Taking Pennsylvania’s fleecing to a wider audience (Temple Japan)

Same boring topic people, sorry! It’s the weekend, so my hit count is down like everyone else in the blog world.

People point out to me that writing in depth about whether Temple Japan makes or loses money does little good. I agree. You should know, or remember if you do, that Temple University is a complicated and highly political place. Like my saying goes, “Temple does some wonderful things; but in other ways it really smells.”

The Japan financing, to me, is one of the smells. There is one aspect of this that goes to the issue of Temple University cronyism. Many universities have this, but it has been high art at Temple, since it’s partly independent and partly government funded.

Let me say what I have to, but there is a twist at the end.

Temple Japan was strongly pushed by the former Law School Dean, Robert Reinstein. At some point, he slotted Adelaide Ferguson in a role as director of the international programs, which sounds like it was a high-paid role, but one where you have to guess how much was Pennsylvania money, and how much came from overseas tuitions. Indeed, even in semi-retirement, Ms. Ferguson is going around pitching herself as a consultant to other schools in this kind of endeavor. No schools seem to do this, though, because it doesn’t make any sense.

Now, where did Adelaide Ferguson come from? Well, other than being a Temple alumna (i.e. graduate from the undergraduate division), Adelaide Ferguson was also Mrs. Alan Lerner.

Who was Alan Lerner? Robert Reinstein’s friend.

Coincidentally, Robert Reinstein retired as dean of Temple Law School, and Ms. Ferguson also left her role as Vice President of International Affairs, if Linked-In has it right.

Alan Lerner was a civil rights activist who went down to Mississippi in that summer where the three young men got killed by thugs for trying to help out black people. He graduated Penn Law and inevitably became a Penn Law professor. At some point before then, Robert Reinstein and Alan Lerner worked on one of those cases about keeping religious clubs from using school property, Bender v. Williamsport Area School District. It was one of these 1980’s early wedge issue cases where the American Jewish Congress and Anti-Defamation League of B’Nai Brith submitted a brief supporting keeping the religious clubs off public school property. Bob Reinstein and Alan Lerner were on the brief.

This is not to say that Ms. Ferguson didn’t have some unique talent. But she was also Mrs. Alan Lerner. So when it came time to do some hiring at Temple Law, how wide do you think that talent search was?

Anyway.

So this international program develops, and, as I’ve been saying, I think it just kept eating money. The indications are that it continues to do so. But no one was or is going to pull the plug on it, because it grew to be its own “unique” thing. The part that is rent, that you can’t pin down in the financials, say, has been $2 million a year. Over 28 years, that’s $56 million out the door. That’s a drop in the bucket on Temple’s overall balance sheet, which also includes one of Philadelphia’s major hospital systems. Pennsylvania pumps in money at the rate of $1.8 billion per decade. Again, is this really fair to taxpayers? To the workers at hospitals taken over by Temple who are sent out the door?

And what exactly is Temple doing with a Vice President of International Affairs? This is a state-supported school. It should really have a person whose job is to make sure Pennsylvania gets the best deal for the money going in. (They probably have someone, at least, whose title suggests that. Maybe friend of a friend.)

Well, of course I’d like to really just throw in that obvious zinger conclusion to this, but in doing my due diligence for the post, I learned that Professor Alan Lerner died earlier this month, of leukemia, at age 68. (Rather young these days.)

Robert Reinstein in the Legal Intelligencer:

Temple Law School’s former dean, Professor Robert J. Reinstein paid tribute to Alan Lerner, a civil rights lawyer and Penn professor. “‘Alan was one of the world’s good guys…He really represented what was best about the legal profession…When you spent time with him, you wanted to be a better person,’ Reinstein said. As a teacher, according to Reinstein, Lerner was also a role model to his students, inspiring them to share his passion for civil rights causes.”

So may Alan Lerner rest in piece.

Temple, like I say, is a complicated place.