What are the Potential Perils of Ex-Politicians in University Posts? – Times Higher Education
Insights Stephen Joel Trachtenberg · June 14, 2017
Rimon Partner and President Emeritus and University Professor of Public Service at The George Washington University, Stephen Trachtenberg, was quoted in Times Higher Education Magazine about the pros and cons of ex-MPs turning to academia for employment.
Dr. Trachtenberg has supervised the transition of several former denizens of Capitol Hill into the academic ranks during his time in office. He has also studied historical examples such as Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s appointment as president of Columbia University in 1948, which is generally viewed as more to the general’s benefit than the university’s. “Eisenhower was put in a safe place at Columbia by the Republican Party to keep him warm in order to run him as president,” he said.
“Some [such appointments] turn out better than others. A few become real academics, even scholars. Some, like retired athletes or military [leaders], simply retell old war stories until even they are bored silly.”
According to Stephen, such appointments should be allocated depending on the candidate’s own merits and range of skill sets. “The very best add value by spicing up classes that can [otherwise] be didactic and dry, [but] the worst lower the quality of instruction. I recommend a two-year visiting trial run as a start [so that the university can] make stay-or-go decisions that are evidence-based.” He also stated that some politicians may “underestimate how much work being a professor can be”. But equally, their managers should not be too quick to label such appointees disloyal if they ultimately move on. It is unrealistic, Trachtenberg says, to expect former politicians to cast off their previous ambitions. University posts allow them to “cool off, regroup and go on to a new appointment or run for office – it’s all good.”