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.)