Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

'Uniquely Qualified' Or Not Qualified Enough? What They're Saying About Mitch Daniels' Move To Purdue

Screenshot / Purdue University

Gov. Mitch Daniels will be Purdue University's next president.

“I’ve always said ‘President Daniels’ has a nice ring to it.”

That was Indiana Sen. Dan Coats’ reaction to the news Gov. Mitch Daniels will become Purdue University’s next president.  His statement was one of several that poured in immediately after the widely-anticipated announcement Thursday morning.

Coats joined a number of Indiana political leaders in lauding the move, saying Daniels was “uniquely qualified” to lead the school.

Others, however, called the move inappropriate for a sitting governor, pointing out Daniels was responsible for the appointment of many of the Purdue Trustees who made the presidential pick. Some reactions below the jump:

From Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma:

As a Purdue engineering graduate and a longtime advocate for the university in the General Assembly, I am thrilled with the selection of Governor Mitch Daniels as Purdue’s next President… With his experience and key role in transforming Indiana over the last eight years, Gov. Daniels is uniquely qualified to capitalize on Purdue’s tremendous faculty and international reputation. I look forward to working with the Governor to take Purdue, and our state, to the next level.

From Indiana Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers:

This announcement signals an exciting new chapter in the life of a great university and a great public servant. In naming Governor Daniels as President, Purdue trustees chose to select a leader with superior intellectual credentials and a range of public and private experiences that will serve him and Purdue very well.

Republican Mike Pence, currently running to replace Daniels as governor, issued a similar statement praising the university’s pick.

But it’s unlikely Daniels will be speaking publicly in support of Pence on the campaign trail. At the announcement this morning, Daniels said he will immediately recuse himself “from any partisan political activities or commentary.”

That announcement irked Indy Democrat:

Officially, [Daniels] is now the lamest of lame ducks. This morning, he announced he’s essentially going to be going to work and collecting his check. It’s a slap in the face to hardworking Hoosiers who will pay his salary. For a man that often rails against public employees, he sure must like being one now. After spending eight years as Governor, Daniels now becomes another public employee as President of Purdue University when he leaves office.  He gets the job with few of the normal qualifications that college Presidents typically have.

Purdue computer science faculty member Gene Spafford took to his blog to voice his skepticism about the Daniels selection:

He has not shown particular understanding or accommodation for the value of academia beyond what it can do to pump up the state economy during his term as governor… I am not in any way suggesting that Mr. Daniels has exerted undue influence or is incompetent. He has served well in many business and elected roles, and been reasonably successful. He has seemed to be very honest and forthright. He has also seemed open to bucking political pressure from even his own party. In general, he also seems like a reasonably nice guy. My point is that these qualities are not sufficient to make one qualified for the role of president at a Tier I research university.

Indiana Senate Education Committee chair Dennis Kruse told Indiana Public Broadcasting‘s Brandon Smith that Daniels’ lack of academic experience shouldn’t hurt him as president.

“I think in today’s world that the president of a university number one has to be a great fundraiser, and I think Mitch Daniels has proven he’s a good fundraiser,” Kruse said Thursday.


  • Winters

    Some of the Purdue students plan to protest his nomination on June 30th.

  • DScully

    He’s in keeping with the general direction of all of our nation’s universities now. Have you seen what’s going on a Penn State or the universities that the Koch Brothers are now dictating the curriculum?

  • mystery meat

    Why? In an attempt to politicize a university?

  • Bodhistone

    Daniels’ appointment is illustrative of today’s research university. An interest in academics is no longer requisite for participation, just as a Phd is no longer requisite to hold the university’s top position. Appointing a *politician* to that position takes Purdue to a new low among the used-to-be-public Universities of our nation.

  • Arthur_aficionado

    Republicans are well connected to money and that makes Daniels an asset. The notion that a Univ President needs a Ph.D is obsolete, stodgy thinking. Do Univ presidents teach doctoral level themodynamics ? Of course not. His primary task is to raise money for the University.

    • girlcousin

      He’s so well connected he’s already lost one million dollar bequest…oops. Was I not supposed to mention that?

  • Johnny McDuff

    So, the argument is “he might be able to run a state, but he can’t run a University.”

    What a load of BS.

    • girlcousin

      Absolutely! He’ll run Purdue just like he ran Indiana–right into the ground.

  • Bodhistone

    “Republicans are well connected to money and that makes Daniels an asset. The notion that a Univ President needs a Ph.D is obsolete, stodgy thinking. Do Univ presidents teach doctoral level themodynamics ? Of course not. His primary task is to raise money for the University.”

    Yes, a commitment to intellectual excellence is stodgy and obsolete. This kind of mob logic is why today’s University degree is dumbed-down and…obsolete.

    • girlcousin

      Spoken like a true business student.

  • Arthur_aficionado

    Daniels obviously has a commitment to education or he wouldn’t want the job. Part of the hand wringing is good old fashioned territorialism. He doesn’t have a Ph.D and tenured professors don’t want to let him into their exclusive academic club.

    • girlcousin

      He has a commitment to education–to sell it to the highest hedge fund bidder.

  • Voyagerthorn

    One of the best president’s Texas A&M ever had was a public servant too, that would be Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

    I like Daniels and don’t see where all the fuss is coming from. University presidents are administrators just like a CEO or a governor.

    • baxter2211

      Gates also has a PhD, which connects him to academia far more than a JD

  • Caroline Reynolds

    Mitch Daniels is no Robert Gates.

    The way he ran Indiana may look good from there, but from Texas I can only say that Indiana is the only state I’ve driven through that has large chug holes in its Interstate Highway. It looks like he sold a federally built highway to a foreign bank for a quick profit to fund giveaways to his friends and make him look good.

  • Awm2t2lotepro

    NO, he isn’t qualified. What does he know about engineering and university administration. A political appointment that doesn’t make sense. Purdue could lose because of this.

  • Charles Darwin

    Daniels is a deeply religious person who has been known to rant about the evils of atheism. What is his perspective on evolution? Evolution is a cornerstone of modern biology and the basis of much biological study. A president, he has an obligation to support the sciences without any religious bias.

  • Thomasrogers600

    He can’t be any less competent than most u nvoersity presidents who have no training in management or business, most can’t even run an effective meeting. My guess he will get frustrated by the petty politics, and all university politics is petty because the stakes are so small.

    • girlcousin

      Just like their little president.

  • yatin mondkar

    Sometimes you need an outsider to change things. His lack of academic qualifications may be exactly what’s needed to reform higher education that is trapped under its own weight.

    • girlcousin

      The only weight they are trapped under is being ham strung so that they cannot compete against the private, for profit crapola online universities sucking up billions of student loan money and issuing bogus degrees.

  • OUTof BOX

    To answer the rhetorical question. A TRAINED monkey can do it!

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