What is up with Patricia Limerick these days? Aside from being the Director of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado (CU), she writes occasional op-ed pieces as an advocate for Western issues like water and dirt. This morning, I cracked open my hard copy of the Denver Post to find her endorsement for right-wing hack Bruce Benson to become the next president of her university. With apologies to my out-of-state and international readership, I’ve already addressed this foolishness, if only for the realpolitik concept that the ENTIRE STATE IS NOW RUN BY DEMOCRATS. But, Historiann just can’t let this one go.
So, back to Limerick: she starts her op-ed with an unconvincing apologia for the fact that Benson is one of one finalists for the job. She explains, “when news gets out that a top university administrator is a finalist for a job at another institution, that person is in jeopardy. At the very least, the people she works with will look at her with distrust. At the worst, she may end up, in short order, no longer holding that job. Hence, the idea of announcing a list of several finalists is a dream that cannot find a home in the cutthroat world of our times.” Really? Let’s look at comparable searches elsewhere. I wonder how Colorado State University ever got 2 people with distinguished academic careers to interview publicly just five years ago? Who knew that the delicate flowers who compete for these jobs were taking such incredible risks? Back in the reality-based community, they’re not: it seems more typical than unusual that two to four finalists are named.
Next, she addresses his lack of academic qualifications: “Others believe that Benson’s lack of a Ph.D. disqualifies him for the presidency.” Call me an old stick-in-the-mud, but I think it’s only fair that people in the top jobs at universities have to match at least the minimum requirements that our beginning assistant professors must meet. You know, the people that he’ll be asked either to tenure or fire in 6 years? Finally, she suggests that his history of partisan hackery and lack of academic qualifications is a net bonus for CU: “In fact, the very habits of expression that make some faculty and students wince when they listen to Benson are exactly the habits that could persuade a majority of Coloradans to appreciate CU and recognize its need for greater financial support.” Whaaaaa? I guess the literal translation of that is, “The majority of Coloradoans are dumb hicks like Benson, and he’ll be better able to pick their pockets on behalf of CU.” Limerick evidently holds both her fellow Coloradoans and her academic colleagues in such low esteem that she thinks the latter can’t really talk to the former effectively about their pointy-headed schemes, let alone convince anyone that they’re worth supporting. Pretty patronizing, Professor.
I can’t put it any better than a long-time worker in higher education I know, who says “the fact is that for the past 14 years, at least, Republicans have engaged in a slash-and-burn attack on public institutions of all kinds, including–and perhaps especially–higher education, and in particular colleges of liberal arts. Now, suddenly, students, professors, staff, and other citizens are to believe that all is forgiven, forgotten, and recanted. . . . .Any clear-headed, clear-eyed historical analysis would suggest that right now, Benson and his ilk are as much captives of a hostile political environment that they created as much as they are victims of mindless, knee-jerk liberal reaction.” [Historiann would argue moreso.] “Conservatives–former conservatives?–are running for cover right now, and it appears that Benson has found a pretty good refuge in which to make himself over as a broad-minded, public-spirited citizen.” What a scam! You know what they say, though: IOKIYAR (It’s O.K. if you’re a Republican)!
UPDATE: Hot off the presses–the CU Boulder Faculty Assembly voted 40-4 tonight against a resolution in support of Benson’s candidacy. (Warning: the link is to a Rocky Mountain News story, so skip the comments unless you’ve got a strong stomach. Those commenters seem to ratify Limerick’s dim view of Coloradoans, sad to say. . . but take a look: do you think those people are going to open up their checkbooks and vote for tax increases to support CU? I mean, once they wipe the Chee-to crumbs off of their sweatshirts?) The vote tonight is only advisory, as the CU Board of Regents has the final say next Wednesday. The faculty also passed a resolution to ask the Regents to re-open the search for a new president.
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