Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ken Starr: A Happy Man . . .

Baylor President Ken Starr
Photo by Robert Rogers or Matthew Minard
(Image from Baylor Magazine)

Over a year ago, when I first learned that Kenneth Starr -- the former Independent Counsel instrumental in bringing impeachment charges against President Clinton during the Lewinsky Scandal -- would be stepping into the role of Baylor University president, I worried that my old alma mater had gotten another controversial figure who would alienate the student body, the alumni, the faculty, the administration, and the regents and prove yet more divisive at a time when Baylor needed a unifier.

My fears were misplaced.

President Ken Starr seems beloved by everyone, perfect for the role of Baylor president. I say this based on the 19 photos -- including the one above -- from the hard copy of the Baylor Magazine, and while I realize that these are selected to put the man's best face before the readers, I think that the joy in his smile would be hard to fake. Starr looks like a man thoroughly enjoying his new job.

Actually, I base my impression on more that the photographs. In regular emails sent out by Baylor, I've been reading for over a year now about Starr's connection to my old university, and I don't find him controversial or alienating at all! I now believe that he must have gotten some bad press during his tenure as Independent Counsel due to the nature of that job and the popularity of President Clinton. By contrast to that negative coverage back then is this positive depiction now in "The First Year," Baylor Magazine (Summer 2011, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp. 22-25):
Whether he's on campus meeting with faculty and students, out in the community interacting with civic leaders, facilitating conversations in large and small gatherings of alumni across the country, brainstorming with fellow university presidents, preaching in churches across Texas or speaking before a professional meeting of legal scholars, he keeps a schedule that would leave most of us gasping for air.

Through it all, of course, it's the students who have and always will come first for Judge Starr; that's why he makes a point of getting out among the student body whenever he can. His regular interactions with students have included running with the Baylor Line before kick off, entertaining student organizations at his home, working out at the McLane Student Life Center, and visiting Dr Pepper Hour nearly every week. He has also traveled to summer send-off events around the country, encouraging students and parents as they make the transition to Baylor. (p. 22)
The article goes on to say more about Starr's accessibility to the students, but notes that he maintains cordial relations with the faculty and administration as well:
Judge Starr often spends his lunchtimes at the McMullen-Connally Faculty Center, where he can interact informally with faculty and staff, and he makes a point of attending nearly every meeting of the Faculty Senate.

"He has been very cordial in coming to the Senate, even dropping in to say hello one time just because he wanted to encourage us as we started the second semester," says Dr. Ray Cannon, chair of the Faculty Senate. "He's acting like a president. He's setting a tone, he's leading the university, but he's not involved in minutiae. He has an administration he trusts, and he is letting the provost act as provost, which I greatly appreciate. He is leading by example. I think relationships among faculty and between faculty and administration are in excellent shape." (p. 23)
Relations with alumni are equally cordial, and thus in equally good shape:
From Houston and Dallas to Nashville and Chicago, Judge Starr joined . . . in attending many of the university's Community Input Sessions. There, he and others heard directly from alumni about the university's present and future.

Athletic events provided another frequent opportunity for the president to meet with alumni; for instance, during Saturdays in the fall, the president could usually be found visiting the tailgating area around Floyd Casey Stadium -- stopping for a bite to eat, to throw a round of washers, to talk with fans, or to take pictures with hundreds of Bears along the way. (pp. 23-24)
He sounds like a good ambassador for Baylor:
R. Dary Stone, JD '77, the Baylor Board of Regents chair for the past two years, echoes that thought.

"Judge Starr has been a blessing to the Baylor family on all levels," Stone says. "His kind heart, powerful intellect, deep spiritual commitment and his enthusiasm for all things Baylor have contributed to a great inaugural year for the university. The Board of Regents is deeply grateful for his leadership to date and very excited about Baylor's prospects for the future." (p. 25)
Perhaps Starr will prove a guiding star, the one to lead Baylor into the greater things planned . . .



At 6:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I recall, anyone, whether male or female, who said anything derogatory regarding the Clintons, received the same treatment.
They used the technique of isolate, defame, and/or destroy their credibility.
Ken Starr was just one of many.

Does this sound similar to the present administration?



At 7:41 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

No wonder I win no popularity contests -- I don't give anybody the 'treatment'!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Tom Ball said...

Of course "Baylor Magazine," the mouthpiece of President Starr, would say these things. But they won't say anything about the gangs of men with black bags knocking on your door in the middle of the night. Or the "special tribunals" in the basement of Pat Neff Hall. Or about the forced sterilizations. Or about the "remedial education" camps in Lorena. No, it's all "When President Ken Starr claps his hands, the trees quiver with joy."

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Ah, that's why he's so happy! At least, I was right about his genuine joy . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken Starr may have changed but the tactics he used as special prosecutor were at best u ethical and many believe illegal.

I assert the Clintons fought fire with fire...check the unaltered facts Cran.


At 3:52 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

University President . . . good work if you can get it.

At 3:55 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I guess that I'll have to look into that, too, Pat. I knew that his investigation was controversial, but I didn't pay so much attention at the time. International affairs had my eye as I was living the expat life and struggling to find a place for my 'career'.

What were the illegal or unethical things that Starr was accused of doing?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:58 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Carter, I suppose so, but I'd need to be more of a social animal, though I don't think that I'd ever 'get it' on that score . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff, I recommend The Death of American Virtue by Ken Gormley. This is an even-handed and unbiased look at the prosecution of President Clinton by the Independent Counsel Judge Starr (I erroneously referred tonJudge Starr as a Special Prosecutor earlier).


At 7:58 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Your error was my fault, for I used the expression "Special Prosecutor," but alerted by you, I've altered that to "Independent Counsel." As Bogart would say, "I was misinformed." I shouldn't rely so much on Wikipedia . . .

Thanks for the book recommendation.

My memory of the investigation was that Starr was sincere but overzealous -- rather than unethical (or exceeding legal bounds) -- but that the impeachment proceedings on the part of Congress were politically motivated.

Jeffery Hodges

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