What happens when we put businessmen in charge of universities

In case you had not heard the details from Mount Saint Mary’s:

The president of Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland on Monday fired two faculty members without any faculty review of his action or advance notice. One was a tenured professor who had recently criticized some of the president’s policies. The other was the adviser to the student newspaper that revealed the president recently told faculty members concerned about his retention plans that they needed to change the way they view struggling students. “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads,” the president said… [emphases mine]

Monday’s firings follow the dismissal on Friday of Provost David Rehm, who also raised questions about President Simon Newman’s retention plans. (Rehm held on to his faculty position.)

Newman’s letter firing the tenured professor — Thane M. Naberhaus of the philosophy department — accused him of disloyalty…

Mount St. Mary’s is a small Roman Catholic university, with a strong emphasis on a rigorous and traditional liberal arts education.

Much of the debate follows the appointment of Newman as president last year. His prior career was not in higher education but in private equity and business. His biographysays he founded or co-founded four businesses and worked at various times for Bain & Co., JP Capital Partners and Cornerstone Management Group.

Why “drown the bunnies.”  Rankings.  That’s it.  Bill Ayers:

Talking about students as bunnies to be drowned is no way to win faculty favor either. Behind the unfortunate choice of words was an apparently concrete goal the president had established, which was to have 20-25 freshmen leave the college before Sept. 25. After that point, they would have to be reported as “dropouts” and would count in the retention data. Before that, they would disappear off the books.

Now, this is a terrible thing – admitting students and then, within the first few weeks of the semester, trying to get some of them to leave. The president and the Board, which is apparently backing him, have been roundly criticized for such a plan. What I haven’t seen, however, is anyone asking why? Why would any college want to do such a thing?

There’s the key, right in the middle of the paragraph. All of this – the unfortunate metaphor of “drowning bunnies”, the angst and drama about a student survey and various strategies for freshmen retention, the subsequent firing of a provost and two faculty members – all of it is in the service of propping up Mount St. Mary’s position on a US News list.

Okay, just maybe a faculty member who had become president would have acted like this (or like the tone-deaf president at University of Missouri), but I highly doubt it.  Firing a tenured professor for “disloyalty?”  WTF!  Certainly, there’s many skills and experiences from the business world that are useful in leading a university, but there’s many that are not.  A college is not a hedge fund.  Time to stop putting the type of people who see struggling students as drowning bunnies to be shot in charge of higher education.

Why Trump is the favorite

Nice piece from Ryan Lizza that goes point-by-point through the remaining contenders and comes to the pretty much unavoidable conclusion that Trump has to be considered a clear favorite for the Republican nomination:

New Hampshire usually acts as an accelerant to this winnowing process, instantly transforming large fields into two- or three-person races. But this time it didn’t, and New Hampshire’s failure to sweep away the also-rans dramatically increases the odds that the Republican nomination process will end with Trump as the G.O.P. nominee.

To understand why the winnowing process has stalled, you have to look at the remaining candidates and understand their incentives for staying in the race. Start with Trump, now the likeliest person to win the nomination. He has effectively unlimited funds. He has a lead in delegates. He has solid leads in national polls and in the next state with a Republican primary, South Carolina. He came in a close second in Iowa and won New Hampshire with thirty-five per cent of the vote, more than doubling his nearest competitor’s total. No Republican candidate who has won a gold and a silver in the first two states has ever lost the G.O.P. nomination. What Trump lacks is any support among the ranks of the Republican Party’s elected officials, a circumstance that seemed to matter more than most everything else in recent G.O.P. nomination fights but that he has turned into a badge of honor. He is likely to stay in the race for the long haul.

Kasich did well enough that he now stays in until at least Ohio, March 15.  As for Cruz:

He can attract a sizable base of evangelicals and very conservative Republicans in South Carolina and likely continue his streak of meeting or exceeding expectations. He is well positioned for the so-called S.E.C. primary, on March 1st, when seven Southern and border states, with large percentages of evangelicals, vote. His fund-raising has been excellent, and he has wealthy donors willing to support an array of super PACs. His weakness is the opposite of Kasich’s and was apparent in the Iowa and New Hampshire results: he will have trouble expanding outside his very conservative base and winning over mainstream conservatives. But he is a good bet to end up as the last man standing against Trump in a long primary campaign…

Jeb!, of course, still has a ton of money and actually beat Rubio in NH.  As for Rubio:

Rubio’s story is similar. His fifth-place finish was bad enough to severely damage his campaign, but not so bad that it will force him out of the race before the next contests. He has money and the endorsements from important Party leaders. He won a close third place in Iowa by appealing to anti-Trump, anti-Cruz conservatives, who are also plentiful in South Carolina. Like Bush, he seems unlikely to give up the race until he makes a stand in his home state of Florida.

So, yeah, that leaves Trump.  An appropriately cautious conclusion:

Many analysts, including me, were too quick to dismiss Trump earlier in the 2016 campaign. We might now be overestimating his strength. It’s possible that South Carolina will do the job that New Hampshire has historically performed and winnow the race to three main candidates. Maybe New Hampshire’s misfire just delayed the culling. But for now there is still no clear candidate to whom anti-Trump voters, who still represent a majority of the Republican electorate, can flock.

Yep.  All that.  Again, not at all to say Trump will be the nominee, but at this point, I do think a realistic assessment concludes that it is more likely to be him than anyone else.

Photo of the day

From an Atlantic photos of the week.  Volcano and lightning together?  Too cool:

Volcanic lightning is seen at an eruption of Mount Sakurajima, in this photo taken from Tarumizu, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan, on February 5, 2016. The volcano, located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from a nuclear plant, erupted on Friday, Japan’s Meteorological Agency said, sending fountains of lava into the night sky.

Kyodo / Reuters

Why you should be scared of a Trump presidency

Terrific post from Ezra Klein today.  Ezra lays out the non-policy case for why Trump would be a horrible president and is truly a scary figure in American politics.  Damn good stuff.  Read it.  The excerpt is just so you get a taste, not an excuse not to read the whole thing (I’m looking at you DJC!):

Trump’s other gift — the one that gets less attention but is perhaps more important — is his complete lack of shame. It’s easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they’re exposed as liars, when they’re seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.

Trump doesn’t. [emphases mine] He has the reality television star’s ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won’t, to say what others can’t, to do what others wouldn’t…

This, more than his ideology, is why Trump genuinely scares me. There are places where I think his instincts are an improvement on the Republican field. He seems more dovish than neoconservatives like Marco Rubio, and less dismissive of the social safety net than libertarians like Rand Paul. But those candidates are checked by institutions and incentives that hold no sway over Trump; his temperament is so immature, his narcissism so clear, his political base so unique, his reactions so strange, that I honestly have no idea what he would do — or what he wouldn’t do.

The whole piece is that spot-on.  Read it.

Rich Republicans: American economic system is fair

When I first saw this on FB, I actually thought it was an Onion headline.  No, it’s from Pew.  The headline kind of says it all:

Most Americans say U.S. economic system is unfair, but high-income Republicans disagree

And here’s the key chart.  It’s not about being rich.  It’s about being rich and Republican:

High-income Republicans less likely to say U.S. economic system is unfair

And if you think the economic system in the US does not unfairly favor powerful interests, you haven’t been paying attention.


New Hampshire

1) Big win for Trump.  Not just that he won, but how the whole think shook out is almost better than he could have hoped for.  If Rubio comes in a strong #2, then Rubio can really make a strong play to consolidating the “establishment” and challenging Trump going forward.  Alas, the Marcobot debate really seems to have mattered.   Dylan Matthews:

Meanwhile, the biggest potential threat to him — a Marco Rubio who unified the “establishment lane,” drawing support from John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie and finishing a close second to Trump — never materialized. Rubio did gain in polling, but only 2.3 points; Kasich meanwhile gained 3.4 and Jeb Bush gained 1.3. The establishment remained divided, with three candidates bunched together in the low double digits, rather than one candidate whose numbers could rival Trump’s.

Worst of all, Rubio didn’t even finish second. After Iowa, a strong second-place finish could’ve made Rubio the consensus establishment favorite even if he only beat Kasich and Bush by a little bit. But his second-place polling place didn’t translate into actual second place, perhaps because of his “robotic glitch” gaffe during Saturday’s debate in which he repeated the same talking point ad nauseam, even after Christie called him on it.

The cherry on top is that Ted Cruz remained mired in fourth place. If Cruz had gotten second or even third — as appeared plausible, given that his numbers rivaled those of Kasich, Rubio, and Bush — that would’ve suggested that he wasn’t a social conservative Iowa fluke, like Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012, that he was actually a viable nominee with appeal outside evangelical-heavy electorates.

By finishing so poorly, Cruz blunted whatever momentum he might have had going into South Carolina, another evangelical hotbed where Trump leads but Cruz was gaining pre-Iowa (it hasn’t been polled since, bafflingly):

Winning New Hampshire is good for Donald Trump. Keeping the establishment divided is good for Donald Trump. Marginalizing Ted Cruz is good for Donald Trump. So tonight was, in every conceivable way, very very good for Donald Trump.

And Nate Cohn:

Mr. Trump could not have asked for much more. If you were ranking Republicans in terms of their chances to defeat Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz, you would probably list Mr. Rubio, Mr. Bush and Mr. Kasich. Yet they appear likeliest to finish tonight in exactly the opposite order — maximizing the likelihood that all three stay in the race…

The presence of so many viable, mainstream Republican candidates poses a huge challenge to the party’s establishment. Most obviously, the three have split mainstream voters and donors, and will continue to do so. But it is even worse: They have used their donors’ money to viciously attack one another, instead of Mr. Trump.

The strong showing for Mr. Kasich is particularly inconvenient for the party. His appeal is narrowly concentrated among moderate voters, who are overrepresented in New Hampshire. He doesn’t have the broad appeal or organization necessary to turn his New Hampshire strength into a serious race.

But his showing in New Hampshire could be enough to prevent a Republican with broader appeal, like Mr. Rubio, from consolidating the coalition of mainstream conservatives and well-educated moderate voters who could eventually defeat Mr. Cruz or Mr. Trump.

Mr. Bush and particularly Mr. Rubio have the potential to build broader coalitions. But both have now failed to capitalize on huge opportunities; there are well-founded doubts about both candidates, which will make it harder for voters and party leaders to coalesce behind either…

Mr. Cruz failed to demonstrate any meaningful appeal beyond the base of self-described “very conservative” and evangelical voters who helped him win Iowa. He holds just 12 percent of the vote. That’s modestly above past winners of Iowa who have gone on to lose this primary, like Mike Huckabee, who won 11 percent in New Hampshire, or Rick Santorum, who won 9 percent.

Mr. Cruz won just 4 percent of moderate voters and just 9 percent of “somewhat conservative” voters.

The weakness of Mr. Trump’s opposition should not detract from his own performance. He currently holds around 34 percent of the vote — above the 31 percent he held in pre-election polls.

And Yglesias:

The establishment’s consistent dream, ever since Trump rocketed into a national polling lead, has been that consolidation of the “establishment lane” candidates will lead eventually some someone from the Rubio/Bush/Christie/Kasich foursome taking a strong lead. The problem for the establishment is that New Hampshire is the only state where this would have actually worked. Had supporters of those four men all united behind a single candidate, he would have won.

But they didn’t.

And in national polling averages, winnowing alone doesn’t work. If you combine Rubio’s 17.8 percent with Bush’s 4.3 percent, Kasich’s 4 percent, and Christie’s 2.5 percent you get a grand total of 28.5, which is still slightly behind Trump.

But worse than that, there’s little reason to believe that actual voters endorse the “lanes” schema that political journalists have embraced. Voters who like Christie’s tough-talking persona may be drawn to Trump as the next best thing. Kasich and Trump stand out as the two candidates in the field who are a bit soft on the welfare state. Rubio and Trump are running on similar themes of rescuing the United States from Obama-induced decline. And then, of course, national polling still shows a healthy 10 percent of Republicans backing outsider figures Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, who may naturally gravitate toward Trump…

So far, the establishment has been trying to beat Trump with wishful thinking. It keeps not working. Trump could self-destruct or drop out for no reason at all. He could be abducted by aliens. Who knows? But merely hoping for those things is not a plan. The plain reality is that right now he is on course to win the nomination unless some concerted effort is made to stop him. And so far, there’s no sign that any such effort is underway. Republican leaders not actively involved in the campaign simply seem baffled and stunned into indifference. And they’re running out of time.

And hey, big win, i.e., strong 2nd, for my favorite Republican running, John Kasich.  That said, it is truly hard to conceive how the candidate who is my personal favorite could possibly win the Republican nomination.  I’d love for Kasich to come on strong and make a real showing for the sanity wing of the GOP, but I just don’t see it happening.  Will be curious to see how much of a bump he gets from NH.  Given all his resources, Jeb! will surely go on.  My guess is Chris Christie hangs it up.

2) On the Democratic side, no spinning it, big win for Bernie.  Sure, we now expected it because of the polls, but a 20 point margin is a big deal.  I still don’t think this means he’s the nominee, but it does give every indication Hillary is in for a long, hard slog (say what you will about Rumsfeld, the man was quotable).  That said, I still believe what Nate Silver wrote more than 6 months ago is highly relevant:

There’s another theory, however, that probably does more to explain Sanders’s standing in Iowa and New Hampshire, and it’s really simple. Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa and Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire are really liberal and really white, and that’s the core of Sanders’s support…

In Iowa and New Hampshire, that isn’t a very big deal. In 2008, 93 percent of Democrats who participated in the Iowa caucus were white, while 95 percentof those who voted in the New Hampshire primary were.

In fact, along with the Democratic electorate in Sanders’s native Vermont, those in Iowa and New Hampshire are as favorable to him as any in the country. In the chart below, I’ve listed the share of Democratic voters who identified as liberal, and as white, in the 39 states where the networks conducted exit polls during the 2008 Democratic primaries. Then I’ve multiplied the two numbers together to estimate the share of Democrats in each state who were both white and liberal...

I estimate that 54 percent of the voters in the New Hampshire Democratic primary were white liberals in 2008. That’s the second-highest figure in the country,2 after Vermont (59 percent). In the Iowa caucus, meanwhile, white liberals made up 50 percent; that put the state in a tie with Massachusetts for the third-highest percentage.

The percentage of white liberals isn’t so high in other early primary states, however. It’s just 29 percent in Nevada and 19 percent in South Carolina. The percentage is also low in high-population, delegate-rich states like California (26 percent) and Texas (17 percent).

Put another way, Iowa and New Hampshire aren’t representative of the more diverse electorates that Democrats will turn out elsewhere. It just so happens that the idiosyncrasies of the first two states match Sanders’s strengths and Clinton’s relative weaknesses.

Now, momentum isn’t nothing, but it’s not necessarily everything it’s cracked up to be.  If you go back and look at 2008, Obama should have had the momentum to run away with things, but the demographic determinism remained doggedly persistent with Hillary continuing to win states through to the end that had favorable demographics to her.  In 2016, Bernie should continue to do well in states with lots of white liberal Democrats, but I just don’t see his performance thus far leading to the large shift among non-white voters that he would need to pull this off.

Photo of the day

This was in a really good David Roberts article about practicality versus ideology on the Democratic side.  Worth a post.  For now, I couldn’t resist this photo:

sanders millennials

(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)Millennials for #revolution.


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