During Cordova’s tenure, the trustees watched as she established an elite group of American peer universities including the Big Ten and Stanford. It’s unlikely any university in that peer group, including Stanford, would hire a non-academic to head one of the leading universities in the nation, if not the world.
Former Oklahoma Sen. David Boren went on to lead the University of Oklahoma, which is better known for producing college football powerhouses than Rhodes Scholars. Former Indiana Congressman John Brademas was courted to lead New York University, but that was many years ago — and after Brademas was defeated in a bid for another term. Boren is a Republican. Brademas is a Democrat.
If what Daniels did in pursuing the Purdue presidency had been done in Illinois, where the last two governors – one from each party – are serving prison time, it’s likely voters would be skeptical about the connection and the conflict of interest. Illinois has had more experience with disastrous moves by its governors than Indiana, and that may explain why.
It’s ironic that the same party that produced Daniels also produced Abraham Lincoln, who signed legislation creating Purdue and other land grant universities across the nation. It was a move designed to open educational access to all, or in 21st century terminology, “the 99 percent” of Americans who aren’t connected enough to be able to be admitted to a private college or be able to pay for an education at one.
In choosing Daniels to be Purdue’s next president, the university’s trustees have come up with a “one percent solution” to its presidential search. They’ve also answered questions about Daniels’ recent job performance, his lack of academic background and the public controversy that his appointment has caused. Their absurd answer is “It doesn’t matter.”
• Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached through the newspaper at firstname.lastname@example.org.