Showing posts with label Lieutenant John Pike. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lieutenant John Pike. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Things Universities Don't Want to Talk About: It's Time for a Freedom of Information Act for American Colleges That Participate in the Federal Student Loan Program

LSU President King Alexander recently told a Rotary Club audience that the cost of attending Louisiana State University is very reasonable.  For the many students who receive one of Louisiana's TOPS scholarship, the cost is only about $1,000 a year for housing and other costs, according to President Alexander.
LSU President King Alexander:
It only costs a TOPS student a thousand bucks a year to attend LSU.  Really?
But that's not accurate. In a letter to the editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate, Elizabeth Welsh, a Baton Rouge homemaker, corrected LSU's president.  The true cost for a TOPS student attending LSU is between $2,000 and $3,000 per semester, Welsh pointed out--at least four times President Alexander's figure. 

How did Ms. Welsh figure out Alexander's numbers were wrong? By drawing on her family's own experience with a child in college and by looking at housing costs posted online at LSU's web site.

President Alexander's recent misstatement is just another example of the modern university's tendency to hide the truth.  LSU, after all, is the same university that refuses to disclose the names of people who applied for the LSU president's job that Alexander now holds.

Some more examples? George Washington University recently admitted that it had not told the truth when it represented that it had a needs-blind admission policy.  Sorry about that.

UC Davis refused to explain the circumstances under which Lieutenant John Pike, the guy who pepper-sprayed non-offending students in November,2011, left university employment.  Was he fired? Did UC Davis pay him off? Who knows? UC Davis won't talk.

And then there's Ohio State University, which was embarrassed to disclose how much it was paying OSU President Gordon Gee.  It took an Ohio newspaper about a year to pry that information out of the university after it filed a Freedom of Information request.

And remember Harvard Law School's refusal a few years ago to disclose which of its professors was a Native American, although it represented that one faculty member was an Indian? Why the reticence? I suspect it was because it was counting Professor Elizabeth Warren as a Native American, when in fact she is not.  Oops!

Finally, there's the College Board, which speaks for higher education in general.  In a report issued earlier this month, it actually represented that the cost of attending a private nonprofit college had  gone down over the past ten years, in spite of the fact that tuition at a private college has gone up almost every year for the past 30 years.

How did the College Board justify that whopper?  By distinguishing between the sticker price of attending college (going up) and the so-called net price, which the College Board said has gone down a bit after tax benefits, grants, scholarships, and inflation are taken into account. Of course not every student gets those scholarships, grants, and tax breaks.  You--Mr. and Ms. sucker--are probably paying the sticker price.

Why do colleges and their constituent organizations continually hide the facts about their activities? Two reasons.  First, they are accountable to no one and don't care if they get caught in a misstatement or an embarrassing activity. Do you think King Alexander cares about being corrected by a Baton Rouge homemaker?

Second, the upper echelons of American higher education are contemptuous of the American people.  Like Colonel Jessup who screamed "You can't handle the truth!" in A Few Good Men, they don't think Americans deserve to know the facts about the way their universities are being run.

That's why we need a federal Freedom of Information Act that requires all colleges and universities receiving federal funds to publicly disclose a whole range of their activities including the way they choose their executive leaders, their affirmative action practices, their admissions policies, and the way they distribute scholarships and student aid.

Until they are required by law to do so, American universities will continue to behave like Lois Lerner, the IRS administrator who assured Congress she had nothing wrong and then took the Fifth Amendment.
Lois Lerner of IRS
Not taking any questions


Koran Addo. LSU President calls for reinvestment in higher education. The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, October 17, 2013. Accessible at:

Elizabeth Welsh. LSU cost numbers don't add up. The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, October 29, 2013, p. 8B.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lack of Accountability in Higher Education: Revisiting the UC Davis Pepper-Spray Incident

People complain all the time about American higher education. They say it is too expensive and the quality is declining. Reports come out frequently that unfavorably compare the skill level of American workers to the skill levels of workers in other countries. Nevertheless, for the past 30 years, the cost of higher education in the U.S. has risen faster than the annual inflation rate.

I contend that a lot of higher education's troubles stem from lack of accountability.  Colleges and universities demand more and more every year, and yet we don't hold college and university leaders accountable for their actions. The UC Davis pepper spray incident supports my point.

You recall what happened. In November 2011, Lieutenant John Pike, a UC Davis police officer, pepper-sprayed non-threatening students who were sitting on a sidewalk as part of an Occupy Wall Street demonstration.  The incident went viral, and a You Tube video of the event was visited more than a million times.

The  University of California produced two lengthy reports to examine what happened, one at the campus level and one by the UC system.  Experts and lawyers were hired, and both reports concluded that UC Davis officers acted wrongly when they pepper sprayed students.  In fact, the officers had not be trained how to use the  particular form of pepper spray that was used in the attacks.

The student victims sued, and UC settled with them for about $1 million.  Lieutenant John Pike, the chief offender, was put on administrative leave and later left university employment under undisclosed terms.  The local district attorney determined there were insufficient grounds to prosecute him.

And now we learn that the University of California paid Lieutenant Pike $38,000 in settlement of his Worker Compensation claim.  Yes, Pike filed a claim for unspecified psychiatric and nervous system damages arising from the pepper spray incident that he himself initiated.  Lieutenant Pike should have been fired.  Instead he gets a check for $38,000.

Of course this is outrageous.  And it is also outrageous that UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi was not held accountable for this shameful incident.

UC Davis had already been sued for misusing pepper spray in a 2004 incident in which Timothy Nelson, a UC Davis student, lost sight in one eye after being hit by pepper spray projectiles fired by UC Davis police officers.  The Ninth Circuit ruled that reasonable law enforcement officers would have known in 2004 that it was constitutionally unreasonable to fire pepper spray projectiles at nonthreatening college students.

Apparently UC Davis learned nothing from the 2004 incident because in 2011 UC Davis police used pepper spray again on nonthreatening students--pepper spray UC Davis had not trained its officers to use.

No one was held accountable for this disgraceful event, although President Katehi did apologize. "I feel horrible for what happened Friday," Katehi told a group of students.  "If you think you don't want to be students of the university we had on Friday, I'm just telling you, I don't want to be the chancellor of the university we had on Friday."  Then she lawyered up and appointed a commission to study the event.

So if you want to know why American higher education is in trouble, just reflect on the UC Davis pepper spray incident.  A university president should be held accountable for incidents like the one that happened in November 2011.  Yet President Katehi is still in charge. 

And what is Chancellor Katehi's salary? She makes about $400,000 in base salary, twice as much as the Governor of California.


Christopher Edley & C. F. Robinson 2012). Response to Protests on UC Campuses. University of California.
 Richard Fossey. Nelson v. City of Davis: Campus Police Officers Who Injure Nonthreatening Student with Pepper Spray May be Committing a Constitutional Offense. Teachers College Record Online, October 5, 2012. Accessible at:

Gordon, L. (2012, September 13). UC to pay settlement in Davis pepper spray case. Los Angeles Times (online edition).

Steve Gorman. University of California cop who pepper sprayed student protesters awarded $38,000. Reuters, October 23. Accessible at:

Judy Lin. Linda Katehi, UC Davis Chancellor, Apologizes for Pepper Spray Incident. Huffington Post, November 22,2013.  Accessible at:

Nelson v. City of Davis, 685 F.3d 867 (9th Cir. 2012).

Smith, D. (2012, September 20). Yolo DA won’t file charges in UCD pepper-spraying. Sacramento Bee (online edition).

Stripling, J. (2012, April 11). Scathing report on UC-Davis pepper-spray incident faults chancellor and police.Chronicle of Higher Education (online edition).