July 8, 2014

JOSH HEDTKE: Higher Ed, Clinton Extravagance, and an American Pathology.

Hillary Clinton gave a Luskin Thought Leadership lecture at UCLA last March for which she raked in $300,000 in speaking fees. The appearance was one of at least eight lectures she gave at various universities throughout the past year. Her minimum speaking fee at said universities was reportedly $200,000.

There has been outrage among some students of these universities, who lambaste their administrators for doling out stratospheric speaking fees while students are left to grapple with tuitions that have increased by 500 percent over the last thirty years.

In defense of Clinton’s exploits, it’s been noted that the fees she was paid did not come out of the pot of money funded by tuition but rather from privately donated grants. For instance, at UCLA, the Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership fund established in 2011 by benefactors Meyer and Renee Luskin paid her fee.

The nascent Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership program has thus far brought in three speakers: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Kofi Annan, all of whom are, incidentally (or not?), of the liberal bent.

It is correct to point out that, because she was paid by a private donation, it is not as if her speaking fee directly diminished the school’s ability to pay for classroom resources and the like.

But I have always thought the excuse by university administrators that building the new conference center, or the new campus restaurant, or the new LGBT center is justified because various private donors have earmarked their donations for these express purposes, is rather dubious.

In an age when students are crushed by debt, it is conceivable that administrators with any concern for their students could tell potential benefactors that they would love to accept their donation for the new Muslim Cultural Center, but that because of the dire straits their students find themselves in vis-à-vis tuition costs, they would kindly ask that donors make their donations to the university’s general fund instead.

Once when I was in Las Vegas, a guy stopped me on the street and asked to borrow a thousand bucks for his mother’s operation.

I was skeptical. “How do I know you won’t just gamble the money away?”

His indignant response: “I’ve already got gambling money!”

I’m sure he was a college administrator of some kind. And I’ll be here all week; try the veal.

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