Enough with Affirmative Action Presidents

I taught at the University of Virginia for 25 years.  During my time at UVA, I had three deans, and one of them was a black woman and an affirmative action hire.  She turned out to be a disaster.  Although the president made a mistake when he hired her, the full professors in my school made up their minds to do their best to help her out because it was in our school's interest for her to succeed.  Regrettably, we couldn't help her because she wouldn't listen.

Consider this example: in her first year as dean, I chaired the Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure (APT) Committee.  The committee's chairmanship rotated among the full professors, and as fate would have it, it was my turn to chair the committee during her first year.  Our new dean arrived in July, a couple of months before school started, and she called me at home one evening in August to tell me that she wanted to promote a particular female associate professor to full professor.  The candidate she had in mind wasn't ready for promotion because her academic record wasn't good enough.  That's exactly what I told the dean, but it didn't matter.  She had made up her mind, and she naively expected me to follow orders.  If she had had experience in academia, she would not have been so foolish.

Full professors are a strong-minded and stubbornly independent group of individuals.  That's not a criticism.  In fact, that's the way full professors should be.  There was no way under the sun that they would allow me to shove a candidate down their throats, especially one who was obviously not ready for promotion.  I explained all of that to the dean, but again, it didn't matter one bit.  She was imprudently determined, despite the risks involved.

The APT Committee rejected the candidate's bid for promotion, just as I had told the dean that they would, and the dean had created a negative working relationship with the people she needed most if she wanted to have a successful deanship.  Making matters worse, she made that critical blunder before school even started in her first year, and things went downhill from there.  The dean never understood that she couldn't give orders that made no sense and expect thinking people to go along with her regardless. 

As the dean's 5-year term was drawing to a close and she was about to be considered for re-appointment, out of the blue, she told the faculty during a faculty meeting that the provost had informed her that her re-appointment was in his hands alone.  Whether the provost had actually said that or not, I don't know, but I do know this: that bold claim lit a fire under the full professors, and informally, we let the provost know what we thought.  Making a long story short, the dean resigned at the end of her term.

I began by saying that the dean was "an affirmative action hire," and there is evidence to support that assertion.  I served on the search committee for our next dean, and during deliberations, the person from the executive search firm who worked with us explained that the president had told her that the next dean did not have to be a black or a woman like before.  I was shocked, so I asked her if she meant that the previous dean had been hired because she was a black woman.

The look on her face told the tale.  She had let the cat out of the bag, and she knew it.  The dean's qualifications didn't matter, her experience didn't matter, and her interpersonal skills didn't matter.  The president wanted a black woman to serve as dean; that's what he got, and our school lost five years doing battle with a dean who didn't know which way was up.

In many ways, Barack Obama is like our former dean.  His record before becoming president was not exemplary, and that's being kind.  Truth is, his record was extremely weak, and he did his best to hide as much of it from us as he could.  From his birth certificate to his SAT scores to his records at Columbia and Harvard, Obama has successfully blinded Americans to reality.  Had he not been a black man (half-black, to be precise), there is no way that he could have taken the Democratic Party's nomination for president away from Hillary Clinton in 2008.  But many Americans, especially those in the Democratic Party, wanted us to elect a black president, and it didn't matter what his qualifications or his lack of qualifications were.  It didn't matter even to the Democratic Party delegates in 2008 that they were throwing Hillary Clinton under the bus.  They wanted a black person, and that's what they got. 

The United States got a president who was destined to fail because he had never earned the right to even run for president, much less be elected.  One of his first maneuvers was to shove ObamaCare down our throats, against the wishes of Congress and the American people.  In the process, he destroyed any hope of having a good working relationship with Congress, especially Republicans in Congress.  Next, he called a meeting at the Blair House to discuss matters, and he ended up lecturing and ridiculing those who disagreed with him.  It didn't matter that they knew more than he did or that they had vast experience, whereas he had none.  In his world, he had won the election, and he could do anything he wanted. 

On the foreign front, things are just as bad thanks to Barack Obama.  He has insulted our friends and allies, and he has tried to make nice with our enemies.  As a result, those we depend on most in the world are virtually shell-shocked, and those who hate us are in full offensive mode because they know that the United States under Barack Obama is a toothless tiger.  In a nutshell, Barack Obama has done the exact opposite of what a president should have done on the foreign scene, and countries all over the world are paying the price for his ineptitude -- especially our friends and allies.

As the president would say, "Let me be perfectly clear": I'm not opposed to a black man being elected president, but I am opposed to electing a president simply because he's a black man.  We've had enough of affirmative action hires for the highest office in the land.  It's time to elect a real president.  If we do, there is a chance that we might actually solve some of the problems that we face as a nation, but time is running out.  We don't have four more years to waste on a man who has already proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that he is totally out of his league.

Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia.  His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily.  He is the author of If You Voted for Obama in 2008 to Prove You're Not a Racist, You Need to Vote for Someone Else in 2012 to Prove You're Not an Idiot.

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