Letter to the Editor: Presidential Candidates

This past Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, Marshall University’s Presidential Search Committee announced that it had finalized five candidates. One of which, Mr. Brad D. Smith, the former CEO of Intuit and a major reason why you can’t file your taxes through a convenient government portal, is a multimillionaire donor to Marshall, giving over $25 million to the university and will soon have his name emblazoned on a brand-new building for the College of Business. It may seem curious to see that his name is on a list of more traditionally qualified candidates.

Member of the Marshall Board of Governors and inheritor of a used car dealership, Chris Miller, has repeatedly lobbied on Brad’s behalf (supposedly without Brad knowing about it) to try and influence the appointment of a new  Huntington City Council member, calling Brad “a good guy to know.” This occurred just last month, in advance of the city receiving a large windfall from additional federal funding and from opioid litigation awards that they hope to guide towards their own investment priorities in Huntington. Is it possible that some similar lobbying has gotten Brad put on the presidential shortlist? This is more than eyebrow-raising. The Committee should disclose their unstated conflicts of interest, especially in the light of recent City Council text message scandal that has shown how the power of big money can intimidate or coerce local decision-makers.

Brad might be a good president. I have no idea. I know he was very successful at innovating new ways for Intuit to take more money from the American taxpayer, and he may very well bring that same innovative spirit here. However, through this selection, what the Presidential Search Committee has done is put the Marshall community into an awkward situation, where they must either (A) accept that some local multimillionaire can buy his way into being the university president, or (B) reject one of their largest donors from being president and suffer whatever financial consequences occur as a result. It is irresponsible for the Committee, and especially for the Chair and Board of Governors Chairman, Patrick Farrell, to have put the University into such a position. What does it say to the wider academic world that Marshall’s most important job is available for sale to the richest donor? Marshall University deserves an academic president, one who has made a serious career out of learning, teaching, and administering within a college environment. In my view, for the greater good of the Marshall community, Mr. Smith should respectively withdraw his candidacy for university president.

CORRECTION: Last week an op-ed included that the Board of Governors had voted and approved a recommendation for a vaccine mandate and mask mandate, however it was Faculty Senate.