Administration

What You Need to Know About the Past 7 Days

October 23, 2016

Market Forecast

After last Wednesday’s final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump, traders in one of the University of Iowa’s Iowa Electronic Markets bid Mr. Trump’s chances of winning the election down to a new low — 9 cents, which corresponds to a 9-percent chance of victory. Trading a day earlier had Mr. Trump at 14 cents. A month earlier he was at 31 cents, and back in February he was up as high as 40 cents.

The two Presidential Electronic Markets, along with a market predicting control of the next Congress, are futures markets operated by the university’s college of business as research and teaching tools. "Traders can buy and sell real-money contracts based on their belief about the outcome of an election," the college’s website explains. "The price of a contract at any given time is a forecast of the outcome." Anyone can invest from $5 to $500 to participate, and get paid in real money if they invest smartly. The business college also operates a number of closed markets linked to individual courses at Iowa and other universities.

The two presidential markets differ slightly. One, called Winner Take All, forecasts the traders’ expected victor — that’s the market in which Mr. Trump’s chances dropped to 9 percent after the debate. The other forecasts the share of the popular vote that each candidate will receive (Mrs. Clinton was trading at 70 cents after the debate ended). In the Congress market, trading last week predicted that Republicans would retain control of the House but Democrats would win the Senate.

The Los Angeles Times, which looked at the Iowa markets and another run by Victoria University, in New Zealand, noted the markets’ imperfections: They involve a fairly small number of people, which limits how much information those people collectively bring to the markets, and because of that "they mirror information already prominently featured in the news media — mostly, the same old polls." But the newspaper says the markets also have an advantage: "Unlike a bet that is fixed in time forever, trading on an active market invites you to reconsider your views as maintaining them becomes expensive."

Postage Paid

Steve Inskeep, one of the hosts of NPR’s "Morning Edition," recently interviewed Tammy Duckworth, a Democratic congresswoman from Illinois who is running for a Senate seat. She described some of the challenges of getting students to vote on Election Day:

"I was at University of Illinois in Champaign talking to the Young Democrats and saying, Well, what do we need to do to turn out voters? And they said, Well, you know, 90 percent of the college students in Champaign actually voted for Bernie. And — but the problem was the lines at the polling station were three hours long and they had to go to classes and there was just one polling station. And so they said that what we need is actually more vote-by-mail. But please, when you get us those ballots, make sure that there’s a postage-paid envelope with them, because we don’t know where to buy stamps."

All the News That Fits

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One final piece of election news: The sports editor for the Liberty Champion, Liberty University’s weekly student newspaper, said a column he had written criticizing Mr. Trump was spiked — and by none other than the university’s high-profile president, Jerry Falwell Jr.

The student, Joel Schmieg, is a junior studying music at the conservative university. In the spiked column, which he posted on Facebook, he addressed Mr. Trump’s claim that vulgar comments about grabbing women that he was recorded making in 2005 amounted to nothing more than "locker-room banter."

"As a former male athlete," Mr. Schmieg wrote, "I know exactly what high-school guys talk about when they think they are alone. It absolutely can be vulgar and objectifying to women. But here’s the thing — I have never in my life heard guys casually talk about preying on women in a sexual manner."

"Ladies," he added, "please hear me when I say the words spoken by Trump are not normal. That is not what decent men talk about. Not even in high school." But those words never made it into the paper. He was told that what he had written wouldn’t run "because Jerry didn’t like it," he said, and that he would have to write something else for his weekly column.

Mr. Falwell, who has continued to support Mr. Trump even as many other Republicans have backed away from the candidate, said on Twitter that Mr. Schmieg’s essay was "redundant" because "The paper already had a letter that was very similar in content supporting Hillary and condemning Trump for the 2005 video." He also said space in the paper was limited, although Mr. Schmieg had to write a replacement column.

If you’re wondering how the president of a successful megauniversity with 14,000 students on campus and 65,000 more online has time to decide what will appear in the student newspaper, Mr. Falwell said in another tweet that "I only weigh in when editors ask for my opinion." Mr. Schmieg, though, told Salon that editors had to seek Mr. Falwell’s blessing for "everything controversial" before printing it.

On Strike

Blaine T. Shahan, LNP Media Group
Last week over 5,000 faculty members and coaches went on strike at the 14 institutions in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education, affecting over 100,000 students. The professors and coaches, members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, had worked without a contract since July 2015.

The university system said it had offered raises and withdrawn, among other things, proposals to cut the number of part-time faculty members and raise the number of courses temporary faculty members must teach to be counted as full-time employees. The union and the system had reportedly agreed on some issues, but remained at loggerheads over others, including raises and health care.

Students on the system’s campuses were told to show up and sign in for scheduled classes, though some joined their professors on picket lines. The system’s institutions are former teachers’ colleges and do not include Pennsylvania State University or three state-related institutions — Lincoln University, Temple University, and the University of Pittsburgh. 

  • Meanwhile, a strike by some 750 dining-hall employees at Harvard University dragged into its third week, with no end in sight. The university says its dining-hall workers are among the best paid in the region, but the union, Unite Here Local 26, says that because of the high cost of living in the Boston area, members should earn a minimum of $35,000 a year. The union says the minimum now is about $30,000 a year, though many members work overtime and make more. Health-care costs are also at issue.

But the real issue, it seems, is more likely one of optics: Harvard has an endowment valued at over $35 billion, and even assistant professors make some $115,000 annually, on average. That kind of wealth compromises arguments that might otherwise resonate with the public — that the university pays the dining-hall workers well above what the City of Cambridge says is the local "living wage" ($15.04) and that the workers get paid vacations and retirement benefits. 

Plus This …

The president of the College of New Rochelle, Judith A. Huntington, resigned. In a statement, the college’s Board of Trustees cited "financial challenges" and said board members had learned at the beginning of the year about "significant unmet financial obligations that had accrued over a period of time." … Princeton University will pay $18 million to settle a dispute over whether it is required to pay property taxes on buildings used for commercial purposes. Local taxpayers had sued the university, which said that its tax exemption would probably have survived the challenge but that settling was "a better expenditure of funds than continuing to incur the considerable costs of litigation." … In the latest example of a tuition reset, the College of Saint Mary, in Omaha, said it would cut tuition by 33 percent, from $29,954 to $19,950. The president, Maryanne Stevens, said the women’s college had "the largest full-time enrollment in history" but wanted to "make actual costs more transparent to the students" and use financial aid "for its original intent — to provide educational opportunities to needy students." 

Lawrence Biemiller writes about a variety of usual and unusual higher-education topics. Reach him at lawrence.biemiller@chronicle.com.