The Mount St. Mary’s story is just so terrible
I’m sure many of you have heard the story that a tenured professor, as well as a non-tenured professor, were fired recently by the president, Simon Newman, of Mount St. Mary’s school in Maryland.
The short version: Newman, a private equity asshole, got confused as to where he was working and decided to fire anyone who disagreed with him, referring to disloyalty as the cause.
The specific “act of disloyalty” one of the professors made was to allow a student newspaper to report a (true) comment the president didn’t want made public, namely:
“This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t,” Mr. Newman is quoted as saying. “You just have to drown the bunnies.” He added, “Put a Glock to their heads.”
OK, gross and shocking.
But personally, I was even more disgusted by the story behind this story, namely his underlying plan to get rid of students for the sake of improving the college’s “retention rate” and thus its ranking on the US News & World Reports College rankings, that scourge of higher education.
The original article from the student newspaper explains Newman’s unfuckingbelievable plan. From the article:
Mount St. Mary’s University, like all colleges and universities in the U.S., is required by the federal government to submit the number of students enrolled each semester. The Mount’s cutoff date for the Fall 2015 semester was Sept. 25, and the number of students enrolled as of that date would be the number used to compute the Mount’s student retention.
Newman was obsessed with getting rid of students and revealed this in an email:
Newman’s email continued: “My short term goal is to have 20-25 people leave by the 25th [of Sep.]. This one thing will boost our retention 4-5%. A larger committee or group needs to work on the details but I think you get the objective.”
How was he going to achieve this number?
The president’s plan to “cull the class” involved using a student survey that was developed in the president’s office and administered during freshman orientation.
The survey was going to be given to students and started out by describing itself as “based on some of the leading thinking in the area of personal motivation and key factors that determine motivation, success, and happiness. We will ask you some questions about yourself that we would like you to answer as honestly as possible. There are no wrong answers.”
The actual plan for the results of the survey were a bit different – they would be used to help compile a list of students to get rid of before the deadline. Just so gross, and a wonderful example of how an algorithm can be used for good or evil. Please read the rest of the article, it’s amazing journalism.
Holy crap, people, this gaming of the US News & World Reports model has got to stop, this shit is nuts. And it makes me wonder how many other places are doing stuff like this and not getting caught. I mean, at least at this university the president was stupid enough to tell the professors the plan, right?