Ken Starr Baylor University President

Ken Starr is expected to be named as president of Baylor University.  Photo: AP

Ken Starr is expected to be named as president of Baylor University. Photo: AP

Kenneth Starr, best known as the head of the controversial investigation into Bill Clinton’s various scandals, is expected to be named president of Baylor University.

Ken Starr, the constitutional lawyer who conducted the independent counsel investigation that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, is expected to be named this week as president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, according to a source with knowledge of the decision.

Since 2004, Starr has served as dean of Pepperdine Law School in Malibu, Calif. He first accepted that job back in 1996 but later backed away after critics said his work at the school, which is funded largely by conservative donors, could have conflicted with his work as a special prosecutor.

Rumors of Starr’s move to Baylor were reported first on the Texas Tribune blog Sunday. KWTX-TV and the Waco Tribune-Herald followed later with sources saying the appointment was certain.

This strikes me as an odd choice, not just because of the polarizing nature of the Clinton impeachment but because Starr’s experience seems a poor fit. His only academic leadership experience is running a small (enrollment: 639) law school.  Baylor is a mid-sized university (enrollment: 13,886) with a major intercollegiate athletic program (Big 12).  If nothing else, he’s prepared to deal with the media onslaught he’ll face.

FILED UNDER: Education, Sports, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    This strikes me as an odd choice, not just because of the polarizing nature of the Clinton impeachment but because Starr’s experience seems a poor fit.

    The purpose of a university president is to raise money. Since Baylor is a conservative, Baptist university, Starr will likely be able to inspire wealthy alums to donate. He seems like a perfectly appropriate fit.

    The Provost actually runs the university.

  2. James Joyner says:

    It’s true that fundraising is a major part of the president’s job and that provosts/VP academic affairs tend to run the day-to-day academic business. But presidents make big decisions, set the tone, and have the final say on matters such as college sports. So, Starr’s not just a fundraising figurehead.

    And he’ll likely cost Baylor a lot of donations from conservative Democrats, of which Texas still has quite a few.

  3. sam says:

    The purpose of a university president is to raise money.

    One of my profs put it more expansively: Raise money, shut up, and go home.

  4. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I know not what was controversial about the investigation? Who appointed a special investigator? I think the controversy may be more of opinion than fact. Democrats did not want Clinton investigated. I guess it is OK to put politics above the law. Ask Juanita Broderick about Bill Clinton. I think she has a controversial view of being raped. There are those who think if Clinton had spent a little more time being President and a little less time playing with interns, 9/11 might have been avoided. But then what is the job of President? Ever wonder what Susan McDougall got for doing time her partners in crime should have done?

  5. anjin-san says:

    Wonder how many students will end up on double secret probation…

  6. Triumph says:

    But presidents make big decisions, set the tone, and have the final say on matters such as college sports.

    Oh..I didn’t realize we were talking about President Obama.

  7. NoZe says:

    As a Baylor alum, this strikes me as an odd choice as well. Starr is from a Church of Christ background, although he’s apparently promised to join a Baptist church. This is a little like naming a Lutheran to the papacy!

  8. kth says:

    A bit of backstory: Baylor was run for about 10 years by Robert Sloan, a conservative Baptist who had very ambitious plans both for raising the university’s profile, and for placing a greater emphasis on Southern Baptist orthodoxy. For example, Sloan tapped “intelligent design” guru William Dembski to run the university’s new, lavishly-funded Polanyi Research Center.

    Sloan’s reign was contentious, as inevitably the two objectives of making a university more competitive and more doctrinaire are at odds. He left in 2006 to head Houston Baptist University; his successor was fired two years later for “failing to unite the Baylor family”. What the Starr hire means in this context isn’t apparently evident from the reporting.

    Background from Mother Jones as well as two items from Associated Baptist Press.

  9. NoZe says:

    There’s always been a tension at Baylor between those who want evangelical purity and those who want to see it become a top-tier academic institution. Conservatives and moderates battled over control of the university throughout the 1980s, until BU effectively emancipated itself in the early 1990s by divorcing itself from the Texas Baptist General Convention.

  10. Doug says:

    Media onslaught? This is Baylor we are talking about….the Texas media could care less.

    Now if it were UT or TAMU, then it would lead newscasts.

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    Scurrilous, sex-obsessed, right-wing d-bags appointed as university presidents, crazed D&D fanatics gunning down fellow professors, all as we see that a college education is scarcely worth the tuition . . . It so justifies my principled decision to drop out of San Francisco State because of philosophical conflict*.

    *Philosophical conflict: They believed I should attend class, I believed I should smoke weed, nail anything arguably female, and work my day job.