Friday, May 24, 2013

Here’s What to Do If You are a Disgraced Public Official or Public Person

Go Teach at a College or University – For Some Reason They Want You

The men and women who betray the public trust, or act so egregiously  in public that they are no longer wanted in public usually have a pretty easy life.  Most of them are either very wealthy (Eliot Spitzer) or well off and while they have to live with public disgrace of their own making, they usually are not living a life of suffering or penury.

And now it turns out that many of them end up teaching at colleges and universities.  Huh?  For some this seems appropriate, like former Judge Sol Wachter who is now apparently a very good law professor.

Two decades ago, Sol Wachtler, the former chief judge of New York State, was forced from public service and sentenced to 15 months in prison amid erratic and menacing behavior toward his ex-lover and her daughter that he later attributed to prescription drugs and manic depression. After his release, he began teaching at Touro College’s law school, now in Central Islip, N.Y. He has by all accounts taken the job very seriously, winning the title of “distinguished adjunct professor” and serving on the university’s board of governors.

But others, like former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, the question would seem to be what the heck is going on here.

One of his students, Melissa Lynch, said he was one of her best teachers and he encouraged the class to call him on his cellphone if they had questions about readings. When it came to the mechanics of running a class, however, “he didn’t really seem to know what he was doing.” The class required one writing assignment, “but he didn’t know if it should be 2 pages or 30 pages,” she said, adding, “He kept asking us, ‘What do other professors do?’ ”

Ms. Lynch recalled classroom discussions as intense and wide-ranging — with limits. “He would never let us get to a point, obviously, where we were going to address him stepping down,” she said.

And in some cases the selection by a college seems just totally inappropriate.

More recently, Parsons the New School for Design announced that John Galliano, the celebrated clothing designer who lost his job at Christian Dior after unleashing a torrent of anti-Semitic vitriol in a bar, would be leading a four-day workshop and discussion called “Show Me Emotion.”

Well if by ‘emotion’ Parsons means hatred of Jews it would seem there are just a number of people to choose from.  And certainly some excellent texts, such as Mein Kampf.

The case of David Petraeus is more complex.

And David H. Petraeus, the general turned intelligence chief turned ribald punch line, will have not one college paycheck, but two. Last month, the City University of New York said he would be the next visiting professor of public policy at Macaulay Honors College. On Thursday, the University of Southern California announced that Mr. Petraeus would also be teaching there; he will split his time between coasts.

in part because of this.

Mr. Petraeus, who has a Ph.D. from Princeton and has taught and written extensively, entertained inquiries from many universities, his lawyer said. When he was director of the Central Intelligence Agency, however, before the world found out about his extramarital affair with his biographer, he was mentioned as a possible president of Princeton, not as a professor at CUNY or U.S.C.

So in the spirit of the season, Spring, we will allow Mr. Petraeus to do his thing without criticism, because his credentials and experience seem to outweigh his discretions.  For the rest of them we would say that yes, you had your opportunity, you blew and now please just go.

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