CU Finances Pt. 4 — Miscellany

Sorry for the delay, but here’s the last post in our series on the financial health of Cedarville University. In this last segment I simply want to relay some miscellaneous stuff I came across that didn’t fit really well elsewhere.

  • In case you’re curious, when Cedarville went Baptist in 1953, tuition was $58/hr; when my dad enrolled it was $163; by the time I got in it was $314 and by the time I got out it was $656/hr.
  • The number of CU employees paid more than a $50k salary has steadily increased in recent years, with a total of 207 in ’06-’07.
  • Anybody familiar with Cedarville knows we’ve had some legal trouble recently, which is clearly represented on the tax forms: we paid $38k in 2003, but it quickly escalates to almost $305k by ’06-’07. The bulk of that goes to CU’s lead attorney David Haffey, who makes $200k.
  • Dr. Brown’s salary increases the longer his tenure (understandably), and in ’06-’07 was at almost $228k including benefits & expense account. This is below average for our sister schools, which usually paid $242k+ to their president. The best-paid was Wheaton’s ($498k) followed by Biola ($404k); worst was Grace ($85k) and then BBC ($143k).
  • I couldn’t find good information on faculty salaries, but for most of the schools it was possible to determine the highest paid professors. Average salary for the top earner was $133k; CU’s made $112k (Dr. Irene Alyn). I’d imagine Wheaton pays pretty generously, but I couldn’t get numbers — the most I did find was from Masters, whose top earner made a bit over $205k.
  • I don’t know why, but our contract with Pioneer Caterers (ie, Chuck’s) spiked upward sharply after the ’02-’03 year — it went from $1.77M to $3.09M, and it’s hovered in this three-million-ish range ever since.
Too bad none of this made it into Cedars. If it were all cleaned up, edited, and graphed/charted out nicely it could’ve made for a great spread. I imagine the new incarnation of Cedars (coming 2010) will revert to its modus operandi from the 20th century — ie, all safe news and “omg isn’t teh opposite sex confusing?!” type editorials. Shame.

CU Finances Pt. 2 — Financial Aid

It seems counter-intuitive that in a bad recession Cedarville University would deliberately increase the cost of attendance so dramatically. Yet their explanation for this is that more money will be diverted to financial aid to ease the burden of needy students. Their already-established goal is to increase aid by 20% every year, though since ’02-’03 they’ve only averaged a 16.4% yearly increase. But things may be looking up: in ’07-’08 (the last years I could find numbers for), aid was increased almost 22% over the previous year, coming out to $13.1M in total. CU is proud of this, and also touts the increase in aid as “over 100% in the last 5 years.” This, of course, depends on which five they’re counting & whether or not they adjusted for inflation. Unadjusted, they hit this number almost any way you slice it. However, if properly adjusted then it could be a different story: if they’re using numbers from ’07-’08, then in the last 5 years financial aid only increased 85.9%. Of course, it’s not unreasonable to assume they have the ’08-’09 numbers, on which I can only speculate. In order for their claim to be true however, they would need a 21% increase which — as mentioned above — is above what they’ve typically done. So it’s possible, and we can certainly hope it’s true.

Historically, however, Cedarville has not been known as a FinAid-friendly school. Among 53 CCCU schools surveyed by Noel-Levitz, CU ranked dead last on the category “Adequate financial aid is available for most students.”

The last school year for which tax forms are available (the non-profit 990’s) is 2006-2007, so we can do a comparative analysis for that year. CU has a list of “sister schools” that it routinely compares itself to; I analyzed 15 of these, plus I also added John Brown University. As always, these numbers are in 2009 dollars (click to enlarge):

For an average student, between 24.6-25.9% (mean/median) of the cost of attendence is mitigated by financial aid — CU’s reputation is warranted given its average of 15.65%. However, CU’s costs are slightly below the average of $28.1/$26.7k. The numbers for Grace College in Indiana certainly jump out, where costs are below par but where you’ll get virtually no financial assistance. Part of the reason for this is that the school itself is not financially healthy — as you’ll see in our next installment, it’s one of only two colleges on this list which did not turn a profit in ’06-’07… Can you guess the other one?

Cedarville By the Numbers

The epic Cedars article I was working on before being laid off was a piece loosely centered around next year’s tuition hike. My task was to research CU’s finances to provide some context and do a comparative analysis with other similar schools. The project was about 85% completed when we got axed, so I’m going to use this blog as a platform to publish my research. This will likely be a multi-post series.

In this first part, I want to simply show the average cost — an estimate CU publishes that includes tuition/room/board — since the school’s inception (adjusted for inflation of course).

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Moar Ceedurrrs Dramas

A brief history of Cedars, Cedarville University’s student newspaper, circa 2008-2009:

September ’08: We start publishing. A deliberate effort is made to add conservative voices to the Viewpoints section.

October ’08: I write an editorial criticizing Gov. Sarah Palin. Paige Patterson, a CU trustee, is not very amused and tells the board as much. I develop a mancrush on Monsieur Patterson.

November ’08: Obama beats McCain and campus sinks into deep depression over fears of our new-elected, coke-addled Communist dictator.

December ’08: CU gives its Public Relations department, namely Sharyn Kopf, final approval for every issue. Obviously, certain articles then get cut because they do not fit the proper Cedarville image/experience/lifestyle/voice. New school tagline: “An 18-credit Bible minor and suppression of dissent? That’s so Cedarville!”

February ’09: I write an editorial that documents the non-existence of a “liberal agenda” in Cedars. It is seemingly well-received by faculty & staff, but no word from the board.

March ’09: My colleague Sarah Jones publishes an editorial arguing that “modesty panels” are ridiculous and that, per Jesus, the blame for lust lies with the beholder, not the beholden. ENTIRE SCHOOL FLIPS OUT. Straw, meet camel’s back.

April ’09: CU Provost John Gredy, in conjunction with the Board of Trustees, effectively shuts down Cedars and I am laid off work. Remaining issue is canceled; faculty advisor (and U2 guru) Scott Calhoun resigns in protest; Cedars is put on hiatus until at least Spring 2010 and moved from the Lang. & Lit Dept to the Comm. Arts Dept.

When CU’s administration was questioned on its opposition to free speech (in the theoretical, not legal, sense), they replied: “We did it all for the lulz.” Hard to fault them for that.

Update: What was to be my last article for Cedars — before this fiasco came to a head — can be found online here as part one of a four-part series. The series is proof-positive that paying me $7.25/hr was a travesty.

Poor People Suck

The must-read article of the month is Michael Lewis’ “The End of Wall Street’s Boom.” It is a superb account of our economic crisis and how we got here, as seen through the eyes of a handful of people who predicted it. I thought about quoting snippets, but decided I’d end up quoting most of the piece: it’s really good. After reading this article I went and also read Lewis’ 1989 book Liar’s Poker, the story of his four successful years at Saloman Brothers up to and around the 1987 crash. Though 20 years old by now, it still felt fresh in light of today’s recession.

Lewis’ Portfolio article also serves an unintended purpose: sufficient refutation of the notion that stupid, greedy, lower-to-middle class homebuyers are primarily to blame for our present troubles. This, of course, has been a persistent theme during the last six months and represents standard class prejudice. America hates its poor.
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Make Your Predictions

Time to call it: I’m predicting 292 electoral votes for Mr. Barack. Leave your predictions in the comments. Whomever guesses closest is a communist gets some sort of prize. The prize may or may not be a personal dinner with Pres. Obama, or an Obama Candy Bar, or just bragging rights.

Also, this is amazing: Alan Greenspan has admitted that the free market sucks ass. Or something similar. I wrote in Cedars a couple weeks ago that this current economic mess should cause a crisis of faith for freewheeling free market fundamentalists. I’m glad Mr. Greenspan is a fan of my column.
“You know why the ‘invisible hand’ is invisible? Because it doesn’t exist.”

My new Cedars articles (due Oct. 30th) are uninspired, but sometimes that’s just how the cookie crumbles. One piece is a review of Illuminated World’s “The Book: New Testament”. The other is an article begging students not to vote based on complete lies: Obama is a Muslim, Obama has a fake birth certificate, Obama hates the national anthem, and so forth. I ended by suggesting they utilize sites like Political Compass to find out which candidate more closely shared their own views. All I’m looking for is one person to say “Hey I’m still voting for McCain, but thanks to you I’m no longer voting based on blatant lies about Obama.”

Look Ma, I’m makin’ friends!

Some people were apparently less than amused with my last Cedars article:

This was mailed to me on Wednesday. The unsigned note says “Do You have eany Idea how Many Good Men Died for your freedom of speech. This is how you honor Their Memory. I bet you Feel Proud.”
College-level reasoning at its best! Come on kids, $25k a year can give you the same stellar education!

My week

It’s March! I’m going to make it through this year if it kills me. Want to know how my week went? Ok cool.

On Monday Laura & I saw Barack Obama at WSU:

He is a good man and he’ll be president in 11 months.

On Tuesday Dennis sent me this photo:
How does this glorify God?
This was posted in the Student Center on an Air Force ROTC ad. Neither of us know who stuck the note there, but it made my day.

On Wednesday I watched Once:

I fell in love with Marketa Irglova.On Thursday my friends and I showed The Corporation on campus:

Over 35 students showed up and I think they found it eye-opening.On Friday I watched Taxi to the Dark Side:

If there’s a physical lake of fire for everlasting torment, then Bush will surely be there. I would love to show this film on campus too, but this school isn’t ready. We will be showing No End in Sight in mid-March though.

My Cedars article this week was fairly mediocre, made worse by haphazard editing that was beyond my control that left it fairly incoherent & disjointed. I may post more of my writing here at a later time since the truth is, somebody’s opened the spigot and the Cedars bucket can’t keep up.

Derrida-Claiborne-Jesus redux

I want to talk a little bit about my Derrida-Claiborne-Jesus essay. Over the last week I’ve kept thinking about a quote from Jean-Luc Marion that says “Theology renders its author hypocritical… One must obtain forgiveness for every essay in theology.” I take that seriously, and so it’s with fear and trembling that I’ve submitted it to Cedars for the February 14th issue. The final version — shorter, tighter, improved — can be found here if you’re interested. If Cedars hasn’t tired of my liberalism, my next piece for them will probably also concern war & peace.

I would encourage those of you intrigued by the Derrida discussion to consider reading Live Theory: Jacques Derrida by James K.A. Smith. Even the brief bits I referenced may provide food for further thought. E.g. is it possible to deconstruct all binaries? (Or more accurately, find within the binaries how they auto-deconstruct themselves) I’ve hinted before at how we might deconstruct natural/supernatural, but what about other tricky ones… like being/non-being? Saved/unsaved? Furthermore, does an unconditional openness to the Other mean rejecting determinate religions altogether — ie, the “religion without religion” of Mark C Taylor, John Caputo, etc?

My article also owes a small debt to, of all people, David Foster Wallace for his brief essay in The Atlantic Monthly entitled Just Asking. DFW considers the safety vs. freedom trade-off and sides with freedom, just as I (coming from a different angle) have sided with unconditional hospitality in its dispute with safety. This idea is more profound the deeper into it you dig… and since it is not an idea original with me, I also am continuing to dig and uncover its radical implications.

P.S. — bonus war coverage: Where’s the Iraqi Voice? by Noam Chomsky

Derrida via Claiborne

Like many students, I was saddened to learn on January 30th that Shane Claiborne’s expected campus event had been canceled. In one sense it was simply disappointing that we missed an opportunity to listen and dialogue with Claiborne in person. More importantly, the incident was disappointing in what it revealed about the “forces for status quo” (to use John Edwards’ phrase), or the length to which the foot soldiers of legalistic fundamentalism will go in order to silence an “ordinary radical” whose message of love, peace, and justice are simply too extreme for this campus. Personally, I’m particularly drawn to Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution because it seems to me an important picture of “The Great Law of Hospitality”; that is, the ethics of Jacques Derrida.

The juxtaposition of Shane Claiborne and Jacques Derrida is, at first blush, more than a little odd: one a young American hippie, the other a deceased French theorist. However, Derrida’s connection to Claiborne and Derrida’s immense relevance to this campus is perhaps best encapsulated in his claim that “ethics is hospitality.” For Derrida, unconditionally welcoming the foreigner — the Other — is the very meaning of justice.

As he tells the story, the history of philosophy or Western ideas is the history of exclusion. All the way back to the Ancient Greeks, it is a history that is hell-bent on erecting binaries: male/female, rational/irrational, objective/subjective, inside/outside, presence/absence, fact/opinion, and so forth. The former is always privileged and the latter always sidelined, dominated, oppressed. To be male, rational & factual, was supposedly clearly superior to being female, irrational & opinionated. Derrida’s goal, among and with many others, is to subvert — he says “deconstruct” — this traditional arrangement to demonstrate the inter-dependence of both concepts. For example, it does not make sense to speak of being inside unless there is an outside with whom it is contrasted; there are also spaces which destabilize the binary even more by being both/neither inside and outside. Derrida does not want to invert the binary, so that being outside is better/greater than being inside, but rather make the two live in tension between the forces of violence that would pull them apart or have one subjugate the Other.

Most relevantly to us today, we need to see that the marginalized Other in our society is undoubtedly the sick, the poor, the downtrodden, the impoverished, the “least of these.” In the face of these, Derrida calls us to an impossible task: unconditional hospitality. The impossibility of such a demand is the very condition of the call itself, the very reason it ought to nag us by day and haunt us at night. Furthermore, this call contains in itself immense risk: there is no guarantee that an unqualified openness to the Other won’t bring personal danger, harm, tragedy. This is justice, Derrida says, for it invites the foreigner inside (our home, our space, our koinos, our heart) without question and without demand.

Enter Shane Claiborne. For I am convinced that Irresistible Revolution, a humble book that is certainly otherwise than philosophy, sketches a brilliant picture of what a life of unconditional hospitality might look like. Claiborne’s simple call is to love; love deeply, generously, excessively. Most importantly, do this to the unlovable.

Last fall, after reading Claiborne’s book, I attempted to commit myself to giving and welcoming unconditionally. One night I went to Dayton to spend on a 2-hour movie what one billion humans earn as a week’s wage. As I left The Neon I was approached by Jesus, disguised as a beleaguered white woman and her boyfriend. I don’t remember whether it was to see a long-lost brother or just escape the impending winter, but she wanted bus tickets and so I gave her money and wished them well. Not 20 feet onward I came across Jesus again, this time in the form of a scraggly black man who wanted to eat at Arby’s. There’s no doubt that the beggar and I should’ve shared a meal together, but opening my arms to a dirty Jesus seemed more difficult and so I just gave him some bills. The third time I saw Jesus was just minutes later, when a beggar began heading towards me from a ways down the sidewalk. I immediately began to think of excuses: that the price of my evening had already doubled, that I was “poor” too, that I “needed” to get home, that giving unconditionally was just getting to be too hard. And so I turned a blind eye and crossed to the other side of the street. Was there ever a more disgusting, obviously Pharisaical act? That my Savior passed His three tests, that He died on the cross, that He rose again on the third day, that is only what saves a wretch like me.

You see what Derrida and Claiborne were driving at is an ethical demand that’s too radical for us to handle, almost even comprehend. It was just as radical 2000 years ago when a Nazarene carpenter first proclaimed these truths. The Sermon on the Mount is so outrageous that it’s still unwelcome today, banned even from our Christian university. For if we truly unconditionally welcomed the Other — the unwanted, the marginalized, the destitute, even our enemies — our lives would require such radical re-constitution that we’d be shaken to the core. Wouldn’t we as individuals, as communities, as towns, and as a nation ultimately conduct ourselves very, very differently? Would we any longer bless the pre-emptive war-mongers, so that they might inherit the earth? Would we any longer tolerate cowboy imperialism, pretending that it represents the kingdom of heaven? Does unconditional hospitality erect a 2000-mile fence to keep out Unwanteds and Outsiders? Does unconditional giving mean HMO bureaucracy just to treat a sick child? To turn the other cheek and to give (not invest) our last dollar: these are the demands of that wandering Christ we claim to follow. Welcoming — not bombing — the poor, tired, and huddled masses is undoubtedly a risky proposition. Our Jesus, however, does not call us to safety or economic efficiency; He calls us to love. It’s so simple. To love extravagantly beyond all measure, because that is how our Father in Heaven loves us. This is a love that can transform my life, and yours, and all of us here at this Christ-ian university, so that next time Jesus wants to visit us in the disguise of a long-haired hippie from Philadelphia we unequivocally say Yes, please. Welcome.