PHILADELPHIA -- The University of Pennsylvania has announced that Donald J. Trump will become the next dean of the Wharton School, one of the nation's leading business schools. For months, Trump has been polling as one of the front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination, but in what some are calling a stunning move, he officially dropped out of the race at a news conference held here today.
“I think this is a bigger deal,” Trump said of his appointment. “I mean, it’s huge. Huge. It’s more prestigious, and quite frankly it pays better. And there’s more job security. Not that I need money, of course. Or a job.”
The Trump campaign has lost momentum following several Republican debates, where experts say Trump did little to win over women, minorities, immigrants and unattractive people. His lead in the polls, once 25 points, has shrunk as he has lost ground to a surgeon who also has no political experience. When asked if his decision betrays a sagging confidence in his ability to secure the GOP nomination, Trump remained steadfast.
“If you want to see me get back in the race and win this thing, I will,” he said. “But I don’t want to. I don’t need to. I can, but I won’t. I’m on to much, much better things.”
Trump’s appointment is a homecoming of sorts for the real estate tycoon. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1968 from the then Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, a fact he’s always eager to share.
“That was a good name,” Trump said, “a great name when I was here. In fact, one of my first moves as dean will be to reinstate that name. It was great back then, and it’ll be great again.”
The university’s president, Amy Gutmann, refused to address the prickly notion of renaming the school, instead focusing on the appointment of such a high-profile leader.
“We are thrilled to have Donald Trump as the next dean of the Wharton School,” Gutmann said. “His business acumen, leadership skills and fund-raising prowess will serve the school well as we continue to redefine business education in the 21st century.”
Gutmann also deflected questions regarding Trump’s previous foray into higher education -- the ill-fated Trump University, which was established a little over a decade ago and quickly dissolved amid claims of fraud and illegitimacy. Trump, however, did not demur.
“Look, Trump University helped a lot of people make a lot of money,” he said. “It was a great institution that was ahead of its time. I have no regrets, and you shouldn’t either.”
Trump mapped out his plans for his first semester in office, including raising the school’s rankings, securing donations, and strengthening the faculty and student body.
“This is a great place, but it can be better,” he said. “How am I going to make it better? I just am. It’s really that simple. I’ve made billions and billions of dollars dealing with complex things, and this is a complex thing that can benefit from my experience.
“The first job we need to do is become more selective,” Trump continued. “We let in too many losers. I mean, not really losers, but you know what I’m saying. I want to build a great wall around this place, a big wall that keeps out stupid people. I make deals all the time, and I’ll make deals with countries to get their best students. But I don’t want anyone from China. We’re losing to China. They’re eating our lunch. And definitely no Mexicans.”
One reporter asked Trump how he planned to gain the confidence of faculty given that he does not hold an advanced degree and has never taught.
“Look, I love the faculty, especially that one right over there,” he said, pointing to a woman in the third row. “I mean, look at that face. But, you know, I’ll deal with the tenure thing when the time comes. You can’t have deadbeats who don’t produce. It’s that simple. If you’re not the best in your field, you can get lost as far as I’m concerned. I’m the best at what I do, and that’s why I’m here.”
On the topic of being the best, Trump had choice words for Wharton’s competitors.
“We’re not number one,” he said, referring to the M.B.A. rankings, “but we are and we should be. I mean, come on, who really wants to go to Harvard or Stanford? They’re a disaster. With me as dean, it won’t be long before we’re ranked number one, or even higher. We’re going to hire great people. We’re going to make Wharton great again.”
Finally, Trump was asked why he hasn’t been more financially supportive of his alma mater despite having a self-reported $10 billion in net worth.
“When you have a lot of money like I do, you have to make tough decisions,” he said. “I have been very generous. As generous as I could have been? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean others shouldn’t give us a lot more. People support winners. I was a winner as a Republican candidate, and I’ll be a winner as a dean.
“It’s that simple.”
Mark J. Drozdowski is director of university communications at the University of New Haven. This is the latest installment of an occasional humor column, “Special Edification.”
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