Bill O’Reilly Says We Must Stop the Hateful Rhetoric!

Dear Commons Community,

I have avoided commenting on the debt-ceiling crisis because we have been inundated in every newspaper and during hourly newscasts with the machinations of our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. for about three months now.  One pundit commented that the nation’s mood has been one of “doom, disgust, and disbelief”.  However, we must really be in trouble because last Thursday, Bill O’Reilly (Fox News) lashed out at all the players – the president, the Democrats and the Republicans for their inability to get a deal done.  Imagine O’Reilly criticizing Republicans.  I never thought it would happen.  What I could not believe was his plea “to stop the hateful rhetoric” aimed primarily at President Obama.  Mr. O’Reilly must have forgotten that he works at Fox News where the Becks, Hannitys, Ingrahams, and Coulters main contributions to American society have been hateful sarcastic rhetoric.



For-Profit Colleges, John Boehner and the Educational-Industrial Complex

Dear Commons Community,

I have posted on the for-profit colleges on this blog several times in the past year or so.  See for instance:

The Huffington Post has an article today on how legislation introduced by Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio) and passed in 2006 opened the path for doubling enrollments in for-profit online college education courses.  The article states that:

“With a mere eight lines buried in an 82,000-word budget bill passed in 2006, Congress eliminated legislation that had for more than a decade limited how many students colleges could enroll in online courses — rules aimed at protecting students against dubious programs. Those eight lines have proven a potent fertilizer for a for-profit college industry that has since grown to enormous proportions, collecting most of its profits via federal student aid dollars.

In the five years since Congress deregulated online education, enrollments at for-profit colleges have nearly doubled. Six major corporations owning for-profit institutions have enjoyed initial public offerings on Wall Street, with each promoting the rapid growth of online classes to investors and netting millions in compensation for executives. Revenues have doubled at the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University, two of the largest players — so has the rate at which its students have defaulted on their federal loans.”

Professor Kevin Kinser, a colleague of mine from SUNY Albany, is quoted as:

“Most of the large publicly traded [for-profit] institutions would not be able to exist the way they do today if that rule had not been taken away…You have an entirely new revenue source that’s been open to these institutions. … The cost goes down, the revenue goes up, and that’s a pretty attractive investment vehicle.”

The article goes on to identify the workings of the for-profit college lobby and names names:

“The deregulation was the result of a fierce lobbying effort waged by the for profit-college industry, coupled with strategic campaign donations distributed to Boehner, Rep. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming)  and Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), the men who controlled the Education committees..

For the three election cycles between 2002 and 2006, those three lawmakers and their political action committees alone took in nearly one-fifth of the money donated to federal candidates and committees by the for-profit college industry.

The industry has also benefited from Washington’s traditional revolving door: President Bush’s assistant secretary for post-secondary education, Sally Stroup, had served previously as a lobbyist for the Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix. During her tenure overseeing higher education policy from 2002 through 2006, she authored a series of reports outlining an imperative to lift the online learning restrictions – a major impetus for Congress to ultimately scrap the 50 Percent Rule.”

The bottom line on all of this is that for-profit colleges have basically become a multi-billion dollar industry controlled by a handful of private companies whose profits stem largely from federal financial aid programs.  Many of these for-profit schools have the largest dropout and hence default rates in higher education leaving their former students in debt without having improved their chances for better jobs.

The educational-industrial complex in our country is alive, well and continues to thrive for the benefit of stockholders and politicians.


CUNY Board of Trustees Call Special Meeting to Vote on Tuition Increase!

Dear Commons Community,

As was posted yesterday on this blog,  Judge Eileen Rakower signed a temporary restraining order blocking the $300. tuition increase that was to be implemented in September 2011.  The reason for the restraining order appears to be a procedural matter in that the motion increasing tuition was voted on by the Executive Committee and not by the full CUNY Board of Trustees.

In response, the CUNY Board of Trustees has called for a special meeting on August 3rd at Baruch College to vote as a full board on the tuition increase that was passed earlier by its Executive Committee (see email below from Sandi Cooper, UFS Chair).  Assuming a majority of the Board vote in favor of the tuition increase, this would effectively comply with Judge Rakower’s ruling.



Dear Colleagues

…a special meeting of the entire Board of Trustees is now scheduled for August 3 to vote on the tuition resolution which passed an Executive Committee meeting of the Board but which a judge ordered stopped until a full court hearing could be held.

The judge’s order was based on the argument, made by Ron McGuire and three students, that the Executive Committee lacked authority to pass a major policy change without full Board review.

As you can see, the meeting will occur at Baruch College.

Sandi E. Cooper, Chair, University Faculty Senate — CUNY

Life in a Test Tube!

Dear Commons Community,

The NY Times has an article today on the definition of life.  What started as an exercise in being able to better recognize extraterrestrial life should they come upon it, scientists are working to create simple life forms in a lab. The article states that “a handful of chemists and biologists…are using the tools of modern genetics to try to generate the Frankensteinian spark that will jump the gap separating the inanimate and the animate. The day is coming, they say, when chemicals in a test tube will come to life. “

Gerald F. Joyce, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, has already crossed that line, although he would be the first to say he has not — yet.

The article also states:

“Four years ago Dr. Joyce and a graduate student, Tracey A. Lincoln, now a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, evolved a molecule in a test tube that could replicate and evolve all by itself, swapping little jerry-built genes in a test tube forever, as long as it was supplied with the right carefully engineered ingredients.

An article in the Joyce Laboratory newsletter called it ‘The Immortal Molecule.’ Dr. Joyce’s molecule is a form of RNA, or ribonucleic acid, which plays Robin to DNA’s Batman in Life As We Do Know It, assembling proteins in accordance with the blueprint encoded in DNA. Neither RNA nor DNA is alive by itself, any more than any other chemical, like bleach, or a protein. But in Dr. Joyce’s test tube, his specially engineered RNA molecule comes close, copying itself over and over, and evolving.”

A three-minute video with excellent graphics explaining the role of RNA, proteins, and DNA in all of this is available at:

Most interesting!






New York State Judge Issues a Restraining Order Blocking CUNY’s $300. Tuition Increase!

Dear Commons Community,

Sandi Cooper sent out the email below to the University Faculty Senate listserv, stating that Judge Eileen Rakower signed a temporary restraining order blocking the $300. tuition increase that was to be implemented in September.  The reason for the restraining order appears to be a procedural matter in that the motion increasing tuition was voted on by the Executive Committee and not by the full CUNY Board of Trustees.



Press Advisory:

Contact: Ronald B. MGuire: 201-795-0342

Today a state Supreme Court judge signed a temporary restraining order blocking a $300 annual undergraduate tuition increase passed by the Executive Committee of the City University of New York (CUNY) Board of Trustees “unless and until the Board of Trustees as a whole meets and takes action in accordance with the law.”

Judge Eileen Rakower ruled in a lawsuit filed yesterday by three Lehman College students, Ateo Peruyero, OyeWale Badru and Francisca Villar, (Peruyero, et al. v. Board of Trustees, etc., et al. NY County Index No. 108549/2011) The students asked the court to nullify a tuition increase passed by the Executive Committee of the CUNY Board of Trustees  on July 21st. The students claimed that the state Education Law requires the entire CUNY Board of Trustees to vote on any tuition increase and that this authority cannot be delegated to the Trustees’ Executive Committee.  The tuition increase passed by the Executive Committee was scheduled to take effect when CUNY’s Fall 2011 term begins on August 26th and would have raised tuition $150 per semester ($300 per year) for undergraduates with proportionate increases for graduate and part time students.

Following oral arguments this morning by attorneys representing the students and CUNY, the judge stated that the petitioners had shown a likelihood of success on the merits and that there would be irreparable harm if the court did not block the $300 tuition increase until the entire board of trustees could consider it.

The restraining order signed by Judge Rakower states:

“Until this Petition is heard, Respondents are enjoined and restrained from:

(i) taking any action to implement the Tuition Resolution passed by Respondent Executive Committee on July 21, 2011, or

(ii) charging or collecting tuition in excess of the  levels charged by CUNY during the spring 2011 academic term,

(iii) unless  and until the board of trustees as a whole takes action in accordance with the law.”

Judge Rakower scheduled the next hearing on the case for Tuesday, August 30 at 11 AM in room 308 at IAS Part 15 of the State Supreme Court at 80 Centre Street in Manhattan – after Fall 2011 classes begin at CUNY on August 26th.

The restraining order will be in effect until the next hearing date unless CUNY appeals the case.

If CUNY does not appeal, then CUNY cannot raise tuition until the trustees schedule an emergency meeting to consider the issue. Any meeting of the trustees would have to comply with the state Open Meetings Law.

The Petitioners were represented by Ronald B. McGuire of New York City.

Assistant NYS Attorney General Clement J. Colucci and CUNY General Counsel Frederick Schaffer appeared for the Respondents.


Kings College – The Only Evangelical College in New York City!

Dear Commons Community,

New York Magazine has a featured article on Kings College, the only Evangelical College in New York City.  Located in the Empire State Building, the college has just appointed Dinesh D’Sousa as its new president.  D’Sousa is an outspoken conservative who has had a number of best-selling books including Illiberal Education which attacked political correctness in liberal arts colleges and universities. The article describes the college as:

“… the only Evangelical college based in New York City. It was founded in New Jersey in 1938, went bankrupt in 1994, and stayed dormant until 1997, when Campus Crusade for Christ International (CCCI) bought the school and transplanted it into the Empire State Building. The first New York class consisted of seventeen students. Last year’s incoming class was over 200, with an average SAT score of 1810 (on par with Penn State’s). But that average may soon fall, as the college plans to double its enrollment within the next four years.

Students earn bachelor’s degrees in one of three majors: PPE (politics, philosophy, and economics); business management; or media, culture, and the arts. There is a core curriculum, which features Shakespeare, Adam Smith, and Augustine. Professors are not eligible for tenure, and all of them must sign a statement of Christian faith. CCCI still owns the King’s College. The Orlando-based nonprofit, which took in $646 million in revenue last year, began by proselytizing to students at secular colleges.”

I have my office at the CUNY Graduate Center, right across the street from the Empire State Building and never knew it was there



Save Pell Day – July 25th

Dear Commons Community,

The CUNY Newswire sent out this important message regarding the federal Pell Grant Program. This program has been enormously important to CUNY students for decades.



As budget negotiations continue in Washington, D.C., a critical federal financial aid program is facing serious threats to its funding. A recent House of Representatives resolution proposed reductions to the Pell Grant program, which provides need-based grants to low-income students. The resolution would reduce eligibility and cut the maximum award of $5,550 by as much as $2,510-reducing it to $3,040.

These proposed reductions would be particularly harmful to the neediest students and their families-including thousands of CUNY students who rely on Pell Grants to pursue their education. At a time when our country needs more college graduates, we must ensure that a college education remains accessible to students of all backgrounds.

Please join us in participating in SAVE PELL DAY on Monday, July 25, 2011. On that day, hundreds of thousands of messages in support of Pell Grant funding will be sent to federal representatives.

Please click on one of the letters below to send to your representative, or visit to find out more about SAVE PELL DAY!

Thank you for your participation and continued support.



Crazed Gunman Kills 93 People in Norway – Leaves Behind a Manifesto!

Dear Commons Community,

The media will be covering today and for several weeks to come the Norway killings during which at least 93 people including died in two separate incidents.  The NY Times has posted a brief bio of the killer, Anders Behring Brievik, and reports that:

“The police identified him as a right-wing fundamentalist Christian, while acquaintances described him as a gun-loving Norwegian obsessed with what he saw as the threats of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration.”

Perhaps most disturbing in this story is that the gunman left behind a manifesto on the Internet documenting his thoughts and plans.  The NY Times article also mentions that:

“Thomas Hegghammer, a terrorism specialist at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, said the manifesto bears an eerie resemblance to those of Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders, though from a Christian rather than a Muslim point of view. Like Mr. Breivik’s manuscript, the major Qaeda declarations have detailed accounts of the Crusades, a pronounced sense of historical grievance and calls for apocalyptic warfare to defeat the religious and cultural enemy.”

Breivik’s manifesto is 1,500 pages long.  A twelve minute video of the manifesto was also posted on the Internet and is quite disturbing. Below are screen captures from this video.   The last image is that of the gunman.

Our hearts and sympathies go out to the families of the victims of this senseless violence committed by a crazed individual.


Click to enlarge any of the photos below.