May
21st 2008
I hate to say I told you so…

Posted under: jobs

Well, actually, I love to say thatInside Higher Ed today has an update on Mike Garrison’s presidency at West Virginia University, “When the Base Disappears.”  (As many readers may remember, this has been a bee in my bonnet for several months now with a local version of this story.)  For those of you too lazy to click, here’s the nut:

Selected largely for his political experience, and lacking the basic academic pedigree of most presidents, Garrison relied on his connections as a scandal broke about allegations that a degree had been inappropriately awarded to a politically connected executive. As the charges and evidence multiplied, and as professors became more and more angry, many political leaders had his back, and his board seemed firmly in his corner. But in recent days, as some of his political backing has weakened, the flip side of his situation has become apparent. Many at the university say that Garrison’s non-traditional background as a political figure – not an academic – could make him all the more vulnerable to losing his job.

Now, how many of you struggling ABDs, adjunct faculty, assistant profs, and ultimately victorious but bitter tenured profs out there would like a fast ride to some of the top spots in state government?  Sounds pretty good, especially if you’re a policy wonk/political junkie/huge gossip like Historiann, right?  Well, imagine the outcry if one of us took one of their prominent jobs without the years of back-slapping, glad-handing, party machine-cultivating, and rubber chicken-eating that it takes to get ahead in state politics?  Outrage, I’m sure, especially if accompanied by the self-serving rhetoric of politicians and businessmen who like to play University president, only in reverse:  “State government needs to be run like a university!  We need trained academicians to bring integrity to state politics and focus on the people’s needs.  People don’t think they’re getting their money’s worth, so we need more Ph.D.’s to make government run according to academic values.”  Who the hell does she think she is?  No one in our line of work has ever heard of her!  She doesn’t have the credentials!  The outcry would never end.

Years ago, a close family member of mine kept insisting on doing his own major home repairs–not light bulb replacements or picture-hanging, or the occasional interior paint job, which is about Historiann’s speed of “home improvement,” but plumbing fixes and additions, roof repair, tiling, drywalling, etc.  This would be fine if he were retired, but his day job was being a primary care pediatrician, which means not just seeing patients all day, but being on call once or twice a week.  I liked to remind him of that simple fact we all learned in seventh-grade social studies:  the division of labor is the basis of civilization.  Did he really want drywallers, plumbers, and roofers diagnosing their kids and prescribing treatments?  Absolutely not.  Would it be appropriate to appoint a successful contractor to be medical director of the local hospital?  What do you think? 

9 Comments »

9 Responses to “I hate to say I told you so…”

  1. rootlesscosmo on 21 May 2008 at 7:40 am #

    Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, George Murphy, Jimmie Davis, and of course Ronald Reagan. Need I say more?

  2. Historiann on 21 May 2008 at 7:59 am #

    I think you do need to say a little more: are you making an argument that it’s a good idea for actors to jump into state government? Or that it’s a disaster?

  3. Susan on 21 May 2008 at 9:14 am #

    Love the picture.
    As for the home repair, we’ve lived in two houses where it’s clear prior owners were big on DIY. The plumbers and electricians come in and GROAN.

  4. Historiann on 21 May 2008 at 9:25 am #

    Yeah–they love it when they find the plumbing held together with spit and duct tape! I loves me that division of labor…I don’t want the electricians and plumbers teaching their kids American history now, do I?

  5. GayProf on 21 May 2008 at 9:35 am #

    My undergraduate university (UNM) has one of the worst track records of hiring presidents who know anything about the state, the student body, or the greater good of the institution. Alas, though, the goal of university presidents these days seem to be about fund raising more than actually running the university.

  6. Historiann on 21 May 2008 at 9:44 am #

    Ooops, GayProf: I’ve actually met one of those recent (but no longer) presidents of UMN. He’s the brother-in-law of one of my best friends! (But I agree with you entirely, natch.) The particular president I’m thinking of had a brief tenure for a variety of reasons, but I’m sure that one of them is the one under discussion here today. (And p.s.: he did not campaign for Bill Richardson!)

  7. rootlesscosmo on 21 May 2008 at 2:11 pm #

    I think you do need to say a little more: are you making an argument that it’s a good idea for actors to jump into state government? Or that it’s a disaster?

    A disaster, but not a novelty. And in California the Guv appoints the Board of Regents of the UC system–in fact Reagan won his first election, in 1966, partly on his promise to shake up the Board and the Administration so there’d be no more unruly student activism.

    My point was that hopelessly unqualified people in high office, including offices that influence university policies, are all too familiar.

  8. Historiann on 21 May 2008 at 2:17 pm #

    Yes–good points. (I was just checking, because some people like Reagan and the Governator! I didn’t think you did, but I never assume…)

  9. Caroline Kennedy? Really? : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 15 Dec 2008 at 6:27 pm #

    [...] without a background in politics and a proven record as a campaigner and winner.  (This blog has a healthy suspicion of politicians who on a whim think it would be great fun to become the President of a major research university, [...]