With the legislative session safely in our rearview mirror and best forgotten, let’s look ahead. Is that President Hulshof just over the horizon?
Now wouldn’t that be a sight for sore eyes and sore academics? Kenny Hulshof as president of our university. The Board of Curators, operating with its customary secrecy, isn’t saying; but Kenny himself confirmed that life in the presidential mansion overlooking the beautiful Hinkson looks more appealing than another hitch in the minority of the U.S. House of Representatives.
It may not be the presidency that an ambitious politician always has in his dreams, but it pays better, for one thing; and it would eliminate that commute to visit his family and play drums at the Newman Center.
Allow me to disagree with the septuagenerian sage at the newspaper across town and suggest that it might not be the worst thing in the world for the university, either. After all, another name that has been floated, though not recently, is that of John Ashcroft. There has even been the suggestion that Kit Bond might want to follow all his earmarks back to Columbia. We already have a building with his name on it. Why not a desk in University Hall? Don’t forget that these are Matt Blunt’s curators running the search.
Congressman Kenny’s looking better already, isn’t he? (Just for the record, it’s not Saint Jack Danforth’s endorsement that impresses me. He liked Clarence Thomas, too.)
So what if Kenny doesn’t have any academic background or scholarly credentials. Elson Floyd never taught a class, as far as I know; and the guy before him had film strips listed as publications on his vita. (As Dave Barry might say, I didn’t make that up. I didn’t have to.)
University presidents these days don’t have to be scholars. They have to be politicians and fundraisers. Six successful campaigns for Congress show that Kenny is adept at both. It helps, too, if they have some backbone. If you remember the stance he took on the House Ethics Committee, sanctioning the then all-powerful Tom Delay and losing his committee seat as a result, you might imagine that he’d do better at defending the university’s core principles than the most recent administration did. He said Wednesday, without being prompted, that the university’s independence has to be “fiercely protected.” Sounded good to me.
Sure, he’s a hardcore conservative. But take a peek down the road to Jeff City and you’ll be reminded that this state is currently run by hardcore conservatives. He’d feel more at home in the capital than Elson Floyd ever did.
Another point: Unlike any of his recent predecessors and probably unlike any of the other candidates for the job, Kenny is an alum. As one myself, I think that’s important. Who better to lead us in the “Alma Mater” than someone who knows the words?
There’s even precedent. A Massachusetts member is leaving Congress to head a university back there. And I’m told that David Boren does less damage as president of the University of Oklahoma than he did as a U.S. senator.
Now doesn’t that make you feel better?
George Kennedy is a former managing editor of the Missourian.