Today’s Chronicle (subscription required) reports that earmarks for colleges face less scrutiny than those doled out to federal agencies:
Congress does not require the earmarked projects to go through the open, peer-reviewed competitions that federal agencies typically use to award money for scientific research and other projects in higher education. In those competitions, agency employees who are experts in particular fields oversee the awarding of grants and contracts to colleges, based on merit. In many cases, the agency also receives advice from panels of academics.
The most recent statistics on college pork come from an article in The Chronicle that reported total earmarks had surpassed $2 billion for the 2003 fiscal year. Some of the more ridiculous examples include:
The University of Missouri at Columbia, for example, got $1.7-million for research on cultivating shiitake mushrooms. And the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and the University of Hawaii-Manoa each got $250,000 to catalog historical records in preparation for their states’ celebration, in 2009, of the 50th anniversary of statehood.
It’s no wonder that the director of federal relations for the University of Alaska system, Martha Stewart, told The Chronicle that answering Dr. Coburn’s letter “would be providing someone with bullets to shoot you.”