Letter: Give peace a chance

By Gus Bode

Dear Editor:

No group has a higher opinion of itself than academics. Often wrong, but never sorry, their Ph.D.s prove that they are “smart.” Shouldn’t these self-described “smart” people run major universities?

No. Ignoring the logical fallacy of “appealing to false authority” (an expert in math is not an expert in business), there are many reasons why the mere possession of a degree is not a good yardstick for choosing leaders. Like it or not, higher education is a competitive business. The president or CEO of a large university must raise funds, lobby politicians, broker between constituency groups and balance billion-dollar budgets. These skills are in short supply among academics, even as they sport buttons stating that “the people that should be running the country (or world) are too busy teaching.” Fill the United Nations with teachers and we’ll solve the world’s problems!


As members of the “chattering class,” academics excel at criticizing. There is a place for that but not in management. A successful manager must never become a perpetual critic lest employees lose all sense of morale. Strong leaders build and rebuild organizations. They respond to crises by taking swift, effective action, cutting through red tape when necessary. I have witnessed Glenn Poshard do all of these things publicly and behind the scenes.

So, why the “feeding frenzy” over Poshard’s dissertation? His work on “gifted children” circa 1984 has nothing to do with his leadership ability. It has a lot to do with the highly-inflated view academics have of themselves. “Why,” the voices cry, “he is not one of us, the ‘smart’ people. Away with him!”

Think for a moment. How many other great leaders shall we purge from history despite their contributions? Shall we stop recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day because he plagiarized a lot of the text of his dissertation? According to Snopes.com, Boston University concluded “the committee’s findings, although important from the point of view of historical accuracy, do not affect Dr. King’s greatness, nor do they change the fact that Dr. King made an unequaled contribution to the cause of justice and equal rights in this nation.” They therefore decided not to revoke his degree but to let the dissertation and the degree stand.

Academics are not alone among the more hysterical critics of Poshard. The media feed on bad news and the politics of destruction. Many young people – dare I say it? – relish lobbing pot shots at authority figures, damn the consequences. Students are the lifeblood of the university but that does not translate into “students ought to run the university.”

Give peace a chance on this campus. Give Poshard a chance to continue his good work. Let time and results be the measure of his work.

Jonathan Bean

history professor


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