Dave Kitchell: Daniels not qualified for this presidency either
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 5:54 AM
WEST LAFAYETTE – When news spread across the Purdue campus Tuesday that the next campus president might be Indiana’s governor, there was no sit-in at the Union where protests were common during the Vietnam War.
But there weren’t any chants of “We Want Mitch” either.
A worker in the next booth from me at McDonald’s praised the possibility because the governor “balanced the budget”, not knowing that the governor has nothing to do with the state budget other than signing after the legislature passes it. One student in a class I’m taking there questioned if Daniels would begin privatizing residence halls. Even if Dick Cheney doesn’t persuade Halliburton to bid on it, don’t rule it out.
The “why” of how Daniels will become the successor to France Cordova is easy. When you pick the people who can pick most of the people who can pick you for the job and you want it, it’s only a matter of a few calls. Trustees can be reminded of IOUs for the job that isn’t IU and if Mike Pence or John Gregg is elected, the likelihood they won’t be reappointed if they don’t pick Daniels. Trustees, who face the reality that – unlike their IU counterparts -- they raise more research funding from private funds than public dollars, might be playing on Daniels’ name recognition to secure more federal funding and Washington influence.
Like Cordova, Daniels will have a D.C. residence at his disposal if he wants to lobby Congress, the administration or whatever officials he so pleases.
Of course, trustees might be thinking Daniels is the closest thing they have to a lever to help them pry more state funding away from the Indiana General Assembly. But don’t bet on it.
This was a clear shift away from the tradition of Purdue’s presidential traditions. Daniels has no connections to any expertise involving a specific college unless politics counts as animal science. He is a Purdue parent, but not a Purdue grad, and he has far weaker an academic resume than the woman he is replacing.
He isn’t a minority as she is, and he assures Purdue of not only making Daniels’ supporters happy, but Daniels’ opponents even unhappier. Whether that will translate into less public giving to Purdue remains to be seen, but political affiliations tend to have a polarizing effect in academe.
The same issue was raised when former Sen. Evan Bayh retired and his name was instantly associated with the Purdue vacancy.
What exactly the choice accomplishes for Daniels other than being a resume builder is anyone’s guess.
After being a White House budget director and a governor, why bother with a college presidency? And if Cordova was not a choice worthy of a new contract even though she qualifies for one beyond the usual retirement age of 65 and previous presidents have been afforded that opportunity, what exactly will the expectations be that measure his success?
Was this the best that Purdue could come up with after a search that took more than a year, or were the trustees just biding time until Daniels was clearly out of the running not only for the presidency, but the No. 2 slot on the Republican ticket?
The answer we may not know for some time, but we know now that his decision to head to his next job with still half a year remaining at his current one is the worst kept secret in West Lafayette.
Kitchell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Logansport.