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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Education Management Corporation spokesperson Jacquelyn Muller told City Paper this morning that “there have been no layoffs announced” at the for-profit education company.

In a written statement, Muller says the company “has begun an evaluation of the operations in an effort to better position the organization for success within the current economic and changing regulatory environments.” Although the statement allows, and Muller confirmed in a brief discussion, that there is the “possibility of some staff reductions.” CP first reported Tuesday that employees at EDMC’s online division were told not only about the evaluations, but also that layoffs would be happening and that the notification of those staff reductions would come by Friday. Several employees, who asked not to be identified, verified the news Tuesday and some say they were even told that their jobs were safe. When asked if layoffs were imminent, even though the number and extent of staff reductions weren’t announced Tuesday, Muller referred back to the written statement, which appears in its entirety below. The potential shakeup at EDMC was also reported this morning in a brief story from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which relied mostly on EDMC’s official statement.

And while the company this morning is referring to the layoffs as “possible” there is other evidence to suggest that staff reductions are likely.

On Tuesday evening we reported on an internal memo sent to employees from John Kline, the president of EDMC’s online division. While Kline’s memo does use the verbiage “possibility of reducing the number of staff,” it also sets somewhat of a timetable for completing the evaluations.

“This will be an extensive and deliberative process with every effort made to carefully consider the needs of our students and the complexity of our organization,” Kline writes. “This process is expected to conclude within the week, and I will keep you updated regarding the outcomes of this process.”

As for EDMC employees, those contacted by City Paper are sticking by their guns that the “possible” layoffs are definite and they’re still looking at Friday as decision day. We’ll have more on this story as it develops.

Statement from EDMC spokesperson Jacquelyn Muller:

Education Management Corporation (EDMC) announced to employees at its Online Higher Education operations yesterday that it has begun an evaluation of the operations in an effort to better position the organization for success within the current economic and changing regulatory environments. This evaluation will include careful consideration of all options, including the possibility of some staff reductions. Although the Company continues to experience a demand for its academic programs, like most colleges and universities a number of factors such as the economy and a changing regulatory landscape have contributed to the need for this review.

We will continue to evaluate all aspects of the business in order to focus its resources as efficiently and effectively as possible to provide fully online students with an excellent education and high quality outcomes. We will continue to invest more broadly in academic quality initiatives and in the innovative delivery of higher education to better serve the needs of our students.


Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 10:40 AM

Dave was a photographer of long residency in the Brew House, the South Side artists’ co-op. He was a nice guy. I remember him most for his telescope.

Smith, an active member of the Association of Amateur Astronomers of Pittsburgh, had a sizable scope, perhaps 4 feet long, mounted on wheels. Once, several years ago, I was at the Brew House for an art event and, as he often did, Smith rolled the telescope outside, onto a lot on 21st Street, so anyone could take a closer look at the night sky.

It was a memorable way to honor his passion for astronomy, and to share that joy.

Smith died Dec. 26, at the age of 66.

The Morgantown, W.V., native and graduate of West Virginia University ran David L. Smith Photography, specializing in portraits, fine art and commercial work. His credits, according to a release sent out by Smith’s friends at the Brew House, included portrait shoots with Terry Bradshaw and Muhammad Ali.

Smith also often documented paintings, sculptures and other works for local artists.

The soft-spoken Smith, an Army veteran, was a Brew House board member.

Friends at the Brew House are remembering Smith this Thu., Jan. 26, with a memorial gathering in the building’s first-floor gallery space. The event runs 6-8 p.m. The Brew House is at 2100 Mary St.

Smith’s friends ask that contributions to his memory be sent to WVU’s Division of Art Deans’s Fund, in memory of David L. Smith. Contributions will be earmarked for photography studies.

Mail contributions to: WVU Foundation, One Waterfront Place, 7th Floor, PO Box 1640, Morgantown, WV 26507. Note “in memory of David L. Smith” on the memo line.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Posted on Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 6:02 PM

As we reported earlier today, employees at for-profit educator EDMC were told this morning to brace for potential layoffs by the week's end. Late this afternoon, an e-mail following up on those meetings was sent out to staff by John Kline, the President of EDMC's Online Higher Education division. City Paper has obtained a copy of the e-mail, which asserts that EDMC must "become a more streamlined and efficient organization."

The e-mail only cites layoffs as a "possibility." But while previous economy measures sought to "reduce expenses without impacting our employee base," it continues, "the overall results have fallen short of our goals."

Citing a need to "better position ourselves for success within the current economic and regulatory environments going forward," the e-mail asserts that EDMC's leaders are seeking to "review all aspects of the business" through "an extensive and deliberative process" ... which it expects to have completed "within the week."

The full text of that e-mail is below:

Most of you have spent part of your day today in meetings with senior leaders learning about the future direction of our organization. This message serves to reinforce what was discussed in the meetings and to inform those that were not able to attend a meeting.

We take great pride in delivering high quality outcomes for our students, while ensuring compliance with the standards placed on our organization. We also are driven to create opportunity for staff success and to help our committed and hard working employees reach their goals both inside and outside of EDMC.

Our ability to continue to grow and meet the outcomes described above, depends in part on becoming a more streamlined and efficient organization. To this end, throughout the current fiscal year, we have implemented a number of actions to reduce expenses without impacting our employee base. While these actions have helped, the overall results have fallen short of our goals.

Your leadership team has already begun an evaluation of our entire business in an effort to improve our overall performance and better position ourselves for success within the current economic and regulatory environments going forward.

This evaluation will include a careful consideration of all options, including the possibility of reducing the number of staff currently employed and planned new hires in the future.

We have formed committees to review all aspects of the business. This will be an extensive and deliberative process with every effort made to carefully consider the needs of our students and the complexity of our organization. This process is expected to conclude within the week, and I will keep you updated regarding the outcomes of this process. Our employees are the most valuable asset we have and why we have been so deliberate in this exercise.

I thank you for your hard work and commitment to our students.


John Kline


Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 2:59 PM

Employees with Education Management Corporation (EDMC), the Pittsburgh-based for-profit educator, are bracing for layoffs which could come in the next few days.

Employees who have asked not to be identified have told City Paper that departmental meetings were held throughout the Pittsburgh office this morning. While some employees say they were assured their own jobs would be safe, supervisors have told employees that the layoffs would be coming by week's end. Early indications are that layoffs may hit EDMC's Online Higher Education staff hard, but employees have said details were "scarce." They were not told, for example, how many positions overall are to be cut.

Calls to EDMC spokeswoman Jaqueline Muller have not yet been returned.

The layoffs would come in the wake of significant challenges for the company over the past year.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice hit the school with a civil lawsuit over its recruitment policies.

Congress too has stepped up its scrutiny of the for-profit industry as a whole. There has been Congressional testimony accusing EDMC of aggressive recruitment strategies, including "gaming" statistics on post-graduate employment. (EDMC has denied the accusations, citing the results of an internal investigation.) And just yesterday, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois introduced legislation to curb the amount of taxpayer-funded tuition aid such schools could get for educating veterans.

The bill is in response to claims that companies like EDMC and the University of Phoenix were targeting veterans and their education funds earned through the G.I. Bill.

In a statement reported by Bloomberg News, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin said the proposed legislation "will close a loophole that has made veterans and active duty military major targets of deceptive marketing and aggressive recruitment, rather than students treated with the respect their service deserves."

More on this story as it develops.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2012 at 4:28 PM

Signs of the weather’s havoc were only noticeable on coat racks at Shadow Lounge this past blizzard-y Thursday. As a visual and audio artist, Tycho — aka Scott Hansen — presented his dreamscape art project to a house packed with a bleary-eyed crowd ready to soak up his sun-drenched blanket of beats.

His music fits somewhere on the experience spectrum between lounging at the beach and gliding along ice: always peaceful but never mind numbing. As a multi-sensory artist, he’s attempting to tie sight to sound, and to do so in a way that fuses the two as opposed to mapping one on the other in the sort of haphazard A/V efforts one might typically see in live electronic music. You could call it a live soundtrack to a filmic montage, but that wouldn’t really be doing it justice. Excuse the hippie conceit, but his performance that night was experiential like a breath of sepia-toned psychedelia.

Brooklyn duo Thomas Mullarney and Jacob Gossett opened up with their pop-bass project, Beacon. Coming off the release of their 2011 EP “Nobody,” the guys eased everyone into a brightly colored torpor kissed with downtempo beats and an almost James Blake-like tendency towards jilted romantic lyrics.

Hansen, accompanied by a live drummer and bass player, transitioned from that state of audible bliss veering away from Beacon’s R&B washed vocals that center around young love and moved the whole atmosphere over to an otherworldly realm. While images of ocean waves and 60’s era Bohemians moved across the screen, Hansen proceeded to lullaby the crowd with his meticulous construction of blunted beats and glistening melodies.

Tycho at Shadow Lounge, January 19
  • Photo courtesy of Dave McKelvey
  • Tycho at Shadow Lounge, January 19

Longtime fans of his music will forever find it difficult to listen without being reminded of Boards of Canada and his former allegiance to that more experimental electronic sound. Hansen’s performance at Shadow seemed to smash the Tycho-legion’s predisposition for comparison with several moments that begged the crowd to dance. While a glaze of experimental still exists in Hansen’s newer stuff, he reminded us that the rhythm patterns of drum & bass are also an informant of his work. Between the long languid chill-on-the-beach stretches to minutes of frenetic 180 bpm cadences, Hansen never let the crowd be totally passive.

The most dance-inducing and, dare I say, rave-like moment in his set came when his drummer and bass player stepped away and he went to work improvising on his live PA set up. The music constructed for those 3 to 5 minutes could’ve graced the set of any dance/bass-inclined DJ and while it seemed to rock the faces on the audience members amped enough to stand right in front of the stage, the rest of the room appeared to be unsure of how to take his break-out into raveland. It was a demonstration of his range, an ode to his LTJ Bukem- and Roni Size-stained past and, really, the highlight of his set.

Electronic music’s persistent push onto live stages — whether they’re small galleries like Shadow or large stages at Coachella — keeps begging the question, how can we make this stuff interesting to watch? Hansen’s set that night worked its way into a grander sphere of artists who take that question very seriously and it satisfied every craving for a perfect marriage between artfully produced video and intricately produced music.

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Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2012 at 12:17 PM

Something I probably emphasized too little in my CP preview of the monologuist's show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is just how funny he is.

Having not seen Daisey perform live before, I was delightfully surprised by his electric stage presence: Though his whole two-hour show this past Saturday was performed sitting down, behind a desk, Daisey's a one-man comedy troupe, from funny faces and hilarious sound effects to elegantly amusing hand gestures.

If he reminded me of anyone, I'd say that most often it was Jackie Gleason on The Honeymooners. Daisey had the same volcanic, fast-burn comic rage, landing on a single syllable ("WHAT," "HOW") like a blast of heavy artillery.

And indeed, the first half-hour of this show was almost unadulterated comic storytelling, mostly detailing Daisey's own life-long love of technology in general and Apple products in particular.

He was especially adept at mocking consumers' instant need for devices that didn't even exist yesterday. To watch him berate his own computer's operating system as "sooooooo slooooooow," minutes after learning that a faster one was available, was to watch an oversized 2-year-old execute an existential protest in his high chair.

But Daisey's as good as anyone I've seen at mixing funny faces and serious subject matter: The show's genesis was in his fact-finding trip to Shenzhen, China, the huge industrial city where half the world's electronics are manufactured.

There he met factory workers as young as age 12, and plenty of others only a year or two older. There he learned about the brutal shifts, sweatshop pay and deplorable living conditions workers exist under — so bad at a plant run by a corporation called Foxconn that suicides are common there — all so we can have the cheapest electronics possible.

This American Life recently aired a radio version of Agony and Ecstasy. Find it here.

After the show, I was loafing in the Byham lobby when Daisey himself emerged from the theater. He asked if we'd gotten the papers that theater staff were supposed to be handing out, and when we said we hadn't, he hustled off to see what had happened.

In the paper, titled "The Rest of the Story is in Your Hands," Daisey writes that shortly after the This American Life episode aired, Apple announced a new inspection and monitoring regime for its suppliers. News stories like this one cite Daisey and his show's role in the decision.

Daisey said Apple's announcement is nothing more than a good start. But he adds that you can do more.

For instance, Daisey encourages people to email heads of electronics firms, including Apple CEO Tim Cook.

He asks you to consider if you really need that next upgrade.

And he urges you to learn about rights groups like China Labor Watch and the Electronics Take Back Coalition ... and otherwise to simply "spread the virus" of knowledge about the shadowy side of digital-device culture.

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Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2012 at 9:20 AM

Erin Molchany, a longtime advocate for young'uns in Pittsburgh, is vying for the state Rep. seat currently held by Democrat Dan Deasy.

Perhaps best known as the head of the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project, Molchany's resume is a progressive's dream: She's a product of the Coro Center, and in 2010, had the good taste to lose her post on the Allegheny County Democratic Committee -- a casualty of a fratricidal war between 19th Ward Chair Pete Wagner and challenger Tony Coghill. During a 2005 run for city council, she was endorsed by progressives at Democracy for Pittsburgh, and the pro-choice, pro LGBT Gertrude Stein Political Club.

Molchany is also a woman (note my journalistic powers of observation there) running for a post in the notoriously testosterone-driven state legislature. Molchany herself has previously raised concerns about the gender imbalance in Harrisburg.

Her state rep race would be a rematch: The 27th district is currently represented by Deasy, a former Pittsburgh city councilor who of late has been appearing in headlines thanks to his post chairing the trouble-ridden Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. It was Deasy who beat Molchany -- along with three other challengers -- during that 2005 run.

Molchany's entry into the race comes as little surprise: She's been pondering the move for some time. It'll be interesting to see what impact redistricting will have on Deasy's chances. We hope to have more from Molchany later this week. In the meantime, here's the official announcement of her campaign:

Erin C. Molchany, Democrat, announced today that she will be running to represent Pennsylvania's newly redrawn 27th House District.

"We have a big opportunity to give the 27th District a voice this year. Times are tough. But tough times are when a community rises to the challenge, comes together and works to build a better place to live.

"I'm proud of my community. I love this town and wake up every day determined to make my home better, safer and more prosperous. I've done this for my whole career and will bring this high level of commitment to a life in public service. I believe it's time for the people of the 27th district to come together under a shared vision. I believe we deserve fresh leadership to represent us and new perspectives to solve our most challenging problems. And I'm someone who will work tirelessly for you.

"Our store fronts have been empty for too long. Some of us can't feel safe in our own neighborhoods. And we lose faith in government when our families are rattled by cuts to necessary public services like transportation and health care. Some of these problems have persisted too long with little or no direct action taken.

"We deserve better.

"I've worked with non-profits and community groups to improve the quality of life for our friends and neighbors. I understand that a partnership between good government and our neighborhoods will bring creative solutions home. I have fought to give people a voice in government, so decisions it makes help everyone.

"We have a big opportunity to make things better this year. With dedication and commitment, vision and patience, we can do so much."

Erin Molchany owns a house in Mt. Washington where she has served as a board member and Vice President for the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation. She is currently the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project, a non-profit organization committed to providing civic and social opportunities for local young professionals.


Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2012 at 3:52 AM

  • Lakookala


On a warm, sunny January Monday, I'm bringing you a track from an ex-Pittsburgher who's currently headquartered in warm, sunny Hollywood. Lakookala is the project of singer and multi-instrumentalist Nico Ranalli, once of the Pittsburgh band Medic Medic. She was kind enough to supply track 2 from her album, Songs for Zemean. Below, stream and/or download "Mother Biiiirds":

Sorry, download link expired!

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 5:14 PM

Every once in a while, we here at FFW>> mention a local band raising funds via Kickstarter. Right now, locals Meeting of Important People, whom we've told you about before, are working on collecting enough money to fully fund a self-released second full-length. Some of you have seen this band! Some of you like this band! Some of you might want to join the nine(!) people who have already pledged at the $50 level, thus assuring that this band will write a personalized Valentine's song for your sweetie! Or the six(!!!) people who have pledged at the $150 level, entitling them to mac and cheese and fish sticks with the band!

The campaign ends Feb. 9, and the band — one week in — is already at over $4,000 of their $5,500 goal. So, if you wanna put them over the top, go for. The campaign page is here.

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Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 1:51 PM

"When you look at someone to determine whether they'd be the right person for public office, look at who they lay down with at night and what they believe in. Who is the person at their side who has ... the closest counselor to that person?"

-- Rick Santorum, during an appearance at the "Value Voters Summit" last October

Earlier this week, somebody took Rick Santorum up on the invitation to take a closer look at political spouses: The Daily Beast's's Nancy Hass reported the surprising news that during the 1980s, Santorum's wife Karen shacked up with a Pittsburgh obstetrician, Tom Allen, who provided abortions.

Actually, that's a bit of an understatement. "You have to understand," says Jeanne Clark, a longtime activist on women's rights issues here: "This isn't just another doctor who did abortions." Allen was a strong advocate for a woman's right to choose: "He was the most visible person on this issue here. He was the leader."

Yet as Hass' story makes clear, for several years Allen was in a live-in relationship with the future Mrs. Santorum -- who was then Karen Garver, a nursing student at Duquesne University. Among other disclosures, Hass depicts Garver providing informal support to at least one woman seeking an abortion:

In October 1983, Mary Greenberg ... flew to Pittsburgh to consult Allen about an abortion. He directed her to colleagues at the Women's Health Center; Karen, recalls Mary, immediately offered to accompany her to the clinic. "She told me it wasn’t that bad, that I shouldn’t be worried," says Mary, who ultimately went on her own, and met Allen and Garver for dinner later that night. "She was very supportive."

To some, the most surprising thing about the story is that Allen was four decades older than Karen Garver -- and that in fact, he'd delivered her as a baby. But perhaps equally surprising is the direction Garver’s life took once the relationship ended. (Hass ascribes the break-up to the fact that Allen didn't want children.) Today, after all, Karen Santorum is known as the author of a book, Letters to Gabriel, which stakes out a staunchly pro-life position while recounting a different part of her life story: the tragic death of a son. She is married to a former Senator who, in his own book, opined that "Too few of us dare say living together without the benefit of marriage is wrong."

Nor surprisingly, Hass' piece has outraged some conservatives, though just as unsurprisingly, it seems some in the pro-life fringe are citing the story to discredit him.

But generally, the story has been met with a yawn. While the Newsweek report has gotten some play from the New York Daily News, and some foreign papers, a Google news search suggests it has largely been ignored by major news organizations here. (Some have mentioned the piece in reporting on the pro-life attacks on Santorum, however.)

Among the media outlets that have ignored the story are both daily newspapers in Pittsburgh, where it all took place. Which may not be surprising: At least at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I'm told, reporters have been aware of the Garver/Allen romance for years. Columnist Sally Kalson, for one, acknowledges having known about the Allen/Garver romance, "from way, way back." In fact, Clark says that while she believes the story is "absolutely fair game," she figured it had never been written because "the story was so out there in public" -- as an open secret among Allen's wide circle of friends .

This isn't the first time the story has surfaced beyond that circle, only to disappear quickly beneath the waves; a 2005 Philadelphia City Paper story briefly noted Karen Santorum's relationship to Allen in a profile of the former Senator. And while I read that story, Karen Santorum’s background didn’t register with me at all. (The only part that stuck with me was the bit about Santorum shaking the reporter's hand after taking a leak.)

Of course, back in 2005, Santorum wasn't a credible candidate for president. Which raises the question: Is this story news today? Is it fair game to report on the personal life of a presidential candidate's wife ... when the conduct in question took place 30 years ago -- and before they even met?