattiesburg American bluntly asked
How did University of Southern Mississippi President Shelby Thames miss the warning signs?
It's a fair question, especially in light of two letters Thames received from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting organization that placed Southern Miss on one-year probation earlier this month.
The conclusion was unsparing:
The warning signs were there, but Thames missed them.
Consequently, Southern Miss officials are scrambling to fix - at considerable cost to taxpayers - a problem they should have started addressing years ago.
While USM is not the first public 4-year institution in over 50 years to be in danger of losing SACS accreditation (as a consultant, perhaps thinking only of universities in Mississippi, incautiously declared to Kevin Walters of the Hattiesburg American), such cases are infrequent. In the neighboring state of Alabama, Auburn just emerged from a year of probation, and in Louisiana, Grambling and the University of Louisiana-Monroe came off probation recently. (At all three institutions, the first step taken to correct the problem was firing the president.)
On Sunday, the American endorsed the Board's decision to hire an outside consultant.In its Saturday editorial, the Jackson Clarion-Ledgerobjected to the cost of both the outside consultant and Thames' hand-picked Director of Assessment:
...USM should be about fixing the situation and the state College Board should be insisting that it is done. It's that simple.
Well, one would think so. Instead, USM President Shelby Thames and the College Board are turning the effort to get USM out of the accreditation dog house into a costly production in itself.
While the editorial turned up the heat on Thames and the Board, it unfortunately stopped short of calling for Thames' removal from office.
Letters to the editor at the two newspapers are running sharply against Thames. Here's one from the Hattiesburg American. On Tuesday of this week, the Clarion-Ledger ran no fewer than 6 letters on the USM crisis. One from the president of USM's Faculty Senate criticized Thames and henchcrew for grossly neglecting accreditation. Four called for hisimmediateouster. One feebly accused professors of"ganging on" the poor defenseless Thames.
I wish I could say something complimentary about the third newspaper that covers USM, the Biloxi Sun-Herald. But for a couple of years now, the Sun-Herald editorial board has been consistently aligned with Shelby Thames and the Board member who is his loudest remaining sponsor, Roy Klumb. Faced with Thames' severe loss of political capital during the accreditation debacle, the paper been handling it the same way Pravda used to deal with plane craches. It refuses to put its own reporter on the story, yet it won't carry Kevin Walters' articles, either.
Since nothing related to SACS accreditation is going to happen over the holidays, USM has slightly under 7 months to get its house in order. The IHL Board, now distrusts Thames enough to feel a need to monitor his performance. One observer now counts 4 trustees in favor of firing Thames, 4 who question his competence but are still reluctant to own up to the Board's failure and call for his ouster, and 4 (led, of course, by Roy Klumb) who keep protecting him. If the Board wants to ensure that degrees from USM do not become worthless, it should promptly finish the job by getting rid of Shelby Thames and sending Richard Crofts, who has extensive adminstrative experience in several state university systems, to Hattiesburg as USM's interim president.
By ordering USM to hire an external consultant with expertise in SACS matters, the Board has already done one thing that Thames would never have done on his own. No way would he spend an extra dime on administrative functions unless it expanded the roster of administrators and staff people loyal to Shelby Freland Thames.
But if the cost of hiring a SACS consultant seems prohibitive (they do charge $600 a day), it can be covered out of funds saved elsewhere. USM could start by abolishing the position of university spokesperson. Lisa Mader pulls down $77,000 a year to represent Shelby Freland Thames, while pretending to speak for the University of Southern Mississippi. Not only has Mader repeatedly fed reporters false or misleading statements, her effectiveness with the media is skating close to zero; during the probation crisis she has essentially vanished from the news stories.
If further resources are needed, USM can get rid of the separate position of Director of the Research Foundation that Thames hastily created in June to tide over Angeline Dvorak, after she had to be removed as Vice-President for Research and Economic Development. Now that she has become the President of the Area Development Partnership, Dvorak will be making her delayed departure from USM's payroll a week from now--and her former salary of $150,000 per year will purchase well over 7 months of expert SACS consulting.
Robert L. Campbell
So many things have gone wrong during Shelby Thames' two and a half years of misrule at the University of Southern Mississippi that I haven't been able to cover them all. Of those remaining, surely the most important is the Thames administration's emphasis on economic development.
When Thames, 16 years after being fired from his last administrative post, was campaigning to be chosen as President of USM, he promised to make economic development the university's number one priority. After taking power, he boasted in puff pieces like this one that he had had reoriented the university's entire mission toward economic development. (In a piece of classically Thamesian misrepresentation, the article proclaims that USM's School of Polymer Science is"ranked in the top 10 such schools nationally and boasts 6 professors who were recruited directly from private industry." It might be a little harder to shoot fish in a barrel than to achieve this distinction, because there are well under 10 departments or schools of Polymer Science in the United States. The kind of research in which Thames specializes is usually done in departments of Chemistry or Chemical Engineering--which are not adverse to hiring distinguished researchers with a track record in industry.)
So no one should be surprised to find USM administrators on the fast track to power-- such as former VP for Research Angeline Dvorak, former Provost Tim Hudson, and ongoing occupier of multiple offices Ken Malone--all staking their ambitions on one slender little department... which, of course, was called Economic Development.
The Economic Development program originated in 1998, when Horace Fleming was president of USM. It was housed in the College of International and Continuing Education, which consisted mostly of support bureaucracy, but had managed to grab up one preexisting academic department (Geography) and start another (Economic Development). At one time Tim Hudson was the Dean of CICE. In January 2003, Thames announced his reorganization of 9 colleges into 5, which did away with CICE and relocated Economic Development in what had been known as the College of Business but was now to be called the College of Business and Economic Development.
Now that Thames' legacy includes putting USM into free fall down through the 4th tier of national universities in the US News rankings, and incurring probation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Economic Development story needs to be told. For just recently the academic program on which Thames and several members of his crew have put top priority was endangering the accreditation of several other degree programs at the university.
The Thames administration appears to believe that no activity at USM (with the possible exception of research in Thames' home area, Polymer Science) could ever outshine the marvelous achievements of the graduate progam in Economic Development. The breathless tone of this USM press release, dated August 29, 2003, is typical (my boldface added):
One specific plan that came from the [August 29] meeting is the idea of"branding" the Southern Miss Department of Economic Development as the economic development department of the United States. This is fitting, as Southern Miss is the only university in the nation to offer a master's and doctorate in economic development....
"We have a president (Dr. Shelby Thames) who has made economic development a mission of the university, and the only vice president of research and economic development (Dr. Angeline Dvorak) of any university in the country," Malone said."Also, we have a newly formed College of Business and Economic Development, which increases the important synergy of business and economic development curriculum."
The proclamation is quaintly dated in one respect: after two senior faculty members caught her misrepresenting her credentials and Thames plunged the university into a major scandal by trying to fire them, Angie Dvorak was compelled to vacate her purportedly unique administrative position. In point of fact, many state universities now talk up economic development, in the hope that if it does not induce the state legislature to give them more money, it will entice various industries to increase their financial support. Clemson University presently attaches"and Economic Development" to the title of the Vice-President for Research; so do many others.
More to the point, there is nothing new or unusual about graduate programs in economic development. Courses in the subject been taught in business schools and economics programs for over 50 years; the oldest Economic Development course at USM was and is taught by economics professors. What's more, by the time USM got in on the act in 1998, there were graduate programs in Economic Development all over the United States. They can be found at the University of North Texas, the University of Southern New Hampshire, Penn State, and Vanderbilt, just to name a few.
The only unusual features of USM's program are its questionable quality and its determination not to hire anyone with a background in economics or the business disciplines. Reliable information is hard to obtain because Economic Development is run in near-total secrecy by Ken Malone, a Thames protégé who, after the forced exits of Jack Hanbury, Angeline Dvorak, and Mark Dvorak, has become his number one hatchet wielder. But none of those who are publicly identified as Economic Development faculty appear to hold degree in economics, management, marketing, finance, or other B School disciplines. And the manner in which students are recruited for the doctoral program in International Development (they are told that their presence on the USM campus will be required on just a few occasions) does nothing to restore confidence in the program's academic standards. The online survey that USM uses to promote the program needs to be seen to be believed.
The Department of Economic Development and Planning, as it is officially denominated, lists three faculty members on its Web page. A fourth faculty member has been on the USM payroll since August but has yet to rate a spot on the page.
The director of the PhD progam in International Development is David Butler, who has been an Assistant Professor of Economic Development at USM since the fall semester of 2001. Butler's MS and PhD are in Geography. For the past two years, since he became the director of the program, he has taught 2 graduate courses per semester in International Economic Development, and published in related disciplines. His big project these days, duly ballyhoed by Thames' publicity machine, is promoting the growth of call centers in southern Mississippi.
Richard Hadden was hired in October 2003 as USM's"Director of Strategic Venture Development." Hadden holds a medical degree and used to be a practicing physician. He has experience with high-tech startup companies, not all of them in the biomedical field, but no training in economics or business. What contributions he actually makes to the academic program are entirely unknown to the rest of the world, as he lists no courses or other instructional activity on his vita. Program secrecy has grown tighter since Angie Dvorak's vita came under public scrutiny in January 2004, and Hadden's qualifications to be a faculty member were widely questioned as well.
Mark Miller is a Professor of Economic Development. His discipline is geography and he apparently has been involved with the program since its inception. When Thames took the throne in May 2002, Miller was the Dean of the College of International and Continuing Education. As one of the 9 deans fired in January 2003, Miller was put in the department of Economic Development, which, in turn, was moved into the new College of Business and Economic Development. Sources on the business faculty say that Miller was the only Economic Development professor to enjoy the respect of other faculty in the College of Business.
In August 2004, Judson Edwards, then the economic development director for Phenix City, Alabama, was hired to direct the Masters program in Economic Development. According to a USM press release, he got his Masters degree and his Ph.D. in Economic Development from... how about that?... USM. His prior academic experience consisted of one semester as an Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of North Dakota-Grand Forks.
The Economic Development department has also proven to be a convenient parking spot for upper-level administrators.
The Department Chair is Ken Malone, who holds a USM Ph.D. in Polymer Science and spent several years in industry working as a chemist; his publications are all in that field. He was brought on board in November 2002 to recruit companies for an industrial park that USM was establishing, but his position stretched and morphed as Malone collected multiple job titles. His most significant administrative assignment is as"Chief Operating Officer" of the Gulf Park satellite campus, where the International Development PhD program was recently relocated. Malone's vita lists no courses taught since Thames hired him--and no publications of any sort since 1998.
Since Thames came to power, USM's Vice-President for Research and Economic Development has automatically been granted a courtesy faculty title in the department. Angie Dvorak was listed as a faculty member (despite her degrees being in Law and English) during her abbreviated and stormy term in office. Her replacement, Cecil Burge, has inherited her listing in Economic Development. He directed one dissertation in Economic Development before becoming VP, but there is no reason to think that he teaches any courses or supervises any dissertations in Economic Development now. (Oddly, Burge, identified as the Vice-President, appears on a second faculty and staff list for the department, dated February 9, 2004, when he didn't replace Angie Dvorak till July 1, 2004. But then USM's Web pages are maintained in an extremely erratic fashion.)
Standing squarely in the way of Thames and Malone's agenda was the fact that colleges of business have to undergo accreditation by an extremely demanding organization called the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The Economic Development simply could not remain in the College of Business without either causing the entire college to lose its accreditation, or earning AACSB approval through a massive upgrade involving both major changes to its faculty and a substantial tightening of its academic standards.
So Thames came up with an expedient. According to Janet Braswell's Hattiesburg American story of October 7 (no longer available online without paying a fee):
The University of Southern Mississippi will ask the state College Board to approve splitting its economic development department and dropping"economic development" from the College of Business and Economic Development.
Southern Miss President Shelby Thames wants to shift the department's degree programs so that the College of Business and Economic Development can maintain its accreditation through the American Association of Schools of Business, he said during Wednesday's meeting of the President's Council.
"Because economic development is a new field, there are not a lot of PhDs in the field," Thames said."We want to keep the program going and not impair the accreditation."
The doctoral program in international development will move to the political science department in the College of Arts and Letters. The master's degree programs will move to the College of Science and Technology.
It would be interesting to know how the doctoral program ended up in the college that Thames most despises--perhaps because none of the other colleges wanted it? And of course, the shortage of PhD's in Economic Development was another Thames invention... unless he meant that there weren't enough USM Economic Development PhD's to staff the program.
"We were hoping in the College of Business to actually improve the program and keep the program in the College of Business but I think some people didn't think that was a good idea," said Mark Klinedinst, chair of the economics, finance and international business department."There is actually quite a lot of expertise in the College of Business that would have been of use to people trying to do economic development. It's the natural place."
Several economics professors at Southern Miss hold degrees in economic development but aren't interested in all aspects of the discipline, Klinedinst said.
In its October 12 issue, the USM Student Printz carried a blunt statement from Dean Harold Doty about the danger that the program posed to the College of Business:
"As the program is currently structured and managed, it doesn't meet the overall high standards of the accrediting body," said Doty. The accreditation of the entire college could have been put in jeopardy, he said.
The October 7 article reported eye-popping enrollment figures:
Nine students have received doctoral degrees from the international development program since it was started five years ago, said David Butler, program director. He said 65 students have been accepted or enrolled for the spring semester.
"All of our students are working professionals," Butler said."They come from all over America."...
Approximately 45 students are enrolled in the master's degree program in workforce training and economic development, which will move to the College of Science and Technology, chair Ken Malone said.
Hmm, let's see... assuming Ken Malone really does any faculty work (which is highly doubtful), each of the 5 professors in Economic Development is going to supervise... 9 master's level students and 13 doctoral students, thesis or dissertation included? But each will presumably be paying full graduate tuition (and then some... for the USM administration has talked about assessing a"branding" fee on top of it). So the program can be counted on to generate revenue, as long as USM diplomas are still worth anything.
The boasts about enrollment leave no doubt--the program never had a prayer of meeting AACSB standards, which is why reality belatedly set in and it had to be shipped out of the College of Business. Yet such awkwardness hasn't stopped Malone and Butler from pretending that the program is still there, or that it is accredited by the AACSB. The Department page still claims it's in CBED, while the Masters program pagedoesn't bother to say which college it's in. And as udpated on November 10, 2004, the page for the online executive Ph.D. program in International Economic Development still declares that
The International Development Ph.D. Program is in the College of Business and Economic Development which is accredited by the Association to Advance the Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and Southern Association of Colleges (SAC)[sic].
Thames and his crew probably saw the move as part of a shell game. At the October 6 meeting of his President's Council, Thames suggested that Economic Development could be switched back into the College of Business as soon as the AACSB was looking the other way. Thames' press secretary faithtfully echoed him in the October 12 Student Printz article:"[Lisa] Mader said economic development is a changing field, and the program could end up moving back to the College of Business." AACSB accreditation is now being done on a five-year cycle, so there won't be any times that the AACSB isn't looking. Thames was exhibiting the same cavalier attitude toward academic program evaluation and accreditation were about to get him in the soup with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Adding to the confusion, each version of the official story about the move is different. Here's how Thames described it to the campus on October 25:
Administrative changes included ... relocating the Department of Economic Development and Planning from the College of Business and Economic Development to the College of Science and Technology; relocating the Ph.D. program in International Development from the Department of Economic Development and Planning to the Department of Political Science in the College of Arts and Letters; renaming the Department of Political Science to the Department of Political Science, International Development and International Affairs in the College of Arts and Letters; and renaming the College of Business and Economic Development to the College of Business.
The Political Science Department's Web pages have yet to register any of these momentous occurences--not a single mention of International Development can be found anywhere, even on the Poli Sci News page.
There is a further question mark as to where the Economic Development programs will be physically located in the future. It would take several contorted installments to retell the history of a certain building project on the USM campus--and how the Thames regime first failed to come up with USM's contribution to the project, then"discovered" the needed funds when it looked as though the project was about to fail. Suffice it to say that the Trent Lott Center is named after a US Senator whose mastery of the pork barrel is universally acknowledged. But it does seem apposite that the exclusive future tenant of this $17 million building will be... the Department of Economic Development. All the more reason to pack the maximum density of administrators into the program! Actually, now that the PhD program has been exiled to the Gulf Park satellite campus, it looks as though the Masters program is due to be housed in solitary splendor at the TLC.
Despite the mum's-the-word culture of Economic Development, and his past successes at getting the media to reprint his press releases about it, Shelby Thames has not been able to pull the wool over the eyes of the USM faculty. At a meeting of his President's Council on September 2, Physics Professor Ray Folse challenged Thames to back up his administration's claims about the Economic Development program. Folse specifically indicted Thames' PR machine for the false claims of uniqueness it was incessantly making on behalf of the program. Thames' response: he would have Ken Malone talk to the PC about the Economic Development program at a future meeting.
Instead it was at the next PC meeting on October 6 that the decision to break the program in two and move the pieces was announced. Folse promptly"stated that he he had heard it was being moved for reasons of quality." Thames"said we would have Dr. Malone at a Council meeting to discuss it."
Thames never had the slightest intention of putting Malone in front of informed critics of the Economic Development program, like Folse or Economics Professor Trellis Green. He was just buying time until the IHL Board approved moving the program at its October meeting. As soon as the Board had acted, Thames haughtily reneged on his promise:
Dr. Ray Folse raised questions about the quality of the economic development program and the qualifications of some admitted students, citing discussions and comments with others about this topic. He asked that a representative of the program visit the President's Council and answer questions that might be asked by President's Council members. As a result of this request, I discussed this matter with the administrative cabinet and it was unanimously agreed that academic program review is not the mission of the President's Council. Instead, program review, evaluation and assessment are the responsibility of the provost, deans, departments and appropriate academic entities such as the academic and graduate councils.
Thames' Kitchen Cabinet did what he told it to. In any event, the President's Council has no decision-making authority over anything. Thames just wanted to make sure Ken Malone wouldn't be answering tough questions about the program in front of Kevin Walters, the Hattiesburg American reporter who has been attending the PC meetings regularly.
It suddenly got harder for Thames to get away with his dodges on December 8, when the SACS accreditation crisis hit the newspapers. Over the next week the IHL Board and the public saw Thames tripping over his own lies as he tried to excuse himself from responsibility, while the severity of USM's predicament finally began to sink in. Hardly anyone believes Shelby Thames any more when he blames his administration's failings on others. He is personally responsible for the hype and deceit that have surrounded the Economic Development program during his entire term in office. We can only hope that he will be held fully accountable for these as well.
Those of you who know me or have seen some scattered comments on L&P before know that I have, suffice it to say, little love for the Mises Institute crowd. However, I calls 'em as I sees 'em and when they get it right, I'll be the first to acknowledge it. In that spirit, I offer today's column by Lew Rockwell, with the great title of "The Reality of Red-State Fascism." One money quote:
The American right today has managed to be solidly anti-leftist while adopting an ideology – even without knowing it or being entirely conscious of the change – that is also frighteningly anti-liberty. This reality turns out to be very difficult for libertarians to understand or accept. For a long time, we've tended to see the primary threat to liberty as coming from the left, from the socialists who sought to control the economy from the center. But we must also remember that the sweep of history shows that there are two main dangers to liberty, one that comes from the left and the other that comes from the right. Europe and Latin America have long faced the latter threat, but its reality is only now hitting us fully.
What is the most pressing and urgent threat to freedom that we face in our time? It is not from the left. If anything, the left has been solid on civil liberties and has been crucial in drawing attention to the lies and abuses of the Bush administration. No, today, the clear and present danger to freedom comes from the right side of the ideological spectrum, those people who are pleased to preserve most of free enterprise but favor top-down management of society, culture, family, and school, and seek to use a messianic and belligerent nationalism to impose their vision of politics on the world.
The whole piece is well worth reading.
And let me add a wish for a very happy new year to my co-bloggers here and the readers of L&P. May 2005 be filled with more liberty for all of us.
Robert L. Campbell
Since I posted my entry on the Economic Development program at the University of Southern Mississippi and the megahype that surrounds it, informed sources have provided me with several additions and corrections.
First, I was incorrect in stating that Ken Malone, the Department Chair, spends 100% of his time doing administration. He has taught a Finance course in the program.
Second, Richard Hadden, whose terminal degree is an MD, could not have taught any courses in Ecomomic Development during his first year at USM. That's because Economic Development was in the College of Business until October 2004, and Hadden was not admitted to the Graduate Faculty of the College of Business and Economic Development. In other words, professors in the Business disciplines did not deem him qualified to teach any graduate-level courses in Economic Development.
The standards set by the AACSB, the accrediting body for Business Schools, set requirements for the percentage of the workload in Business programs that is carried by"academically qualified" and"professionally qualified" faculty members. For definitions, requirements, and examples, see the AACSB Business accreditation standards (pages 38-48).
According to these standards, Ken Malone is neither academically nor professionally qualified to teach Finance. It's doubtful that he would be considered qualified to teach anything in an Economic Development program, as he has published nothing in the area, and his professional experience before being hired by USM was basically as a chemist. Richard Hadden is not academically qualified to teach anything in the program, and his professional qualifications, even to teach a course about high-tech startups, were not considered sufficient by his former colleagues in the College of Business. Cecil Burge, the present VP for Research and Economic Development, is an Electrical Engineering PhD who taught Computer Science for many years, and has done software quality consulting in industry. By AACSB standards, he, too, is neither academically nor professionally qualified.
That leaves two members of the Economic Development department who actually do a lot of faculty work. I'm reasonably sure that David Butler would be considered academically qualified on account of his publications, even though his graduate degrees are in Geography. Judson Edwards, of course, is not academically qualified, because his PhD comes from... USM's Economic Development program, which has never been accredited by the AACSB. He does have a few months of professional experience, as an economic development official for a city government.
So out of 5 Economic Development faculty listed by USM, 1 is academically qualified and 1 may be professionally qualified by AACSB standards. Not to mention the fact that the enrollment numbers projected by Butler and Malone, at 9 masters students and 13 doctoral students per faculty member, are way out of line with anything that would be considered acceptable by the AACSB.
No wonder Shelby Thames' pet program had to be whisked out of the College of Business"and Economic Development." No wonder it is being widely referred to as a"PhD mill."
Happy New Year, everyone, and stay tuned.
Robert L. Campbell
In his New Year's message, Roderick Long presses his call for a libertarian alignment with the Left. I encourage Roderick and Charles Johnson to make the text of their recent presentation at the Molinari Society meeting available for discussion. In the meantime, I have a few questions.
Of his reasons for favoring such an alignment, Roderick says:
For me the case is not primarily strategic, since I'm far more in inherent sympathy with the left's economic and cultural concerns than most libertarians are (and part of the point our panel were making in Boston is that libertarians have done too little justice to such concerns); but it certainly is at least strategic. The statist right, which now controls the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and much of the media, is, as Lew [Rockwell] rightly observes,"the most pressing and urgent threat to freedom that we face in our time," and it's in the interest of libertarians to build bridges with the left, who have been"solid on civil liberties" (at least by comparison) and" crucial in drawing attention to the lies and abuses of the Bush administration."
While there are, admittedly, plenty of authoritarian types on the left (as everywhere else), there are also plenty of people whose instincts are firmly anti-authoritarian but who have been lured into supporting state socialism because it's been sold to them as the only effective counterweight to state capitalism. These leftists are our potential allies, but no alliance will be forthcoming so long as we continue to confirm most leftists' impression of libertarianism as a variant of conservatism.
Concerning the Molinari Society talk, Roderick declares:
I got particular satisfaction out of the affinities we identified between Herbert Spencer (much maligned and mischaracterised by leftists who've never bothered to read him ...) and Andrea Dworkin (much maligned and mischaracterised by rightists who've likewise never bothered to read her...).
It would appear, then, that Andrea Dworkin is one leftist whom Roderick and Charles consider a potential ally. Is Dworkin"solid on civil liberties"? Is she one of those"whose instincts are firmly anti-authoritarian?" Is she perhaps neither--but her analysis of power relations in society is valuable to libertarians anyway?
Charles urges everyone to read Dworkin's writings and judge for themselves. Excellent advice.
Let's look at an essay that Charles has singled out for praise, "I Want a Twenty-Four-Hour Truce in Which There Is No Rape."
Here is one passage that I think might deserve comment. Keep in mind that the essay is not based on a speech that Dworkin gave to the tribal elders of Waziristan. It is based on a speech that she gave to the National Organization for Changing Men, in St. Paul, Minnesota:
We women. We don't have forever. Some of us don't have another week or another day to take time for you to discuss whatever it is that will enable you to go out into those streets and do something. We are very close to death. All women are. And we are very close to rape and we are very close to beating. And we are inside a system of humiliation from which there is no escape for us.
A good deal more in this speech is worthy of comment, but I want to give priority to Dworkin's conclusion:
Even in wars, there are days of truce. Go and organize a truce. Stop your side for one day. I want a twenty-four-hour truce during which there is no rape.
I dare you to try it. I demand that you try it. I don't mind begging you to try it. What else could you possibly be here to do? What else could this movement possibly mean? What else could matter so much?
And on that day, that day of truce, that day when not one woman is raped, we will begin the real practice of equality, because we can't begin it before that day. Before that day it means nothing because it is nothing: it is not real; it is not true. But on that day it becomes real. And then, instead of rape we will for the first time in our lives--both men and women--begin to experience freedom. If you have a conception of freedom that includes the existence of rape, you are wrong. You cannot change what you say you want to change. For myself, I want to experience just one day of real freedom before I die. I leave you here to do that for me and for the women whom you say you love.
Keep in mind, too, the definition that Dworkin puts forth in the same essay:
And by rape you know what I mean. A judge does not have to walk into this room and say that according to statute such and such these are the elements of proof. We're talking about any kind of coerced sex, including sex coerced by poverty.
I would like to hear those libertarians who believe that Dworkin is doing good and important work explain what her words mean to them. Readers of this blog know that I'm hardly reticent about expressing my opinion. My concern is that whatever I contribute to the present discussion will be dismissed with the remark that I've once again bogged down in some red-state fever swamp. And merely being told that has no information value at all. Please, I really want to know. What do you think is the correct reading, and why?
The same goes for Dworkin's views on sexual intercourse, which she insists have been so grossly misrendered.
Finally, I am curious to know what Roderick and Charles think of an op-ed from 2002, which praises the city council of Glasgow, Scotland, for enacting a ban on lap dancing. Including their interpretation of the final line.
Robert L. Campbell
Amy Young, the president of the AAUP chapter at the University of Southern Mississippi, has written a hard-hitting guest editorial on the accreditation crisis.
Because the Hattiesburg American published the op-ed in today's paper but (rather unusually) has chosen not to run it in the online edition, I am going to reproduce the entire text here:
Thames Puts USM at Risk
Many faculty members have been asked and have already agreed to serve on committees whose purposes are to address the issues that have resulted in probation for USM by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). In effect, faculty members are being asked to engage in even more service activities. They agreed and will agree to be involved in SACS accreditation issues because of a deep commitment to USM, students, and higher education in Mississippi.
This type of service, the"diligent, active participation of faculty members," is essential to accreditation and success of the university. However, meaningful engagement in important service activities has not been recognized by the Thames Administration as valuable in awarding tenure, promotion, or merit raises. Thus, faculty members have to ask,"Should I work on those professional endeavors that are rewarded by Thames Administration (such as securing grants and contracts and 'buying' myself out of teaching), or should I work diligently to help USM constructively address the issues that have resulted in probation by SACS? If my choice is the latter, I risk denial of tenure and promotion or raises, or unsatisfactory annual reviews that may trigger a post-tenure review."
Most faculty members have been basically excluded from providing input into major decisions for the entire two and one-half years of the Thames Administration. They have had minuscule roles in formulating major goals for the university or in planning and implementing strategies to achieve goals. Faculty organizations such as AAUP USM and the Faculty Senate have been expressing concern for two and one-half years that faculty members have been excluded from meaningful roles in determining the priorities of our university. In this context, members of AAUP USM find it ironic that the Thames Administration is now urging faculty to help repair the probation wreckage and devote considerable time to the reaffirmation of accreditation process.
Why was USM placed on SACS probation? We believe it is because the Thames Administration failed to recognize that maintaining the accreditation of our university is one of the most important responsibilities an administration has. Simply put, the Thames Administration devoted its energies to other"priorities" such as reducing colleges from nine to five without faculty input, firing good deans who were knowledgeable about accreditation, and attempting to terminate dedicated tenured faculty. The misjudgments and failures of the Thames Administration have put USM in jeopardy. And then the Thames Administration has had the audacity to put a"spin" on its misjudgments and failures in order to deflect the blame to others.
Despite obstacles from the Thames Administration, faculty members recognize that resolving the accreditation issues must take precedence over other challenges currently facing USM. But as members of AAUP USM, we strongly disagree with the statement in the January 5 editorial in the Hattiesburg American that"how Thames manages the accreditation issue may well determine his future as president of Southern Miss." Rather, we believe how USM faculty rise to the challenge may well determine the character of our university for years to come. We also believe that the future of the Thames presidency should have already been determined by a two and one-half year track record of missteps and controversies. It will be unfortunate if the efforts of faculty members help to extend the Thames presidency. Based on a two and one-half year performance, real accountability standards by the Board of Trustees would have already returned Dr. Thames to his status as a successful scientist.
On Wednesday the Hattiesburg American ran a rather dismal editorial that could be netted out as:"The USM faculty are stuck with Shelby Thames. He may stink as a manager, but the professors must knuckle under to Thames and do all the work to save the university--or its collapse will be entirely their fault." If the American has decided not to put Amy Young's piece online because she criticizes that editorial--shame on it.
Anything else I could say would be superfluous. Stay tuned.
Robert L. Campbell
On January 17, 2003, Shelby Thames, the President of the University of Southern Mississippi, summoned the deans of the 9 colleges to a meeting. There he announced that they were all fired, as part of a reorganization of 9 colleges into 5 that he and a handful of advisers had cooked up. Thames had thoughtfully informed the local business leaders who sponsored his presidency of his plans to fire them the night before.
The firings were egregious, as were the false claims that accompanied them ($1.8 million a year was allegedly returned to the classroom--a number that has sometimes grown in the telling to $2 million, and has been spent and re-spent several times, if you are foolish enough to believe Thames' public relations machine.) By no means were they the first signs of misrule during Thames' reign--those began as soon as he took office in May 2002--but the firing of the 9 deans made his megalomania and eagerness to deceive apparent to virtually everyone.
We have just passed another anniversary: January 16, 2004 was the date of a letter of warning addressed to Thames. It noted that that USM was behind schedule providing important documentation to its accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Thames ignored it, just as he had ignored a similar letter a year earlier. So on December 6 of last year, SACS put USM on a one-year probation.
Thames has now received an official letter from SACS, detailing what deficiencies must be corrected by August 2 if USM's probation is to be lifted. While USM has brought on board an experienced SACS consultant named Margaret Sullivan, Thames and his administrator in charge of accreditation, Joan Exline, have learned nothing. The optimistic tone of today's editorial from the Hattiesburg American is spoiled by another one of those blasts of fatuity for which Thames has become notorious:
“We were very pleased to see there was only one issue of concern cited by the association and that did not involve the university’s academic quality, programming or delivery of academic programs,” said Southern Miss President Shelby Thames.
The one area of concern cited in the letter, which is dated Jan. 6? Deficiencies in the university’s distance learning activities, and its failure to evaluate these activities.
By SACS' definition, all courses taught off the main Hattiesburg campus are"distance learning activities." Everything taught at the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, at USM's other Gulf Coast sites (at the Stennis Space Center, at Keesler Air Force Base, and in Jackson County), and in USM's study-abroad offerings, is considered distance learning. And of course every course that is taught online is included.
Earth to Shelby: the quality of courses taught off the main campus, or online, is"academic quality." What else could it be?
Strong suspicions persist that under the Thames regime, USM has never reported to SACS any new distance learning courses, or conversions of old courses to a distance-learning format--and it is required to do so under SACS rules. Thames' incompetence is all-encompassing.
In my recent posts on USM, I have detailed the weaknesses of the heavily promoted graduate program in Economic Development, most of whose course offerings are online. Thames' pet program, run by his chief remaining enforcer, Ken Malone, had to be yanked out of the College of Business in October 2004 because it threatened the college's accreditation with the AACSB; the program now poses a threat to the entire university's accreditation with SACS.
Now there is further proof that Thames and Malone possess an unlimited craving for power, and a minuscule capacity for learning. Within the last week, two faculty members at the Gulf Park satellite campus revealed a secret plan to remodel the third floor of the Gulf Park library (which contains nearly all the book stacks, and a bunch of study areas) into a conference center to be used in an Executive MBA program. The existing MBA program has badly dwindled, amongst serious concerns about its academic quality. Malone has gotten the bright idea of pumping it back up, apparently without any involvement from the College of Business. Further accreditation woes are bound to follow.
Malone isn't quitting there. Those who first revealed the plan (Will Watson, an Associate Professor of English on the Gulf Park campus, and James Pat Smith, a Professor of History there) has been reprimanded by the Provost, Jay Grimes, and ordered not to criticize the plan in public. As far as Gulf Park is concerned, Grimes takes orders from Malone, one of whose job titles, in a collection that keeps growing, is Chief Operating Officer of that satellite campus. The only thing novel about this move is Malone's resort to a proxy. On October 12, 2004, he and an associate, Richard Farley, barged into a Gulf Park classroom to interrogate students about what their English professor had told them regarding his future plans for the Gulf Park campus. Malone and Farley stayed past the scheduled beginning of the class, and Malone stuck around to berate Stevenson in the hallway afterwards. Farley then returned to interrogate students in the professor's afternoon class. Diane Stevenson had told her students what she had heard in a recent speech by Provost Jay Grimes, who had announced that most Gulf Park classes would be replaced with online offerings. Indeed, that was and is Malone's plan.
It's getting grim in Hattiesburg and points south. Without long-overdue action by the IHL Board, which no longer trusts Thames but is keeping him in office, the exodus of faculty is going to reach stampede proportions.
Update, 8:52 AM, January 18. I have corrected this entry to name both professors who were ordered not to speak about the Executive MBA plan, and to identify all of USM's teaching sites in southern Mississippi.
Over at his wonderful blog, the economic anthropologist Grant McCracken has had several posts about the economics and culture of food. He poses the apparent contradiction between the growth in high-end, sophisticated tastes in food and the growth in fast food consumption, wondering how both might be true. He argues, in part:
But there is another, more interesting, possibility: that good food and bad food are happening to the same people. In this view, Americans are growing more sophisticated in their knowledge of food. They are stocking better kitchens with better food. But by and large, they are eating prepared food.
There was a time when we would have hunted out the “cognitive dissonance” this sort of thing causes. But not anymore. I think we may be looking at a “virtual consumption” as a result of which people “consume” the knowledge and image of good food and the stuff and substance of bad food. They eat what they eat: food that is prepared out of the house, often by fast food suppliers. But they consume what they read in magazines and cook books and watch on TV.
This approach would help explain how it is people can spend so much on kitchens, cook books, and cooking shows and so little time on cooking itself. This is what is going on in the Martha Stewart phenomenon, when people watch the show with pleasure without ever making or thinking to make the dining room center piece. In a sense, Martha’s making it for us. Martha’s making it so we don’t have to. Martha’s making it because, let’s be honest, we don’t have the time.
I'd like to propose an alternative hypothesis:
From an economic perspective, this isn't that odd. It may be that higher incomes have enabled us to indulge in the Martha Stewart fantasy and sometimes even live it out - we can afford to purchase the fine wines, fancy olive oils, and fresh exotic vegetables to make those slow cooked meals in our remodelled kitchens. At the same time, the "substitution effect" of the various pressures on our time pushes us to consume fast food, or even fast casual, on a more frequent basis.
In my own house, we tend to eat "fast" in various ways during the week, but indulge ourselves either eating out more fancy or cooking more slowly on the weekends, or between semesters, or on days when neither my wife nor I have late afternoon work commitments, all of which are when we have the time.
So it may be true that we are "virtually" consuming the concept of the high-end kitchen stocked with top-flight stuff, but it also may be true that we use it as our time permits. If higher incomes are associated with more valuable time, the apparent paradox of the Martha Stewart kitchen in which McDonald's is being consumed may vanish a bit.
McCracken also uses sushi as an example of the changes in American eating habits:
In the words of Darrell Corti:
Ten years ago, to eat sushi you had to go to specialized restaurants and even in big cities you’d find only a few. Today sushi is an industrial commodity. (87)
I live in a town of 7000 in a rural county in NY state. As of December, we now have an Asian buffet with very good sushi. It's both an economic and cultural phenomenon - costs are lower and people are more aware of sushi as an enjoyable meal. Adam Smith had it right - the division of labor is indeed limited by the extent of the market, and that "extent" continues to grow as costs fall and cultures intermingle. The lower costs of production make getting sushi to the middle of nowhere more possible, and precisely the sort of cultural awareness prompted by the rise of the Food Network and other media attention to creating the "good food image" McCracken talkls about, have altered the "extent of the market." And those of us in the boonies are all the better for it.