No to Barry

The big subject of gossip and debate in D.C. political circles is a possible employment change for Mayor Marion Barry. A few weeks ago, The Washington Post reported that the District’s Consortium of Universities might offer Barry a rotating professorship, a six-figure salary and a generous benefits package provided he not run for a fifth term as mayor.

The Post reported Wednesday that the consortium would not offer Barry the job, but that several of the member universities, including GW, are considering doing so. Though GW strives to bring leaders outside academia into the classroom, it would be a serious mistake to offer such a position to a man whose exploits have made him ignominious.

GW’s dynamism is thanks in part to a faculty fusion of scholars and practitioners. But hiring someone responsible for the District’s malaise would undercut all faculty members here who have spent years working to attain their academic positions.

Also vexing the Professor Barry plan is the question of a group of local businesses and universities joining forces to, in effect, bribe the mayor into retirement. This both smirks at the democratic process – and raises the question of why universities would be willing to put a man whose troubled tenure could warrant such extreme measures in a position of teaching future leaders.

Many faculty members here are experts in their field; some are even world-renown for their expertise and hands-on experience. What does it mean for the world of academia when funds are scarce to support new, non-notorious faculty members and research, but magically appear from unnamed sources when certain needs arise?

Marion Barry has been disastrous for this city. In his tenure, Washington has descended from “Capital of the Free World” to a vivid example of Third World mismanagement, crime and corruption. While GW has involved itself in trying to better the state of the city through its academic philanthropy, it should not help provide a golden parachute for someone whose name is synonymous with urban blight.

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