December 7, 2012
Professors Do Not Like Their Jobs ??
The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a brief story about a recent survey finding that "[w]ork-life conflicts have caused three out of every four assistant professors to think about leaving their institutions . . .." It's not directly relevant to nonprofit law, but I am guessing it is of interest to many contributors and readers of this blog.
The survey of 511 full-time faculty members found that almost "45 percent . . . said they could see themselves leaving academe altogether. Meanwhile, 65 percent of full professors surveyed said that they had considered leaving their university in the last year." One finding was not quite as surprising: "[a]bout 80 percent of faculty members would consider leaving their institution in search of a more supportive work environment."
I have always thought university teaching was a pretty good gig in that it pays enough to cover the bills and professors are, for the most part, left alone to teach and research on topics they're interested in. I am generally wiling to trade "a more supportive environment" for autonomy (though of course they are not mutually exclusive). It appears that I am an outlier.
Religious Leaders v. Senator Grassley
The tireless nonprofit watchdog, Senator Grassley from Iowa, has turned his attention in recent years to what he perceives as irresponsible financial activity carried on by certain religious figures and organizations, television evangelists in particular. After some back and forth, religious leaders agreed to established a commission, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, to examine Sen. Grassley's concerns and to comment on some of his proposed solutions. The Council recently released its findings in a 94-page report soothingly titled "Enhancing Accountability For the Religious and Broader Nonprofit Sector." With that title, who could object?
It appears that Senator Grassley objects, primarily because the bottom line of the report is that nothing should change. In the Senator's words, "[t]he report gives less attention to resolving some of the thornier questions, such as how to build accountability from entities that exploit vagueness in current laws and regulations for individual benefit rather than the greater good." He added, ominously, that if Congress follows through with plans to overhaul the tax code, many of the issues that he has raised "will be ripe for review."
A story in The Chronicle of Philanthropy summarizes events and provides links to the report and Sen. Grassley's statement about it.
December 5, 2012
Fiscal Cliff Chatter
The papers have been abuzz about fiscal cliff negotiations and several threads of the discussion involve charities and other nonprofit organizations.
One recent item in the New York Times reports that "some analysts doubt dire predictions on tax increase fallout." They argue that "much of the investing world has overestimated how hard the markets and investors would be hit if tax rates on dividends and capital gains rise . . .." The reason is that ever fewer investors are subject to taxes on their investment gains. Many hold those investments in retirement accounts that are exempt from taxation. More relevant for purposes of this blog, many investors avoid taxation because they are "institutional investors like insurance companies and pension funds that are exempt from taxes."
Another recent NYT article reports that a group of "Democratic luminaries," including two former Treasury secretaries and two former White House chiefs of staff, have proposed compromise plan to raise revenue, cut deficits, and avoid the fiscal cliff. Among other suggestions, the group calls for "replacing popular itemized deductions . . .." The scope of the home mortgage interest deduction would be significantly reduced. The deduction for charitable giving, however, would receive more generous treatment and "would be as high as 28 percent."
December 4, 2012
Nobel Foundation Turns to Hedge Funds
A puzzling little piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that the Nobel Foundation, the group based in Stockholm that gives away the annual Peace Prize, among others, will invest in hedge funds as a way of rebuilding its portfolio. Earlier this year the Foundation announced that it would have to trim several hundred thousand dollars from the cash total that accompanied each prize. They now see hedge funds as their road back to prosperity. Apparently they have not been reading the business pages.
December 3, 2012
Boy Scouts' Pedophile Scandal
The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that its analysis of Boy Scouts of America's "perversion" files indicates that for many years the organization resisted implementing background checks and other measures to weed out pedophiles and actively lobbied against state legislation that would have required them to do so. BSA did not require criminal background checks for all volunteers until 2008.
I find this story troubling and interesting for multiple reasons. First, I am the parent of a fifteen-year-old boy who is active in scouting. (Earlier this year I wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper decrying BSA's ban on participation by gay adults and children. One galling aspect of BSA's ban is that it unjustifiably conflates sexual orientation with being a pedophile.)
Second, from the perspective of a Nonprofit Law teacher, I find it confounding that such a large organization with access to legal counsel did not adopt better risk management practices. In the Community Development Law Clinic that I supervise we routinely get requests to help nonprofits manage risk. Our standard response is that there are three legs to the stool: insurance, waivers, and policies and procedures that reduce risk. Any organization that pairs adults and children should, at a minimum, do background checks and have policies in place that prevent adults and children from any one-on-one activities.
According to the LA Times article, it was not until after the Catholic Church pedophile scandal that BSA got serious about adopting its own risk reduction policies and procedures. By then it was too late for many, many children.