Did the Wisconsin state system just abolish tenure?

I don’t think so, not really.  Here is one explanation:

The proposed changes would also remove tenure protections from state law. Darling and Harsdorf both said that Wisconsin is the only state that enshrines tenure in its statutes.

The GOP proposal puts the decision of whether to have tenure and how to define it in the hands of the Board of Regents.

“We believe in empowering the Board of Regents and the chancellors throughout the state of Wisconsin to be able to manage the System,” Nygren said. “I think this is a tool to enable them to do that.”

Cross and Board of Regents vice president Regina Miller pledged to uphold the tenets of shared governance and tenure in their policies.

For sure that is a decline in the relative status of tenure, but not an end to tenure itself.

By the way, I’ve seen so many criticisms of the $400 million Paulson gift to Harvard, almost making it sound worse than if he had kept the money for himself, as most people do with $400 million.  Without a well-worked out theory of university endowments, and their importance and function (they do seem to matter), I don’t see a hard and shut case for condemning this gift.  At the very least, it is likely to boost investment’ note that about 15% of Harvard’s endowment goes to private equity or venture capital.  I do understand however that this gift sends an anti-egalitarian message about status relations and where investment should go.


It's not so much that I see criticisms of the Paulson gift, as I see dumb criticisms that paint Paulson as some kind of cartoon villain. If you're going to claim that Paulson is poorly allocating $400 million of capital, at least attempt to reconcile that with Paulson's track record of... wait for it... allocating capital well. I see too many uncharitable critiques that paint smart people (like Paulson) as idiots. This is not useful criticism. (I wrote more along these lines on my blog: http://www.arjunnarayan.com/2015/06/03/paulson.html)

The criticisms you link to are puzzling. The arguments are some version of, "Harvard already has enough money." Some point out that colleges that "typically educate lower-income students" are more cash-strapped. Yet, I suspect that many of the same authors support college financial aid and would be particularly incensed if students could only use financial aid at "cash strapped" colleges and not at Harvard. Some authors might even believe that college education should be "free". For those of us that aren't economics PhDs, could someone remind us again what the difference in economic incidence is between a subsidy given to the student and a subsidy given to the university?

"For those of us that aren’t economics PhDs, could someone remind us again what the difference in economic incidence is between a subsidy given to the student and a subsidy given to the university?"

Alex could do it: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/05/nerd-altruism-is-becoming-cool.html

Alex: "We have a long way to go but it says something when billionaires are mocked for giving millions to Yale."

Harvard, like most schools, practices near-perfect price discrimination. Don't be fooled into thinking it's something charitable because they call it "financial aid."


I'm surprised every time I meet someone who thinks financial aid is something universities do out of the goodness of their little hearts, but it happens again and again.

Surely there are enough people that want to get into Harvard, are skilled enough to get into Harvard, and can pay the full price that Harvard would have no need to offer anyone financial aid. I would imagine the price discrimination occurs if Harvard accept people solely on "merit" (whatever that is for Harvard) and then extracts the maximum amount of tuition money out of them.


Harvard is a hedge fund with a minor sideline in education as a tax dodge. The purpose of financial aid is to to provide political cover for Harvard's tax-exempt status, just as BP puts some money in loss-making wind power to stave off stronger environmental regulations.


The student body is part of the product as well. This isn't really a price discrimination argument, but part of the reason they provide financial aid is so they can procure interesting poor students for the richer students to experience. They can therefore charge higher prices for the richer students.

Fazal also makes a strong argument, though it only applies to Harvard and a few other mega endowment schools: Harvard mostly makes money by investing the endowment. Tuition is comparatively minor. I am not sure, in present value terms, the value to Harvard of an admitted student, and the respective contribution of their tuition and their future contribution to the endowment. But I'd be very surprised if Harvard doesn't know. I bet it varies in all sorts of interesting ways with applicant characteristics, and that there's a regression out there exploring this.

By the way, if there is not a regression exploring this, I am available at an hourly rate that will make you very unhappy.

How much of the endowment is actually spent each year?

I believe it's required to be about 5%. They make money on the spread between that and what they earn on the endowment.


It was $77 million last year, which they suggest was above-average. That's about 0.5% if I have my decimal places right.

"Harvard targets an annual endowment payout rate of 5.0 to 5.5 percent of market value. "


I think it needs to keep it this high to maintain its tax-free status.

Fazal and Acton make good points, but I also suspect it is important to Harvard's branding that it maintain public perception that their students are the best and the brightest, not "the best and the brightest whose parents make 200k+ and can afford the astronomical tuition."

@ Urstoff, Harvard does practice price discrimination. Harvard wants the very tip-top people, and needs to "pay" something to get them, but as little as possible. But so does Yale, and do does CUNY, and so does Dayton - all according to their reputations and financial resources. A student who isn't tip-top might not get a full ride at Harvard, but they may at Dayton, and students do make this trade-off, based on their own financial needs. You're right that Harvard (being at the top of the pyramid) doesn't need to do this, but they'd eventually lose top students to almost-as-good schools who do offer financial aid (aka, a subsidy). But you're also right that most of these top-tier candidates are largely indistinguishable to us, though I'd say the same thing about $50 hamburgers or $5000 purses or $500,000 cars - and certain people seem to love those things.

For the record, I prefer $50 purses, $5,000 cars, and $500,000 hamburgers

Harvard wants the very tip-top people, and needs to “pay” something to get them, but as little as possible. But so does Yale, and do does CUNY, and so does Dayton – all according to their reputations and financial resources.

Huh. It's almost like Harvard operates on the premise that its the students who make the school, not the school which makes the students, but I doubt that's allowed to creep into the coursework at they're much lauded Graduate School of Education.

Paulson has been (mostly) good at using money to make money. This is about using money to achieve some sort of philanthropic mission (unless this is just a consumption purchase of the name of Harvard's engineering school).

Successful decision making in one area does not prove successful decision making in another area. Stick to your field of expertise. (How helpful are faculty when they comment on areas outside their disciplines?)

In terms of engineering, Harvard has added some concentrations and increased enrollment 150 percent. That's great, but ... MIT is literally a mile away!

This is (unintentionally) hilarious:

"It’s not often that smart, successful people are cartoon idiots. Sure, they might be wrong, but it’s probably something subtle."

No, no, no! Smart, successful people are often the biggest of cartoon idiots outside their narrow domains of expertise (and even sometimes within them). They're not stupid, of course, but they're typically highly self-confident, accustomed to having their way, not particularly reflective, and don't tolerate criticism well (even on the rare occasions they receive it from the subordinates and supplicants they deal with most of the time).

I don't have a problem with Paulson donating $280M to Harvard, I just don't see why the rest of us should have to kick in another $120M. There's no good reason for this donation to be tax deductible (or any donation really).

You're not kicking in anything. Some of Paulson's money that would have come to you is no longer coming to you. We're OK with that.

There's no difference between forgone taxes and direct expenditures.

Is it not reasonable to think that, if Mr. Paulson is very good at allocating capital, we might prefer that he do it relative to whomever is managing Harvard's endowment? It seems like that's the actual impact to an outsider.

What is "allocating capital well?" You must know because you said Paulson has a record of it. Do you think allocating capital well might mean different things depending on what your objective was? Would you say Paulson allocated his capital well for bagel eating? You've said he allocated his capital well so I don't see why he isn't the best in bagel eating.

I think there are valid grounds to critique a gift like that from Peter Singer's "effective altruism" concept. It's that donating it to Harvard is bad in itself or worse than keeping it. It is that there so many people around the world suffering and dying because they lack basic necessities, which a donation of $400 million could alleviate.

His organization has done a lot of work on figuring out what organizations are doing good work and putting the money from donations to good use. Other groups like Copenhagen Consensus have done work evaluating what the biggest global issues are and how to spend money in the most cost-effective ways.

Donating to Harvard is not one of them.

There are no grounds, *none*, for criticizing his donation. It is his capital and he can allocate it as he sees fit.

Liberals who have not done the work to acquire assets who want the power to dispense those assets. Boo-hoo.

I seriously doubt that the Copenhagen consensus would criticize Paulson for his choices. They simply do analysis of what they think is best given their model. They can criticize governments for their decisions since those are *agents* deploying other's capital. An enormous difference.

I disagree with you. If you would like to take up the disagreement, then please consult Peter Singer's work on the ethics of giving as I mentioned before. To state there are no grounds is to state that ethicists from all over the world in a variety of institutions are totally invalid in their arguments. If you think that is the case, then we can't have a constructive conversation.

Your comment about "liberals not doing the work to acquire assets" also disregards most of the research in neuroscience on how people actually operate and make decisions, as well as that of behavioral economics and economics in general regarding inequality.

As far as it being his capital that he can allocate as he pleases, I agree with you. He can allocate it as he pleases. I can also stand on the corner and yell racial epithets while claiming it is my right to do so, but that is not the same thing as claiming it is ethical to do so.

Singer is a nutjob. Giving immediately to the third world relieves suffering today but not tomorrow and it might even make it worse.

What possible justification do you have to tell people how to allocate their capital, you liberal shitbag?

People can make analysis papers as much as they want, that's great. But criticizing people who do not follow their analysis? Total shitbaggery. They have no *zero* ground to stand on and they are insufferable pricks.

Once again, criticizing government where there are agents dispensing the funds is 100% grounded.

What justification do you have to tell people how to criticize someone's allocation of their capital, you conservative poopsack?

People can give their money away to whatever group they choose as much as they want, that's great. But criticizing people who do not hold their tongues when they think it is a bad decision? Total poopsackery. They have no *zero* ground to stand on and are insufferable genitalia.

Once again, criticizing private citizens where they are trumpeting the details of their private donations for good press and their name on a building is 100% grounded.

Paulson made the world better. He decided that the marginal value of money was greater for another institution than for himself so he freely gave of his own resources to increase global utility. And people, like you shitbag, have the audacity to criticize.

What have you ever done, you piece of trash?

Let the hate flow through you.

You mad Bro ?

Can I be both a shitbag and a piece of trash? Not sure if they are mutually exclusive.

If I understand your argument[1], your critique is simply that he could have done more good in the world by donating the same amount somewhere else. Is that right?

It's quite possible his goals were different from yours, though. I mean, if your goals are to raise the summed-up well being of all humans in the world, that's where the effective altruism stuff comes in, right? (Though it seems plausible to me that funding long-term research would also make sense there--how much human suffering would be eliminated by an effective malaria vaccine?) But he may have other goals alongside those--maybe he wants the prestige of having his name on a building or two at Harvard, or wants to make sure a couple of his relatives will get favorable treatment by the admissions department. In that case, you can criticize his decisions based on values[2], but not based on whether or not he's really serving those values.

[1] I haven't read much if anything by Singer, so I could be missing a lot of context.

[2] Mine too, since I'm not living in a hut somewhere to donate all my spare money to helping the less fortunate.

"It is his capital and he can allocate it as he sees fit."
It is the individuals' assessement, and they can allocate it as they see fit. They might be wrong, Paulson might be wrong.

This is why free-speech debates get so weirdly meta.

@Alain - just because you use your capital to make a transaction, there can be no grounds for anyone to criticize that transaction? Someone can paint their house mansion tie-dye colors or with a giant mural of John Wilkes Booth on it - and there would be no grounds for anyone to say anything negative about it because the homeowner spent their own capital?

As I understand it, one major reason people make large donations to institutions like Harvard and Yale is the prestige it confers upon the person making the donation. If the goal of criticism of these donations is to reduce this prestige by making people look at them with a jaundiced eye, then it seems valid to me, provided we assume that, as Harvard donations become less prestigious, donations to other more "deserving" (in whatever sense) institutions increase via substitution.

There are absolutely grounds. If you ask him why he did it, and can get an answer, do you think he will say something like "because it is my money and I can do what I want with it?" Or will he say something like he wants to promote culture and learning.

And these criticisms are coming from people whose money spent on their iphone 6 (and innumerable other first-world luxuries) could have gone to an effective charity.

Hypocrisy doesn't invalidate arguments, of course, but it sure makes the person putting forth the argument an insufferable knob.

I find the comparison between an iPhone 6 and a new building for Harvard to be pretty apt.

Wait, can I claim my phone purchase as a charitable donation?

I encourage you to try.

Citing Peter Singer is like citing Alfred Rosenberg.

Not Alice/Ayn?

Institutions are driving a lot of that world poverty. Its not clear how a one time payment of $400MM will do anything but go right into the hands of plunderers and plutocrats.

I think you are wrong. The Copenhagen Consesus advises us to eat the seed corn because we aren't full yet (I agree with Thomas below that Singer is a nut job). Consider Aubrey De Grey's argument for longevity research, for example (100k poeple die every day, so if you bring the day when immortality becomes possible close by a single day...); or look at Fazal Majid above - he is ranting against Harvard now, but if research there leads some day to cure for stupidity, he may reap enormous benefits!

In other words, there may be other concerns other than today's misfortunes one can have in mind when donating to Harvard.

Paulson hasn't paid off the left by supporting any of their causes. One has to understand that the left is entirely about securing and dispensing others assets. It follows then they they will attack his every move until he pays them off. They will attack his character, his intelligence, his habits, anything that they can remotely get their hands on to make him pay up.

I wonder if there would have been screaming or only crickets chirping if the $400M was destined for the Clinton Foundation?

There are conservatives and libertarians who would hope if Paulson was going to give $400m to charity, he would pick one that alleviates extreme poverty and suffering - not to a liberal Ivy League institution that already is sitting on a $30 billion. This includes prefer he donate to religious charities that arguably do more charity for the needy like World Vision, CARE, or International Justice Mission. You don't need to be "on the left" to say there were better places he could have donated.

And please do not confuse that statement with people who think Paulson must or should be legally obligated to do so - I am not (nor is anyone I'm aware of) making the argument that he is not free to give his money to a charity that others think isn't a very effective charitable cause.

If your argument is for consumption against investment your argument is probably irresponsible. How much future utility will Harvard engineering provide?

Wrong question; it's how much future utility will Harvard engineering + 400M vs. Harvard engineering as is -- and even then you have to compare it to the future utility of World Vision + 400M vs. World Vision as is.

These are hard and probably unanswerable questions. If I was giving away $400M I would like to think I would study them long and hard. But maybe if push came to shove I'd give it to whoever agreed to name the biggest building after me, or get me into the nicest cocktail parties. Or maybe just to whoever did the best job of kissing my ass.

I don't know. Quantify it.

@Thomas I actually wasn't arguing about the effectiveness of his donation. My argument was directed at Alain and Slocum who seems to think there are no conservatives/libertarians who could be critical of this charitable donation. My point is that people that care about extreme poverty and/or effective altruism are not only coming from left/progressive political backgrounds.

As for how much utility this will provide - I would ask, if this is such an effective investment - why hadn't Harvard invested in this before? They certainly had the money to do so. And if Paulson really thinks this is an effective investment, why not contribute $400m AND let Harvard sell off the naming rights to make it an even bigger investment?

It's funny how right wingers are the only ones left in modern america who have a fundamentally Marxist view of the world.

By the way, has anybody ever published a study of the demographics of big donors to universities? Just from reading the news, it would seem like big donors skew heavily skewed toward those horrible white males that everybody on campus keeps denouncing (except while asking for a check).

Those guys suck. Universities say they hate white men, but they keep giving whities all those tenure-track positions. Taking money from white men to pay white men. Dishonest.

Agreed. Watch what they do instead of what they say. So liberals are hypocrites, big surprise.

White gentiles are underrepresented at elite universities. They hate white gentile men.

There's a certain small-but-loud camp of progressive that declares "whatever white males have done for the past generation must be wrong." Even if it was something that progressives a generation ago said was awesome.

That's pretty bad. Who are the people saying that everything white males have done is wrong because they are white males?

You're joking, right? Google something along the lines of "all whites are racist".

Has the word "cisgender" ever been uttered without malice.

No. Who said that?

I am aware of research on unconscious bias and discrimination, if that is what you are referring to. But believing that is a reality and “whatever white males have done for the past generation must be wrong" don't seem like the same thing to me.


Obviously they don't say it out loud like that. But here you have someone donating money to a school which would have been the most progressive thing imaginable 30 years ago, and he's being pilloried for it.

You can also look up the evilness of teaching your kids to be colorblind (to race), which was considered the utopia of progressive upbringing when I was a kid.

Certain people are going to bitch no matter what. They need to be excluded from consideration.

"Donating to a school" and "Donating to Harvard" aren't really equivalent. Most of the critics I've seen about these kind of donations tend to focus on donations to Harvard and Yale specifically because they have more money than any school could ever possibly use. Donations to state schools would (I presume) be less likely to get this type of criticism.

Big state school donations are often associated with sports programs, so they attract their own special criticisms.

But at least there you know the donor is purchasing better Saturday nights. The motive is obvious.

And hey, it's deductible.

Ok, but that doesn't really sound to me like "whatever white males have done for the past generation must be wrong." If they are as extreme as you imply, I don't understand why these kooks would need to avoid saying it out loud. They are already not credible, right?

The utopia of progressivism: don't be racist. I kinda like that one.

Paulson is Jewish.

For PR purposes, Paulson should have donated his money to a branch of Harvard that graduates more Twitterers than the School of Engineering.

Twitter: CB radio without the twang.

Cool story bro.

I think Steven Landsburg made the definitive "pro-Paulson gift" argument in his classic Slate piece defending Ebenezer Scrooge. Paulson could have pulled a "Larry Ellison" and built himself a $200 mm yacht. He decided to forgo (some) of his conspicuous consumption and instead let the Harvard Management Company steward some additional capital.

I've sometimes wondered whether the Harvard endowment is the ultimate way to be an "effective altruist" for an Austrian-leaning type. If you believe, like Baldy Harper did, "that savings invested in privately owned economic tools of production amount to ... the greatest economic charity of all." then the Harvard endowment makes a pretty interesting beneficiary. I can't think of another institution in the world today that is more likely to hold on to its capital in perpetuity than the folks in Cambridge.

If Paulson believed in the merits of competition, wouldn't he have donated to another top university that's a bit poorer than Harvard?

Or could he argue that by directing the money to Engineering and Applied Science at Harvard, he's increasing the competition in those disciplines for MIT, Caltech, and so on?

I could imagine Paulson making the argument that since Harvard will likely be the most prestigious university in the world for some time, the relative prestige of the different schools within Harvard has real world consequences, and thus by increasing the prestige of engineering within Harvard by dumping a ton of money on it, he'll be increasing the prestige of engineering across the culture.

It's a little sophistical, but Paulson's free to use it. Or if he's feeling guilty about lifting it, he can Paypal me $40.

Yeah I could see him viewing it as raising the status of Engineering. If Harvard is the best school and is not great at Engineering then maybe Engineering is not that important (or if Engineering is that important Harvard is not the best school).

Also I could see him making at teach a man to fish argument. If Harvard Engineeering (or thier graduates) develops a break through technology it may be able do do much more good than $400 Mil spent in a one time shot.

Maybe this is a nudge for Harvard. If Harvard doesn't have enough engineering in house, it will cease to be an important source for leaders in a world where leaders need to be fairly technical and most of them are (or more accurately, were) engineers.

Most world leaders were engineers? What?!?

Most leaders are engineers. I was actually thinking of business leaders.

Presumably world leaders will follow after a few decades. It took a while to take over CEO positions; I don't think this was true thirty years ago.

Right now it's really just China who's political leadership is mostly made up of engineers, right?

whose, not who's.

Harvard Engineering is ranked what, 20th in the nation?

Yet if you know many Harvard people, you know that Harvard engineering is at least as hard as most Harvard programs. I gather the math program is reasonably good, but most of the degree programs are pretty easy.

How am I supposed to interpret that? What does it mean? Are Harvard liberal arts degrees much much harder than the equivalent degrees at other schools, and the overall reputation is relative? Is this more evidence that Harvard's reputation is based on something other than the quality of education it provides? Are the liberal arts degrees more important in determining reputation for Harvard, or for schools in general? Why would that be in a world where most Fortune 500 CEOs are engineers?

"I do understand however that this gift sends an anti-egalitarian message about status relations and where investment should go."

Pretty clear that's what the criticism is really about, not about Paulson parting with his money.

What is your view on Warren Buffet leaving his wealth to the Bill Gates foundation?

Giving your money to the richest currently-existing competent organisation doing what you want done is not a dreadful idea, unless you have the kind of beliefs in diseconomies of scale that probably don't go with a lifetime in large-scale asset management.

What else is Buffet going to do with the money, have it buried with him?

During his lifetime he wanted his money doing things he wanted done, now he has some chance of that same money still doing what he wants. (There is always a chance that the foundation will do what they want and not what Buffet wants)

Notice that Buffet did not give the money to the US Treasury no matter how many times Buffet complained about how little taxes he paid

I was talking about the Paulson action, so let me stay on the subject here.

My view is that inequality of opportunities is an important problem plaguing the U.S. right now (and really, many other places), a friction that leads to welfare losses. I cannot fathom how Paulson's gift to Harvard is the best way to deal with this issue.

I am lucky, I was given many opportunities in life. I attended excellent, well-funded universities which also happen to be more elitist than most. Which is why today my donations do not go towards my alma mater: not because I do not think they are good; not because I have resentment towards them (to the contrary); but because my money will not help significantly to create an even-playing field.

So rather than maximize society's overall benefits, you would instead prioritize creating an even-playing field. Interesting.

To quote Thatcher, he'd rather the poor be poorer provided that the rich were less rich.

Just level the playing field by making everyone poor. Problem solved.

You cannot imagine that the latter can lead to the former? Or do you choose to believe it does not?

Some people want to "level the playing field" the way that a demolition crew "levels a building."

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/new-family-values/6437058 I'm not sure this isn't a Sokal that I've fallen for.


You're engaging de facto Social Darwinists. They regard inequality of opportunities as a feature, not a bug.

Or maybe just simple utilitarians. Equality of opportunity may not lead to maximum social utility, particularly if it means leveling down rather than up.

Wait so the argument is now that giving to universities other than Harvard is actually a *morally bankrupt* act - akin to leveling a building? How would giving this money to UMass, rather than Harvard (just to pull an easy example), make the poor poorer? The rich less rich? What are you people even arguing?

Urstoff: "Equality of opportunity may not lead to maximum social utility,..."

Heh. Maximum social utility for whom? What constitutes "maximum social utility" depends on one's basic interests, values, assumptions, and first principles. You're appealing to a subjective concept.

"...particularly if it means leveling down rather than up."

And so you switch to the implicit fatalist argument i.e. that leveling up is impossible therefore any attempt to try is destructive and evil.

I never implied that leveling up was impossible. Trying to boost the quality of the lives of the poor is an important goal; hating on the rich is not, nor is worrying about inequality.

And yes, I'm appealing to a somewhat subjective concept, but we all are when making value judgments and policy prescriptions. Are you using some sort of new fangled objective moral concept? Reasonable people can agree what "maximum social utility" means. It doesn't mean nothing-but-pareto improvements from our current state, nor does it mean being okay with a permanent underclass to support the utility of the majority. Rather, it means something in the middle. To the extent possible, try to maximize utility (defined however you want) across everybody, understanding that it will not be possible to make everyone happy/flourishing/wealthy etc. Now I don't think this is the only consideration from which to make policy (there still are certain rights or freedoms that we would like to preserve, etc.), but it seems to me to be an important factor.

Urstoff: "Reasonable people can agree what “maximum social utility” means."

Ideally. Trouble is, they don't.

"It doesn’t mean nothing-but-pareto improvements from our current state, nor does it mean being okay with a permanent underclass to support the utility of the majority. Rather, it means something in the middle."

You've set down the extreme goalposts at either end, but it's that "in the middle" piece that's the catch. Where in the middle? The answer is dependent on how "social utility" is defined and measured which, in turn, hinges on values and ideology.

Yes, the in-the-middle is very fuzzy, but there are many policies that improve total social utility no matter where in the middle you fall. Let's start with the low-hanging fruit and then clarify things when we're down to more difficult questions.

I don't give money to my alma mater because the goal of the university now seems to be tearing down the foundations of Western Civilization, destroying all the campus traditions that I enjoyed and lavishing money on worthless navel gazing departments. Meanwhile they are blocking non-majors from taking introductory classes in Computer Science.

Contributing to them financially is just irresponsible.

I don't give extra money to my alma mater for the same reason I don't give extra money to Dell or Disney. I mean, I enjoyed Disney World and had some great times there, but I already paid for all that. It's an organization; it's not a friend in need.

Now that I have kids of my own, I have wondered whether my Scrooge-like behavior will bite me. I know professionally that surprisingly small favors can push admission decisions around - nothing like $400m. Will my failure to write $1000 checks each year nix my kid's chances? Is there some admissions database where the legacies get flagged with "donating parent" or "non-donating parent"?

I'm sure they keep a record of it.

From a college president's point of view, the ideal classroom is filled with the sons and daughters of wealthy alums who could be counted on to make large, never ending donations.

They also like star athletes who help the football team win championships. Winning teams attract donations.

They also like really smart students who discover new stuff and win research grants. That research money pays for shiny lab equipment, attracting famous professors and prestige more generally.

Letting in a handful of charity cases can be great for PR too.

Basically, it's all a game to maximize position on the US News and World Report rankings.

In general, I think it's a bad thing to criticize anyone for generosity on the grounds that they're doing it for the wrong reasons or that they should have given to my pet cause. Generosity isn't all that easy for most of us, and if the form of your generosity is feeding the hungry in your own town vs. the even hungrier in Haiti or Angola, or funding scholarships for smart kids rather than buying mosquito nets for people subject to malaria, I think that's just fine. Empathizing outside your circle of family and friends is a wonderful thing, and you're not obliged to justify why you wanted to help one person rather than another.

The argument is that giving to Harvard is not generosity.

I don't know. You get a tax deduction for donating to Harvard and Harvard doesn't pay taxes like a corporation. I think that's reasonably open to public critique.

On the subject of tenure, the issue of tenure reform seems to be separated from the issue of academic freedom, despite the many threats to the latter. Just recently for example: [http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-06-02/campus-justice-punished-until-proven-innocent] and [http://www.cato.org/blog/sen-whitehouse-bring-rico-charges-against-climate-wrongthink]. I'm sure that FIRE [https://www.thefire.org/] could give many more examples.

On the one hand, one could argue that since these threats exist alongside tenure, then tenure may not be very useful by itself in protecting academic freedom. On the other hand, tenure reform seems to be pushed primarily (?) from the Right, and on today's campuses most of the actual threats to academic freedom seem to arise from the PC-Left. Weakening tenure might make it even harder for minority conservatives, or even non-extreme liberals, to express non-PC views. Then, it would seem to be a mistake to divorce tenure reform from the broader issue of how to better protect academic freedom on campus.

You can have due process rights and the equivalent of civil service protections without having tenure.

The criticism of Wisconsin seems to be predicated on the potential for political meddling in higher education - take away tenure (and the Board of Regents is as much a political body as the legislature) and what's next, mandatory classes in creationism. This brings to mind two anecdotes. First, when I attended a public high school in the mid 1960s, the legislature passed a law mandating that every student take a course called Problems in American Democracy. Our instructor, try though he might, couldn't find any (although he found an almost unlimited number of problems with communism), to the great relief of his students. Second, UVA recently experienced a degree of political meddling that shook the campus to its core, resulting in the firing of its popular (among students) president and then her rehiring, as the UVA governing body, political appointees, meddled in UVA's commitment, or perceived (by a couple of strong-willed members of the governing body) lack of commitment to virtual instruction (online courses). Yet, UVA receives only a small, a very small, part of its total budget from the state, almost all of its funding (all with respect to the business school and law school) coming from tuition and the foundation. Both of these anecdotes expose the downside of political meddling in education. Of course, my high school instructor understood the intent of the legislature, notwithstanding the title of the course. At UVA, the meddling came primarily from donors to the foundation who served on the governing body, their appointment to the board no doubt heavily influenced by their large donations - they were in fact money meddlers rather than political meddlers. What about the potential for Paulson's meddling in higher education at Harvard? I haven't seen criticism of Paulson's gift for the potential for his money meddling. Yet, his gift comes with strings attached (it's for engineering) and I don't doubt that he will have lots of influence over how his vision for the engineering college is implemented. What's worse: political meddling or money meddling? I could make the case that money meddling is far worse; after all, political meddling is usually harmless (as with my high school course) whereas money meddling is serious business undertaken by people with inflated egos and an inflated sense of being right who are accustomed to getting their way.

Interesting point. But I doubt he can "own" Harvard the way he might be able to "own" a struggling Lutheran liberal arts college in rural Washington - heck for $400M he could probably own 3 or 4 of those.

Of course some millionaires have the decency to restrict their meddling to the football team. <3 you, T Boone.

Tenure is a problem and I'm glad it is being addressed. Before the Age Discrimination Act was amended to delete an exception for tenure, universities could allow tenure to expire at 65. Now, you see faculty over 65 hanging on to their job and doing very little work. And, few of them have kept up in their field, teaching only what they learned when they went to college or graduate school.

Tenure is also a problem when a school needs to add programs but can't. One neighbor, a retired dean, tells me that his school had to keep teaching low enrollment Italian classes and couldn't afford adding Chinese classes because of the costs of the tenured Italian faculty which he would have like to have reduced in size.

Academia needs to be more flexible. And, perpetual tenure into your 80's or until you die does not make it more so.

There is a difference between "Some implementations/parts of tenure are problematic" and "Tenure is a problem."

Average is Over, as some people say. Research institutions use tenure to lure the best and the brightest to their institution. Take away that tool, and you put the institution at a disadvantage when competing with others that can provide it. And the market for top notch researchers is quite competitive.

So you say. If you believe in markets, there is no reason to believe that a decision made in 1965 (when tenure was granted) is the same decision that would be made today. Besides, there are many, many people competing for these jobs. It just might mean that an academic over 50, instead of joining many committees or going into administration, will have to continue doing research or begin teaching more classes. By the way, I am in favor of having faculty being retested in their field anonymously as well, to make sure they keep up in their discipline.

I see tenure disappearing, and this is the first drop of water on the sugar castle.

Publishing journal articles and presenting work in good conferences is precisely "being retested in their field". That is why it is important for faculty to continue being active in research. When they stop, how do we know whether they are keeping up?


What are they going to do with $400M? Are they really going to do it better than MIT, Stanford or, for that matter, Georgia Tech or Texas A & M? Will this gift translate into engineering being taught and researched $400M better at Harvard? Colleges and their alumni seem to be in the grip of some sort of mania.

Maybe the goal is to make Harvard the best *Ivy* engineering school. Cornell and Princeton are tied for 10th in US News undergrad engineering rankings ... behind MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Caltech, GaTech, Illinois, Carnegie Mellon, Michigan, and Purdue.

Their best bet is to use the money bribe the best engineering students away from MIT and Stanford. Perceived college quality is about two things: scholarly output and the quality of matriculating students. Pedagogy is far far behind.

I don't think Harvard can realistically compete with MIT and Stanford for engineering talent.

If they are willing to spend serious money I think they can. At least those that aren't dead set on Stanford for geographic reasons.

The most obvious target are those whose parents make $150k - $400k a year in income. That's too much money to qualify for much need based aid, but not so much money that a free ride for their kid wouldn't be a huge plus. Kids above that aren't a big issue, by and large they aren't going to be going into engineering -- its too much work for spoiled rich kids.

Below that, especially substantially below, is a little tougher because they can qualify for need based aid. That's when you go to outright bribes like "research" and "summer study" stipends. Where there's dollars there's a way.

Isn't there an argument that giving money to already high spending universities worsens the problems of overspending by universities to compete with each other?

A large part of the increases in tuition have been driven by non-educational costs used to attract students rather than educate them; fancy apartments for freshmen rather than tiny dorms, gourmet food options in the cafeteria, overpaying researchers who barely teach, etc. Now if this pushes Harvard to another level with regard to spending, it pushes up their competitor universities, and then their competitors and so on.

Of course now I'm thinking almost any donation to any university will do this to some extent, but it seems like the effect would have to be less if spread out among lower spending schools.

Isn't the money originally invested? Paulson isn't taking it out from under his bed and giving it to Harvard. He's taking it out of investment and they're putting it into investment. He just paid $400 million to get his name on a building--it's shameful.

Another odd thing, Paulson is an English/MBA grad. When he's being feted annually in Cambridge from now until his death, what's he going to talk with those STEM guys about? I guess the School of Engineering was the only one that didn't have a name attached.

A well-learned adult with a liberal arts who desires to learn STEM has decades to do so. He will be able to keep up with college kids if he wants to.

Hedge fund manager is closer to math than it is to poetry.

Hedge fund manager is closer to 'insider information' than math.

Yeah, this phrase:

"...it is likely to boost investment’ note that about 15% of Harvard’s endowment goes to private equity or venture capital."

Makes it sound like Paulson was keeping the $400 million under his mattress until now. It's a ridiculous argument.

"For sure that is a decline in the relative status of tenure, but not an end to tenure itself."

Do you view weakening tenure as a positive or negative development, on balance?

The comments on tenure in WI are not the full story. Yes, tenure would move from statute to Regents authority, as Tyler correctly notes. But it comes with a huge loophole. S39 of the proposed legislative language allows faculty to be laid off if the Regents decides a program "modification" or "redirection." Thats incredibly vague language that could cover any targeted attack on, for example, a politically contentious research center (not just social science - hard to believe UW Madison would have become a leader in stem cells with this new policy).
Here is what the President of the AAUP said yesterday: this provision "effectively will be the end of tenure in Wisconsin. I'm not aware of any state that has gone this far. ...I can't imagine anybody taking a job there unless they can't get a job anywhere else. People who can leave, would leave.”

Tenure is what economists call a compensating differential. To hold quality constant, absent tenure salaries must go up. Steve Levitt wrote: "If the U of C told me that they were going to revoke my tenure, but add $15,000 to my salary, I would be happy to take that trade. I’m sure many others would as well. "

So as long as UW pays more, they should be able to keep the same quality, maybe even increase it. Personally, I am in favor of 10-year contracts. Research is a long process, and it makes no sense to have annual reviews of performance. However, if performance over a decade is mediocre, it would be good to have a way to fire the deadwood professor.

Agreed, or you could add the equivalent of due process and civil service protections.

Deadwood is a drag on a department.

So the Regents can still make the call.

Fair point but a) this comes in the context of a $250 budget cut to the system, and the most competitive pay lines in federal research funding ever seen (UW Madison gets 30% of its budget from research grants). So right now, Depts are slashing budgets. its going to get worse when the rainmakers leave. They do not have the choice to engage in compensating differentials.
b) try hiring someone when you are the only peer institution without the guarantee of tenure, and on the AAUP censure list.

Harvard will admit about 1,600 freshmen of about 4 million in the age cohort in the US. Thus, those admitted to Harvard are literally in the top 0.04%. Not the top 1%. It's almost two orders of magnitude more exclusive.

And this gift goes to a school with an endowment of $36 bn, where an additional $400 million moves the needle by all of 1%.

It's of course up to Paulson where to give a gift. But there is no greater engine of inequality than a gift like this to a school like Harvard. It could have been transformative to so many institutions. At Harvard, it will enable the school to claim an endowment of $36.4 bn.

It is long past time to tax these big endowments. They serve no charitable purpose but merely subsidize greed.

Middle class tax payers, whose children have no hope of ever attending these universities, subsidize lavish administrative salaries.

"By Tracy Jan Globe Staff March 18, 2013

WASHINGTON ­— Harvard, MIT, and a coalition of other powerhouse research institutions have thwarted a reform proposal by the Obama administration to slash the amount of government research money each school receives for overhead costs.

The result is that about $10 billion a year, roughly a quarter of the nation’s university research budget, will continue to be channeled into such things as administrative salaries and building depreciation instead of directly into scientific studies."

36 billion yet Harvard has students who take out loans.

I think you are right; there are some serious distortions going on. All these charitable billions sloshing around, and nobody thinks about, e.g., building Haiti a functional water/sewage system. Surely that's the lowest hanging fruit out there.

If you could show me it had a good return and wouldn't collapse if/when outside funds go away, I'd contribute private funds to a program to give Haiti a sewage system.

An annuity purchased with the aid money spent there should be able to fund it into perpetuity. I guess it's easier to have liberal arts majors teach them English and hand out protein powder.

Again, the annuity buys supplies. Do you have the technicians on site?

Appropriate technology would be that which Haitians could operate and maintain with their own resources when the foreign techs go home. Ugly American 101.

roman style clay pipes in short sections so they are easily replaceable, maybe. incidentally i recently read that there is an epidemic of oral syphilis among Haitian children. Where is the Harvard school of public health when we need them?

There are numerous Western busybodies crawling all over Haiti. Replace the liberal arts majors with mechanics.

things as administrative salaries and building depreciation

Somehow I fail to be outraged that research funds are used to pay for the buildings needed to run the research.


"Let me put it this way: in 1960, the University of California--then overwhelmingly UCB and UCSF and UCLA--was about four times the size of Harvard, 5000 vs. 1200 undergraduates a year, with graduate students and faculty roughly in proportion. Clark Kerr, as president of the University of California in the 1960s, took a look at space constraints in Berkeley and Westwood, took a look at the rising population of California, took a look at increasing wealth, took a look at increasing educational attainment, took a look at the increasing attractiveness of American universities to people abroad, and conclude that the number of undergraduate students who could and would want to take full advantage of a UC education was going to grow eightfold over the next fifty years. So he decided to go all-out to clone UCB and UCLA.

And he did it.

Today we have UC Davis, UC Merced, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC Sunnydale, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC San Diego which together with UCB and UCLA graduate 40,000 undergraduates a year. Quality of education at UCB and UCLA has suffered a little bit as this cloning process has diverted resources away from us--but only by a very little bit. And the other UCs are damned good--with Davis and UCSD now being, I think, equal to the flagship campuses (although we don't admit it in bureaucratic system wars). And the Cal States do an impressive job as well. And the community colleges provide remarkable educational value for the money. The high administrators of the University of California starting with Clark Kerr have an extraordinary, remarkable accomplishment to look back upon. And they should be very proud--especially as they have accomplished it in the face of declining relative levels of support from the state legislature in Sacramento.

Harvard, over the same fifty-year time span... Harvard has gone from 1200 undergraduates a year to 1600, and has done so in spite of starting with a substantial endowment and receiving $15B of private charitable gifts. Harvard does a great many things well--and I am impressed by the fact that Larry Summers's presidency seems to have had the effect of creating a large brand-new science building on every block. But it is hard to think that the production function from resources to outcomes is an efficient one or something to be particularly proud of: I think presidents Pusey, Bok, Rudenstine, Summers, and Bok again were beaten by the system. At meetings of high academic administrators Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and his ilk can hold their heads up high as proud successors to a highly capable group of administrators who made a lot of lemonade out of the lemons that they were handed, but I don't think Harvard president Faust can do the same."

Clearly, Harvard hasn't discovered the magic of Open Borders. "President Faust, tear down this Wall!"

One other feather in UC-Berkeley's cap is that it has similar graduation rates to Harvard but about 35% of its undergraduates receive Pell grants. Harvard's Pell proportion is ~10%, I believe.

... and given recent press, it seems that there's far less evidence of grade inflation at UCB than Harvard, as well.

The four year graduation rate at UC-Berkeley is 71% compared to Harvard's is 86% (which is actually low for an Ivy League school) but the six year graduation rate at Harvard is the highest in the U.S.

"UC Sunnydale" -- LOL! Nice. Brad DeLong is a Buffy fan.

Good catch!

It is a private donation to a private institution. I wonder why some people even think they can criticize that ...

Anyone can criticize anything. It's just that there's no good reason to take their criticism seriously.

No good reason? None? There's literally NO better way to spend $400M than adding to Harvard's $36B endowment?

I'm sure there is. But I'm not sure why I should be concerned about it.

Because as Jim notes a couple of comments down, it's become an obscenity.

Still not giving me a good reason to care about it...

>I wonder why some people even think they can criticize

This needs to be bronzed and preserved as a warning to future generations.

Right. And I'm sure that if he had given $400 million to the Koch brothers, you'd have defended it by saying that some of that money will end up in private companies and venture capital, and at least Paulsen didn't keep it for himself.


Harvard represents much of the very worst of elitism; tens of billions of dollars in untaxable funds, doled out to the few by the fewer, while the other elites just throw more money onto the pile. It's obscene.

Harvard has a highly distorting impact on taxation in the city of Cambridge. It's a massive employer and obviously contributes to the prosperity of the city by paying out lots of wages.

However, it's a relatively stingy local taxpayer.

Last year MIT paid $39 million in property taxes, Harvard paid only $5.5 million.

Even factoring in the voluntary payments in lieu of taxes (around another $5M/year in Harvard's case), Harvard is still getting a big subsidy.


It's a pity. When some semblance of justice arrives in our social political order, one element of it will be that Harvard is reduced to rubble via aerial bombardment (with the students, hourly staff, and salaried employees in physical plant and finance evacuated beforehand, of course).

Maybe they can perform valuable community services afterwards. I mean somebody has to run the Re-Education Camps, right?

I'm absolutely puzzled that you would present evidence from three Republican lawmakers and Ray Cross as proof that tenure will still exist at UW. Could you please do your homework before posting? The language in chapters 12 and 39 of the budget bill (where, ridiculously enough, this is located) very clearly remove tenure rights.

The sociology faculty had better act quickly then if the want to save Goffman's job.

How can a professor have academic independence without tenure?

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