A blog to keep current on MPIRG'S fight for social and environmental justice.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hamline University is Right to Deny Job to Emmer

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer was recently denied an “executive in residence” position at Hamline University. Emmer claims that the university reneged on their employment agreement after a group of faculty expressed opposition based on Emmer’s political beliefs. According to the Pioneer Press, in a letter from Emmer to Hamline President Linda Hanson, he states, “Madam President, is there a requirement that every faculty member at Hamline conform on the issue of marriage? Is there only one point of view allowed? Is there no political or religious freedom recognized at
Hamline? I thought the 'mission' at Hamline University was to educate - not to inculcate.''

The answer to all of Emmer’s questions is simply, “No.” and to his statement on the university’s mission they are fulfilling just fine without him. The fact of the matter is that Tom Emmer would bring very little to Hamline’s robust academic community in terms of scholarly work or expertise. Instead, he would bring a lot of liability. During the 2010 midterm election cycle a contribution from Target Corporation to a pro-Emmer Political Action Committee made national news several times for the backlash it caused to the company from consumers. For a small, private college in St. Paul, Minnesota, looking to attract a diversity of students from across the country, hiring a controversial political figure is probably not the best way to attract potential students.

While Emmer was candidate for governor his budget plan included reducing higher education funding. Many of our students, including myself, receive state grants which would have been at risk of greater funding cuts leaving students to bear a larger financial burden. Regardless of a professor’s political beliefs it is important that they value higher education; this includes understanding the importance of adequate funding for institutions and students.

Between supporting cuts in funding for higher education and support for restrictive voter laws that would negatively impact college students, it’s clear that Tom Emmer doesn’t value quality, affordable higher education or even young people’s right to participate in our political process.

Emmer has set himself up as a lightning rod for hot button social issues and is a mouthpiece for social conservatives. That’s fine for talk radio and cable news networks, but there is no place for that in an academic community.

Written by Natalie Cook

MPIRG Board Chair and Senior at Hamline University

MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen


  1. Natalie -- With great joy and happiness, I did what I could to defeat Tom Emmer in last year's election, and am pleased with Governor Dayton's advocacy for a more progressive Minnesota. I have no idea about who is right or wrong on the 'was he hired or not' drama. But your justification for not hiring Tom because he is controversial and a so called "lightening rod" makes Hamline seem like an awfully narrow-minded university. These are the same arguments used by conservative regents around the country to avoid liberal or (God-forbid) radical professors. Universities often have lightening rods as professors...from the left, right and center. Emmer does believe in cutting higher education, but so have liberal Governors and state legislators who are dealing with our budget mess. I wish they wouldn't because investing in human capital like higher ed is one of the important things government can do, and tuition is becoming so out-of-reach for so many. Emmer disagrees, which is why I voted against him (and for so, so many other reasons) but seems like an awfully weak reason to deny him a job at higher learning institution.

  2. I live in Minnesota and have applied to the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and Hamline University. I want to get away from my family so kind of want to go somewhere that is at least a couple hours away from Minneapolis but I just don't know where I want to go. So I was wondering what the best colleges in the Midwest are?

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