Last week, Texas Tech announced that it had offered former Bush attorney general Alberto Gonzales a position to teach political science during the upcoming fall semester. Gonzales will be a visiting professor leading a course on “contemporary issues in the executive branch” and focusing on “recruiting and retaining first generation and under-represented students.”
The Daily Toreador, the student newspaper, wrote an editorial saying that Gonzales was Texas Tech’s worst hire since controversial coach Bob Knight. The editors noted that while students may be excited to take a class from such a notorious figure, “when he’s talking about the right thing to do…remember his lasting image in American politics”:
By leaving Capitol Hill in disgrace, Gonzales did not fulfill his duty as attorney general, and he did not reach his full potential as a role model for minorities.
So why hire him?
This trumps hiring a fiery coach from Indiana known for tossing a chair across a basketball court. Gonzales is notoriously accused of much more serious problems.
One point of contention is the former attorney general’s salary. Gonzales, a visiting professor, will be earning $100,000 for the year — which is approximately what full professors make — in addition to any speaking and mediation fees he does for outside work. Tech Provost Bob Smith has defended the pay, saying that it’s appropriate for someone “with a national presence and a long list of accomplishments.” Texas Tech alumni and high school government teacher David Ring said that making $100,000 “to teach one section of no more than 15 students…doesn’t seem like a fare shake to those professors at the school who, I don’t know, haven’t perjured themselves in front of the U.S. Congress.”
One Texas Tech faculty member said that administrators at the school don’t value a liberal arts education. She noted that at a Texas legislative hearing last year, Chancellor Kent Hance — who considers Gonzales a “good friend” — said that “research on ‘the best part of Shakespeare’s play’ isn’t on the same level as the research his university is conducting for the Defense Department.”
Hance is largely ignoring the criticism. He said that he received a “substantial number” of supportive e-mails about the hire, and just nine critical ones. He added that “he wasn’t dwelling on the negative ones because they didn’t come from loyal university donors.”