SUNY kickback controversy prompts changes in presidential pay scheme
By Rob Galbraith  •  Nov 20, 2013 at 10:40 EST

Last week, the Albany Times-Union reported that the board of trustees of the State University of New York (SUNY) system unanimously approved a proposal to reform the current compensation structure for the Chancellor, campus presidents, and senior SUNY officials. The reforms, proposed by Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, were presumably prompted by a recent scandal at SUNY Upstate Medical University where several top administrators, including the president and a senior vice president, were being paid by two companies that received millions of dollars in business from the school.

Zimpher’s proposal would require that executive pay come only from state sources and that outside income be vetted for conflicts of interest by New York’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Under the current regime, SUNY campus presidents and other high-level administrators are paid a portion of their salary by SUNY, an agency of the State of New York, with top-ups from various private not-for-profits affiliated with SUNY, such as the SUNY Research Foundation or one of the campus-specific foundations.

Read more…

“Nonsense” and UB’s Shale Resources and Society Institute
By Rob Galbraith  •  Sep 04, 2012 at 08:57 EST

In recent interviews, Dr. Bruce Pitman, the dean of the University at Buffalo’s College of Arts and Sciences responded to PAI’s criticism of a study published this summer by the school’s Shale Resources and Society Institute. To a WBFO reporter, Pitman characterized claims of SRSI’s poor scholarship as “nonsense”, saying, “We haven’t been able to get past the noise on the extremes in order to actually begin to talk about what’s sensible and serious here.”

In the Spectrum, UB’s independent student publication, Pitman said:

“PAI took data from the very report turned it around and said, ‘Oh if you do the calculations this way something else happens.’ So was the report honest and open and did it disclose all the facts and define all its terms? I think it did. People choosing to interpret things differently – absolutely fair enough – but you can’t discredit the report if it’s providing you the data you’re choosing to look at differently.”

Here, Pitman was responding to this quote from a PAI researcher interviewed for the article:

“The biggest thing is that two of the main claims of the UB report were just flat out wrong,” Galbraith said. “When it comes down to it, they made a claim that is totally unsupported by their data. Their data doesn’t say what they say it says.”

The claim at question, found on page iii of the SRSI study, is:

In conclusion, this study demonstrates that the odds of non-major environmental events and the much smaller odds of major environmental events are being reduced even further by enhanced regulation and improved industry practice. (emphasis added)

The numbers and method of finding the odds used in the SRSI report show that in 2008 the odds of “major environmental events” were 5 in 1000 and in 2011 the odds of “major environmental events” were 8 in 1000, i.e. increased, not reduced. The following is a further examination of this simple math problem, with excerpts from the SRSI report to show where the numbers came from and that the calculations were not performed some other way, as Dr. Pitman asserted.

Read more…

Frackademics: Timothy Considine – Analyst or Advocate?
By Rob Galbraith  •  Jun 13, 2012 at 10:56 EST

Businesses in controversial industries often turn to the academy for evidence exculpating them for the harm that they do, with trade groups funding “scholarly” reports claiming that their products and business practices are safe for the public. In much the same way that Big Tobacco funded research claiming that secondhand smoke is not harmful, natural gas associations such as the Marcellus Shale Coalition have been paying for research that exaggerates fracking’s economic benefits and downplays its environmental risks both by funding individual studies and by donating to myriad shale gas research institutions, such as the University at Buffalo’s Shale Resources and Society Institute and the University at Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy.

Read more…