If you've ever wondered if some of the dullards who populate the editorial pages of our newspapers are just handed copy to turn in, courtesy of clapped-out corporate public relations professionals, the Nov. 23rd op-ed that appeared in The Hill under the byline of Harry C. Alford is going to serve as hilarious proof to your thesis.
The piece in question is titled "EDMC settlements chart new direction for private-sector education." Now, EDMC -- which refers to the Education Management Corp. -- might not be an organization with which you are familiar. If you're well-versed in the scammy enterprises that purport to be "for-profit post-secondary institutions," you'll know EDMC as the organization that just settled their fraud case with the Department of Justice. If you're a fan of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), you'll recognize the name EDMC as one of her continued targets of ire.
And if you are Harry C. Alford, the president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, you'll recognize EDMC as the people who handed you an op-ed to submit to papers under your name, leaving instructions for you to follow in the middle of the copy -- instructions which you, and The Hill's editors, never noticed and thus forgot to remove before the op-ed was published.
The upshot of this piece that appears under Alford's byline is simple: despite the fact that EDMC was made to settle with the Justice Department to the tune of $95.5 million, this is good news for the for-profit sector and bad news for its critics. And let me assure you, this is true! EDMC allegedly defrauded taxpayers out of $11 billion, and under the law, the federal government could have potentially recovered $33 billion. That everyone settled for a pittance in this instance does, indeed, speak to a bright future for these grifters.
This op-ed goes on, presenting this whole debacle as something that could have been avoided if the defrauded students had only been smarter, but there's no worries now, because EDMC will be better arming those students with the information they maybe should have had in the first place (or some colorful version of that information, anyway). And best of all, EDMC will continue to do business, despite having demonstrated that leaving them to their own devices is a multibillion-dollar mistake.
Why is this especially good news, from the supposedly authentic point of view of Alford, hander-inner/passer-offer of other people's work? Because EDMC is an industry leader, by gum! Why, they'll steer the whole sector in the right direction, if they could just be allowed to continue to ply their trade. And where will the sector be steered, by EDMC, chastened fraud settlers? Toward accountability, and most importantly, transparency. The free market will work once again! As "Alford" puts it:
These changes are not general statements of good intentions; they are binding. They are going to create fundamental improvements in transparency and accountability, and all of higher ed should sit up and take notice!
But there is also a bigger picture here.
EDMC is one of the private sector's largest, most visible companies. What they have called their "blueprint for change" will certainly have influence. And it is all happening at a particularly important time.
This op-ed would be a simpering, duplicitous mess if Alford had written it. The good news, I suppose, is that he clearly didn't. We know that because in the piece's 19th paragraph, whoever did write this piece left in a parenthetical aside to whoever was going to be putting their byline on the piece. Alford missed it, and so did whoever edits this section of The Hill, but we spotted it.
I have to admit, this is quite a demonstration of their commitment to transparency!
Anyway, keep an eye out for more great op-ed pieces over at The Hill, which have almost assuredly been written by someone or something.
Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post, and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Listen to the latest episode below: