A small group of Texas Tech University faculty members is objecting to the school's hiring of former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and is trying to gather signatures for a petition that claims he has "demonstrated significant ethical failings."
But Chancellor Kent Hance said Thursday that the petition targeting the hire won't deter him from having Gonzales on campus.
Walter Schaller, a tenured associate professor of philosophy who is circulating the petition, has said he doesn't expect it to affect Gonzales' hire. But he said he felt it important to air faculty concerns that Gonzales might remain a professor beyond the yearlong teaching stint for which he has been hired.
About 74 people have signed the petition, which asserts that Gonzales should not be hired and that Hance should not be involved in faculty hires.
Gonzales welcomed to teach after year
Hance, a one-time Republican congressman from West Texas who defeated George W. Bush for the seat in the former president's sole election defeat, said he didn't hire Gonzales to be a faculty member. However, he said Gonzales would be welcome to continue teaching at Tech beyond a year.
The chancellor said he hired Gonzales, the nation's first Hispanic attorney general, to recruit and retain minority students at Tech and Angelo State University in San Angelo, which is part of the Tech system. His teaching position was arranged afterward by Tech's president, the arts and sciences dean, and the Political Science Department chairman. Gonzales, who will be paid $100,000 annually, agreed to a one-year visiting professorship.
The petition will have no effect, Hance said.
"I will not change my mind," he said.
A call seeking comment from Gonzales was not immediately returned Thursday
Former attorney general to teach political science
Gonzales, Bush's attorney general until he resigned in 2007, will teach a political science class on contemporary issues in the executive branch. The class is full but the school may expand enrollment because of the demand, Hance said.
The petition asserts that Hance's hiring of someone the chancellor described as a "good friend" conflicts with Tech's Statement of Ethical Principles.
"His years in the White House were characterized by conduct which, whether or not it was illegal, demonstrated significant ethical failings," the petition says of Gonzales.
Among those failings, according to the petition: frequently misleading Congress and the American people, denying the right of habeas corpus, and appearing to show more loyalty to Bush than to the Constitution. Gonzales stepped down amid the politically motivated firings of U.S. attorneys and an uproar over allegations of torture at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"The kind of honesty and open exchange of ideas that you expect in a university course is completely impossible in his case," Schaller said.
Petitioners represent minority
Hance said the petition represents a small percentage of Tech's roughly 1,400 faculty members.
Schaller said he anticipates more signatures from current and former faculty members once they return from the summer break. The petition will be given to Hance early in the fall semester.
There was no partisanship in hiring Gonzales, Hance said.
"If Eric Holder retires tomorrow, I'd try to hire him too," he said of the current attorney general.