Donna Shalala again raises eyebrows at U. of Miami

Donna Shalala (Iran 1962-64) is back on the front page of the paper. Remember last August 2011 when there was a brief flare up about one of the fancy donors to her college– University of Miami where she is president–who was in jail. He said he had ‘paid off’ football players with gifts?

Well, now  the story on the front page of the January 20, 2012, The Chronicle of Higher Education says that she made almost a half a million dollars in 2010 from serving on three companies’ boards. Two of those companies are run by university trustees. “That’s just a no-no,” according to a Jay W.  Lorsch, professor of human relations at Harvard Business School, and someone who has expertise in corporate governance.

Donna isn’t the only college president with her hand in the cookie jar. The article entitled, “Board Conflicts Abound for College Chiefs” focuses on several other ‘chiefs’, including the former president of Penn State, Graham Spanier, and the president of Stanford University, John Hennessy. Donna is not in ‘bad’ academic company, you might say.

Donna and the other two administrators at U. of Miami who are involved in the double-dipping which Professor Lorsch calls, “appearance of impropriety” all declined to be interviewd by the reporters who did the front page story for the Chronicle.

Of course, all the presidents say that as ‘college leaders’ they can learn valuable management lessons in corporate boardrooms, ‘while also imparting their own wisdom from academe’ to the lay members.

Yes, President Spanier at Penn State, really did show a lot of ‘academic wisdom’ in handling the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse situation at State College. Not!

Let’s hope Donna doesn’t have other skeletons in her closet!


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  • Her blanket condemnation of marijuana was an early indicator of her skewed sense of reality. While I am sure it has one of the lowest rates for a federal bureaucracy, the Peace Corps has had its share of turkeys, turncoats, and betrayers.

    The PCV selection process can’t detect certain character flaws. I know everyone in our PC group of 70 selected a rural country girl to be the best PCV of our group. Once in the field she folded after a few months and became a PC secretary. Nice gal, but we were all wrong about what was going on inside her.

    Part of getting ahead in our culture is to trumpet the status quo. which makes everyone in power feel secure. Once you cheat, then they (the powers that be) know you can be trusted not to challenge authority.

    I can’t remember which member of Pres. Nixon’s team remarked that the reason John Dean had rolled over on the President is that he had not been around long enough to dip into the cookie jar.

    The lesson being an older executive has had more of an opportunity to sell his/her values out in return for being promoted. Never trust a young person to cheat when there are plenty of experienced older ones arpimd.

    I am sure there is a sociological term for this blind faith that cheating prospers. No one did time for 2008 collapse except for Bernie.

    I remember in a lecture to the San Diego Police in early ’73 they told me Nixon had to go because if he doesn’t pay for his crime, criminality will run amok and exacerbate their jobs. Anarchy, they believed, exacted the greatest toll on the police.

    When I told my editor at the LA Times the San Diego cops said, “Nixon’s got to go,” he replied, “never in a thousand years.” He just retired last summer.

    In short, the press has enabled a cheating executive culture. Any time you find them pursuing these cheaters, support them because the press is part of the problem. Donna should have sacked years ago from her Presidency for pandering to the DEA…


  • I frankly am having trouble understanding why board membership on a Trustees’ corporation is having one’s ‘hand in the cookie jar’ (a phrase usually used to suggest stealing or wrongful appropriation). Also, cross-board membership is (or at least was) common in the business world. Why is academia different?

  • David–according to the lead article in The Chronicle of Higher Eduction the point was, as they state, “Such board service is fraught with potential conflicts of interest, because a university president may be disinclined to question or oppose an industry executive who has a say in her or her continued employment and compensation. So, too, may a university trustee’s judgment be clouded in evaluating a president who has influence over the trustee’s professional endeavors.”

    The reporters’ article was based on a 2010 survey from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and College, a quarter (they had responses from 300 college leaders) said their contracts or university policies set standards for corporate-board participation.

  • Since we are into the realm of legal “hair splitting” did the article say she was on the boards of companies whose CEOs are trustees of “The University of Miami” or simply university trustees?

  • Boy–I wish I hadn’t posted this item!

    Donna is, according to the article on the front page of The Chronicle, “on the boards of two different companies headed by members of Miami’s Board of Trustees. In effect, her role as director at a national medical group and at a home-building empire places her in the position of functioning as her bosses’ boss.”

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