Sky Rockets In Flight

Here I am with your Tuesday Afternoon Delight. Today I’m talking about higher education and the Republican party. Here in Colorado, our local version of Wingnut Welfare includes parking Republicans in higher ed leadership–chancellors, presidents, boards of trustees, etc. It’s a revolving door. To give one example, we had Hank Brown go from Senator to the private sector to President of the University of Northern Colorado (where he wielded a budgetary ax like Conan the Barbarian, only without the rippling muscles and Grace Jones (D-Badass) as a sidekick) to President of the University of Colorado. It shouldn’t surprise you that the Wall Street Journal called him the “best college president you’ve never heard of.” Being called best of anything by the WSJ is, imho, a dubious achievement. (Like being named best Catholic by the Spanish Inquisition…)

Now I admit, I have a particular animosity for Brown because one of the things he axed at UNC was my alma mater, the lab school, in a bait-and-switch over making it a charter school (supposedly to stabilize its finances, after which UNC pulled its support entirely. Surprise!). My high school locker has been sitting in an empty building for seven years now. Brown also did his best to kill our local NPR station. So, yeah, he balanced UNC’s budget, but at what cost?

But my point is, Republicans running our higher education system seems like a very bad idea, especially if said Republicans are getting these jobs as stepping stones to higher office, or cushy thanks for services rendered while in office. So I was delighted when I saw onColorado Pols that there’s a bill in the Colorado legislature to require state colleges and universities to be more transparent in their hiring processes when dealing with the higher level hires. The details aren’t that onerous–interview at least three candidates, publicize the finalists, then have public presentations by the finalists before the final decision is made. (Those are things our college has done every time we’ve had a presidential search anyway, so this isn’t changing anything for us…)

It also shouldn’t surprise you that a number of Colorado Republicans are vehemently opposed to this idea, because it would give people like me and you a chance to say, “Hey! This emperor is buck nekkid! What makes him/her even remotely qualified to run our college?” Chances are, even with this bill in place, the nekkid emperor would still be hired, but at least we’d have had our say. These Republicans are freaking out because they think this might deter some people from applying for these jobs. (And that’s bad exactly…how? Seriously, if somebody were to be deterred from applying for a college presidency because they might have to give a public presentation, do youreally want them as your president?)

Lack of transparency is…everybody say it with me now!…okay if you’re a Republican.

So, what’s the version of Wingnut Welfare in your neck of the woods? And do you have any thoughts about how to get some of those welfare queens off the public dole and out doing real work?

(Please note: I am not suggesting that all college presidents or officials are by definition boobs. I happen to respect my college president tremendously. It’s just that this seems to be one arena where Republicans have used their influence on occasion, sometimes to the detriment of good state colleges. I’d feel the same way if the influence being used inappropriately were from Democrats, which is why I like the bill.)

6 thoughts on “Sky Rockets In Flight

  1. We’ve a former GOP back-bencher from Congress now serving as Sheldon Adelson’s proxy in the governors office of Nevada. He tried to slash budgets enough to kill UNLV but is settling for reducing state employee pay, raising insurance rates and applying a one day a month furlough to run the talent out of Nevada and keep people as uneducated as possible for cheap labor in the casino bidness.
    His single mantra since taking office has been “no new taxes” in spite of the huge windfall that the mining industry has enjoyed.
    Ah well…as soon as the real estate market even begins to look stable, we’re outta here and headed for another place to inflict progressive ideas.

  2. We just hired an academic (a geographer, no less!) as our new president at the University of Idaho, where I work. At least we’re getting somebody who seems competent and (hopefully) understands the responsibility of a university. Even in southern Idaho (Mormon land), the president of Boise State has his own NPR show. At least at the highest level of administration at the two major universities here in Idaho, we’ve got people seemingly qualified for the job. Why a school would hire an ex-politician, I don’t know. Keep the academy in the hands of the academics and leave the idiots to run the government. Wait, actually get the academics in there, too.

  3. I’m glad to hear that, herodotus (love the handle, btw). I’m still baffled by how often we get politicians bouncing around the university system here.
    I’m not convinced that academics make for good university presidents–I’ve seen too many faculty move up the ranks into admin where the results weren’t pretty. Administration of a university requires specific skills, and I don’t think that either politicans or academics by their nature have those skills. If I were perfectly honest, I’d say that politicians were a little more likely to have the skills needed to be a university president (our prez has been fighting for funding with the legislature for months–knowing that world is a plus). I guess I should have been clear that my problem is less with politicans than it is with ideologues.

  4. Here in Missouri, the republican Gov (Matt Blunt, rhymes with Sen. Roy Blunt) took a different tack. They decided that they wanted to sell off assets of the Missouri Student Loan program (MoHELA) – a govt entity that was extremely successful both in providing higher ed loans and in making a profit. The fact that MOHELA would give loans easier than a bank to a struggling student, and the fact that the lack of ability to get loans would de-rail an attempt at education were totally irrelevant.
    But one thing to remember on the other side: increasingly, the job of “President of a Universtiy” has changed from setting a course for the university to being a figure who flies around the country for the purpose of raising money for the university. The prez’s clout is then that they can raise money for some things and other things decrease the ability of the university to raise money

Comments are closed.