Purdue University faculty members are expressing a range of views on Thursday's selection of Mitch Daniels, currently ending his second term as governor of Indiana, as the university's next president. Morris Levy, past chair of the Purdue University Senate, published an open letter to his faculty colleagues, both pledging support for Daniels and raising questions about his appointment. The letter noted that the search committee had requested help from an advisory committee of faculty, students and alumni -- and that that group has stressed that its first criterion for the next president was that he or she be someone with experience leading an academic institution (something Daniels lacks). Levy also mentioned "a cloud of conflict of interest," in that every member of the Purdue board was either appointed or re-appointed by Governor Daniels.
But two faculty members who were on the search committee wrote a column in The Journal and Courier in which they said that the search committee took faculty concerns seriously, tried hard to recruit the best possible academic candidates, and discussed in detail the issues related to picking someone from outside of academe. "This choice is a bold move because the governor does not have the academic credentials that university presidents traditionally have. U.S. research institutions, including Purdue, are the envy of the world, and typically it takes an insider to understand exactly how the process of academic freedom operates to enable us to lead the world in research and education. But there are rare exceptions. Public universities find themselves in exceptional times, and we found an exceptional candidate for these challenging times," they wrote.