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University Presidents and Candidate Endorsements

- January 26, 2008

Not many university presidents get publicly involved in political campaigns. To be sure, there’s no strict doctrine of the separation of school and state — indeed, in the last century, the U.S. had two presidents (Wilson and Eisenhower) who had themselves been university presidents (and of Ivy League schools, no less). But it’s generally been considered inappropriate for sitting university presidents — especially, the presidents of public universities — to take an active role in political campaigns.

Now that seems to be changing, as detailed in this item from insidehighered.com. I don’t know quite what to make of it, in terms of its implications, if any, for a school whose president is thus engaged, or what it says about the role of celebrity endorsements in American politics. Nor, for that matter, do I understand why a university president’s candidate preferences are considered newsworthy in the first place. Why should anybody care which candidate the President of State U is supporting? Am I missing something here?

[Tip of the hat to Carol Sigelman]