Tomorrow, the trustees of American University will decide whether His Royal Highness Benjamin Ladner shall continue as president, be permitted to resign with an enormous pile of cash on top of his $800,000 in annual compensation or be given the boot he so richly deserves.
The cavalcade of revelations about Ladner's royal approach to governance has not yet persuaded trustees to issue the obvious edict: Do not take one more tuition dollar from AU parents to enrich Ladner.
We're here to help.
Check out this eight-page, single-spaced list of the duties of the president's social secretary, who was also Nancy Ladner's executive assistant: Not only did tuition go to provide "computer assistance and training for Mrs. Ladner" and to "oversee status of President and Mrs. Ladner's wardrobes," but this assistant also supervised every aspect of the president's house, including "showers, commodes, sinks and garbage disposals," "birdbaths and planters" and the "silver closets and butler's pantry."
The assistant, Sally Ekfelt, since moved to another office, was also tasked with creating an "inventory chart of all paint used in the Residence (colors, sheens, manufacturers and formula reference numbers)" and conducting a "quarterly inventory of all silver flatware and hollowware."
I don't know about you, but at my house, we are often up all night worrying about whether our catalog of sheens is up-to-date. But enough about me; consider the ordinary AU professor, who perhaps lacks an assistant "responsible for a thorough understanding of Washington protocol and appropriate etiquette," as the Ladners required.
Sheva Farkas taught at AU's School of Communication for eight years before quitting this fall because it cost more to teach than the school paid her.
AU paid Farkas, who holds a doctorate and has 25 years of teaching experience, all of $4,000 to teach a course with 54 students. Between class time, correcting papers and meeting with students, she devoted 30 hours a week to the course. Yet when Farkas held a pizza break with her students, AU reimbursed her $90 for the pies and stiffed her for the $10 tip.
"My husband calls it VISTA -- Volunteer in Service to American," Farkas says jokingly. "I had to buy my own videos. We were fighting for hundreds of dollars, while he was spending hundreds of thousands."
Before her years as an adjunct -- the part-time teachers who handle more than a third of classes -- Farkas made $45,000 as a full-timer, far less than the U.S. university average.
"All I really wanted to do is teach," she says, "but when it gets to be a matter of losing money to do it and there's no reward other than my teaching highs, it's just not worth it."
Ann Zelle retired two years ago as an associate professor at AU, though she continues to teach in its photography program. After 25 years, her final salary was $62,000. For most of her career, she was in the $30,000 range.
"In 1989, when I bought my house in Hyattsville, I couldn't get a loan on a $150,000 house on a full-time, tenure-track faculty position," she says.
At many colleges, the president's "house might be bigger than yours, but not so extraordinarily out of sync as this," Zelle says.
Both teachers hope against hope that trustees do not shower Ladner with even more money. "That," Farkas says, "would just tear my heart out."
Thanks to the generosity of readers, John Chen, the 12-year-old piano star I wrote about last month, is settling into a new home. Dozens of you offered lodging or work to John's mother, Li Tong Yang, after the two were forced to leave a McLean apartment because neighbors could not abide John's many hours of practicing.
Most readers believed I was wrong -- wildly so -- to argue that a higher good requires us to accommodate the needs of a musician who has the potential to inspire. Noise is noise, you said, and no one may impose his personal needs on others if doing so diminishes neighbors' enjoyment of their own homes.
But some of you said John should not be limited by his family's ability to afford practice space, and you reached out. A family in Loudoun County is housing Li and John rent-free, and three companies volunteered to move the family's piano and other belongings. Thanks to all.