Petraeusgate: Anatomy of a Scandal

by Corey Robin on July 4, 2013

Petraeusgate is a rapidly unfolding scandal of multiple parts and pieces. I mostly focus here on the third, which involves a potential cover-up. The first two—the crimes, as it were—are more important. But if you want to get to the newest and most scandalous revelations, jump to the third section of this post.

(I won’t touch here on the ethics of hiring a man who has been publicly linked to the torture of Iraqi detainees, which may be the gravest evil of all. Nor will I touch on the larger issue this scandal has raised: our failing-up political culture, where fuck-ups in the power elite get rewarded for their fuck-ups. Alex Pareene’s got that beat covered.)

 

Scandal #1 (with apologies to Harold Lasswell): Who Gets What…

The first scandal is CUNY’s decision to pay General David Petraeus anywhere from $150k to $200k to teach a course at the Macaulay Honors College next year. A cash-strapped public university—which pays its adjuncts, who do most of the teaching, about $3000 per course—forking over 50 times that amount to a celebrity hire: it doesn’t look good.

Particularly when CUNY is giving Petraeus a bevy of graduate students to do the work of designing, administering, and grading for the course. This is not a large lecture, mind you, but a small seminar. (I’ve been teaching at CUNY for 14 years and like most of my colleagues I’ve never had a TA or any kind of graduate assistant.)

In a February 23 email, Petraeus says that he already has a group of Harvard research assistants working on the design and prep of the course.

So his plan for the fall is to roll into town every Monday morning, “do some prep and then lead the seminar” on Monday afternoon. Where any course at CUNY requires most of us to spend a lot of time outside the classroom (prepping, grading, office hours, etc.), Petraeus’s duties pretty much come down to the three hours a week he’ll spend in the classroom. As Gawker pointed out, that works out to $2250 per hour.

 

Scandal #2 (with further apologies to Harold Laswell): …When and How

The second scandal is: who’s going to pay for all this? In his February 22 offer letter to Petraeus, outgoing CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein writes:

We are prepared to offer you a salary of $200,000 per annum, supplemented by funds from a private gift. While I do not yet have a commitment for such a gift, Sid Goodfriend and I agreed that, working together, we can make it a reality.


In a May 29 letter to Petraeus, the status of which has yet to be determined—more on this below—Macaulay dean Ann Kirschner writes:

 

Your compensation consists of $150,000 per annum. As we have discussed, this may be supplemented by funds from a private gift, though that has not been secured.


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.

As a side note, CUNY grad student and Jacobin editor Peter Frase has raised another serious concern about the use of Research Foundation monies. Check out his comment here.

 

Scandal #3: The Cover-up

CUNY may be about to learn the hard Nixonian truth of that old Watergate adage: it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.

Gawker broke the story of Petraeus’s salary, as I said, on the morning of July 1. Only his salary was reported as $200,000. That number came from documents—in particular, Goldstein’s offer letter of February 22—Gawker had obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request.

But then, within hours of the article’s appearance, CUNY released that email from Kirschner to Petraeus, which was time-stamped 1:15 pm, July 1. The email read:

As Bob Barnett has requested, I am memorializing our discussions over the past few months regarding your appointment as Visiting Professor at Macaulay Honors College at $150,000.


Knowing that you have been sought after by other institutions, some of them offering higher salaries, I am particularly grateful that you have agreed to a lower compensation than we originally offered.


Republican State Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor, a Marine vet from the Iraq War, instantly smelled a rat. In a letter to interim chancellor Bill Kelly, he wrote:

 

In an email time-stamped two-and-a-half hours after the Gawker story was published, the University Vice Chancellor writes to Petraeus to “memorialize” discussions between the University and Petraeus agreeing to a $150,000 salary, of which Petraeus would donate a portion to charity. The University is telling the public that Petraeus agreed to this different arrangement before the story went public out of the goodness of his heart. However, when the University spokesman spoke with my staff, it became clear that there was no written documentation of this change prior to the publication of the Gawker story. That’s strange given the fact that there are numerous back-and-forth emails discussing the salary written before the Gawker story. All of those emails conclude that the salary will be $200,000 and mention nothing about charitable donations.


One should never underestimate the incompetence of CUNY’s PR machine. It’s quite conceivable that someone in the administration—or perhaps that other genius of bargain-basement scandal management Bob Barnett—would actually think $150k (plus charitable donations!), as opposed to $200k, was just the right amount to placate the critics.

All of this I reported two days ago.

And then things got really weird.

Yesterday, CUNY posted on its website a letter, dated May 29, from Kirschner to Petraeus. In the document, which seems to be an official offer letter, Kirschner says that Petreaus’s salary will be $150,000. The clear point of posting the letter was to answer Lalor’s charge that CUNY had tried to come up, after the fact, with a face-saving way out of the Gawker story.

The first time CUNY posted the letter, a source tells me, it was not as a jpeg, as it is now. It was instead in simple HTML text, as if someone had literally typed it into the website itself (as I am doing now.) The letter was up, the source adds, for roughly 25 minutes or so. Then it got taken down. Anyone trying to click on the site got an Error 404 message.

The second time CUNY posted the letter, it looked like this. There was no explanation of what the letter was. Nor was there any time-stamp on it to prove that it had been drafted or sent on May 29. Then it too got taken down, and all anyone got was that same Error 404 message.

Then, sometime between 5:45 and 6 pm, the letter was back up, only this time it had a header note. Which read as follows:

The appointment of General David Petraeus was announced by the University on April 23rd, 2013, by a Board of Trustees resolution “at a salary to be determined by the Chancellor.” Discussions related to salary and other terms of the appointment were conducted the month of May between Macaulay Honors College and Dr. Petraeus’ representatives. In May, those discussions reached the conclusion that Dr. Petraeus would receive $150,000 per year. On May 29th, Dean Ann Kirschner of Macaulay Honors College drafted (but did not send and instead communicated verbally) an email to University Offices the agreed-upon terms in a document appended below. On July 1st, Dean Kirschner transmitted those terms in a commitment letter at the request of Mr. Bennett, Dr. Petraeus’ attorney.


There are six problems with this header note.

  1. “The document appended below” does not look remotely like an email, draft or otherwise. It looks like an official offer letter or agreement, which was how it had been presented the second time CUNY posted it.

  2. If Kirschner indeed drafted this document as an email, why didn’t she send it to these “University Offices”? One would think if this had been the draft of a final agreement with Petraeus, these “University Offices” would want to see it in writing.

  3. Just who are these unnamed “University Offices”? Can any individual confirm in writing that he or she did indeed speak to Kirschner on the phone about these terms?

  4. Why, subsequent to these alleged communications on May 29, did someone not formalize the agreed upon terms and officially communicate them to Petraeus, as Goldstein had done on February 22?

  5. Why were these terms only communicated on the afternoon of July 1, a full month after they had been agreed upon, and just by coincidence a few hours following Gawker’s revelations?

  6. Why when they were communicated on July 1, were they transmitted as a chatty informal email, and not as an official offer letter?

Somewhere just after 6 pm, this version of the letter and header note got taken down.  Not long after, a new version of the header note—which turned out to be the final version—appeared, along with the letter. This time, the header note said:

The Chancellor offered Dr. Petraeus an appointment as Visiting Professor at a salary of $200,000. The appointment was then announced by the University on April 23rd, 2013, by a Board of Trustees resolution “at a salary to be determined by the Chancellor.” Discussions related to salary and other terms of the appointment were conducted subsequently between Macaulay Honors College and Dr. Petraeus’ representatives. In May, those discussions reached the conclusion that Dr. Petraeus would receive $150,000 per year. On May 29th, Dean Ann Kirschner of Macaulay Honors College drafted an agreement and sent it to University offices (appended below). On July 1st, Dean Kirschner transmitted those same terms in a commitment email that also reflected Dr Petraeus’ generous decision to donate a portion of his salary to veterans’ organizations.


There are several differences between the two versions of the header note, but the key one is in the penultimate sentence. Originally that sentence read:

 

On May 29th, Dean Ann Kirschner of Macaulay Honors College drafted (but did not send and instead communicated verbally) an email to University Offices the agreed-upon terms in a document appended below.


Now it reads:

 

On May 29th, Dean Ann Kirschner of Macaulay Honors College drafted an agreement and sent it to University offices (appended below).”


This revised version addresses the first two problems I raise above: the letter to Petraeus does not look like an email but instead like an agreement, and why wasn’t it transmitted as a written as opposed to verbal communiqué? The revised header note still does not answer the remaining three questions I raise.

More important, as a close reader—my sister, in fact—wrote to me in an email: If this Kirschner agreement was indeed drafted and circulated within CUNY on May 29, why didn’t it appear in any of the FOIL documents that Gawker obtained and published in its July 1 article? Was the FOIL request made and fulfilled before May 29?

I publicly raised that question on my blog yesterday, at about 7 pm. At 8:15, Trotter, the Gawker reporter who broke the story, answered me.  On Twitter.

Hi Corey, I’m the author of the Gawker piece. I filed the FOIL request on May 31, it was fulfilled on June 26.


Oops.

In addition, a source inside Lalor’s office wrote to me:

On Monday, the university actually told me that they provided all of the written documentation to Gawker. They also told me that there was no written documentation prior to the July 1st email.


Oops again.

Then late last night, Trotter sent me a cache of emails, in which he made many points. He gave me permission to publish the emails in their entirety. But I’ll only excerpt five of the most critical points here:

Regarding the FOIL discrepancy: When I first requested the records in question, I submitted two identical requests to both CUNY’s Central Office, on 42nd Street, and Macaulay Honors College, since each employ their own records access officer. (I asked for correspondence between Petraeus and CUNY officials, and for correspondence between CUNY officials about Petraeus.) I received the records from Central Office on June 26, and was promised the Macaulay records on June 28, but on that date Macaulay’s records access officer notified me that the Macaulay records would be delayed by two weeks (until July 15) because she and her staff were, apparently, all going on vacation. It is possible, then, that the letter published on CUNY’s website is contained in those records. However…


There is reason to think said letter is not contained in those records. For one, as the Central Office records show, records between campuses frequently overlap. The Central Office records contain correspondence not only between Petraeus and Ann Kirschner — who does not work in Central Office — but between Kirschner and other faculty members about Petraeus’s appointment. It would be extremely odd for the Central Office records to include these particular emails but not Kirschner’s May 29 letter, if in fact Kirschner circulated it among CUNY officials. That would explain why the website’s verbiage briefly — but very, very specifically — indicated that Kirschner did not send the letter but merely “drafted” it. A FOIL request would likely not capture an email draft.



The letter smells funny for another reason: up until a few hours ago, multiple CUNY officials categorically denied any written record of the $150,000 salary being discussed before July 1. The Central Office’s records access officer, David Fields, sent me the July 1 email this morning after I asked him to send me an updated offer letter. Above the email, he wrote: See below….here are final details for job offer.  This came directly for Honors College, was not at Central Office. [Editorial Note: If Kirschner circulated the final details of the job offer to “University Offices,” as CUNY’s explanatory note claims, why weren’t any of those details in CUNY’s Central Office?] And after the Gawker article came out, Jay Hershenson, CUNY’s Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations, told Assemblyman Lalor that there were no other written records pertaining to Petraeus’s lowered salary.


Finally, yesterday evening I had an extremely odd telephone conversation with Michael Arena, the CUNY official to whom all CUNY staffers have been ordered to direct Petraeus-related inquiries. Initially he did not understand that I was seeking proof in the form of a formal offer letter, typed under official university letterhead, not a random email sent two hours after the Gawker article. He literally did not understand why the email did not qualify as an actual offer letter — in part because the email itself simply “memorialized” prior discussions, rather than explaining an actual offer. On and on and on this went. (And remember, this was after Arena told ABC News that we failed to report an email sent two hours after our initial report.) But then, finally, he had some kind of epiphany, and suddenly grasped the importance of finding an legitimate offer letter. And 24 hours later, on the eve of a national holiday, look what appeared on CUNY’s website.



Also, just to clarify: Before publishing the Gawker piece, I asked Arena to confirm the details of the $200,000 salary, and he simply answered that CUNY was still fundraising for it. He gave no indication, and I had no reason to believe, that the salary would be lower than an official offer letter indicated.


Oops. Oops. Oops. Oops. And oops.

So here we are, on a long holiday weekend when no one’s around or paying attention, and the question remains: Did CUNY administrators fabricate a document trail after the Gawker story broke in order to make it seem as if they had already decided to offer Petraeus a lower salary before the shit hit the fan?

I’ve been told by several reporters that they’re going to be following up this story next week; it’s already gotten the attention of the DC press, ABC News, and other media outlets.  Stay tuned.

Oh, one more thing.

In that May 29 email/agreement/letter/document/whatever, Kirschner writes, “Dave, your interaction with Macaulay is already off to a wonderful start!”

Indeed.

{ 35 comments }

1

Jeremy 07.04.13 at 7:15 pm

Not being involved in academia even slightly, I’m a lot more concerned with the sort of issues that Pareene brings up than any details about CUNY’s ass-covering or fabricating evidence to cover up their actions. I’m entirely in favor of blowing the roof off the cover-up, and am kind of daydreaming about a world where every university had a Corey Robin to make life difficult for all the people who need more difficulty in their lives. But that’s like being on the sidelines of a game I don’t really understand, even if I do know who I want to win. Since I’m probably not the only person in a position like that, and since in all the threads discussing this, I haven’t seen it mentioned, I have to recommend that everyone read Chris Bray’s article in the latest issue of The Baffler, “Passions of the Meritocracy,” if only for the quality of the snark. This passage, for example, is simply brilliant writing, imho:

As the longtime journalist Thomas Ricks constructed his own pleasing version of the David Petraeus character, the general’s selection to command the war in Iraq “expressly was not the choice of the military. He was regarded by many of his peers as something of a thrice-cursed outlier—an officer with a doctorate from Princeton who also seemed to enjoy talking to reporters and even to politicians and who had made his peers look bad with his success leading the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul in 2003–4.”

Here, dear reader, you must summon patient compassion. Try to imagine the hardships of a military officer triply burdened by close relationships with political leaders and the national news media, an Ivy League PhD, and wartime triumphs leading an elite airborne division. Our hero somehow survived in spite of it all. He rose against his handicaps, triumphing over the awful mark of Princeton University, that great gathering place for outcasts, rebels, and the socially obscure. He secured higher military rank even though he had been successful in combat. He adroitly worked CBS News, the Washington Post, and the United States Senate, yet still rose to prominence.

But, if it’s exposing the cover-up that makes something happen, I heartily thank all involved for their work.

2

Donald A. Coffin 07.04.13 at 7:39 pm

I’m struck by this, from the jpeg of the letter:

“As we discussed, your appointment comprises leading a series of seminars for students in the Macaulay Honors College. These seminars will pertain to the areas of energy, advanced manufacturing, and life sciences and will focus on the policies, laws, regulations, and practices needed to enable the United States to capitalize on the opportunities each area presents.”

Petraeus’ wikipedia page has this “Petraeus has a B.S. degree from the United States Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1974 as a distinguished cadet (top 5% of his class). He was the General George C. Marshall Award winner as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College class of 1983.[8] He subsequently earned an M.P.A. in 1985 and a Ph.D. degree in International Relations in 1987 from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Petraeus)

I hope his preparation for these courses makes him more qualified to teach in the areas of “energy, advanced manufactured, and life sciences” than his academic background makes it sound.

But even if he is qualified, this whole thing has an unpleasant aroma.

3

Substance McGravitas 07.04.13 at 7:55 pm

Petraeusgate

Oh dear.

4

Jim 07.04.13 at 9:18 pm

If Petraeus is wise he’ll withdraw from this commitment, citing scheduling difficulties or something. It looks as though there’s been no formal offer letter or acceptance. He’s better of out of this developing mess

If he withdraws, then CUNY can go on the attack: these people interfering have deprived the students in the honors college of the chance of a lifetime.

5

Bruce Wilder 07.04.13 at 9:49 pm

Columbia made Dwight D Eisenhower, President of the University, and all Petraeus got was a lousy seminar at CUNY. And, the money, of course. And, a t-shirt, I presume. (They did get him a t-shirt, right?)

6

Lost Left Coaster 07.04.13 at 10:48 pm

WHY WHY WHY? Why do they want Petraeus so badly? His career ended in humiliation. He was implicated in torture and involved in a war that was a complete disaster for Iraq and even for the United States. Why does CUNY want to bend over backwards and blow so much precious money on having this guy’s name attached to their institution? It boggles the mind. But then, celebrity academic hires usually do.

7

Andrew F. 07.05.13 at 5:24 am

Oy, Corey…

First, lines like this, Nor will I touch on the larger issue this scandal has raised: our failing-up political culture, where fuck-ups in the power elite get rewarded for their fuck-ups, weaken your case. Petraeus is highly respected – in assessing his intellectual and professional accomplishments, no one whose opinion is worth listening to gives a damn about his personal mistake. Quite frankly it was a fucking travesty that we lost him due to his personal screw-up.

Second, can we please get somewhat realistic about whether Petraeus’s hiring is actually a scandal? I have stated the obvious benefit to students from the opportunity to interact and work with him. I have yet to see anyone put forth a serious alternative project of 150k that would benefit students more.

Third, CUNY has a budget of 2.6 BILLION dollars. Hiring Petraeus, for a one year term, at a salary comparable to that of a visiting distinguished professor isn’t a budget breaking scandal. It’s either a “oh this is symptomatic of larger waste and abuse” story, or it’s just a non-story. Want to talk about the plight of adjuncts and a broken PhD system in the United States? Right there with you. Hiring a superbly well credentialed person to teach a seminar at the cost of 150k, who can provide help to students’ careers? Come on.

Fourth, the Macaulay Honors College, at which Petraeus would be teaching, is a program designed to attract the brightest and most promising students. It does so by awarding all students full tuition, laptops, other benefits, and the promise of being able to engage with high level persons in various industries, including government. And let me be clear: that access to high level persons can matter enormously to a student’s future.

Bringing in those high level persons will cost money (so do full tuition scholarships, laptops, and other benefits). But it’s not access that can otherwise easily be acquired, particularly if you don’t have a name like Harvard to pull them in (not that Harvard skimps on monetary incentive).

So here’s what I hope. Unless someone clearly delineates a better way to spend that 150k that will benefit students at Macaulay more than access to someone like Petraeus, I hope that the administration of CUNY stops being diplomatic for the sake of appeasing Delillo-worthy episode of faculty whining (shall I presume with a little union encouragement) and simply tells the straight line: this hire benefits students, and we don’t give a fuck if it ruffles some professorial feathers. Our priority is the students, not the faculty, and when they want to offer constructive dialogue rather than adversarial bullshit, we’ll enthusiastically work with them on this.

And if someone comes up with a better project, i.e. if someone actually levies responsible criticism rather than shotgunning a load of bullshot that contains everything from torture allegations to the notion that he’s being rewarded for screwing up personally, then I’ll happily pressure CUNY myself.

But for fuck’s sake, if you’re going to attack a decision and a man, put some meat on the argument. Don’t let me say “adjuncts are paid way below what they should, and that’s a cause in itself, but it has jack shit to do with whether we should spend the money on Petraeus.” Show me where the money should go, back it up, and then push for it. Otherwise this is just another example of faculty bitching when a visiting professor gets perks and pay that are superior to most.

And I write all this, by the way, as someone who regularly reads your posts because I find them interesting, intelligent, and thought-provoking, even when (as on Hayek’s conception of how the elites lead mass opinion) I think you’re completely wrong (Hayek’s elites propose and the masses dispose; they’re not anywhere close to the superman).

8

mittelwerk 07.05.13 at 6:00 am

omg, is it possible to give less of a fuck about this?

and i always thought adjuncts got paid so little because they HAVE NO OTHER OPTIONS

9

MPAVictoria 07.05.13 at 6:13 am

Oh Andrew, could you be anymore of a tool.

10

roger gathman 07.05.13 at 8:29 am

8. The answer is yes. Less of a fuck means one does not read or post a comment on the subject. Evidently, you do give a fuck, and your strategy is to pretend that it has no importance. It is as primitive a strategy as, say, giving large sums of money to guerrilla groups in the Sunni triangle of death so that they will stop attacking you and you can announce your strategic genius.
Adjuncts get paid so little because they have so little organized power. Generals get paid so much because they are backed by the united forces of the defense industry/petroleum complex.
If CUNY really wanted a general to teach the kids about strategy and courage, I’d suggest General Shinseki.

11

herr doktor bimler 07.05.13 at 9:29 am

Petraeus is highly respected
By whom? Other experts in energy, advanced manufacturing, and life sciences?

Why does CUNY want to bend over backwards and blow so much precious money on having this guy’s name attached to their institution?

What students would *not* want to sit at the feet of someone so gifted in the arts of upward-failing and media-image management? The man has some valuable skills to pass on, even if they are not the ones he is purportedly teaching.

12

Andrew B. Lee 07.05.13 at 9:45 am

How do assholes like that get into positions of leadership at places like CUNY?

I’ve been wondering the same about the leadership of the University of California system for awhile now as well…

13

Uncle Kvetch 07.05.13 at 11:29 am

I hope his preparation for these courses makes him more qualified to teach in the areas of “energy, advanced manufactured, and life sciences” than his academic background makes it sound.

As Andrew F. has pointed out at great length on this and other threads, the content of the course is immaterial. The value of a university professor is defined not by the knowledge that they can convey, but by their ability to provide a handful of lucky students with career-building connections to the rich and powerful.

14

Ronan(rf) 07.05.13 at 11:40 am

” Oh Andrew, could you be anymore of a tool.”

Haha,
although I fear Andrew’s gonna take this as a challenge

15

Manta 07.05.13 at 12:11 pm

Herr Doktor@11 changed my mind, and now I am convinced that P. hiring is a good idea, and the money well spent.
The esteemed general has so much to teach to students: for instance, how to get hired for $2250 per hour.

16

Walt 07.05.13 at 12:18 pm

There’s literally no question on which Andrew F won’t go out of his way to take the opposite side of everyone here, is there? We could all agree that puppies are cute, and he’d write a comment on how they’re monsters and we need to bind, torture, and kill them.

17

Ronan(rf) 07.05.13 at 12:27 pm

” I have stated the obvious benefit to students from the opportunity to interact and work with him. I have yet to see anyone put forth a serious alternative project of 150k that would benefit students more. “

Offer a 150k 4 year Petraeus scholarship, where the recipient is entitled to long term career advice and access to employment networks. That cancels out the 1 (at best, and I’m very doubtfull of you’re ridiculous hypothesis) student who might benefit from access to Petraeus’ contacts
Note also that, I would assume, most employers would react to a reference from General F**king Petraeus as complely overegging a job application, unless the student was applying to a very specific, relevant area..and more than likely any student who would be able to make use of Petraeus as a contact at the age of 20-22 would more than likely already have access to advice/contacts, so why should our concerns be with giving them even more of an advantage?

18

Ronan(rf) 07.05.13 at 12:29 pm

..Set up a 150k trust fund for a random toddler. How many more do you want Andrew F?

19

William Timberman 07.05.13 at 12:30 pm

Andrew F. is the emperor’s tailor personified. He loves nothing more than what a Maserati ad once called l’eleganza bestiale. Where we see an overachiever somewhat short in the imagination department, he would like us to see the very essence of manly expertise.

Mmm…. More ribbons might help, Andrew, or maybe a higher peak on the cap. Could we bring back Sam Browne belts, do you think? Or maybe furnish the lot of them with ceremonial daggers?

20

Ronan(rf) 07.05.13 at 12:36 pm

“So I see that one of your references is from the assistant manager at McDonalds, where you worked last summer, and the other is from, eh, General David Petraeus?”

21

Corey Robin 07.05.13 at 12:59 pm

Here is just a small sample of CUNY alumni: Bella Azbug, Audre Lorde, Colin Powell, Irving Howe, Ruby Dee, Shirley Chisholm, Paddy Chayevsky, Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell, Oscar Hijuelos, Sonia Sanchez, Zero Mostel, Walter Mosley, Robert Scheer.

Even fucking Don Draper went to City College.

And yet somehow they managed to make their way into the world without the benefit of an overpaid adjunct.

The mission of CUNY is to educate hundreds of thousands — not 10 or 15 — of poor and working class kids, to propel them into a culture that they then transform. Historically, it managed to do that without celebrity hires.

22

Walt 07.05.13 at 1:08 pm

It really is a particularly odd choice for CUNY, given its image. Harvard you expect that kind of thing.

23

Anarcissie 07.05.13 at 2:55 pm

@16 — He won’t go out of his way to attack from the Left, where there is plenty of room. Indeed, I’d say he doesn’t go out of his way at all; he’s like an elaborately carved fencepost.

24

Ralph Hitchens 07.05.13 at 3:02 pm

Where, oh where is the impulse for public service? Particularly from one who began his public life under the West Point mantra of “Duty, Honor, Country?” General Petraeus has his full retirement as an O-10 plus who knows how much in speaking fees, undoubtedly a book deal somewhere in the works, why does he need to accept a six-figure amount from a university for a modest teaching load? He would burnish his public image ever so much had he told CUNY, “happy to teach the seminar, pay me at the adjunct minimum.”

25

Zamfir 07.05.13 at 3:19 pm

Walt says: “It really is a particularly odd choice for CUNY, given its image. Harvard you expect that kind of thing.”

Harvard envy runs deep with university administrators.

26

PJW 07.05.13 at 4:04 pm

Being larded with all of those assistants is an interesting aspect, and surely has a parallel to Petraeus’ military life when he was used to operating with outsized staffs. Just speculating. A sweet deal to be unencumbered with the menial tasks of life mere mortals deal with daily.

27

Barry 07.05.13 at 5:03 pm

Lost Left Coaster 07.04.13 at 10:48 pm

” WHY WHY WHY? Why do they want Petraeus so badly? His career ended in humiliation. He was implicated in torture and involved in a war that was a complete disaster for Iraq and even for the United States. Why does CUNY want to bend over backwards and blow so much precious money on having this guy’s name attached to their institution? It boggles the mind. But then, celebrity academic hires usually do.”

As has been pointed out before (and above), the university, or rather the board members, gain a personal connection through throwing him some money. They’ll be able to ask for some sort of favor/introduction. They’ll get some prestige.

And the first rule of the elites is that one doesn’t fail, except upwards. Petraeus’ failures are not to be held against him, because he’s an elite (and the elites are really OK with torture, so long is it’s just for peons).

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Barry 07.05.13 at 5:06 pm

Andrew F: “Second, can we please get somewhat realistic about whether Petraeus’s hiring is actually a scandal? I have stated the obvious benefit to students from the opportunity to interact and work with him. I have yet to see anyone put forth a serious alternative project of 150k that would benefit students more. “

No, you made a bunch of very stupid comments about ‘market price’. As for an alternative project, hiring a good professor for a year or two would benefit more people, unless you think that Joe/Josephine Grad Student putting ‘Petraeus Seminar’ on her resume/CV is going to matter one little whit.

“Third, CUNY has a budget of 2.6 BILLION dollars. Hiring Petraeus, for a one year term, at a salary comparable to that of a visiting distinguished professor isn’t a budget breaking scandal. “

It’s waste, fraud and abuse. By that standard, if CUNY regents had spent this on hookers and blow (paying, of course, only the ‘market price’), that’d be OK.

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Barry 07.05.13 at 5:08 pm

Anarcissie 07.05.13 at 2:55 pm

” @16 — He won’t go out of his way to attack from the Left, where there is plenty of room. Indeed, I’d say he doesn’t go out of his way at all; he’s like an elaborately carved fencepost.”

Andrew is and always shall be a right-wing tool.

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Ronan(rf) 07.05.13 at 5:53 pm

“As for an alternative project, hiring a good professor for a year or two would benefit more people, unless you think that Joe/Josephine Grad Student putting ‘Petraeus Seminar’ on her resume/CV is going to matter one little whit.”

I think Andrew is working from the position that the modern job market looks for the same attributes in an employee that, say, the old British civil service did .. ‘you know General Plumer? Jolly good, we’ll put you in charge of the Near East’ .. that’s the only answer I have

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JTFaraday 07.05.13 at 9:28 pm

“and i always thought adjuncts got paid so little because they HAVE NO OTHER OPTIONS”

No, adjuncts have plenty of options. They’re highly educated people with evolved intellectual interests and advanced research and writing degrees, not some oppressed underclass with NO CHOICE but to work at Walmart.

It could be they’ve been acculturated to think that though.

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herr doktor bimler 07.05.13 at 9:41 pm

The esteemed general has so much to teach to students: for instance, how to get hired for $2250 per hour.

It is the famous-for-being-famous element of circularity that impresses me. “We offered Petraeus $200K despite his track-record of failure and over-burnishing his reputation, because he has at least one valuable skill to impart… specifically, how to be offered Petraeus $200K despite a track-record of failure and over-burnishing one’s reputation.”

The same circularity is implicit in Andrew F.’s argument at #7, that Petraeus is a good choice for CUNY (and a good choice for students seeking a course) because he can offer students an entree to the elite network of “high level persons”.
How, we ask, does Petraeus remain part of that elite network? He is kept there by the collective decision of individuals in CUNY and elsewhere to take him seriously and pay him $200K.

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Witt 07.06.13 at 1:53 am

Ralph at 24: Yup. Which tells us — if not actually all we need to know — certainly a lot.

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rootless (@root_e) 07.06.13 at 2:29 am

This almost made me sympathetic to CUNY. Almost.

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Barry 07.06.13 at 1:46 pm

BTW, Andrew wanted an alternative plan to giving Petraeus $150k – a good first alternative is to not piss the money away. I’d love to play poker with you, Andrew.

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