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Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Case of Gary Peters Unfolds...

Introduction: This story has many twists and turns much like the story I am following at Emory University. Thus, you may very well get confused if you catch it in the middle. If you are confused, I suggest you also read my initial piece which is a good summary of the events so far.

This is the entire 174 pages of internal emails at CMU as requested through the FOIA. I am weary of trying as much as possible to make my evidence scientific not anecdotal and it should be noted that while there is a lot here, some of this evidence continues to be anecdotal. For instance, there are many emails from blacked out students expressing their concern at the hiring of Peters, however since the name is blacked out, it is difficult to know if it is one student on a quest or several. Still, these pages appear quite damning.

First, here is just one, of many, emails written by a blacked out concerned student. (Since I am an internet dunce, I can't copy and paste so I will transcribe by hand)

August 7, 2007

To Whom It May Concern:

As a Central Michigan University student majoring oin Political Science and (this next part is blacked out) came to some dismay to find out that CMU hired Gary Peters to be our new Griffen Chairperson for the next three years- considering that he has plans to run for the United States Congress.

This is really can only hinder our students and their classroom experience.

Regardless of his politicial affiliation- his campaign for Congress will only provide students with a highly biased classroom experience. In fact, it is near impossible for Gary Peters to teach a class for a department that is itself non partisan, when he is running on the Democratic ticket.

A public university has a responsibility to its students to provide a broad spectrum of ideas and to fonder free thought, however providing a single political viewpoint will hinder all of the above. A possible solution may be to empoly other candidates with varying points of view so that there will be varying viewpoints being presented and discussed.

Also, having a partisan political candidate teaching classes, he may be giving out opportunities to students of only a like minded metalitiy. Campus facilities and supplies, such as computers, printing, offices, and others are not to be used for any type of campaigning whatsoever. It is against the law.

Having worked on political campaigns myself, I don't see how Mr. Peters could possibly have the time to commit himself to the students in a way they deserve because of the thousands of tuition dollars they spend on taking his class, and would not have the time to commit his time to the position that would warrant the $65,000 salary...

Here is an example of a response from a CMU higher up to concerns like the one I just posted...

Thanks Mary Jane for the update and current demands of (students name blacked out) I think it is best to tell (again blacked out) that the President is traveling and is not able to respond at this time my own two cents...

I fail to understand why there is concern expressed with regard to Mr. Peters' ability to teach and provide an excellent educational experience for our students for the 2007-2008 academic year given that the election will not take place until November 2008. Senator Griffin did not see a conflict when we met earlier this summer and the position of Endowed Chair has never required its occupant to quit his current position to fulfill the teach duties at CMU.

Furthermore, this continued diatrobe from (again name blacked out) and his friends does not represent the majority of CMU students nor does it present accurate facts to the public. This is an Endowed Chair- not one that is supported by student tuition dollars. To allow (again name blacked out) the power to dictate who will or will not serve as the Griffein Endowed Chair for American Government is not a precedent I believe we should support. The time this matter takes away from all of our positions is quite frustrating to say the least.

(This was written by Pamela Gates Dean of the English Department)

There are a couple of things that I observe. First, it is clear that this faculty member at least feels a sense of moral superiority to the student body. While that may be annoying it is not necessarily unusual or newsworthy. What is revealing is this dean's utter naivety towards campaigning. To claim that the 2007-2008 school year shouldn't conflict with a campaign that finishes in November 2008 is just ludicrous. Furthermore, the student's email raised several objections and they were all legitimate in my opinion. The Dean merely addressed one thing and poorly at that. Thus, her supposition that there should be no concern for Peters' flies in the face of several potential problems.

Like I said though, this particular email is annoying and elitist and that is frankly not very different from much of the faculty in many campuses nationwide. There are, on the other hand, several other correspondences that reveal things much more insidious.

I think there is a growing impression that CMU is a Conservative Republican base and I and several others have heard this over and over from folks in our own administration, the faculity, and from Lansing politicians. The Department of Political Scinece has had top rate policy analysts in the first effort to fill the Griffin Chair and they percieve that they were overridden because of Ranny Ricker's call regarding (name blacked out). In the second search to fill the Griffin Chair the Department received a hassle when they found a moderate Republican to have cleared al the hurdles and a political ally and close associate of John Engler was almost foisted upon them even though the person lacked the same excellent qualifications as Bill Ballinger...

It is one thing for adminstrations to condescend to the views of students, and quite another when administrations make it appear that politics plays a role in the selection. Keep in mind that the appearance of impropriety is off the chart when a professor is also running for political office. The fact that political affiliation is mentioned in such close proximity to his consideration just continues to add to that. It should be noted that there are plenty of emails that I won't transcribe that talk strictly about his qualifications. Of course, I would hope that any potential candidate for a fellowship is qualified though. It should also be noted that if the claim about Ricker is true that his actions are no less insidious.

Then, there is this from the Peters Report today.

“As close as he (Gary Peters) is to the governor (Jennifer Granholm), it might look bad for CMU if he is not offered the position after such a
recommendation.” - Professor Delbert Ringquist, the then chairman of the Department of Political Science, March 1.

Again, I want everyone to understand that picking a couple of emails out of hundreds can easily lead to a distorted view, however this creates even more appearance of improprietry. Certainly, I ascertain from this email that CMU is concerned about getting on the wrong side of the governor in not hiring Peters. If the decision to hire Peters had anything to do with political favortism then the whole search was corrupted. Of course, it is exactly this sort of corruption that student Dennis Lennox was looking to expose.

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