Removing the appearance of a purge

Late last week the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that Texas Tech Regent Mark Griffin had been asked to resign because of his endorsement of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Griffin had been appointed by Rick Perry in 2005 and resigned four years into his six year term.

Some people thought that Griffin should have ignored any pressure. However, Tech has just announced that they’ve raised millions of dollars to back their quest to become a Tier 1 university. This will likely be their best opportunity for decades to move to an elite level. You can’t blame them if they were nervous and wanted to stay on the good side of all the state’s leaders. I’ve learned that most regents are incredibly loyal to the schools they serve and I’m sure that Griffin didn’t want to become a liability.

A few people have defended the removal as means of advancing some version of true conservatism. However, purging opponents from the party based on a few people’s sense of ideological purity is a move worthy of China’s Gang of Four (this did not end well for China or the Gang of Four).

Perry’s office has denied any involvement. However, the Dallas Morning News is reporting that the message to resign came through a former Perry chief of staff. If you have been around politics you know that there are both official and unofficial channels of communication and political pressure doesn’t have to come from someone currently on the staff for the message to be clear. At the same time, there are always people who claim to speak for a candidate as a way of advancing their own political goals.

The solution is relatively simple. Perry should return Griffin to the Tech Board of Regents–regardless of who made the mistake of pressuring Griffin. Texans need to feel that the government is not being politicized and turned into a tool of rewarding political allies and punishing opponents in the heat of a campaign. This is especially important with a position like university regents where there’s no need for partisanship. The [alleged] differences between the conservatism of Perry  and Hutchison means little to the challenges Tech faces and the appearance of personal politics will only damage the legitimacy of other board members.

Reappointing a well-qualified (a successful businessperson and 1979 grad of Tech’s law school) regent makes clear that any pressure was either a misunderstanding or mistake. Allow Mark Griffin to serve the university he loves and let Texans know that they can confident about the people guiding the state’s universities.

Update: Apparently, the Dallas Morning News sees this as part of a bigger problem. Their September 13 editorial describes education as Perry’s political playground.  The editorial notes that other Texas governors have played in higher education politics. What they don’t mention is that playing politics with higher education was central to the political demise of James E (“Pa”) Ferguson.

Also: The Bryan College Station Eagle has taken Perry to task for predicting the return of the Aggie bonfire and trying to make A&M his “personal toy.”

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