Well, actually, I love to say that! Inside 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?