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28 More Academic Scandals
This is the 6th installment, in what has become a regular series.
One criticism I have gotten on this series is “how are you different from Retraction Watch”? Fair question. The main difference is that RW skews their content heavily towards science/STEM, whereas I mostly ignore STEM in favor of social sciences, with a particular emphasis on economics. So while I do sprinkle in a STEM scandals, sometimes, perhaps a more apt name for this series would be “33 social science scandals” — also, not everything I cover is a “scandal”, per se, sometimes I just blog about random stories, so an even better name for this series might be “33 social science stories”.
The other big difference is that RW focuses solely on academic dishonesty, cheating, plagiarism, retractions, etc. whereas I cover that stuff too, I tend to also blog about bigger picture stuff like culture wars or the odd salacious sex scandal (like that UPenn professor last month who got caught having sex with his dog).
The main reason I keep writing this series is that I spend so much time on Twitter and other social media surrounded by academics tweeting about academic scandals, it makes sense for me to curate them as I see them pop up.
#1: Adrien Matray fails upward (or at least, sideways)
To underscore the occasional overlap between my coverage and that of Retraction Watch, I will point towards this article I wrote on June 19th:
BREAKING: American Economic Review retracts Princeton economics professor's paper due to "coding error"
A month after my article, on July 18th, Retraction Watch reported on the same incident:
Their article does not add anything new, until the end, where it notes that Matray did not respond to an email from Retraction Watch, but “after this story was published, Adrien Matray responded to our emails, saying they had been lost in his spam filter.”
In his message, [Matray] emphasized that the study had been retracted because of the two alterations to the code discussed in the retraction notice, not because its main conclusions did not hold.
Matray is lying. His conclusions do not hold.
He also wrote that “there was no evidence that the standard policy for comments, in which external referees are required to weigh in on the initial comment and any response I have, was followed.”
Bullshit. Your code is fraudulent, dude, and all you can resort to is kvetching about the policies and procedures that led to your fraud being uncovered.
Matray said that the authors of the comment may have a conflict of interest, since one of their working papers examined related reforms and did not find any effects. Their paper has not been published in a journal.
Bullshit. And not only is this last part bullshit, it really makes me think less of Matray because he is not only defending himself, he is attacking the team that uncovered his fraud, accusing *them* of being corrupt. Stop gaslighting, Adrien.
He said that a supplemental note on his website addresses “the conceptual flaw in the specification that the authors of the comment present as their most compelling evidence of the lack of results in my paper.”
Bullshit. Matray maliciously altered specifications post-acceptance and refrained from acknowledging this act. He wrote fraudulent code intended to deceive.
His tenure prospects have apparently been impacted by this scandal — since I published my article, he updated his CV to say that he will transition from AP at Princeton to VAP at Stanford GSB for the academic year 2023-2024. Stanford: why invite such a crook? This is clear signal of the Econ mafia circling the wagons to protect him.
#2: Shameless Stanford Plug
Since the first 4 “scandals” in this article concern Stanford University, I would be remiss if I did not plug my speech at Stanford University in 60 days from now:
#3: New Stanford Provost
Stanford Law Dean Jenny Martine has been named Stanford provost — the #2 person at a university in charge of all the academic programs. I have no opinions on her, because I have never heard of her. For a glowing perspective see: Dean Who Defended Free Speech Is Named Provost of Stanford U, and for a scathing perspective see: Stanford Law School Dean Jenny Martinez’s promotion to Provost of the University = Whitewashing.
The attempt to dress up Jenny Martinez’ hire as a signal to other universities that she upholds free speech is performative. Nothing has been done to admonish those involved in the creation of Stanford’s secret “Harmful language guide” or other alleged censorship of free speech.
#4: POTUS of Stanford University resigns in disgrace
This is the biggest academic scandal of the summer, but for some reason, I can’t bring myself to care much about it. Here are some new mainstream articles:
Stanford University president announces resignation over concerns about his research (Associated Press)
Stanford President Will Resign After Report Found Flaws in His Research
Stanford President Resigns (Inside Higher Ed)
Stanford president to resign over concerns about integrity of his research (The Guardian)
Even better than that MSM coverage is, a professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco:
#5: POTUS of Aizu University resigns in disgrace
The president of Aizu University in Japan has resigned after two investigations found he had self-plagiarized or double-submitted a dozen papers.
#6: TAMU POTUS resigns in disgrace
CNN — Texas A&M University president M. Katherine Banks resigned Thursday amid controversy over the school’s failed attempt to hire a new professor to lead its journalism program.
Banks’ decision came after the Faculty Senate announced its own plans to investigate why the school announced the hiring of journalist and professor Kathleen McElroy, only to change the terms of her proposed employment dramatically.
“The recent challenges regarding Dr. McElroy have made it clear to me that I must retire immediately,” Banks said in a letter to the Chancellor of the Texas A&M University System. “The negative press is a distraction from the wonderful work being done here.”
#7: Bloodbath at WVU
West Virginia's leading land-grant university, facing a $45 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2024, has decided to cut 9% of its majors (a total of 32 programs). This includes the elimination of all foreign language programs, eliminating the Math PhD program, and a reduction of 16% in full-time faculty members, which amounts to 169 positions.
West Virginia University Banked on Growth. It Backfired. (WSJ)
Everyone at West Virginia University Knew Something Was Up. I Hate That We Were Right. (Slate)
West Virginia Says It’s Too Poor To Support Its Only Major University (Forbes)
Slashing Its Budget, West Virginia University Asks, What Is Essential? (NYT)
A Flagship Research University… Without Language Degrees or Math Ph.D.s? (Inside Higher ed)
The Evisceration of a Public University (The Nation)
I've seen several math professors expressing dismay. My hot take is that WVU is doing these kids a favor by eliminating the WVU math PhD program. I can’t imagine their placements were any good.
Here are some Substack articles on this:
#8: Small West Virginia university declares bankruptcy
Things are not looking so hot in West Virginia…
A small, private university in West Virginia declared bankruptcy on Thursday, a month after announcing that it planned to stop operating.
Alderson Broaddus University filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the state's northern district. According to the filing, the university estimated it had between $1 million and $10 million in total assets, liabilities of between $10 million and $50 million and owed money to between 100 and 199 creditors.
The filing was signed by Alderson Broaddus interim president Andrea Bucklew. The Chapter 7 filing would allow the university to liquidate its assets. The campus community was notified of the decision, the university said in a statement.
Expect more of these crappy little colleges to shut down as the looming demographic cliff hits, which I have written about here:
#9: Doctoral chemistry student at the University of Southern Florida poisons neighbor
Xuming Li, 36, complained about his neighbor’s newborn baby, the dryer door and the toilet closing and flushing, so he used a “laboratory on the University of South Florida campus to mix a [liquid chemical agent contained a combination of methadone and hydrocodone — both opioid pain medications] and load liquid syringes on multiple occasions with the intent to harm residents of the condominium.”
#10: College Presidents Plan Coordinated, Urgent Action To Champion Free Expression On U.S. Campuses
#11: Paper: Economists are mentally ill
We study the mental health of graduate students and faculty at 14 Economics departments in Europe. Using clinically validated surveys sent out in the fall of 2021, we find that 34.7% of graduate students experience moderate to severe symptoms of depression or anxiety and 17.3% report suicidal or self-harm ideation in a two-week period. Only 19.2% of students with significant symptoms are in treatment. 15.8% of faculty members experience moderate to severe depression or anxiety symptoms, with prevalence higher among nontenure track (42.9%) and tenure track (31.4%) faculty than tenured (9.6%) faculty. We estimate that the COVID-19 pandemic accounts for about 74% of the higher prevalence of depression symptoms and 30% of the higher prevalence of anxiety symptoms in our European sample relative to a 2017 U.S. sample of economics graduate students. We also document issues in the work environment, including a high incidence of sexual harassment, and make recommendations for improvement.
#12: Blanchard’s editor asked him to remove the “Open Your Eyes” picture
This is one of the funnier examples of someone being cancelled:
“Maybe woke has gone too far?” says the uber-woke boomer who has encouraged the woke mob at every turn. This guy is a genius when it comes to macroeconomics, but he is the wokest dipshit on EconTwitter when it comes to virtue signalling. Reap what you sow.
“Maybe woke has gone too far?” he says.
It took you until 2023 to notice… and only when it personally impacted you?
#13: Women are at least twice as likely as men to be admitted to MIT
#14: Ashoka University disowns its own faculty over a controversial paper
Honestly, I don’t really understand this scandal.
I am too lazy to do a deep dive, because I don’t care about Indian politics or Indian academia. If I did care about India, this story would be huge.
It concerns Ashoka University economics professor Sabyasachi Das (Ph.D., Economics, Yale University, 2015) who wrote a paper “Democratic Backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy” which “documents irregular patterns in 2019 general election in India.”
“Manipulation appears to take the form of targeted electoral discrimination against India’s largest minority group – Muslims, partly facilitated by weak monitoring by election observers. The results present a worrying development for the future of democracy.”
I can’t sift through the noise and tell who is right.
This thread from Ben Golub, seems to provide a good rundown:
The scandal seems to be escalating… India’s Intelligence Bureau is now investigating Das and his family!
New Delhi: In a development with ominous implications for academic freedom in India, the Intelligence Bureau has begun looking into the scholarly paper by a former Ashoka University professor on ‘Democratic Backsliding in the World’s Largest Democracy’ and is seeking to interview the author and faculty members of the economics department on the subject. The Wire has confirmed this development from multiple sources.
NEW DELHI: As many as 288 economists from over 81 institutions across the country have signed a joint statement in solidarity with former assistant professor Sabyasachi Das of Ashoka University, who resigned following a controversy over his research paper suggesting electoral manipulation by BJP in the 2019 general elections.
Pulapre Balakrishnan, Professor of Economics at Ashoka University, also resigned to protest the exit of Das. When contacted, he said, “Yes, I have resigned. It is related to Das’s resignation.” The university has not yet taken a decision on his resignation; an email to the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar did not elicit a response.
#15: 7 new academia-related Substack articles
#16: Yale Police to First-Year Students: Beware the Streets of New Haven
As students returned to class this week, libs on Twitter freaked out over this flyer being distributed to first-year students by local police:
Don’t worry, CNN wants you to know the flyer is misleading.
New Haven is totally safe.
As new students arrived on campus for the fall semester at Yale University, they were given flyers containing “misleading … disturbing and inflammatory rhetoric” about the school’s safety, according to university officials.
The flyers, titled “Welcome to Yale: A survival guide for first-year students of Yale University,” were distributed by the Yale Police Benevolent Association, a union representing Yale police officers, and featured a cloaked skull.
The flyers claimed New Haven’s crime and violence rates were “shockingly high” and “getting worse,” according to the Yale Police Benevolent Association’s pamphlet.
The flyers also stated rates of murders, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts had gone up this year.
“Nevertheless, some Yalies do manage to survive New Haven and even retain their personal property,” the flyers stated, followed by advice for students including staying off the streets after 8 p.m. and avoiding public transportation.
#17: Data Colada Update
I circulated this fundraiser on my Substack a few weeks ago:
Since then, the academic community came together and amazingly raised $330K (so far!) for their Data Colada’s defence:
I am not taking credit for this achievement of course, I was only a tiny part.
The fundraiser is still live:
This week, the Data Colada team provided an update.
#18: Suspicious hires at Acadia University
Americans wouldn’t know “Acadia University” but it is fairly well known in Canada. It is located in the middle of a cornfield in Wolfville, Nova Scotia
I received a tip in my email about a suspicious hire in their sociology department
Starlit Simon, Associate Professor, began July 1, 2023, with the Department of Languages and Literatures and the Department of Sociology. She is a Mi’kmaw from Elsipogtog First Nation and a full-time PhD candidate at the University of New Brunswick in the Faculty of Education.
What’s suspicious is that it is unheard of for anyone to be hired without a PhD for entry-level tenure-track jobs, let alone as an associate. I have never, ever heard of someone without a Ph.D., and who has never had a faculty job, being hired at the associate level. Also, her (still halfway finished) PhD is in education, and her only sociology degree is a BA with a 2.9 GPA according to LinkedIn. This seems to be an egregious case of erosion scholarly standards in concert with institutional DEI mandates.
I emailed Acadia (“I am genuinely intrigued to understand the rationale behind this decision. Your insights would be invaluable in crafting a balanced and well-informed piece. Could you provide some insights into this hiring? I have a hard time believing this is real, and if it is, I think it is a huge story. Is she really being hired with tenure, without a PhD? What am I missing?”) but they ignored me.
I am not going to write an entire story about this, because it is not thaaaat newsworthy, but it is just sad to see the province that I used to love flush its academic credibility down the toilet.
I guess you don’t need a PhD to be a tenured sociology professor in Canada if you are the right race.
#19: Meltdown at the biggest Political Science conference of the year
The American Political Sciecne Association (APSA) is famously woke, and hilariously corrupt/incompetent, as I documented in this article:
Their annual meeting was last week, and it was a total mess, as covered by the mainstream media:
A Political Battle Within Political Science: Which Side Is the APSA On? (The Nation)
I’m a conservative. Is there still a place for me in the field of political science? (The Hill)
Update on 2023 APSA Annual Meeting & Exhibition (Political Science Now)
You can mostly glean what this incident is about from those headlines.
PSR, the sister website to EJMR, was extremely riled up.
I was on a panel where only two papers (including mine) had authors who bothered to show up to present, and neither the discussant nor the chair showed up. To be fair, they notified us in advance that they would be skipping due to the strike. But it still felt pretty unfair that I paid a significant amount of money to travel to APSA, and the section chair didn't even attempt to find a replacement discussant.
APSA, veering so far into cra5y left ideology in every way - deserves this. The list of reasons not to ever hold an in-person APSA conference again continues to grow.
Time to phase out this huge expense. The end of an era. The information age made face to face conferences a horse and buggy phenomenon.
I was in Vietnam last weekend and saw two dogs humping outside the French Quarter in Hanoi, and that was more insightful than APSA has ever been
The APSA is in a difficult position. Because they are captured by the dominant left-wing orientation of its membership, the APSA only selects conference sites in states that are likely to have problems with unions. If the APSA went to purple or red states (where one is less likely to face strikes), there are many left-wing political scientists who would not attend. But if the APSA goes to blue states only, they set themselves up for the fiaso of the sort that is unfolding in Los Angeles. It is a lose-lose situation. Now that the APSA is committed to Los Angeles, it cannot cancel the meeting because to do so would mean a devastating financial hit to the association.
FFS, would someone please tell PoliSci Twitter that staying at a hotel that doesn’t have a labor agreement with its workers is not “crossing a picket line?” If I walked into the JW Marriott and offered to work cleaning the rooms while the staff was striking, *that* is what crossing a picket line is.
I would do this myself, but my credibility on this as a son of a union father and a former union member myself in my pre-academic days would not be enough. White ladies who study labor in Latin American and work at private universities with lily white student populations would tear me to pieces on Twitter.
I'm serving on a discussant on a panel where three of four presenters have responded that they're not traveling to Los Angeles but would be willing to present online. I don't think we'll cancel the panel altogether. But I also don't think anybody will physically show up to a panel where only one person presents in-person.
I think the most tiring aspect of working in this discipline is that it is so full of cowards and overly sensitive people. Since we're discussing APSA, it's absolutely nauseating sitting on a panel and watching somebody squirm as he tries to phrase a critique as though it's praise. The only thing worse is having coffee afterwards with the person who presented as he parses what the critic actually said and tries to process the inconceivable notion that somebody might think he's wrong.
Why would so many political scientists reflexively support hotel workers demanding a series of raises that would give them $35/hr? Do these scholars study the hotel industry? Do they know whether such raises are affordable given the declines in business travel and increasing use of Airbnb?
I have no idea about the hotel industry or the merits of the strikers demands. I doubt any other political scientists know these things either. The ideological rush to support workers, without a deeper assessment of the issues, reveals just how anti-intellectual some of our colleagues are.
Many professors called for boycotts:
While others argued against boycotts:
Guy Grossman (Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania) was so viciously attacked for this anodyne anti-boycott tweet that he deleted his account.
#20: LAWSUIT: FIRE sues to stop California from forcing professors to teach DEI
FRESNO, Aug. 17, 2023 — Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression filed a lawsuit on behalf of six California community college professors to halt new, systemwide regulations forcing professors to espouse and teach politicized conceptions of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
#21: Sex scandal at GMU law school
I am not even going to touch this, because it is a messy sex scandal that is going to drag out in court.
Read the complaint which has the text messages his ex girlfriends wrote him:
#22: TikTok’s Secret Effort to Influence American Higher Education
#23: The University System of Georgia has ended the use of mandatory DEI statements in hiring.
#24: Harvard is named worst school for free speech
#25: Skyrocketing tuition for international students in Ontario
This chart went viral yesterday, it speaks for itself:
Lol… that is 40k-50k per year! I can't imagine paying that much annually for 4 years for a Canadian undergrad degree, pure robbery.
#26: Philipino legislator fired for posting supply and demand graph
Speaking of viral graphs, just happened today, pretty funny/sad.
#27: University of Brighton cuts 103 academic staff jobs
The University of Brighton is cutting 103 of its academic staff, a move unions and staff claim will "decimate" certain subjects.
The university said it had retained "the right staff with the collective skills, experience and expertise to continue to deliver our full range of courses".
Nearly a quarter of the redundancies are compulsory.
#28 Vassar Professors Sue Over Gender Pay Gap, Claiming Discrimination Against Women on the Faculty
Five female professors at Vassar College are suing the institution, accusing it of paying them less than their male colleagues and of systemic gender-based discrimination. Another 35 female faculty members at the historic women’s college signed on in support of the lawsuit, which seeks class-action status in a New York district court.