Sunday, April 08, 2007

Regent University and the Bush Administration: Loyalty Over Competence

Did you know that tiny Regent University ("the nation's academic center for Christian thought and action") claims to have one hundred and fifty alumni serving in the Bush Administration? Or that twenty of their professors are elected judges?

Their most famous political alum [edit: oops, he's a professor, not an alum] is no doubt the very nutty John Ashcroft, who was anointed with cooking oil each time he has been elected to public office, "'in the manner of King David,' as he points out in his memoirs Lessons from a Father to His Son." (Ashcroft is now a professor at Regent.)

More recently in the news is Monica Goodling:
One of those graduates is Monica Goodling, the former top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who is at the center of the storm over the firing of US attorneys. Goodling, who resigned on Friday, has become the face of Regent overnight -- and drawn a harsh spotlight to the administration's hiring of officials educated at smaller, conservative schools with sometimes marginal academic reputations.

Documents show that Goodling, who has asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress, was one of a handful of officials overseeing the firings. She helped install Timothy Griffin , the Karl Rove aide and her former boss at the Republican National Committee, as a replacement US attorney in Arkansas.

Because Goodling graduated from Regent in 1999 and has scant prosecutorial experience, her qualifications to evaluate the performance of US attorneys have come under fire. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, asked at a hearing: "Should we be concerned with the experience level of the people who are making these highly significant decisions?"


The Regent law school was founded in 1986, when Oral Roberts University shut down its ailing law school and sent its library to Robertson's Bible-based college in Virginia. It was initially called "CBN University School of Law" after the televangelist's Christian Broadcasting Network, whose studios share the campus and which provided much of the funding for the law school. (The Coors Foundation is also a donor to the university.) The American Bar Association accredited Regent 's law school in 1996.

Not long ago, it was rare for Regent graduates to join the federal government. But in 2001, the Bush administration picked the dean of Regent's government school, Kay Coles James , to be the director of the Office of Personnel Management -- essentially the head of human resources for the executive branch. The doors of opportunity for government jobs were thrown open to Regent alumni.

"We've had great placement," said Jay Sekulow , who heads a non profit law firm based at Regent that files lawsuits aimed at lowering barriers between church and state. "We've had a lot of people in key positions."

Many of those who have Regent law degrees, including Goodling, joined the Department of Justice. Their path to employment was further eased in late 2002, when John Ashcroft, then attorney general, changed longstanding rules for hiring lawyers to fill vacancies in the career ranks.

Previously, veteran civil servants screened applicants and recommended whom to hire, usually picking top students from elite schools.

In a recent Regent law school newsletter, a 2004 graduate described being interviewed for a job as a trial attorney at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in October 2003. Asked to name the Supreme Court decision from the past 20 years with which he most disagreed, he cited Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling striking down a law against sodomy because it violated gay people's civil rights.

"When one of the interviewers agreed and said that decision in Lawrence was 'maddening,' I knew I correctly answered the question," wrote the Regent graduate . The administration hired him for the Civil Rights Division's housing section -- the only employment offer he received after graduation, he said.

The graduate from Regent -- which is ranked a "tier four" school by US News & World Report, the lowest score and essentially a tie for 136th place -- was not the only lawyer with modest credentials to be hired by the Civil Rights Division after the administration imposed greater political control over career hiring.

The changes resulted in a sometimes dramatic alteration to the profile of new hires beginning in 2003, as the Globe reported last year after obtaining resumes from 2001-2006 to three sections in the civil rights division. Conservative credentials rose, while prior experience in civil rights law and the average ranking of the law school attended by the applicant dropped.

As the dean of a lower-ranked law school that benefited from the Bush administration's hiring practices, Jeffrey Brauch of Regent made no apologies in a recent interview for training students to understand what the law is today, and also to understand how legal rules should be changed to better reflect "eternal principles of justice," from divorce laws to abortion rights.

Loyalty over competence. Simple-minded Christianity over reason.


Chaim said...

Hey, John Ashcroft is waaaay too old to be a Regent alum.

He graduated from Yale in 1964 and got his law degree from University of Chicago in 1967. Check it yourself.

Meanwhile, Regent University didn't open its hallowed doors until 1978.

Jewish Atheist said...


You're right! My bad.

Ashcroft and the 20 judges are under the "Distinguished Professors and Guest Lecturers" category. The 150 in the Bush administration were indeed graduates, according to Regent.

Jewish Atheist said...

I corrected the post.

Foilwoman said...

JA: I've got to say here, lawyers are a very rank-concious bunch and it really doesn't serve them well. You have a lot of positions in government and firms closed to all but graduates of top 10 or top 20 schools (all big law, most public interest, DOJ and other honors programs) but I don't think the rankings really mean that much. In my un-identified professional field (much similar) I attended a Top 10 or Top 15 (depending on the year) school and the graduates seemed to think that that meant that they were entitled to certain positions that should be closed to alumni of "lesser" schools.

While Regent University's law school is no Yale, Stanford, U. Chicago or Harvard (or Georgetown, George Washington or Loyola for that matter), I don't think someone who performed well at Regent should be regarded as unfit to practice law or work for the government. There may well (and probably are) better candidates out there, but I wouldn't determine that based on the pedigree of the school the candidates attended. Or let me put it this way: I'd take the top 10% of pretty much any school that's accredited over the bottom 5% of pretty much any school.

Oh, and I think Regent sucks and blows, but I also think that about University of Chicago and Harvard and both of those schools have great reputations (but I've never met a grad from either law school who I felt was fully mammalian much less human -- although that's probably my fault, not theirs).

Jewish Atheist said...


I don't mean to imply that graduates of Regent University Law are necessarily unqualified. What's scandalous here is the sheer number of grads who have been welcomed by the Bush administration into positions previously screened and recommended by "veteran civil servants."

And let's not forget that Regent is a haven for the nuttiest, most theocratic kind of Christians.

David said...

You know, if there is no God, then all that Jewish stuff about being given the land and the prophets and stuff is just a fraud perpetuated by the Jewish people.

And who would want to be part of that?

So why do you claim to be Jewish? I mean, there has been so much intermarriage that you can't seriously be claiming to be descended from some tribes from over two thousand years ago.

So whats this all about?

foilwoman said...

David: A lot of people in the 1940s made it very clear that one's Jewish identity was based on who your parents were not who you believed. And in Jewish culture, you're a Jew if your mother is Jewish or if you've converted. Woody Allen (who I now can't stand) has a great riff on what is Judaism, and ends up with the conclusion that Judaism is a way of eating. YMMV, but you can be an atheist who is Jewish. See Bacon Eating Atheist Jew's explanation of this very issue.

Fact Checker said...

What some people have claimed since the 40's does not let you off the hook.

Wars are still being fought over this Jewish fraud, if fraud it is.

And this stuff about being Jewish if your mother is, who says? Other Jews.

The Orthodox in Israel say even converted Jews or atheist are Jews...unless they become Christians of course.

Hows that for bigoty.

If God didn't speak to their prophets, then they have been preserving a lot of lies.

intuitor said...

Fact checker and David, if God didn't speak to the prophets then definitions of lies-morality are much more felixible than you claim. You're setting the standards for truth and morality higher than you can account for unless you can show that prophesy really existed. And to quote Jacob Neusner, "what we cannot show we do not know".

Anonymous said...

What truth and morality?

A higher standard?

There is none at all, except mine.

I make my rules.

And the Jews, according to Jewish atheist, have been spreading false claims for thousands of years.

People are still DYING over them.

I say thats wrong; if you don't think figures.