Thursday, October 20, 2005

"I'm not an academic or an intellectual", but I play one in my philanthropy

No one questions Tom Monaghan's great contributions to Catholic education. However, Mr. Monaghan should recognize that he is first and foremost a philanthropist, and not an expert in academia. Well, actually he has acknowledged this in the past, but he seems to keep forgetting it. In this story from the Chronicle of Higher Education, Monaghan admits:

"I'm not an academic or an intellectual, but my early pizza stores were in college towns around the country," said Mr. Monaghan, who founded Ave Maria College, in Ypsilanti, Mich., in 1998, and Ave Maria School of Law, in Ann Arbor, a year later. "This will be the finest Catholic university we can build."

Well... We wish Ave Maria University the best in the swamplands of Florida, which is all we can do now that the decision has been made to build that school there. But we are more interested in the plight of the law school, as its fate is still hanging in the balance. So, once again we will try to show why moving the school from Ann Arbor to Florida would be such a disaster for the law school, leaving all other institutions and questions aside.

Not only does the AMSOL have 5 plus years of blood, sweat, and tears built up in Michigan, but it also competes with a top ten law school (U-M) and beats it on the MI bar each year. In addition, you have all of the academic and legal resources of Ann Arbor, as well as the legal community in nearby Detroit, which is responsible for a good deal of the internships, clerkships, and jobs for students and alumni of the school. Also, Ann Arbor provides the opportunity for guest lecturers and visiting professors from U-M and Notre Dame.

As for Florida? The AMU campus will be in the town of Ave Maria, which is currently located in the middle of nowhere. Contrary to popular conceptions, the town will not be in Naples or nearby, but 5 miles south of the closest town of Immokalee, which is a solid 1 hour drive from Naples. The nearest federal courts are in Miami, 2 hours away. Because we have no data for what type of community Ave Maria will be, we will compare Ann Arbor and Immokalee, with data from :

For population 25 years and over in Ann Arbor
High school or higher: 95.7%
Bachelor's degree or higher: 69.3%
Graduate or professional degree: 39.4%
Unemployed: 4.2%

For population 25 years and over in Immokalee
High school or higher: 24.0%
Bachelor's degree or higher: 2.5%
Graduate or professional degree: 0.4%
Unemployed: 12.0%

By my calculations, Ann Arbor has a far higher percentage of persons with graduate or professional degrees than Immokalee has high school graduates, bachelor's degrees, and graduate and professional degrees combined. Mr. Monaghan might be building what he believes to be the finest Catholic university, but what good are the most beautiful buildings and facilities a law school can have if it doesn't have any academic or legal community to support it? Yes, Mr. Monaghan, while you were a very successful businessman, you are no academic or intellectual. Please leave decisions on what is in the best interests of an academic institution to those who have actually been working in academia.


At 4:57 PM, Blogger John B. Manos said...

Labor Contracts, Nursing home bids, and Medicare.

Remember, Immokalee is home of the Taco Bell tomato farmers. Last year there was a Catholic strike organized to gain better working conditions for the farmers of Immokalee.

Collections company call centers will provide the majority of work for law students there, however. Followed by medicare administration and slip and fall claims from walker accidents.

Yes, it's an environment teeming with industrial and corporate activity.

Oh shucks, there's Immigration benefits works, too. (not immigration, but immigration benefits -- BIG DIFFERENCE)

At 4:43 AM, Blogger L. von Shtupp said...

When you examine the paltry number of real academics sitting on the Boards of Mr. Monaghan's academic institutions, it seems clear that he has no interest in listening to their input.

Success in turning a profit on pizzas or building houses for wealthy retirees doesn't earn my trust when evaluating the ability of these people to build a community centered on academics. Profit margin is not the measuring-stick here. Many would argue that AMSL has been successful, to date, due to its autonomy from Monaghan and his managers. The College, in contrast, is a realistic portrait of Monaghan's ability to screw-up an academic community... a community that had incredible talent and drove it away (for starters, Dominic Aquila, Janet Smith, Ed Peters, Ralph Martin, John Hittinger). Much could be offered as evidence of managerial incompetence, least of which is the quarter-million dollar fine from the DOE for illegally distributing federal aid to students in Naples. Fr. Fessio's bungling of Campion College, which lead to a sudden closure that stranded many students and faculty, is an indicator of his managerial skill in a start-up academic community. That's in addition to Fr. Fessio's attempted sale of AMC to Madonna University after, only weeks earlier, the College assured students that AMC would be there for them through 2007.

Those are the predictors of success that should be considered. But even if you wanted to focus on profit as the indicator of 'success', it could be argued that Mr. Monaghan earned his billion using principles quite contrary to Catholic teaching.

The AMSL alumni are being seduced, like the Board, to risk the institution for the promise of free money forever, thanks to the land bubble created by Mr. Monaghan & the Colliers. There's more to the life a successful academic community than money... much much more.

addendum: I began by called AMSL, AMC, and AMU "Mr. Monaghan's academic institutions." Strike that. He is a donor, one of many... and only one of many stakeholders in those academic communities


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