Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Is NACUBO legal?

By Richard Vedder

If the CFOs of leading competing corporations got together to discuss things like common purchasing of materials, investment practices, etc., the Department of Justice would no doubt file a suit about collusive practices under the anti-trust laws. When colleges do it, it is business as usual. The organization representing these people is NACUBO --the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Question du jour: why would a meeting of Ford, GM and Chrysler CFOs be viewed as illegal under the Sherman and Clayton Acts, while one of college financial and business officers is not?

Actually, I think the anti-trust laws are archaic and ineffective, so I am not really pushing for anti-trust harassment of colleges. But I think we need to start monitoring the behavior of groups like this. Andrew Cuomo is doing that. From the INSIDE HIGHER ED account I read, vendors were still giving away iPods and fancy dinners to their clients. They "sponsored" events. The potential for corruption is huge, and accountability is limited.

I actually have a second beef with NACUBO. It collects great data --yet it does not make it available to policymakers or the interested public. It fights transparency. Yet it exists in part indirectly from public subsidies of institutions that send persons to these meetings and pay their fees to attend. Should that not trigger the release of NACUBO gathered data on college revenues, expenditures, endowments, etc.?

Speaking of transparency, our last blog on the topic triggered an INSIDE HIGHER ED mention today. I think Scott Jaschik was a tad bit annoyed that the ALEC proposed model legislation was not released to him, because it is still a working document that has only undergone preliminary, not final, approval by ALEC. I understand his frustration, and personally if I were in charge I would have probably released it. But the feeling on the powers to be was that until the document was approved, it should not be released. That is not an unreasonable position, and my guess is that when ALEC officially decides on this matter, the text will be readily made available to the press.

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