Opinion: In standing with Trump, Sonny Perdue rebuked science and truth

President Donald Trump signs the Executive Order Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America as Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue looks on during a meeting with farmers on April 25, 2017, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Perdue was one of only a few Cabinet members to serve in their roles through the Trump administration. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Combined ShapeCaption
President Donald Trump signs the Executive Order Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America as Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue looks on during a meeting with farmers on April 25, 2017, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Perdue was one of only a few Cabinet members to serve in their roles through the Trump administration. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Credit: TNS

A Regents’ professor says former governor can’t lead University System with integrity

Randy Malamud is Regents’ Professor of English at Georgia State University. The Board of Regents presents Regents’ professorships to faculty whose scholarship is recognized nationally and internationally as innovative and pace-setting.

In a guest column, Malamud contends former Gov. Sonny Perdue’s tenure in the Trump administration as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture disqualifies him to lead the University System of Georgia.

The regents, who are political appointees, named Perdue sole finalist to lead the state’s University System this week. Gov. Brian Kemp backs Perdue for the chancellorship, one of the most powerful positions in state government.

Malamud is the author of 11 books, including “The Language of Modernism,” “Reading Zoos: Representations of Animals and Captivity,” “Poetic Animals and Animal Souls,” and “The Importance of Elsewhere: The Globalist Humanist Tourist.” He has a contract for a new book, “CRASH! Aviation Disasters and the Cultural Debris Field.” The views expressed here are his own, not those of the university system.

By Randy Malamud

Writing about Sonny Perdue’s never-say-die campaign for the University System chancellorship, Atlanta Journal-Constitution higher education reporter Eric Stirgus writes that it “comes down to one question. Should someone without higher educational administrative experience lead a system of 26 colleges and universities?”

That’s a great question, and as a USG faculty member for 33 years, my answer is emphatically no. My clear sense is that virtually all my colleagues and students agree.

But can I suggest an even stronger reason why we should fear and resist the prospect of Chancellor Perdue?

He stood with Donald Trump.

For a full term, and even after other Cabinet members with a shred of honor resigned after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Perdue stayed the course. He lent legitimacy to a president and an administration that attacked so many of the principles that undergird the USG, including science, truth, knowledge, intellectual honesty and multicultural inclusivity, to name just a few.

Perdue refused to invoke the 25th Amendment, designed to protect the American people from the dangers posed by an unfit president, even as Trump attacked journalists, Muslims, women, public health institutions, the dignity of the White House itself, the rule of law and, finally, the peaceful transition of power.

Perdue was a foot soldier in this profoundly dysfunctional presidential administration. He was an enabler, a yes-man, a co-conspirator. The complex process of assessing Trump’s transgressions is still unfolding. We cannot yet fully know exactly how deep his guilt extends, but it is not hard to see that his closest supporters, especially his Cabinet, will be seen to have stood on the wrong side of history.

Combined ShapeCaption
Randy Malamud of Georgia State University (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

Randy Malamud of Georgia State University (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Randy Malamud of Georgia State University (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

Credit: Courtesy photo

If Perdue did not embarrass himself quite as flagrantly as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, EPA chief Scott Pruitt, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, or National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, that’s just because the bar was set so low.

But make no mistake: The autocratic demagoguery that characterized the Trump administration was facilitated by a coterie of accomplices among whom Perdue stood proud and tall. He was one of only four Cabinet members who carried the flag through the whole agonizing administration. The other paragons of virtue were Ben Carson, Wilbur Ross, and Steve Mnuchin.

As Trump was leveraging the power of his office to enrich his family’s coffers, protect his political power, and distance himself from the pandemic, Perdue was standing back and standing by.

It would be an insult to the dedicated and talented faculty, staff, and students of Georgia’s public universities to let Perdue take the helm of our system. It’s worth noting that most members of Trump’s inner circle have not had a very impressive second act since the end of his presidency; mostly, they have withdrawn from the public sphere and have gone off to lick their wounds.

We deserve better, and Perdue deserves a quiet retirement where he can reflect upon the ramifications of his career in public service.

Georgia’s University System Chancellor

The University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents has named former Gov. Sonny Perdue as sole finalist to be its next chancellor.

The job: The chancellor oversees an organization with 26 state universities and colleges, plus the state archives, with about 48,000 employees and some 340,000 students. It is considered one of the most powerful positions in state government.

At issue: Critics say the chancellor should have experience in higher education leadership, which Perdue does not. Supporters say Perdue’s experience as governor and as U.S.Agriculture Secretary will benefit the system and its relationships with state and federal lawmakers and donors.

Here are some opinion articles about the issues:

Opinion: Sonny Perdue is ideal choice to lead Georgia’s University System. By Chris Clark, Georgia Chamber of Commerce

Opinion: In standing with Trump, Sonny Perdue rebuked science and truth. By Randy Malamud, professor at Georgia State University

Opinion: If regents pick Sonny Perdue, Georgia’s colleges will suffer. By Christine Gallant, professor emerita at Georgia State University