Ham(line) Handed PR

Kudos to Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin for by far the best coverage of last week’s dispute about former GOP gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer’s bid to become a professor at Hamline University.

In last week’s coverage, Emmer was claiming he had an informal handshake agreement, though not a contractual agreement, to teach at Hamline. Emmer maintained that Hamline later reneged under pressure from liberal faculty members.

From last week’s coverage, I couldn’t tell if Emmer was exagerating the firmness of the handshake agreement he and Hamline had actually reached. But in his Sunday column, Tevlin uncovered several Emmer emails that show the claimed Emmer-Hamline handshake was bonecrunchingly firm. There are unambiguous statements from Hamline leaders in those emails, such as “Tom Emmer is going to teach it.”

Tevlin did the by far best reporting on this issue, and he also did the best opining:

I have no idea if Emmer would be a good teacher. He’s certainly not known as an intellectual or deep thinker, but a lot of colleges are convalescent homes for retired or failed Democrats, so he’s certainly not a stretch. I’m guessing he’d give a lot of students the opportunity to hone their arguments, and there’s value in that. My two best professors in political science were a socialist and the then-head of the GOP. They both made me think, and that’s what education is about. Hamline could have handled this worse, but I’m not sure how.

Hamline didn’t break a contract, but it did reveal itself to be narrow minded. They should have let Emmer teach.

– Loveland

29 thoughts on “Ham(line) Handed PR

  1. PM says:

    I agree with you that tevlin’s stuff is the best on this issue by far, but he does not cover all of the problem. The problem here is the administration at Hamline. They blew this on two sides, by trying to be too cute by far. Tevlin and you note the problems that the administration had with Emmer and the public. The administration has also alienated itself from the internal Hamline community–those who work there, in the school of business. They failed to consult with the faculty about this entire process, and sprung it on them as a total surprise. Hamline (like many other small universities) is struggling to see itself as an important institution of higher learning–this concern with the public perception of the intellectual legitimacy of the institution is perhaps the overriding concern of the faculty, and, frankly, they did not see any way in which Emmer would add to that reputation. I actually happen to know a lot of those people, and have talked to them about this issue. They could have been convinced, but the administration is inept and has little credibility with the faculty. There is a lot of anger and bad feelings between the two groups, and, to an extent, Emmer was a victim of circumstances beyond his making.

    Bottom line is that the administration at the School of Business is pretty incompetent. The public side of this contretemps is not the only place they screwed up.

      1. PM says:

        Well, you need to understand that the “business school” at Hamline also includes all of their nonprofit and public administration classes/programs. He was to be teaching some kind of a course on public service

      2. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Mike, make an effort:

        Qualifications for Becoming a U.S. Senator
        The qualifications to become a U.S. senator are stated in the U.S. constitution; article one, section three and clause three. The constitution states that to become a senator an applicant must meet specific age, citizenship and state status.

        The U.S. Senate was formed in 1787 by a convention informally referred to as the framers of the constitution. These requirements have been in effect since that time. There are no constitutional amendments that apply to the requirements for becoming a U.S. senator.

        Age
        The minimum age requirement to serve as a U.S. senator is 30 years of age. James Madison, one of the framers of the Constitution, justified the higher age requirement in the Senate, saying serving as a senator required greater life experience and stability of character, according to the United States Senate (www.senate.gov)

        Citizenship
        An applicant into the U.S. senate must be a U.S. citizen for nine years prior to applying for the senate. The 9-year rule helps ensure that foreign-born senators show more loyalty to the United States than to their countries of birth. This helps promote fairness when senators have to deal with treaties and make other foreign policy decisions.

        Inhabitancy
        A U.S. senator is required to be an inhabitant of the state in which he or she is elected. The constitution does not specify how long a senate candidate must reside in the state in order to run.

      3. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Ah, looked at the earlier piece, which reports that it was a business LAW class Hamline was considering Emmer for as an instructor. So, as a JD holder and a former legislator, sure, why not?

  2. Joe Loveland says:

    Some public figures are great teachers, and some are horrible. Give Emmer a one-year contract, gather student feedback, and see whether he’s got it.

    My advisor in graduate school at the University of Texas was Barbara Jordan, the first southern female African American Member of Congress and star of the Watergate hearings. As good a leader as she was, she was an even better teacher. Another good teacher I had was Admiral Bobby Inman, who was high up in the NSC under Carter and CIA under Reagan. I didn’t agree with him on much, but I learned a ton from him. I won’t name some of the lousy pols-turned-teachers I’ve seen in the classroom, but suffice it to say, the skill sets for politicians and teachers are not necessarily the same.

  3. It bugs me – a lot – that people seem afraid of ideas that might not be 100% in agreement with what they already believe in. If the power of your ideas are so great, what do you have to fear from other opinions?

    Does anyone really think Tom Emmer is going to start minting firebrand conservatives from exposing them to 50 minutes of rhetoric three times a week for a couple of months? And, if you do, what’s wrong with that? Maybe – just spitballing here – the conservatives have a few ideas worth listening to. Maybe – again just taking a wild guess – some of their ideas are ideas you cherish too.

    I used to think one of the things that made America an “exceptional nation” was our free flow of ideas, the theory being that you get better ideas if you throw them out into the rough-and-tumble marketplace of ideas and let them get smacked around a little. The good ones are strengthened, the bad ones get killed off before they can do too much harm. This is a material advantage over other societies that are run by elites who insist that their ideas are the only ones allowed (despite what the Reagan revisionists think, for example, I submit the Soviet Union fell not because of the arms build up but because the fundamental idea of its existence was bankrupt and eventually collapsed when its people realized that fact.)

    As I get older I’m less and less sure that we’re still exceptional in this way. Political correctness on campus is one symptom of the problem. An empty Senate chamber with a single member orating to the C-SPAN cameras is another. So too are fake presidential “debates” in which the candidates demonstrate their ability to “block and bridge” to their talking points. So too is the unwillingness of the right to listen the left and the left to the right.

    Over the weekend, I listened to a replay of a “debate” between Gingrich and Huntsman that was held last week in New Hampshire. There was a moderator – sounded like Brett Baier from Fox – but mostly it was just the two candidates talking. No 30-second time limits, no gotchas. The moderator steered the conversation in very general ways and occasionally called “bullshit”

    There were absolutely plenty of soundbites, but what made it WAY more interesting than most events I’ve watched/listened to is what the candidates said after their soundbites ran out. Take it from someone who’s done if for a living, even if you’ve got 5 soundbites stored up on Israel, you’re still going to have 4 minutes to fill after you’ve said them all. At that point you can either start to repeat them – implying that those 5 soundbites are all you know about the topic – or you start to talk about the reasons and the context that support your position. That’s when the conversation became interesting. I didn’t learn anything that shook my worldview, but I did come away with a richer understanding of both candidates’ foreign policy perspectives.

    Personally, I think the Gingrich proposal for a series of three-hour debates is a great idea. Don’t we want a leader who can speak on the great issues of the day at length and in the face of disagreement? Wouldn’t our friends be comforted and our enemies disheartened to know that the people competing to run the country could speak intelligently about economics or the Middle East or Pakistan?

    – Austin

  4. john sherman says:

    I spent my teaching career in the state university system, and what Hamline did was completely foreign to my experience.

    We had to fight like hell to get a full time, tenure track position–adjuncts of course were easier, but adjunct teaching in the SUS usually pays slightly worse than working in a car wash. Then, we had to go through Affirmative Action procedures including a pretty precise description of the job requirements and an explanation of all the places we were going to advertise the job, usually with several months lead time.

    We, a committee from the department with an outside minority member, then screened the applications and narrowed the list down to maybe ten; we then did phone interviews based on a pre-approved set of questions and narrowed the list some more. We then asked as many of the remaining candidates as the administration would allow to campus for vetting by the department and the administration before making the final selection. After hiring we had to provide a rationale for not offering the job to all the other applicants.

    Admittedly this is a cumbersome and tedious process, but it does avoid the Emmer problem. In my observation one of the problems with private education and private damn near everything else is cronyism, and the tediously bureaucratic Affirmative Action procedures do try, with some success, to create a meritocracy.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      I appreciate the perspective of someone who knows that world much better than I do.

      I don’t know anything about the process used to consider Emmer. But I do think a diverse faculty is also about having professors with diverse life experiences and professional backgrounds, such as someone who has been in the position of reviewing and making business regulation at the policymaking level. To me, a non-traditional guy like Emmer and a more traditional type faculty member both bring valuable assets to a learning environment. I like having the faculty members with non-traditional backgrounds in the mix.

      1. john sherman says:

        I have no idea whether hiring Emmer would have been a good idea; he has a JD and therefore has the usual somewhat over-rated credential, and he’s articulate. The problem is that no one knows what it is Hamline wanted to accomplish in hiring Emmer and who else, if anyone, they looked at.

        It has the smell of some administrator saying, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to have Tom Emmer on staff” and then setting out to do it without consulting with the faculty about what they thought the program needed or who could best fill that need. Incidentally, the other part of the appointment–“adjunct executive” was it?–what in the world is that? I thought I had some knowledge of where the various featherbeds were in academe, but that’s a new one on me.

      2. PM says:

        I expect that they were (and I am not saying this to be ironic) trying to gain some visibility in a crowded marketplace by hiring Emmer. Sort of like Harvard hiring Jesse Ventura.

        Seriously.

    2. PM says:

      Emmer’s was certainly not a tenure track position–but he was probably getting somewhat more than the basic adjunct (which amounts to almost nothing).

  5. Newt says:

    None of this is surprising. Academia is about the last place you’ll find diversity of perspective.

    By the way, who died and made Professor Schultz the official gate keeper of new hires? He’s a measly faculty member.

    1. PM says:

      What makes you think he is the gatekeeper of new hires? As you put it, he IS just a faculty member. Hardly in a position to make those kinds of decisions, right? Or are you just disagreeing with something he said?

      1. Erik says:

        Over here at the Crowd’s literary desk, I’m wondering why the archetype for professors is that they’re pricks.

  6. Newt says:

    PIONEER PRESS: ‘Schultz, meanwhile, disputed Emmer’s characterization. He said he did not oppose Emmer’s hiring because of his political views and would not have objected to him teaching a business class. “I wouldn’t have cared one way or the other – if someone had actually asked me,” Schultz said.’

    (INTEPRETATION: Nobody kissed Schultz’s ring, and clearly his ego was damaged – thus his opposition to Emmer. The Deans and VPs at Hamline need to grow a pair rather than get steamrolled by lowly faculty.)

    1. PM says:

      “thus his opposition to Emmer” and “i wouldn’t have cared one way or the other” seem rather contradictory. Perhaps your “interpretation” is a bit loose?

      Also, if he wasn’t asked, how could he have steamrolled the deans and VP’s? I mean, he is just a lowly faculty member, after all.

      I’m not certain exactly what you are trying to imply here, Newt, but it really does not add up very well. An awful lot of contradictions in your story.

  7. Joe Loveland says:

    From The Dartmouth Review:

    If Emmer’s political beliefs played even a small role in the decision to revoke his hiring, we should all be concerned. While absolute academic freedom does not exist even in a university environment (no good school would hire an ardent National Socialist or tolerate a professor who openly racially discriminated in grading), schools must still allow a wide degree of leeway in order to fulfill their missions of open inquiry and the free exchange of ideas. To state that Emmer is unemployable due to an opinion he shares with half the country and with the state law of Minnesota sets a disturbing precedent. If only one opinion on a contentious issue like gay marriage is to be allowed, students and professors might wonder if they could face retribution for opposing abortion, affirmative action, or any other issue which has become firmly enmeshed with left-wing orthodoxy. The resulting silencing effect will extend far beyond the marriage issue and hurt us all.

  8. Nathaniel says:

    I think the idea that Emmer was not hired because of his political views stands on a lot of assumptions. Emmer says the dean told him she wouldn’t hire him because of a vocal few professors. I didn’t see any e-mails confirming that. And it would be equally plausible that the vocal few objected to Emmer’s lack of teaching experience or peer-reviewed publications, or the fact that the Dean was not following Hamline policy for hiring a faculty member – which usually requires faculty participation.

    Tevlin’s statement that “a lot of colleges are retirement homes for retired or failed Democrats is a cheap shot and unsupported. Let’s see some examples. And some proof that said Democrats are not good teachers.

    Tevlin says that anybody with a pulse knows what Emmer stands for. The Dean who was exploring his hire is relatively new to Minnesota. The fact that she was also thinking he’d raise money for Hamline indicates she doesn’t know him that well. He hasn’t raised a lot of money to pay off the expenses for his recount in the last election.

    Some people are too quick to give Emmer the benefit of the doubt on this. The factors behind faculty hires and non-hires are complicated – almost always more complicated than in a business setting. Saying this was primarily politically motivated is jumping to conclusions.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      Nathaniel, thanks for participating. I, the Dartmouth Review and others are reacting to this portion of the Pioneer Press coverage:

      “Jim Bonilla, an associate professor in Hamline’s business school, said he wrote to McCarthy with concerns about Emmer’s appointment and that he knows of two other professors, outside the business school, who raised concerns with Hanson.

      He said he doesn’t know whether faculty concerns about Emmer factored in the administration’s decision not to hire him.

      For Bonilla, listed on the school’s website as a consultant on diversity in higher education and the founding director of Hamline’s “Race, Gender & Beyond” program, there is a business case and a social justice case to be made against Emmer.

      In terms of business, he pointed to fallout from gay-rights groups after Target Corp. donated $150,000 to a political fund that in turn supported Emmer.

      And hiring someone stridently opposed to gay rights goes against the school’s ethic of nondiscrimination and works against training the staff does on creating safe spaces for gay and lesbian students, Bonilla said.

      “That would be money wasted,” he said.

      Not hiring Emmer allows Hamline to make a decision “congruent with our values and a sound business decision,” Bonilla said.

      Emmer disputed Bonilla’s comments but said he’s glad someone is honestly expressing an opinion he believes is behind his failure to secure similar positions at other institutions.”

      There are a lot of Dem pols who have taught college courses around the area. Skip Humphrey, State Sen. Steve Kelly, Tim Penny, and John Brandl come to mind.

      1. PM says:

        Isn’t George Latimer still somewhere at Macalaster? Durenberger is a fellow (?) at St. Thomas. I am sure there are others–St. Thomas has been particularly active in this area

      2. Erik says:

        I’m keeping score. Where are we on “Tevlin’s statement that “a lot of colleges are retirement homes for retired or failed Democrats is a cheap shot and unsupported. Let’s see some examples. And some proof that said Democrats are not good teachers.”

        Add, Wy Spano, noted this morning in one of the E-rags as currently teaching

        Seriously though..I’ve got what can be termed a vocational masters. The coursework was all adjunct taught, and the instructors were all from industry. Without exception, they were all qualified to do the teaching. I’m sure the DFL guys are qualified to teach polsci, and Emmer is qualified to teach business law.

      3. Erik says:

        Me and one of my sidekicks saw George Latimer at Taste of Stillwater one time in say the last 10 years, maybe 15. We were a little beered up, and a little too conspicuous in saying, “hey, there George Latimer!” He was very gracious.

  9. Newt says:

    At least St John’s U had the good sense not renew Nick Coleman’s contact. People here repackaged the incident as a “firing.” I can’t imagine what they were thinking hiring an angry, unaccomplished small-market columnist as some kind of “scholar in residence.”

  10. Joe Loveland says:

    Interesting post from Hamline alum Luke Mathews at True North:

    “We are seeing students from liberal colleges who don’t have even the most basic understandings of thought on the right side of the spectrum. When confronted with ideas about classical liberalism, individual responsibility, the power of capitalism and the inherent corruption in transfer payments from the private sector to the public sector, they are like deer in headlights. They cannot even understand conservative language, ideals, and ethical contentions. They weren’t challenged with these ideas and so don’t know how to counter them.

    Several things happen when these poorly taught student go out into the world of diverse ideas. First, when confronted with opposing viewpoints, they are shocked. They think the ideas are stupid or wrong. Then, when pressed, they begin to realize the world is intellectually a much, much bigger place than their professors introduced them to. Finally, they question or they retreat.”

  11. Ellen says:

    For crying out loud, Loveland, how could you cite True North as proof of anything? It’s dedicated to setting our state RIGHT, right?

    And Newt, Coleman was nominated three times for Pulitzer Prizes. His “firing” by St. John was because of pure right-wing pressure put on the administration by conservative donors.

    There is also an assumption being made here that because Emmer has a J.D., he is entitled to teach at Hamline or anywhere else. Wrong. He himself is telling others that the withdrawal of his “job offer” was due to his opposition to gay marriage. Waaa.

    The university has anti-discrimination policies and need not make any apology for them. They are meant to INCLUDE, not EXCLUDE; they are meant to set out support equal opportunities for all students to matriculate. Please read them:

    “It shall be a violation of this policy, as an act of discrimination, for any Hamline employee or student to make an adverse decision against any member of the Hamline community with respect to any employment or educational opportunity on the basis of race; color; gender/sex; ethnic background; national origin; sexual orientation; gender presentation;marital, domestic partner or parental status; status with regard to public assistance; disability; religion; age; or veteran status.”

    It says nothing about having to hire Emmer because of, in spite of, or due to any belief he has.

    Right-wing anti-gay groups such as Minnesota for Marriage, Minnesota Majority and National Organization for Marriage have picked up this story big time and are using it in their opposition to the 2012 same-sex marriage amendment.

    So, Loveland, let’s end my way-too-long rant (sorry) with possible reasons why Emmer might not be ideal for students at Hamline, some of whom are absolutely, postively gay. Oh, and by the way, my source here sort of balances out your source. It’s Colu.mn, the GLBT newsletter of Minnesota:

    “Ememr’s (sic) career of working to deny LGBT people full equality under the law was an issue in his gubernatorial campaign.

    Emmer took the lead on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions in 2007.

    He opposes GLBT-inclusive anti-bullying legislation.

    Emmer proposed an amendment in committee to ban gay and lesbian couples (as well as unmarried heterosexual couples) from using a surrogate mother.

    He voted to deny local governments the ability to offer domestic partner benefits to their employees, voted against health care benefits for partners of state employees, voted against allowing public school students to learn about age-appropriate comprehensive sex education, and voted to deny same-sex couples the legal right to make decisions concerning the remains of their partner.

    And he called HIV prevention outreach to gay men “disgusting discourse” and led an effort to strip the Minnesota AIDS Project of state funding.”

    1. Erik says:

      Well said. But citing it is probably not as grievous as reading it in the first place. It’s not on the approved list, is it Joe?

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