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The [Wednesday] Papers

"The $30,000 fee Northeastern Illinois University was going to pay former White House adviser Valerie Jarrett was just the latest in a series of big fees the financially troubled state school has paid to snag prominent graduation speakers, records show," the Sun-Times reports.

"Despite its money troubles - a Wall Street credit agency just dropped Northeastern deeper into 'junk-bond' status - the state university has handed out five-figure fees to each of the speakers at its May commencement events the past four years.

"That's in sharp contrast to what's done at other state schools, also facing tight-money times, including the three University of Illinois campuses, Northern Illinois University, Illinois State University and Eastern Illinois University. Administrators at those universities and others say they don't pay graduation speakers beyond travel costs."

Nor should they, even in the best of times!

"Jarrett - who was a top aide to former President Barack Obama - agreed earlier this month not to accept a speaking fee for the May 8 commencement after the Chicago Sun-Times reported she was being paid $30,000."

Let's just stop to think about that for a moment. That's more than a year's wages to a lot of folks. It's one year of tuition for an out-of-state student attending NEIU.

Consider also that Jarrett's total assets are between $2.22 million and $7.86 million, according to her last White House financial disclosure form.


"Jarrett said she was unaware of the extent of the financial problems facing the university."

Valerie Jarrett, you are Today's Worst Person In Chicago.


"Northeastern has cut three days from the school year and ordered all 1,100 of its employees to take an unpaid week off during spring break to cut costs amid financial problems worsened by the state government's continuing budget impasse. The employees also won't be paid for the three canceled class days.

"When Jarrett said she would abandon her speaker's fee, she already had been paid in full, university records show - and Northeastern administrators agreed to let her keep $1,500 of the $30,000 after they learned Jarrett still expected the school to pick up the tab for her travel."

I wonder if her talk will be about the importance of public service, and/or the dangers of greed.


"Northeastern Illinois officials didn't respond to requests for comment."

Too bad; I'd like to know if they think the "investment" in commencement speakers somehow pays off.


"On Feb. 8, the university made Jarrett an offer: $10,000 plus first-class expenses. But Miller made clear the university was willing to pay more.

"Our president asked me to make this offer," a school official wrote to Jarrett's talent agency. "I realize there may be a counteroffer if she is interested."

Maybe they should have signed up a speaker who specializes in negotiating.


"Trustees for the university apparently didn't know of the deal or its terms until their April 6 meeting. According to a recording of the meeting, one member of the board said it was 'disturbing' to pay Jarrett so richly at a time the university is facing deep financial problems.

"Another trustee asked whether Jarrett might donate the fee to a student scholarship in her honor but was told, 'The contract has been negotiated and signed.'"

Well, they could save even more money by firing the person who did the negotiating and signing.


"The board also approved an honorary degree for Jarrett, with three members voting against the measure."

Good for those three; I'd like to see the names of all of them and how they voted.


"On April 10, hours after the Sun-Times requested records related to the contract, the university revealed that Jarrett's contract was for $30,000. But school officials said they found an unnamed donor to cover that."

If only that donor was Valerie Jarrett!


"The following day, a spokeswoman for Jarrett said she told the university 'she will not be accepting a speaking fee.'"

As it should have been from the start.

Funny, Jarrett was chosen because the school wanted someone who could talk about "leadership, motivation, etc."

I have a suggestion for Jarrett's topic: How It Often Takes Public Shaming To Motivate Leaders Showered With Unmerited Praiseworthy Media Coverage To Do The Right Thing.


"In the past, Illinois legislators have tried to bar public universities from paying commencement speakers, but those efforts haven't gone anywhere. Some lawmakers say they plan to try again following the reports of how much Jarrett was to be paid.

"State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, says he thinks the law should allow state schools to cover travel expenses only and provide no payment for speeches.

"'It should be an honor,' Batinick says, to speak at a university commencement."

Or at least the fee should be nominal, or donated. Or on a reasonable sliding scale for those speakers who aren't wealthy - which are probably the speakers you really want.


"The City Colleges of Chicago covered nearly $6,000 in travel costs for rapper Common to be keynote speaker at a commencement ceremony in 2015, including first-class plane tickets from Los Angeles for Common and an assistant, two nights in a $589-a-night room at The Langham hotel downtown, meals from room service and airport limousines."

That's more like it.

Wait, c'mon Common! City Colleges fer chrissake!


P.S.: Commencement speakers, shommencement speakers. Totally unnecessary - as is commencement. Put the diplomas in the mail. I never had a need for the ceremony.


Mancow Manure
Wait, what?

(h/t: Chicagoland Radio and Media)



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A sampling.





The Beachwood Tronc Line: Left of the dial.


Posted on April 26, 2017

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