- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 15, 2005

American University: college or corporation?

When American University’s Board of Trustees dismissed the embattled Benjamin Ladner from his duties as president (“Ladner to leave top post at AU,” Metropolitan, Tuesday), the school’s governing body effectively decided to buck one of the two horses it had simultaneously ridden for over a decade. While paying Mr. Ladner a corporate CEO’s salary, the school was shocked when Mr. Ladner went ahead and acted like one.

Thus, as repugnant as Mr. Ladner’s actions have been, those praising the Board’s decision — myself included — should temper their euphoria and direct their collective energies towards a re-examination of the modern-day university presidency.

Firing Mr. Ladner for his egregious improprieties was the easy part. The more difficult question lingering beneath the surface remains: Should we be surprised? Mr. Ladner was not hired by American University merely to advance the school’s academic reputation. As much as this might have rankled students paying more tuition and faculty members not earning their market value, this is what Mr. Ladner was brought in to do. Effectively asking him to operate as an academic CEO meant paying him like one. That did not give him permission to use $614,117 of university money for private purposes, but it can hardly surprise anyone that he thought he was entitled to do so.

Mr. Ladner, when judged within the context of the big-time contemporary presidency, succeeded in his mission. He brought more students with better grades to campus, increased alumni giving, constructed new buildings, overhauled old ones, and built up the endowment. Although Mr. Ladner’s arrogance is beyond reproach, who among us can state that AU is not healthier than it was in 1994? Thus, that sickly feeling in the stomach of anyone who cares about collegiate governance is the wrenching dilemma of deciding where morals fall in this debate.

Therefore, we would be wise to use Mr. Ladner’s example as a real-life case study. If we are to righteously express outrage at the conduct of the Mr. Ladners of the world, then perhaps it has come high time to re-examine the American college presidency as a whole. Given the emphasis placed on notoriety, fundraising and image in today’s supercompetitive higher-education landscape, where is it that money, morals, and makeup intersect when choosing a university chief executive?

If individuals like Mr. Ladner receive CEO-type compensation, then how in the world can we be surprised when, at times, someone acts like one? We have hatched this administrative monster, so we cannot be surprised when, every once in a while, it comes home to roost.

ROBERT STEELE JR.

Assistant director of communications

The George Washington University

Washington

Money can’t buy me love, or marriage

In his Op-Ed piece (“Beguiling marriage proposal,” Commentary, Saturday), Alvin Williams champions Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback’s marriage proposal to low-income D.C. residents (man and woman couples) who cohabit. The proposal, if enacted, could lead to wedded bliss for those unmarried couples, according to the Commentary article. According to Mr. Williams, the proposal has bipartisan support, which includes Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, District of Columbia Democrat.

Mr. Brownback’s legislation appears to be based on the studies that show married couples and their children fare much better in many areas, such as economic stability and health and wellness, than the unmarried couples and their children.

In my opinion, the studies incorrectly conclude that being married is the reason that married couples experience economic stability, health and wellness, etc. It is my opinion that the couples get married because of their fundamental moral principles. Marriage is a significant function of the way these couples conduct their lives — an ordinary milestone.

If an unmarried man and woman — a couple — do not have the necessary moral principles with marriage as one of their life milestones, then tempting them to get married will not achieve the laudable ends envisioned by Mr. Brownback’s (marriage) proposal. Offering federal and local financial support and other incentives to the couples who get married in order to receive the public dole will succeed in only pouring money down a sinkhole.

The low-income or more wealthy man-and-woman couples who cohabit must be taught the fundamental moral principles they need to have a successful life and marriage, in that order. Throwing more money at people who have a deficit of fundamental moral principles will only succeed in wasting the money and hardening the hearts and minds of the needy couples.

DAVID YOUNG

Fairfax

Religion and the Air Force

Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, a 1977 Air Force Academy graduate, seems like a man on a mission with evangelical zeal — to rid the Air Force chaplains of an evangelical Christian message, lest Mr. Weinstein’s children, and one supposes everyone else’s children, be exposed to ideas of which Mr. Weinstein disapproves (“Air Force school targeted,” Nation, Oct. 7).

There was a time when people who didn’t like the Christian Gospel would stone, crucify, behead or feed to lions Christians who were practicing what their faith calls the “great commission.” Fortunately for American Christians, people like Mr. Weinstein, who don’t like the Christian message, are much nicer. But they may still be hostile and may take grievous offense in being confronted by a Christian messenger, especially if in an inappropriate manner, as apparently was the case at the Air Force Academy. So today we have lawsuits filed and expression stifled.

But if the courts have any respect for the First Amendment, even Air Force Chaplains may not have to stifle their religious faith to accommodate people like Mr. Weinstein. A court finding, however, may not prevent the Air Force Chaplain Service leadership from stomping on evangelical chaplains who express their faith outside a chapel.

Even normally open-minded people get close-minded quickly when it comes to religion. Mr. Weinstein seems to be so mad that the academy imposed Jesus that he doesn’t want anybody else to hear about Jesus from an Air Force chaplain.

In the context of freedom of religion for Christian chaplains, this is the freedom to at least try to inform men and women on the condition of their souls. Yawn, laugh or believe. The response doesn’t matter. What matters is the freedom to address it to the degree another person is interested. Any measure to prevent such expression is an abridgement of religious freedom. Unfortunately, the Air Force, officially neutral on religion, is running from a lawsuit and seems to be saying its Christian chaplains have to give up this First Amendment right of religious expression.

We may now, therefore, have an Air Force in which Evangelical chaplains preach Matthew 28:19,20 to their congregations, but they themselves are not permitted to exercise this foundational aspect of their faith outside of a chapel.

Christians are told to “live peaceably” with all, to the extent possible. But when Caesar seeks to repress religious expression, Christians today need to do what their courageous forebears did: obey God rather than man. While an Air Force chaplain won’t end up as a torchlight, like some Christians did under Nero, they may have to miss out on promotion or forsake their Air Force commission and take their uniforms off to faithfully obey their great commission. If it comes to that, I guess Mr. Weinstein would be happy, but so, too, would the One that Mr. Weinstein doesn’t want to hear about. It shouldn’t come to that.

MARK LONCAR

Retired chief master sergeant

U.S. Air Force

Yorktown, Va.

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