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July 12, 2013 7:19 AM   Subscribe

"Are We on the Threshold of the North American Decade" is the title the new course taught by four star general and Visiting Professor at CUNY, David Petraeus. For his two courses at CUNY, Petraeus will be paid over $150,000, which is much more than CUNY's average adjunct salary of $3,000 per course.

The full course description is as follows:

"In this interdisciplinary seminar, students will examine in depth and then synthesize the history and trends in diverse public policy topics with a view towards recommendations for America’s leadership role in the emerging global economy."

In addition, CUNY will provide Petraeus with "graduate student support...to assist [him] with course research, administration, and grading".

Paul Krugman remarked that "there are, I think, things I might want to hear David Petraeus talk about. But “recommendations for America’s leadership role in the emerging global economy” definitely don’t fit."


CUNY Political Science Professor, Corey Robin, has accused the CUNY administration of a cover-up of Petraeus' initial salary offer.

NY City Councilman, Brad Lander, has initiated a petition for CUNY to remove the offer.

Corey Robin has more. As does Samir Chopra.

CUNY is a cash-strapped public university
posted by MisantropicPainforest (67 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
So it's America: Fuck Yeah 101.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:24 AM on July 12, 2013 [21 favorites]


"Are We on the Threshold of the North American Decade?"

Does Betteridge's law of headlines apply to course titles?

(Or to rhetorical questions in comments?)
posted by Iridic at 7:24 AM on July 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


Petraeus will be paid over $150,000, which is much more than CUNY's average adjunct salary of $3,000 per course.

*cough*

And the average CEO salary is "much more" than that of the average worker.
posted by seemoreglass at 7:24 AM on July 12, 2013


I'd visit for the resource security session.
posted by jaduncan at 7:25 AM on July 12, 2013


They all fail upwards at that level of politics, don't they?
posted by mediareport at 7:28 AM on July 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


Is a sinecure at CUNY falling upwards?

I thought they usually wound up at Pepperdine.
posted by notyou at 7:30 AM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Or Stanford.
posted by notyou at 7:30 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Failing upward. It's the American tradition.
posted by Repack Rider at 7:32 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a CUNY adjunct, I can't say I would have expected it to be different than this.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:33 AM on July 12, 2013


There's no way I would take this course...but if I did it would only be to show up for class each day dressed like this.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:33 AM on July 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


In addition, CUNY will provide Petraeus with "graduate student support...to assist [him] with course research, administration, and grading".

On the one hand, good for those lucky grad students to get funding, assuming that they actually need it and don't just get the position because of connections.

On the other hand, I know people in STEM fields who can't fund all their grad students.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:35 AM on July 12, 2013


Have Clinton come in as guest speaker to off-set the salary.
or hold a lottery
or
Here's an idea: Instead, "Bill Clinton should lend his credibility to a college that has left its grads with a small fraction of the debt loads borne by NYU grads -- CUNY-Baruch. Only 37% of that college's grads borrow for college, compared with a national average of about two-thirds. And the average debt load is $14,676".

Some of may recall the CUNYfirst, Users Last article>

"...However, CUNY Central’s motives in pursuing CUNYfirst were dominated by an agenda that is quite apart from such benefits. Rather, CUNY Central sought absolute control over all college activity, including curriculum."
posted by clavdivs at 7:37 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Something for every part of me: The progressive in me is angered that a disgraced official has found yet another unelected place at the public trough. The conservative says that if CUNY has enough spare cash to be hiring trophy professors, perhaps they can do with less public funding. The cynic knows that if we slashed CUNY funding even by the token $150k of his salary, they'd just eliminate some position in lit or languages.
posted by tyllwin at 7:37 AM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


not that this isn't absurd - but I thought he was being paid by a donor?
posted by JPD at 7:38 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's no way I would take this course...but if I did it would only be to show up for class each day dressed like this.

I was surprised this wasn't an orange jumpsuit. An orange jumpsuit is probably not even against the CUNY dress code, but would be prominent in the front row.
posted by jaduncan at 7:38 AM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Meanwhile, Paula Broadwell's course "Are We On the Threshold of a Divorce" is fully enrolled.
posted by R. Schlock at 7:39 AM on July 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Petraeus as adjunct is hilarious to me. Like, I like to imagine he gets scolded for asking for a last-minute library session, as I do.
posted by angrycat at 7:43 AM on July 12, 2013


Is a sinecure at CUNY falling upwards?

As a first step in rehabilitation, $150,000 for teaching one course counts as failing upwards, yes.

Samir Chopra's piece is really good, providing context and lots of links about CUNY's board of trustees - exactly the kind of "managerial class" types who'd cream their pants over Petraeus while stewing in their upper class solidarity.
posted by mediareport at 7:45 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey CUNY guys, get me the proper visa, just pay my airfares, lodging and food and I'll give you an ignorantly opinionated course about whatever the hell political nonsense you want to listen to. Besides way cheaper, I'm more exotic, speak with an accent, and have a family tree full of colorful relatives in all manner of shenanigans for every political tradition under the sun, fit for proper anecdote milking. Always wanted to visit NY, too!
posted by Iosephus at 7:46 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


At least he isn't teaching "Webmail Account Security Best Practices" or "Survey of Contemporary Marriage Ethics."
posted by aught at 7:47 AM on July 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Wait, since this is a CUNY class, can we audit this?

CHRISTMAS COME EARLY.

Now I just need to find a silk screener for all the things I'd like to say...
posted by corb at 7:55 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey CUNY guys, get me the proper visa, just pay my airfares, lodging and food and I'll give you an ignorantly opinionated course about whatever the hell political nonsense you want to listen to.

Don't forget the staff of grad students to do all the actual work research for you.
posted by Gelatin at 7:56 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


If he was to teach a class called The Cost of Infidelity I might consider taking it.
posted by item at 7:56 AM on July 12, 2013


not that this isn't absurd - but I thought he was being paid by a donor?

This is discussed extensively in the second Corey Robin link:

A lot of ink has been spilled on the question of whether taxpayer or private money will fund this position. But that’s a distinction without a difference. As Scott Lemieux points out, the “private donors are paying for this” line of argument

could fly as a defense of CUNY’s conduct under one circumstance only: if a fundraiser approached CUNY offering $150K for this purpose alone and could not be persuaded to allow CUNY to do something useful with it instead. Otherwise, as I said it’s no defense at all; the fact that CUNY is willing to spend money and raise it later for this purpose is not meaningfully different than using pre-existing funds. (After all, CUNY can only ask the same people for money so many times; money raised for purpose A probably can’t be raised for purpose B, and the choice of what to raise money for reflects the administration’s priorities.)


But this is all bullshit anyway, as Scott goes onto explain, because as of the morning of July 1, according to CUNY’s own spokesperson, the funds had not yet been secured. As Gawker reporter J.K Trotter wrote in that piece July 1 piece:

But it seems like he’s [Petraeus] far less coveted among wealthy donors. When asked if the “private gift” sought to fund Petraeus’s salary had been nailed down — less than a month before Petraeus begins teaching — the school’s Director of Communications emailed back: “The University is in the process of fundraising for this position.”


On the afternoon of July 1, just hours after Gawker broke the story of Petraeus’s salary, CUNY released an email in which Kirschner wrote Petraeus:

Chancellor Matthew Goldstein has provided private funding for your position, which will be paid through the CUNY Research Foundation.


It’s still unclear from this email whether private funding has been secured or not. It’s also unclear whether that private money will fund the entirety of Petraeus’s costs or merely the supplement to his $150k base salary. But again, the private/public distinction hardly matters.

posted by naoko at 7:57 AM on July 12, 2013


He holds a B.S. with honors from the United States Military Academy...

Heh. Heh heh heh.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:57 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Huh, I totally read the course title with the threshold being on the other side. As in the end of the (North?) American decade(?). That would be a bit more reasonable, although he'd probably be a bad person to teach it.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:03 AM on July 12, 2013


but I thought he was being paid by a donor?

On preview, naoko pulled out the relevant info from one of the links, but Corey Robin also points out that CUNY almost certainly faked documents to cover its ass on the payment question.

Also, Robin and others note it's important to place this story in the context of the larger story about the huge increases in university administrator salaries and positions at the expense of professor salaries and positions:

“...the proportion of administrative professionals in American colleges and universities has grown from roughly half that of faculty 40 years ago to a majority now.” Meanwhile, three-quarters of university professors now hold part-time or nontenure positions. In academia, as in much of the rest of contemporary American life, the spoils are accumulating at the top and everyone else is left to muddle along without much in the way of security or chance at advancement.
posted by mediareport at 8:04 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Are We on the Threshold of the North American Decade?

No. 2014 will still be the same decade.

Also, when the decade does change, it will change all around the world within one 24-hour period.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:04 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm pissed because I'm only getting $30,000 to teach "Elbows: Who's Got The Best?" It's an intensive 9 week course with required labs and practicals. And they only gave me one grad student to help out! Sure, she's a spider, but still!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:09 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Janet Napolitano Ditching Homeland Security for University of California.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:10 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Webmail Account Security Best Practices"

Well... Some of us are stuck here teaching Intro to MS Office to freshmen, since the government decided they would not certify our engineering tracks without the "proper IT abilities development" and MS Office was all the combined engineering departments at our uni were able to think of to fix the issue before time run out for the certification.

Honestly, I'm not sure if faking a political science course would be much worse. I'll be so glad when next year they finally give me a permanent position on SW Eng advanced courses, let me tell you.
posted by Iosephus at 8:25 AM on July 12, 2013


It's 2013, we're not on the threshold of any decade. At least, not the way people usually keep track of decades.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:26 AM on July 12, 2013


There's no way I would take this course...but if I did it would only be to show up for class each day dressed like this.

Nah, this is much better.

Or you could be all Trent Reznor about it and just wear panties and a dog leash.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:29 AM on July 12, 2013


It's 2013, we're not on the threshold of any decade. At least, not the way people usually keep track of decades.

Well, thresholds also work when you're walking out of the house.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:30 AM on July 12, 2013


That's not usually the sense of "on the threshold." That would be "over" or "beyond" the threshold.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:40 AM on July 12, 2013


CUNY Political Science Professor, Corey Robin, has accused the CUNY administration of a cover-up of Petraeus' initial salary offer.

Wow! Years ago, I took a seminar class on the history/philosophy of Conservatism with Prof. Robin. He was a total hardass, really emotive lecturer and probably one of my favorite professors of my undergraduate career. It's really awesome to see him speaking out like this.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 8:45 AM on July 12, 2013


Robin blogs a lot, and does a lot of writing and publishing for non-academic outlets now.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:48 AM on July 12, 2013


Two courses for $150,000 is a bargain. Typical speaking / appearance fees for someone like General Petraeus would be at least $150,000 just to have him show up and give a few canned remarks and sign books. I would also expect that the competition to be one of the grad students working with him will attract some talented scholars looking to be able to put that on their resume.
posted by humanfont at 9:08 AM on July 12, 2013


teaching a class to 15 people at a cash-strapped public university is nowhere near equivalent or analogous to a public speaking gig.

I would also expect that the competition to be one of the grad students working with him will attract some talented scholars looking to be able to put that on their resume.

No way. This will have no bearing on who applies to PhD programs. CUNY doesn't have a public policy PhD program. If you are saying that CUNY will now attract a higher caliber of PhD applicants next year, because they think they may have a chance to TA for Petraeus, you are wrong. PhD Applications for the Fall of 2013 are already due, and anyway, they usually don't let 1st year PhD students TA.

So, how is this good?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:16 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


for someone like General Petraeus

You mean someone who resigned in disgrace after he cheated on his wife of three decades with someone to whom he gave access to "sensitive but relatively benign" but still classified information?

$150,000 is a bargain for that kind of someone?
posted by mediareport at 9:18 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Janet Napolitano Ditching Homeland Security for University of California.

As a Canadian, I say good riddance to that ignorant creep.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:23 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I see The Asylum has moved into college curricula.
posted by JHarris at 9:53 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you haven't read the Corey Robin piece, take a look. CUNY made a bad decision, and after receiving well-grounded criticism they decided to lower the salary and cover it with private donations. The initial salary agreement was bad, but the later agreement — even if it was imperfect — demonstrated responsive leadership. Thanks to state transparency laws and old-fashioned reporting, a single news story was able to make a modest but meaningful change. It is an example of the system working properly.

But how does CUNY administration perceive an act of responsive, responsible leadership? As something to be covered up.

What happened at CUNY speaks volumes about leadership and accountability. Acts of good governance are seen as professional embarrassments. The system is hobbled.
posted by compartment at 10:16 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The banner ad that loaded with this page (before I logged in) was "get your MBA to further your military career" which is like this whole sordid episode but reversed. It should have been "use your military career to break into the high-dollar softball motivational speaking circuit."
posted by Vulgar Euphemism at 10:19 AM on July 12, 2013


In other news, the CUNY administration was pleased to report they've increased the average pay for CUNY adjuncts this fiscal year.
posted by klarck at 10:21 AM on July 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


If I can venture a conspiracy theory: I think CUNY is paying Petraeus $150,000 to prepare to run for president. The point of the course -- which as others have noted is a ludicrous topic for your celebrity general to teach -- is to give him the ability to speak about the economy with credibility.
posted by gerryblog at 10:38 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I am ever in the position of being offered a vanity professorship I will demand that that the course I teach be entitled: America the Beautiful: how bald eagles and truck nutz ushered in a new millennium of freedom bible gun prosperity. It's filled to the brim with presidential credibility!
posted by Vulgar Euphemism at 10:54 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sigh. The problem is that this money was donated by a private donor, for this purpose. It isn't like CUNY could have taken the 150k and given all the adjuncts a raise. Not that that makes it right - the opposite in fact - it's indicative of just how broken the whole university fundraising system is.

So much of the money public universities get and need these days is unearned incomes - gifts and grants. But donors don't want to just give operating gifts. There are almost no, seriously nearly 0, philanthropic dollars to cover basic, say, adjunct salaries, or other operational costs. Donors want to fund special little things. So it isn't like all of this funding can just be reallocated. It's way more complicated. As public funding has dropped, universities become dependent on private dollars, and that does make them in very real ways beholden to these donors and what sorts of classes/programs/whatever they want. Hell, here in Oregon we are undergoing a huge debate right now at the state level to give public universities their own individual oversight boards effectively to give donors more sway over university budgets, policies, etc.

So while it's ridiculous, blaming CUNY for paying adjuncts 3k while paying Petraeus 150k is a bit orthogonal. It isn't like they could just pay Petraeus less and pay the adjuncts more.

It's tough. I get pretty tired of all the "adjuncts get paid nothing! Administrators getting rich!" kinds of arguments because they lack any sort of nuance or real understanding of just how complicated and crazy university financing is. The whole thing is so fucking messy and bizarre with so many players involved - federal and state law, state university system oversight, donors, university foundations, endowments...There is no simple answer.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:56 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


The problem is that this money was donated by a private donor, for this purpose. It isn't like CUNY could have taken the 150k and given all the adjuncts a raise.

Where are you getting that information? According to the link, "It’s still unclear from this email whether private funding has been secured or not. It’s also unclear whether that private money will fund the entirety of Petraeus’s costs or merely the supplement to his $150k base salary. But again, the private/public distinction hardly matters."
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:00 AM on July 12, 2013


Another suggestion for a course he can teach: How to Completely Humiliate Your Wife and Grown Children By Having No Character
posted by discopolo at 11:30 AM on July 12, 2013


Misanthropic - yeah, maybe I'm confused. The chancellor said private donations were funding it. And the salon article said as much but had an insertion in the quote that they were not yet secured? But where did that info come from?

So hmmph. I guess we don't know then? Which leads me to believe they either booked him with the hope of raising the funds or the donor is anonymous or otherwise problematic....
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:36 AM on July 12, 2013


Lutoslawski, the university officials seem very clearly to be lying and faking documents to make it look like they weren't planning on using public money for this position. Read the cover-up link; the sequence of events it lays out is pretty damning.

compartment: The initial salary agreement was bad, but the later agreement — even if it was imperfect — demonstrated responsive leadership.

There is no way on earth that paying $150,000 - plus further associated costs for graduate assistants, etc - for Petraeus to teach a handful of students could possibly count as "responsive," let alone responsible, leadership.

It is an example of the system working properly.

The system that guarantees massive payouts for little work to folks who've somehow demonstrated they deserve to be part of the managerial class club, you mean?
posted by mediareport at 12:01 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


High salaries for guest lecturers are way, way down on the list of financial and institutional concerns that should be worrying people whose taxes go toward public higher education.

The idea that an affair should exclude anyone from academia is laughable.

And specifically this guy? I never get tired of linking to Solitude and Leadership. It's a speech given by a guy with impeccable liberal-left academic and anti-academic-establishment credentials to the plebe class at West Point. Appeal to authority fallacy, I know, but it's not totally unreasonable to take Petraeus seriously in an academic and intellectual context:
Look at the most successful, most acclaimed, and perhaps the finest soldier of his generation, General David Petraeus. He’s one of those rare people who rises through a bureaucracy for the right reasons. He is a thinker. He is an intellectual. In fact, Prospect magazine named him Public Intellectual of the Year in 2008—that’s in the world. He has a Ph.D. from Princeton, but what makes him a thinker is not that he has a Ph.D. or that he went to Princeton or even that he taught at West Point. I can assure you from personal experience that there are a lot of highly educated people who don’t know how to think at all.

No, what makes him a thinker—and a leader—is precisely that he is able to think things through for himself. And because he can, he has the confidence, the courage, to argue for his ideas even when they aren’t popular.
This is an article I think a lot of the drive-by "lol iraq lol he had an affair" commenters on this thread could use to read for other reasons, by the way. It's all about encouraging the audience to get beyond Daily Show bromides.
posted by caek at 12:19 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The idea that an affair should exclude anyone from academia is laughable

Has anyone made this argument?

People are upset because CUNY is spending 150k, along with labor from a number of graduate students, for Petraeus to teach a two seminars that will educate about 20-30 students, total. Its a waste of money, especially given the wages for adjuncts.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:26 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's come up a lot in this thread that he is "disgraced", as though it's 1950, and it's relevant.
posted by caek at 12:34 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Two people said that, because Petraeus resigned in disgrace due to a sex scandal.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:40 PM on July 12, 2013


Well, he resigned because it came out he was giving improper access to classified material to his mistress, right?
posted by gerryblog at 12:42 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


and CIA employees can't have affairs.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:46 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


So back in the late 2000s there was an incident wherein CUNY neglected to pay a large fraction of its adjuncts for months. The only public explanation they gave was "we're human and we sometimes make mistakes" — which suggests, I suppose, that the people in the administrations at NYU and Columbia are super human, because as far as I know they've never accidentally forgotten to send paychecks to the people working for them.

The private explanation, which everyone knew and which, due to its omnipresence, I believe the administration promulgated themselves, was that one particular employee had let the paychecks literally pile up on her desk.1 This story was accompanied by mournful noises about how the administration really would just love to fire her, but those darn union regs made it impossible.

I'm not sure exactly when CUNY's administration turned into a pack of inept thieves, but, well, yeah. It's particularly sad that they've captured CUNY, of all schools, given the school's history and given that the people teaching there are among the smartest, most insightful, most decent people in the world.

Frankly, I wish Occupy version n.0 could just take all of their buildings and set up a new administration more in keeping with the original ethos of the school.

1: Some versions of the tale had it that the employee was unpopular in her office, sort of a Jerry Grgich type, and that her officemates had hid the paychecks on her desk as a prank that got out of hand.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:02 PM on July 12, 2013


The system that guarantees massive payouts for little work to folks who've somehow demonstrated they deserve to be part of the managerial class club, you mean?

Mediareport, that's not what I meant when I said it was an example of the system working properly. But I do think that I could have expressed myself more clearly.

The press is supposed to exert corrective pressure against institutional problems; leaders are supposed to respond to that pressure. The system I was referring to. It's what happened this time around, and I think it's an example of a system working properly, though not perfectly. The $50,000 salary reduction was a clear-cut response to critical press; it was, by definition, responsive leadership.

$150,000 is still an excessive salary, and that's why I called it an imperfect agreement in my earlier comment. It's still too high, but it's a 25% movement in the right direction. That salary cut is the only redeeming action in this entire story.

The way I see this, there are two problems. One is the immediate problem of the ridiculous salary and the CUNY administration's cover-up. The other problem is systemic, and it has to do with the mindset that's hobbling the system. Administrators felt compelled to cover up the only thing the system got right, which was to implement a modest corrective measure after reporters publicized an error.
posted by compartment at 1:11 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Update the offer to him, but with salary set at the adjunct rate. It's the only decent way out for the administration.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:13 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I called him disgraced. I don't care at all who he screws, so long as it's consenting. But I do care who he gives classified information to. I care what sort of example he sets about trading sex for access to public officials. I care about the things that happened under his watch in Iraq. I care that as the director of the CIA he was so extraordinarily bad at keeping secrets.

I don't think he should cower in the outer reaches. Only that he not be making deals in a back room for another public salary just yet. He needs to earn back public respect before he puts his hand out for public cash.

I don't care about Spitzer's disgrace, nor Anthony Weiner's. Both of them are putting themselves up for a vote. Vox pop, vox dei. Just as I must reluctantly shrug at Mark Sanford, and say, "well, if that's what SC wants."
posted by tyllwin at 1:26 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


And regarding Spitzer, a couple years ago he taught a class at CUNY, and was paid the adjunct rate.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:28 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like Ike.
posted by clavdivs at 7:26 AM on July 13, 2013


Paul Krugman remarked that "there are, I think, things I might want to hear David Petraeus talk about. But “recommendations for America’s leadership role in the emerging global economy” definitely don’t fit."

I'd rather hear him talk about how involved he really was with Colonel Steele's Iraqi torture centers.
posted by homunculus at 10:48 AM on July 13, 2013


Janet Napolitano Ditching Homeland Security for University of California.

It's Napolitano
posted by homunculus at 10:49 AM on July 13, 2013


After Uproar Over 6-Figure CUNY Salary, Petraeus Will Teach for $1
posted by leahwrenn at 5:05 PM on July 15, 2013


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