Should we give Bill Clinton a tenured professorship?

Hans Noel flunks this test and says no:

I don’t think Clinton should be given a “tenured professorship.”+ Not because of his lack of a Ph.D. per se, but because, smart as he is, Clinton is not a scholar. He doesn’t do research. He is not in the business of contributing to the store of human knowledge. If Clinton is given a job as a tenured professor, what would he do? A “tenured professorship” is not a plum given to reward success. It’s an actual job.

The job of a professor is not the same as “being smart.” Academics write those pesky obscure papers that Kristof finds impenetrable and irrelevant because that’s how we learn things. The demands for publication may have perversities, but it is what drives people to do research.

I would offer a tenured professorship to any ex-President who is willing to spend real time with students and academic programs.  That would be in a public policy school, a public administration department, a university-wide appointment, or even a political science department.  A class actually taught by Clinton, even half of the time with another professor doing most of the actual work, would be fascinating.  And if you don’t like Clinton, or don’t think he is smart (not my view at all), consider this a student’s chance to see the (ex) emperor with no clothes, which is itself a learning experience.

I know people who have had Obama as professor — before he was President of course — and loved him, and not for partisan reasons.

Have I mentioned that universities tenure plenty of people who don’t do research?  Check out your music department, for a start, or Fine Arts.  Or (very likely but not always) your business school.

I recently read Noel’s book on political polarization and enjoyed it, especially his discussion of how intellectual elites have led the process of polarization.  Still, I would trade in having read that book for a five minute chat with Bill Clinton.

Addendum: I also would offer a tenured professorship to any ex-President who is not willing to spend real time with students and academic programs.  The job offer would more than pay for itself, given the money it would bring into the university, directly and indirectly.  Most universities support athletics programs, and pay the successful coaches millions more than any other state employee earns — can they not find room for a former Commander in Chief or two?


Bill clinton is a war criminal.He ethnically cleansed serbs from kosovo.

True; but then again the list of recent US Presidents who are not war criminals is presumably rather short.

Sad but true.

Well, there is that loser Jimmy Carter.

And Ford!

This says much more about how people throw the label "war criminal" around than anything else. Clinton's contribution to this conflict was intervening to prevent genocide. He didn't commit any atrocities; nor did he encourage others to commit them. It was a messy affair with people doing bad deeds on both sides, so if you want to twist things to the extreme you can claim that NATO's intervention enabled someone to do some bad deed somewhere. But there is no serious case that NATO intervention increased the amount of atrocities committed. Even if there were such a case, doing something that has unintended bad side effects does not make you a war criminal.

I'm no fan of Clinton, but I see no reason to view his actions here as anything other as an attempt to save innocent lives--which, in hindsight, looks largely successful. If you do nothing while genocide is being committed, you will never be labelled a war criminal, but that doesn't mean you have the moral high ground.

"Clinton’s contribution to this conflict was intervening to prevent genocide." But there was no genocide: hell, the mass expulsion of Albanians from Kosovo started after the Western bombing started. The Serbs have a fair gripe on this one.

The way I remember it, the expulsion only occurred because Western intervention convinced Serb military and irregulars that it was better than outright killing them all.

jtf, you probably also remember that they were about to invade Poland (or may be Manchuria).

I find it fascinating the utter lunacy that gets past the moderators.


In the glorious BitCoin, chalupa, and Bay area real estate economy of the future, there will be no need for moderators.

This site proves my theory that websites can be self-moderating. If you filter out spammers and trolls, the rest figure it out on their own. Other sites I frequent have heavy moderation and the result is far worse than what you see here.

I don't think there is any moderation here. Hence the ever decreasing quality of the comments. Two or three years ago there was serious economic discussion in the comment sections. Now we have neo-darwinist racists and red pill sexists and not much else.

Unmoderated comment sections follow a Gresham's Law pattern.

I have had posts blocked and deleted in the past.

"a student’s chance to see the (ex) emperor with no clothes, which is itself a learning experience": especially the girls, of course.

Does any university really want any responsibility for bringing together Prof. Clinton and the female student body?

Should be fine, so long as no cigars.

In his pre-cigar adventures, he did (as far as anyone can tell) commit at least one rape.

When was that conviction again? Or are you just slandering him?

You mean that he's as innocent of the rape as he was of his behaviour with Ms Lewinsky?

Maybe things have changed, but I was in college teacher-student relationships were known to happen on a regular basis. At least in the theater department.

This might be relevant.

I wholeheartedly agree with the caveat that Bill Clinton could have a pretty nasty case of the "Cornel West problem" where he engages in a lot of political activities that might seem to compromise the university's academic-ness. Of course that impartiality is a fiction anyway, but it's a fiction that needs a certain veneer. So you'd try real hard to spell out concretely what ways the professorship might bind him. It's important to do that also because I suspect being Clinton's administrator is truly and unpleasant job; give him a professorship in a heartbeat, but make the lines of authority clear.

Academic freedom extends to extramural activities, including politics. Tenured professors are free to engage in as much political activity as they want, the university's reputation be damned.

I personally disagree that academic freedom should extend to extramural activity, but the AAUP made that decision a long time ago and universities accepted it.

West has a serious scholarly CV. Clinton doesn't.

Your music department is comprised of music historians and theorists who undertake research and write books. It also has composers who research other works as a point of derivation.

So you're left with performers, who may or may not participate in research endeavors and music ed types who, again, may or may not actively engage in research.

One very telling point is that Hans Noel never once mentions teaching nor students while discussing what a tenured Professor does. In this snippet nor his entire post.

To me that's one key insight as to what's wrong with today's academics.

Just to play the devil's advocate, one could infer that the debate is between a tenured professorship and a non-tenured position, with the mutually-shared teaching responsibilities taken as a given.

Taking off my devil's advocate hat, I agree. At major research universities, the teaching aspect of the job most definitely plays second fiddle. This is frustrating to students who (understandably) consider teaching and student interaction to be the primary job of their professors, not just a secondary task that many researchers find annoying.

One common gripe among students is foreign professors with thick accents who have a tenuous grasp on English. Students hate taking courses from such professors. Of course, those people weren't hired for their teaching abilities.

Sometimes I think it would be better if we split the job of "professor" into two separate jobs: instructor and researcher. People capable of doing both could do both (maybe even for a wage premium), but it seems silly for a school to turn away an incredible teacher because they don't write great research papers, and to hire terrible teachers to teach because they get published a lot.

The business school I am in has shifted to a model with tenure track/non-tenured (contract) faculty. The idea being exactly as you mention - the non-tenured faculty teach a large portion of the introductory and intermediate courses (principles of economics, managerial, possibly intermediate micro or macro, etc.) as well as some other courses in which they have expertise or in which there is a basic skill set that isn't changing (think a first course in econometrics - I'm pretty sure most of that course is OLS, which I'm pretty sure is still (x'x)^-1x'y - now a second course in econometrics is different). The faculty in this role are either those who (1) are fresh PhDs who want to teach rather than research or (2) have business experience and have come back to teaching, which is valuable for the students (provided they are good teachers). These faculty have some research requirements, but they do not involve peer-reviewed publications (presenting at conferences counts, I think certain non-peer-reviewed outlets count, etc.). They also have some service requirements, particularly at the undergraduate level.

But that's at the level of "courses in which content doesn't change all that much because they are the basics that all students in the field should know". When you get into field courses, you kind of want the person who does research in energy economics to be the one teaching energy economics. The reason is that the person doing research in energy economics is current in the area and knows what is happening in the field. That is why there is a research requirement - if someone is publishing in Energy Journal or Energy Economics or a paper on energy in the American Economic Review, then presumably that individual is current in the literature, and that is the person you want disseminating that information to students. It seems to me it would be easier to remain current in the literature if you are publishing in that area, but maybe I'm wrong. This is also true when it comes to graduate programs, when the goal is to advance knowledge and not just have an understanding of what has already been discovered - if someone is not currently doing research, then it is not that easy to instruct others on how to do research. I think this link is the one people are missing when they want to completely divest teachers and researchers -- if someone is not publishing in an area then it is very difficult to know if they are remaining current in the field, and so the students may be getting a "great" teacher who is teaching them outdated methods and concepts (and yes, I realize this may also occur with someone doing research in the field).

Well, that's one model. But in certain fast-moving fields -- analytics might come to mind -- academics at teaching institutions tend to lag years behind. Sure, if you're at MIT you're getting tomorrow's news today from the top academics, but in less prestigious institutions the practice in the field might be substantially ahead of the textbooks or journals. In those instances a current practitioiner might be better.

@Artie Z.

I don't like that model because:

(a) It implicitly declares Research more important than teaching so let's give tenure to only the research faculty. The others are dispensable, fire-at-will contract staff. I suspect they pay the teaching-only faculty lower too?

(b) It assumes that introductory courses can / should, in general, be delegated to be taught by lower quality staff.

The best teaching I've ever gotten came at a small undergrad only engineering school that had tenure for a huge number of people who were only expected to be teachers. Smaller classes, 9-5 office hours, professors who wanted to teach rather than found it a burden. It wasn't any more expensive than similar private schools, but seems to be excusively associated with Engineering.

There's two and half major sources of money in universities: 1) government grants, 2) undergraduate and professional school tuition, and 2.5) donor money.

The donor money only counts as half because most of it can only be spent building ever more buildings.

In the sciences #1 is where most of the money is coming from, all the other subjects #2. So you could have stand alone science research institutes that don't do any undergraduate teaching. This would make the researchers that work there happy. You could have standalone undergraduate teaching institutions, and if the money didn't get skimmed all away to deanlets and deanlings, you could charge a lot less and this would make the students happy. But the one group that would never be happy under disaggregation is non-science tenured professoriate, including law professors and the like. They want to have work schedules like scientists being paid for with grants -- i.e. dealing with undergraduates as little as possible, and then only in the context of low or unpaid labor -- while still having their high salaries paid for by the very undergraduates they loath so much. The only way to accomplish that is to pretend that research and teaching can not be seperated, while as a practical matter securing a 2/1 teaching schedule, which are in any event limited to senior seminars, and allowing the bulk of teaching to be done by wage slave adjuncts.

The status quo is the best of all worlds non-science tenured professors and so long as they have a lot power (by for example, being the wellspring of all those deanlets, deanlings, and college presidents) disaggregation is off the table.

100% AGREE WITH RAHUL! Teaching is not all that a university does, but neither is research. Both are important parts.

"Noel never once mentions teaching nor students while discussing what a tenured Professor does."

That's because those things have almost no bearing on tenure due to university-wide -- not departmental or discipline -- standards for how tenure is justified (which, to be clear, involves convincing large portions of a discipline that you've been a significant contributor to the body of published research).

If those things (teaching and students) are taken in isolation, there would be justification for only an adjunct or "lecturer" position, which just so happens to be the very positions ex-politicians often occupy -- and which would be quite generous in the case of political science considering they typically have virtually no knowledge of that discipline, even for teaching purposes.

That's a fair observation. However, is that what tenure is meant for?

It is precisely what tenure was meant for. The logic is that if someone has proven themselves as a solid researcher in their field then they deserve the freedom to conduct it without being overseen by their department or university, but by the disciplinary audience. Success in that arena -- prominence -- then brings rewards at the University. This means they can undertake projects with very long time lines, with high-risks or controversial content. That freedom allows the innovative work to occur that (however infrequently) breeds the next generation of breakthroughs upon which junior scholars build. Tenure is not strictly necessary to accomplish this, but that is most definitely what it is designed to accomplish. Of course, there are places that give something also called tenure mostly on the basis of internal review and for reasons that have little to do with research, but these are not research universities and thus peripheral to their disciplines' research. So they would have nothing to do with the content of the Kristof or Noel pieces, which were directed at discipline norms.

So, political scientists find the idea of granting tenure to Bill Clinton preposterous for the same reason that a department of astrophysics would have the same reaction -- he's equally qualified for both. And they would have a good reason to deny him teaching in their discipline as well -- since he wouldn't even be able to lecture on the current conventional wisdom of this discipline either -- if it weren't for that fact that celebrity lecturers have non-academic value for universities. Lecturing on his life experiences or what he "knows" about politics is actually something he already does on many campuses and no political scientists are trying to stop him.

Dead serious is absolutely write. In research institutions and, increasingly in teaching institutions as well, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, theorists, music education specialists, and most academic composers are all expected to publish peer-reviewed written scholarship. A handful of composer and performance faculty may have the alternative of using performance or other creative work treated as equivalent to scholarship. There are indeed many universities for whom the musical ensemble leadership is given ladder-rank recognition, but this is less the case in the most esteemed research schools, where most performers are adjuncts only, however, their institutional service is valued somewhat like that of sports professors, and their public performances do get evaluated in P&T decisions as a publication alternative.

Does tenured is inseparable from professorship? Ever heard or part time professors?

In most universities the title "Professor" means a tenure track position and almost always requires research responsibilities. Non-tenure track full-time faculty get the title "Lecturer" which doesn't include research responsibilities.

I don't think Clinton would like to be bothered with many of the administrative and service roles associated with a tenured faculty position and at his age, pension status and ready employability elsewhere, security of employment is not an issue either. For these reasons, other forms of professorship would likely be more applicable: a Distinguished, Adjunct, Visiting, Honorary, University, Regents, etc. Professorship would be a better fit.

I know people who have had Obama as professor — before he was President of course — and loved him,

Why? Was he an exceptionally good lecturer? Was his scholarship unique in any way?

Obama was an adjunct, a teaching faculty member only, not expected to research or publish, and his students and colleagues evaluated his teaching highly

If he was teaching faculty only, would it be correct to assume that his title wasn't "professor", but rather something like "lecturer"?

Obama seemed to have the knack where someone conversing with him felt they were in the presence of two great minds.

This really isn't specific to Obama. Good public speaking & communication are essential for most presidents. When students rate a professor that matters more than raw intellect or uniqueness. I bet most ex-presidents would make good teachers, in whatever subject they may have majored in.

I bet most ex-presidents would have been much better teachers than presidents.

Reagan, the man who played the role of president better than anyone else in my life time, being a notable exception.

Agreed, but mostly because being a good teacher is orders of magnitude easier than being a good president.

I like to say, somewhat tongue in cheek, that the profession most similar to teaching is that of a stand up comedian. You're a lone person standing in front of a crowd trying to capture their attention and keep them from getting bored. Most good lecturers usually even manage to get a few genuine bouts of laughter from the audience.

And also like comedians, they are often mildly disappointed to find that it's the "blue" material that gets the biggest laughs.

Most law professors don't lecture, including Obama. It's a guided discussion.

Yep. Lecturing is only one component of actual teaching.

As someone who took a class from him, yes, the class was very good and I learned a lot. No, my grade wasn't very high and I have never voted for him, so we can exclude any personal biases from that evaluation.

I would love to hear an anecdote or two about what made the class a good one.

I thought the standard thing to do in these cases was to bestow a non-tenured but cushy title such as "Professor of the Practice" (of say political science) on people like Bill Clinton.

I don't get the focus on tenure either. Clinton is financially secure without it and people will always pay attention to what he says, regardless of whether he happens t be associated with a university. If I were dean and I wanted to hire Clinton, I'd certainly try to recruit him to the University but if during negotiations he demanded tenure that would raise a lot of red flags. Why would someone like him need tenure?

I think this is more about what you would be willing to give than about what he might ask for.

It's like asking would you pay $2000 for Warren Buffet to give you a full day's worth of investment tips. That he won't take your offer up is irrelevant.

Well, if I knew he would never accept, then I'd give my right arm to have Bill Clinton teach at my college. It's easy to say what you would do in scenarios that will never happen.

Yes. The role of tenure is really to bind you to the institution and give you a stake in not only doing "service" but doing it well -- "service" meaning the work of personnel committees, curriculum development, student advising, and myriad other behind-the-scenes managerial functions that (non-academics have no idea about and that) have to be done well or things go to hell. Putting aside the no-Ph.D. problem, Clinton surely has the skills, but it's hard to argue that his comparative advantage lies in committing 40 hours to a search for an Assistant Professor.

There are any number of ornament-to-the institution titles that don't involve actual tenure and the associated work - dreaming those up is what administrators are for.

"Why would someone like him need tenure?"

Kristof raised tenure specifically to assert that Clinton's life experience should be treated as equivalent to a body of published research, and that resistance to this notion makes the discipline out of touch with the real world. He is well aware that people with Clinton's backgrounds teach in universities all the time without tenure.

Seriously? You write a post about the suitability of Bill Clinton to be a professor and you don't mention the tremendous risk of putting him in regular contact with hundreds of young woman?

Well, women have always been and continue to be crazy about Clinton but aren't women big girls now? Aren't they able to take of themselves? Or are they still the "weaker sex" and need to be protected from roue's and rakes?

Being elected President seems far more about winning a contest for Best In The Nation At Telling People What They Want To Hear In Contrived, Manipulated Settings. Sure you have to be smart to win that contest, but you don't have to be courageous or moral, or introspective or a critical thinker which are the traits of good leaders.

I'm sure they're organized and energetic men, but do any current ex-Presidents strike you as particularly smart as opposed to just glib and no more (or even less) intelligent than any good lawyer or accountant? (Not that there's anything wrong with either.) Do any of them have any demonstrable executive skill, like Eisenhower managing the European Theater, as opposed to just running their staff?

Are they any worse, on average, than presidents a hundred years ago?

Can you see GWB drafting the Federalist Papers?

Presidents who were thinkers on that level were rare in every era.

I did see him giving an off the cuff defense of market economies that was much better than I expected from him. We was always supposed to be a better speaker in a smaller forum than on TV.

I don't think they are as intelligent and well-read. They also don't seem to have the same level of gravitas. Clinton had a lot of magnetism and some gravitas, probably the best since Reagan, but watching his tentative, awkward salutes to his Marine guard was painful.

Just as with music, movies, books, etc., people only remember the good ones and then assume the past was better.

Even for bad ones I think history is more forgiving of flaws.

@Rahul, your point in general may not be wrong, but just over a hundred years ago we had Teddy Roosevelt. Love or hate, you can't compare the life of Roosevelt with that of Bush, Clinton, or Obama. They're weak tea even compared with Taft.

IQ is one factor for which some serious estimation work has taken place. Not sure of methodological strengths (hope not a hoax!) but apparently Bush's estimated IQ (125) was close to the bottom of the scale of all ex-presidents. Only Grant, Monroe, and Harding were stupider.

OTOH Clinton (IQ=149) was fairly close to the top of the scale. Kennedy (151) & Jefferson (154) were slightly better. The real genius seems John Quincy Adams (169). Too bad the estimation work was pre-Obama.

"some serious estimation work has taken place": what's the point of "estimating" JFK's IQ as 151 when it was measured at 119?
"serious estimation" my left foot.

Clinton has always struck me as tremendously smart. He was a Rhodes Scholar, and is skills at crossword puzzles are apparently well known to puzzle enthusiasts (watch the movie Wordplay). I don't think anyone but Clinton would have been able to demolish Chris Wallace like Clinton did in 2006. That takes a lot more than glibness.

Of course that alone doesn't mean he was a particularly great president. But even though I wasn't a great fan of Clinton in the 1990s, after living through the Bush and Obama administrations, I think he comes off looking pretty good.

I too feel that Clinton was a pretty good president and is brilliant, but a lot of the halo around him comes from the luck of being president during a huge boom time and being gone right before it got ugly.

It also helps to remember that while we all enjoy our games of evaluating presidents with quick snark on a blog, it's actually a really really hard job, most of which is completely out of your control. No one here would do any better.

If it's completely our of your control, how can the job be hard? And what's really so hard about it? The maximum duration in the position is 8 years, with only one real job evaluation in the middle that doesn't depend on any actual metrics, the grade being bestowed by intellectual giants like E.J. Dionne and Ruth Marcus. After all that, even if your term has been a disaster (Jimmy Carter, for sure), you still have as much world-wide respect as you ever did, maybe more, and you're a multi-millionaire.

The only intelligent president with even a shred of integrity was Grover Cleveland but he said "No" a lot so he's been ignored.

I didn't say completely did I? But my point was we all sit back and evaluate these guys using criteria that for the most part they don't really have much control over. You've dismissed everyone but Cleveland (Washington? Jefferson? Lincoln?) as devoid of integrity and/or stupid. Whatever criteria you are using, I'd wager a lot of it is things that they had little control over (the business cycle, demographics, foreign crises, etc). So by 'hard' I mean 'hard to please snarking blog posters like us'.

I completely agree it's a great gig for whomever gets it, just hard to do 'well' unless you get lucky like Clinton.

And I stick by my point that all of us here would do far worse.

Clinton made a number of readily avoidable decisions which disgraced the office.

And still, if Art Deco had been president instead and avoided those decisions, he (you) still wouldn't have done as good a job.

"Being elected President seems far more about winning a contest for Best In The Nation At Telling People What They Want To Hear In Contrived, Manipulated Settings. Sure you have to be smart to win that contest, but you don’t have to be courageous or moral, or introspective or a critical thinker which are the traits of good leaders."

Sounds exactly like the traits required to be a college professor.

The truth about the great American science shortfall:,0,6706502.story#axzz2uWue3yJn

"Over the weekend, a Harvard researcher finally cast a more critical eye on all the hoopla. The conclusion: While the great STEM shortage isn't wholly myth, it certainly has been mightily overhyped."

"If there were a big, general shortage of these workers, you would expect to see their wages rising. That hasn’t happened."

"The only forces pushing the idea of STEM doom, he said, are those that have something to gain from it. Mostly those are STEM employers — the tech industry, for example — that want to pack the labor force with people to suppress wages, he said, as well as lobby for looser immigration laws so that they can bring in less expensive overseas workers. Joining the chorus are universities that want more funding for science programs, as well as immigration lawyers who see the potential for handling large numbers of work visas."

I don't know anything about an agenda to push STEM education, but I'm having an awfully hard time finding a STEM job right now. Question is whether it is a cyclical or structural thing.

>I would offer a tenured professorship to any ex-President who is willing to spend real time with students

Even a known sexual predator?

I don't know if gender equality is a big deal at your school. But giving awards to men who deny promotions to employees unless they go to bed?

You mean, at your school, professors don't get tenure when they misuse their position of authority and have affairs with subordinates/students? Odd...

At GMU, it is plagiarists that get to be on a committee that decides who is granted tenure. Such as Prof. Wegman, who was appointed in Fall 2012 to a 3-year term on the GMU College of Science Promotion and Tenure Committee.

( - 'The 2008 social network analysis paper was investigated by a separate committee which unanimously found "that plagiarism occurred in contextual sections of the (CSDA) article, as a result of poor judgment for which Professor Wegman, as team leader, must bear responsibility." Stearns announced that Wegman was to receive an "official letter of reprimand", and in response to telephoned questions said the university was going to send the investigation reports to federal authorities.')

You don't need a PhD to be a law professor.

we have juxtaposition of record innovation and economic statistics that appear dismal. Even Clinton knew that raising taxes would hurt innovation and this is why Clinton and Summers warned against raising taxes in 2013, but Obama went ahead anyway.

Facebook is up though and so is Bitcoin - housing prices are soaring in the Bay Area. Things really are going great but you're right without Obama it would be even better

Word is that Kissinger was forced to forced to give up tenure at Harvard because of not returning after 2 years (his permitted leave of absence) of serving as Secretary of State. These dates do not quite jive with what I see on his bio ..... but that the is the word on the street.

I have to agree with Tyler that the opportunity to hear any ex-President lecture would be amazing. I'd also say so for any hero of industry.

It's sad that supposed institutes of higher learning don't consider a professor's job to actually teach.

I’d like people to see the emperor without clothes too. Specifically that we collectively saw that college education is without educators.

When I was at UCLA in the late-1970s, Jerry Ford spent a week on campus, talking to poli sci classes and taking questions. Very useful. I think every former president and former high-ranking member of Congress should do the same. But give them a tenured professorship? No way.

I suspect such a strategy would just be an academic payoff to Democrats. What major school would have given such a sinecure to either Bush presidents or Reagan?

As for Clinton in particular, why listen to a perjurer? I don't. Has it occurred to anyone that the character traits that make one a successful politician are the opposite of the traits that make one a successful scholar and teacher?

As for fundraising, partisanship in hiring would simply turn off a major block of donors.

I'd put it slightly differently: Teachers & scholars like to claim that the character traits that make one a successful politician are the opposite of what their profession rewards. In practice things are a lot messier.

Yale, perhaps?

Considering John Yoo has tenure at Cal, I would say pretty much any top university would.

Is it possible you are confusing "professor of the practice" with "tenured professorship"? Because no one would object to giving Clinton a position primarily oriented toward teaching. No. One. This is a very common arrangement, as you know. I noted as much in my post (albeit in easy-to-miss hover-text). Yes, there are "tenured" faculty who don't do research, but not so much in political science departments. In general, "tenured professorship" implies research, and that's what was understood when Kristol spoke of anonymous professors who would oppose a tenured Clinton in their departments. If that's where the quibble is -- that "professors of the practice" can technically have tenure -- then there is no argument. Usually, these are special arrangements.

In the context of the discussion, which was about the importance of social science research, a social science department filled with Clintons would be a disaster, because it would produce no knowledge. And I suspect that Clinton, who relies on the social science research of others in his foundation, would agree.

I think I'd trade reading my book for 5 minutes with Bill Clinton too. I'd also trade it for 5 minutes with David Tennant, though, so take that for what's worth.

Because no one would object to giving Clinton a position primarily oriented toward teaching. No. One.

I think you mean "no one" among the repulsive academic nomenklatura. Lot's of ordinary human beings would object.

My objection is more to the casual assumption that being a Tenured Professor is such a higher and better calling than being a mere professor of practice; that the latter is not fit to touch the hem of the former's cloak. Of course Clinton might be qualified to like teach undergraduates like the rest of the dregs, but by all means we must keep the Tenured Professor club pristine. Give me a break.


Your comment about business school (although tangent to your main point) was uncalled for. While we have various adjuncts and other non-researchers teaching and adding value in other ways, they do not have tenure. In business school, tenure is based on research, just like in an econ department or a stats department. I should know. I was denied tenure at a top business school, and I am now tenured at a very good business school.

Absolutely correct. I'm shocked that Tyler knows so little about business schools.

The fact that amazes me in this whole discussion is the number of academics justifying tenure as the reward / privilege for doing research alone & teaching be damned: the lowly adjuncts & contractual staff can handle that but they only "add value". We the hallowed core must focus on research! (and not even that because once we have tenure it doesn't matter!)

Historically, when did we transition to this model of universities where teaching becoming a second class responsibility is not just fact but a fact we are proud of?

Excellent question.

As far as the addendum is concerned, justifying such appointments mostly on pragmatic economic considerations (what's in it for the University) would demand some scrutiny of the President's (and his Administration) actions -- while in office -- in all areas related to Higher Education. Same level of scutiny we expect of dealings in the context og the Military Industrial complex.

No one should be granted tenure.
Academia should join the rest of us "employed at will".

Co-sign. First in line to be dropped from tenure should be 'free market' cheerleaders.

"He is not in the business of contributing to the store of human knowledge."

This is the acid test for tenured professorships? Let the thinning begin!

Ivory tower types crack me up. Clinton prolly learned more in his first year in office than whole faculties have learned after decades of self-referential note-passing.


I'd prefer that former Pres. Clinton be given an Endowed Chair. Say, the White Owl Professor of Public Policy. Exactly what would George W. Bush teach? I'd rather take a class from Laura Bush.

George W. Bush is smarter than you:

Then I shouldn't teach a class either. The mention of Stanford got me laughing, I'll tell you that.

Good link. Not smarter than me, but pretty smart.

The thing that irked me about that is if he would have gotten HPs with ease and Hs while trying, then why was he a middle of the road student at HBS? I'm not saying that he's dumb, but Hennessey seems to go a bit far by saying that Bush would be a top student in b-school when history already proved that to be false.

He was a classic rich kid/young adult goof off in college is why.
I don't think he's a genius but he's definitely above average (100) intelligence.

Actually I came here to say that a fine arts class from George W. Bush would probably be an amazing interdisciplinary class.

Tyler, why didn't you mention economics as a department? Clinton made decisions about how to navigate the bond market, proposed budgets and engaged in very consequential fights about budgeting, made macroeconomically important decisions and appointments, signed pieces of regulatory and deregulatory legislation, and presided over a fascinating era for the world and the American economies-- domestic prosperity that reached down unusually far into the income distribution, balanced budgets, low inflation, a massive unacknowledged stock market bubble, a series of currency crises in the developing world, NAFTA, China's admission to the WTO...

If your answer is that telling stories about that stuff isn't the same as teaching economics, then please explain why you don't think the equivalent applies to political science.

(FWIW: Obama had the standard degree and credentials for a law school professor. Clinton... has the standard degree for a law school professor. Obama didn't hold his teaching position at Chicago-- which was not in any case a tenured professorship-- because he was a famous politico. At the time, he wasn't. The cases aren't at all analogous.)

I have no doubt that Clinton was the smartest president since I don't know. He is also a sociopath as far as I can tell but that is besides the point.

He would make an excellent teacher and speaker in my opinion.

I talked to my Mom who has met both Clinton and Obama (as a senator) and asked her about the experience. This was echoed by others who also agreed with what she said. Obama has a magnetism that seems to attract every eye in the room. He seemed to fascinate everyone in the room. Clinton on the other hand had an even greater effect in that his magnetism drew everyone to whatever he was focusing his attention. Clinton could seem to make people believe that YOU were the most fascinating person on Earth just by talking to you. Someone once told me that he made you feel like whatever came out of your mouth was both interesting and profound. He was described as the greatest listener someone had ever met.

On similar notes Bush Sr. was intellectual, worldly, and nice but Barbara was a ruthless driven schemer who could switch on the kindly grandma in a moment. W was affable and just seemed like a nice guy but a little sheltered. Dole was just plain likable. Gore was kinda a dork but smart and nice. McCain was a grumpy self-centered asshole.

Clinton also supposedly was smart, driven, and the more ruthless Clinton although Bill seemed to usually let her be the bad cop.

It is kinda weird that of all the politicians

In Primary Colors, the author referred to this extraordinary skill of Clinton's as putting on the 'big ears'.

On similar notes Bush Sr. was intellectual, worldly, and nice but Barbara was a ruthless driven schemer -

You're insane.

Having met Clinton, that description is spot on.

And people wonder why women throw themselves at him.

In general I am against giving prizes or academic titles to ex-politicians even if they are in a narrow field where they did unambiguously good. It tarnishs imo the real successes done by individuals on subjects where they really helped all of society. It is imo a sad state of affairs that we think about Clinton while many people fe don't know Norman Borlaug. It is sad that people know Adolf Hitler but only few know of Bonhoeffer. How many know Barack Obama but few will ever know the names of those on the Maidan.

There are border line cases like Nelson Mandela but in general we should reserve more attention and prices about important people aside of politics.

That Norman Borlaug is worth hearing from doesn't make Clinton any less worth hearing from. If you are looking for deadwood to get rid of from universities there are thousands of candidates that are neither Clinton nor Borlaug.

Just what do you have to do to be untouchable in the contemporary academy? Evidently chronic adultery (including getting blown in the executive mansion), disbarment, suborning perjury, midnight pardons (including a six-figure finder's fee for your brother-in-law and clemency for your brother's drug dealer cronies), embezzlement of government property (all those parting gifts), skeezy land deals, hiding evidence from federal investigators, ruining someone's life with a phony embezzlement prosecution (Billy R. Dale) paying off those in the know (Web Hubbell's 'consulting fees'). and (in general) having your minions conceal the muck by hiding it behind a bigger pile of muck (sustained over eight years) just does not render one traffe. About higher education: what, pray tell, is it higher than?

'I also would offer a tenured professorship to any ex-President who is not willing to spend real time with students and academic programs. The job offer would more than pay for itself, given the money it would bring into the university, directly and indirectly.'

And this addendum comes from someone who has profited from GMU's PR coup in attracting a professor tipped to receive a Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

Such insight into how the game is played is rare.

And let me add a slogan to that addendum - 'Public choice - you can never be too cynical'

Please, you're plenty cynical when it suits your agenda. All of a sudden, though, you get all doe-eyed when some public official assures us he is acting only in the public good. Where else do we suspend the idea that people generally are interested in their own welfare?

Well, I used to work in GMU PR, but even I was surprised that linking to a biography of the sponsor of the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics took less maybe 20 minutes to be deleted at this web site, and that even posting nothing but that slogan was scrubbed.

My cynicism can always be overwhelmed by reality, because in the end, I left that sort of life behind.

And I think you might have misinterpreted my post - Prof. Cowen is intimately familiar with the benefits of a university purchasing a notable figure. One could almost argue his academic reputation has been cemented by his association with a figure whose only real connection to GMU involved public choice economics in action - as you say, 'people generally are interested in their own welfare.'

As if on cue, your cynicism bubbles to the surface when the topic shifts from public choice. Good boy.

Well, I did write press releases concerning Prof. Buchanan's arrival at GMU - nothing cynical about that at all.

But comments being scrubbed because they link to the sponsor of a chair of a noted scholar announcing Public Choice Outreach 2014 ? That was new to me - and in credit to Prof. Cowen, I doubt he would feel the need to hide the sponsor of his own GMU chair.

Possibly because the Harris Theater pre-dates his entry into GMU's faculty by a decade.

And let me note, the scrubbed commenting was in reply to a post that started - 'This raises innumerable questions. What are the real interests of the organizers in hosting this conference? Their stated goal of sharing and spreading knowledge and belief for the good of the public cannot be taken at face value. Instead, we should wonder where they stand to gain materially from this conference'

To which Prof. Tabarrok replies - 'Congratulations! Your application essay for the conference has been accepted!'

But linking to the sponsor of Prof. Tabarrok's chair at the Mercatus Center? That isn't cynical, it is factual. The reaction however - well, I did save copies of what leads to prompt comment deletion here.

And it was oddly satisfying to again see just how things work here. Though if I was still working for GMU's PR Department, I might be a bit disappointed. Being so demonstrably ashamed of the source of your chair is just bad form, or at least that was true in the past.

Please repost so we can all see what you're talking about.

And now p_a jumps way out in front of Ray Lopez in the Biggest Douche contest...but JaMRC is gaining!

But if he gets tenure, how will fellow academics respond to the status diminishment? Clinton didn't even publish anything for the ivory tower - and he gets cushy tenure?

You can think of the president as a principal investigator, setting the outlines of what's to be investigated, funded, and written, and then signing it.

As for peer review, there's a group of 535 and another group of 9.

Why not?

A co-ed is working her way through Duke University making porn flicks.

Slick Willie can be tenured professor emeritus of sexual abuse of young interns and other vulnerable women.

Not published? Doesn't "That depends on the definition of the word 'is'" count?

I think that very few people here have ever worked at a university when talking about Clinton taking advantage of young adults.

He would not stand out - GMU has no official policy forbidding relationships between members of the student body and members of the faculty, for example, unless it involves authority over the student.

Read this link -

Which is carefully written to give the impression that consensual relationships are not allowed, until one reads further - '“Consensual Relationships” means, for purposes of this policy only, relationships of a romantic, intimate, or sexual nature, where a Professional Power Relationship exists.' A previous section defines 'Professional Power Relationship' -
'“Professional Power Relationship” means a relationship between an employee and a student in which the employee may have authority to exercise decision-making authority regarding the student.'

Everything else is fair game between consenting adults. And is fairly routine, at least in the later 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s at GMU.

Why shouldn't it be? What's the harm in a History Professor dating an Art grad student?

None - but many commenters here seem to think that placing Clinton in a university setting would lead to him acting in some fashion that anyone who has ever worked at a university would consider utterly mundane.

Pretty much showing that those commenters are either ignorant of how universities work, or else they are only concerned when the person involved is named Clinton.

Doesn't this line up exactly with what the commenters are saying -- that Clinton was in a position of power over Monica Lewinsky, he being the president, she being the intern at the White House? Are we missing something?

A bit - the fact that he took advantage of an intern 2 decades ago has nothing to do with what consenting adults do at a university.

Because the fact is that plenty of professors and employees have consensual relationships with plenty of students (note the plural form - it is not an accident), and thinking that Clinton's behavior is somehow out of line in that environment is extremely naive.

Now, if he was the university president ....

Except for the fact that what he did, have a sexual relationship with someone with which he had a Professional Power Relationship over, is expressly forbidden by the very rule you site.

Can you help me understand your concept of tenure?

Do you think tenure is more about academic freedom? Or more about establishing a permanent job for some very productive and valuable professors? Or something else entirely?

In recent conversations with research academics, I am led to believe that in STEM fields (and perhaps in other departments), tenure is mostly seen to be a "job perk" about granting a permanent job to valued professors more than it is seen to be about granting academic freedom to a professor and his speech or her research.

Law blogs convince me that law professors speak of tenure mostly in terms of academic freedom. And the NEA and AAUP assure me that they consider tenure to be more about academic freedom than as a mere job perk of permanence.

So I am curious, how professors in economics view tenure.

That said, why would Bill Clinton want tenure? What does tenure offer Bill Clinton?

An economist friend of mine at Chicago says he views the role of tenure as a mechanism to force faculties to decide who is and who isn't doing really good scholarship. Without having to make a choice about tenure, it's too easy to put off the hard choices, and just let that nice guy down the hall stick around. That said, I view tenure primarily as a form of non-monetary compensation.

Thank you

If Clinton wanted to be a professor, he could do better than GMU.

That is one of the nastiest things I have ever read in the comments here, considering who runs this web site.

Oh don't be so prickly. I'll rephrase the remark for you, if you like. "Clinton is a famous enough twat to get a gig at Harvard." There you are.

He was on the faculty of the University of Arkansas law school and gave it up.

And, no, he couldn't. GMU is a large research university where you have to publish to keep your job. Clinton has no history of that or practice at that. He was never a working lawyer and has not done any law teaching for 37 years.

Why does tenure even matter? Ex presidents are set for life anyway, and the fact they got elected once indicates they're not going to go all Ward Chirchill. Getting fired for speaking your mind would just lead to another book deal.

I'm surprised Tyler doesn't go all the way and suggest auctioning it off. I'm sure there are billionaires out there who would pay good money to have the title of tenured Professor of Economics at GMU.

5 minutes? I I have found that really famous people teach you very little when they talk to you because they are 'doing' their public persona. Doubly so for a guy like WJC. Now if you were alone with him and were a flexible and attractive young woman....who knows what you could learn.

Yes we all get it, Clinton likes the ladies.

I attended a lecture by George McGovern in 1984. He was matter-of-fact and substantive.

The more interesting question would be what would a top tier winner want with a guaranteed academic job? Anywhere at ant time. The A list are in demand the way that few academics can even dream of. Universities would cramp their style. Unless it was all titular.

"all titular" would pretty much describe a position Maya Angelou once had. Directories listed as her office a room was actually a janitor's closet. She taught one course an academic year "by invitation only". She interviewed prospective students beforehand.

How about former chairs of the FCC?

It's certainly not unheard of for law schools to offer tenured positions to prominent former officials and judges. Michigan brought Wade McCree in as a full professor with an endowed chair after he left the Solicitor General's office and it wasn't for his scholarship. I agree with Cowen on this: if I were a law school dean or college president, I'd be delighted to have any former president - emphasis on any - join my faculty as a full tenured professor. Former presidents bring unique experience and my guess is that most of them would be pretty interesting teachers.

Let me guess: people who don't like Clinton (the conservative and libertarian majority who read this blog) will (mostly) come up with reasonable arguments for saying no. Those who do like Clinton (some liberals and some moderates - yes, I am claiming that Clinton was a moderate - the political spectrum is relative and only an extreme right-winger would consider him liberal) would day yes and come up with reasonable arguments for saying yes, I think it is contextual. If the subject is international relations, political science, or public policy then I think his 8 years as president trumps a PhD. And that is not equivalent to saying someone who has been in the business world for 8 years is qualified to teach MBA's. The nature of the office of president is unique. I would say the same about George W. Bush. If, however, the subject is something like psychology, then Clinton is not qualified. Perhaps the difference lies in relatively applied vs. not applied.

Whenever I see or hear the words "Bill Clinton", I then see in my mind's eye a television segment where he was looking over Janet Reno's shoulder while she explained why they had to burn the Branch Davidians to death.

I would take a course from a Bush, Obama or Clinton in a heart beat, and be glad for the experience. No degrees? Do you really want a PhD poli sci-guys take on how the White House works, for George Bush's?

Migrant workers are mostly farmers who shuttle between their rural homes and cities looking for work. They usually take the least-paid and most laborious jobs in cities. According to Liu, who herself is a migrant worker, older migrant workers are more likely to be victims to rights abuses due to age issues and poor educational background.

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