An example? A few months ago, the immediate past-president of the university where I teach authored an opinion piece in the Oregonian. It was on the politically controversial topic of children of illegal immigrants. I was happy he wrote that because we need to discuss this issue as a society--as Oregonians, and as Americans. Of course, I have my own concerns on this topic.
Authoring such an opinion piece is not any abuse of power and privilege at all.
An example of a subtler abuse of the office that one holds is the following email from the provost of the university:
Many of you may have seen today's Oregonian and noted the opinion piece written by President Minahan. For those of you who have not read the guest editorial, I have copied the link below and I encourage you to read it.Not kosher at all to treat the newspaper op-ed as official university business, especially when it is on such a controversial hot-button issue!
If the provost's email in the context of the president's op-ed was out of a professional interest to trigger discussions, then he ought to have sent similar emails before and after the president's emails, right? After all, day in a day out, there are plenty of opinions being written on critical aspects of higher education. But, that was not ever the case.
As I tell my students, evidence strengthens arguments. So, here is one example: a few days prior to that, I had authored this op-ed on higher education in the same newspaper, in which I wrote:
the only beneficiaries are colleges and universities that are, naturally, recording enrollment increases -- even in my classes in the summer. This enrollment growth then triggers the need for additional facilities, which necessitates a demand for more money from students and taxpayers.Imagine if the provost had urged the campus to read that op-ed, too! Ha!
Such a higher educational system cannot go on forever. As economist Herbert Stein famously remarked, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."
A few hours after that op-ed was published, a faculty colleague emailed me and the dean of the college:
That was an excellent piece in the paper this morning. I, too, feel that the objective of a university education must be to encourage intellectual growth rather than simply being a minimal qualifier for employment. We have community colleges for that purpose. My observation has been that many, if not most, WOU students are intellectually adrift. We, as an institution, can help young people discover significance. I believe that should be our mission.Guess what? There was no response from the dean. The silence was simply deafening.
But then, I am not the president who authored an op-ed, right? After all, all my work is nothing but mashed potatoes :)
As I think back, I do wonder if the provost sending that kind of an all-campus email was an attempt to set himself up for the presidency!