Saturday, August 30, 2014

The American college student as cash cow

"An educational publisher wrote to me a few months back; they wanted to reprint an essay of mine that they had seen on the Internet, where it is available for free. The textbook in which they wanted to include it, they said, would be “inexpensively priced,” and authors were therefore being asked to keep their reprint fees to a minimum. The low, low price that students were to pay for this textbook: $75.95. “Approximately.”

"I was astounded, but it took just a few minutes of research to realize that $76 was, in fact, altruistic by the standards of this industry. Paying $250 for a textbook is more like it nowadays; according to one economist, textbook prices have increased 812 percent over the past thirty-five years, outstripping not only inflation (by a mile) but every other commodity—home prices, health care—that we usually consider to be spiraling out of control."

"The explanation is simple. The textbook publishers use every trick known to the marketing mind to obsolete their products year after year, thus closing off the possibility of second-hand sales. What’s more, textbook publishing is a highly concentrated industry—an oligopoly—which means they can drive prices pretty much as high as they feel like driving them. Meanwhile, the professors who assign the textbooks and who might do something about the problem don’t have to pay for them."

"Actually, that explanation isn’t simple enough. The truth is that rip-offs like this abound in academia—that virtually every aspect of the higher-ed dream has been colonized by monopolies, cartels, and other unrestrained predators—that the charmingly naive American student is in fact a cash cow, and everyone has got a scheme for slicing off a porterhouse or two."

Read the rest of Thomas Frank's scathing broadside, "Academy Fight Song," in The Baffler.

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Learn how to stand out using ethics as a competitive advantage"

Be sure to attend the ethics awards ceremony sponsored by Arizona State University's Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, where you can hear presentations by executives for Convertabath,  California Pools and Landscape, Fairytale Brownies, and Guidos Auto Service Centers.

HT Leigh Turner

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

U to injured research subjects: "Pay your own medical bills."

Let's say you volunteer for a research study at the University of Minnesota.  If you are seriously injured or disabled, who pays for your medical care?  Not the U.  Have a look at this consent form for the CATIE study, which spells it out for you.  The University of Minnesota does "not provide financial assistance for medical or other costs."

What if you're permanently disabled and can no longer work?  Will you be compensated?  Nope, afraid not. "In the event of personal injury resulting from the research procedures, financial compensation cannot be provided."

Of course, you can always sue them. (What the consent form doesn't mention, of course, is that the local courts have ruled that the U is immune from such litigation.)