Fear and Loathing at ASU

In 2000 I took a required class in security analysis at ASU from John Cesta. I’m not an expert analyst by any means, but I learned how to use the formulas to calculate a given problem. We turned our homework in on floppy disks, which were returned to us after they were graded. Mr. Cesta consistently gave me a ‘B’, although he never specified what was wrong with them. At the end of the semester he said that anyone who did well on the analysis of an assigned stock would get an ‘A’ in the class. I analyzed Norfolk Southern Railroad, NSC during the time they were merging with CSX. I presented my analysis to the class using PowerPoint and Excel charts. The charts had formulas in the cells so the end result would change if you changed a single number. People told me I did a good job. In fact, no one else forecasted their stock’s price for the next year. Also, some of the members of the class chose not to give a presentation. I was given a ‘B’ for the semester. A year later, it turned out NSC’s price behaved as the formulas predicted.

During the semester, I never complained to anyone that Mr Cesta failed to answer my emails, or that he made himself unavailable to me during office hours. I should have complained. I would go to his office during his office hours and wait for him but I was never able to talk to him. On one occasion, I was there when his previous appointment with a young man ended. He saw me and said he had another obligation and couldn’t talk to me. About ten minutes later I saw him wandering around outside in the courtyard. When he saw me, he walked over to the fountain and stared up at the sky.

After graduation, I wrote Mr. Cesta an email telling him what I thought of him. He didn’t anwer, but sometime in the next week I got a $95.00 bill for a library fine. I hadn’t been informed of that bill before graduation. I don’t think it existed before that time because you wouldn’t get a diploma with an unpaid fine like that. I called the library. The person I talked to seemed mystified. He said it was a $10.00 fine plus interest. I asked this person to have someone call me, but no one ever did. Later I got a computer generated invoice with a note scrawled on it, “You didn’t contact us about this bill so you must believe it’s legitimate.” I wrote back that I had called them and they hadn’t returned my call. The next time I checked, the fine had disappeared from my record.

I wrote Mr. Cesta another email saying, “that’s one way to find out if you ever actually see any of your emails.” I told him that kind of interest rate sounds like his kind of finance. Again, he didn’t answer my email.

Now, more than a decade later, I finally complained to the school. Here’s the reason. Recently, I tried to open the floppy disk with the PowerPoint presentation and the charts. However, my computer was telling me the files were corrupted. I ordered a floppy disk reader from Amazon and tried again. The PowerPoint presentation was blank. The file with the charts still says it is corrupted and can’t be opened. Now that really makes me mad. I did that work—it was mine. I could have used it to analyze other stocks using the same charts and saved myself a lot of time.

I talked to Kay Faris, Senior Associate Dean at the W.P. Carey School of Business and told her the whole story. I don’t know what I expected to happen after all this time, but I think the school would want to be told if state employees are not doing their job. She told me that she would forward my complaint to the department dean. That was on April 2. At this time, I haven’t heard from the Dean or Ms. Faris. It’s now become an issue of courtesy on their part, and mistrust on mine.

I remember Mr. Cesta telling the class that a local man still blamed him for destroying his company with a negative stock analysis. He wanted us to be impressed. He shrugged, as if to say it wasn’t his problem. Yesterday a library fine, tomorrow who knows?

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