In response to a petition objecting to his hiring at Texas Tech University, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said while the petition's creator is "entitled to his opinion" he "respectfully" disagrees with it.
The petition opposing Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance's acquisition of Gonzales as a teacher, recruiter and guest speaker was signed by 70 Tech professors as of Monday, said petition creator Walter Schaller, a Tech philosophy professor.
Gonzales will teach a political science class of 15 students entitled "Contemporary Issues in the Executive Branch" and help recruit and retain minority students beginning Aug. 1, Hance announced in early July.
The nine-page petition, complete with citations and an appendix, calls attention to Tech's statement of ethical principles and the motto "Do the Right Thing." According to the petition, the hiring of a "good friend" of Hance's "cannot be seen as a commitment to ethical conduct."
Hance was unavailable for comment as he was out of the office until Tuesday.
Schaller also said he is troubled by Hance's involvement in hiring faculty, saying "his job is to raise money and deal with the legislature," and he questions Gonzales' ethical credibility.
"The idea (to hire Gonzales) came from Hance," Schaller said, "and it's very difficult to say no to the chancellor."
The petition highlights in detail Gonzales' controversies, or "ethical failings" as attorney general and White House legal counsel including that he frequently misled or lied to Congress about the firing of U.S. attorneys; rejected the Geneva Conventions; denied the Constitutional right of habeas corpus; and appeared to be more loyal to President George W. Bush than to the Constitution.
"Gonzales's appointment is a troubling example of a 'celebrity hire,'" the petition reads. "It is unclear what Gonzales has done that makes him deserving of employment at Texas Tech. Does he have a noteworthy academic record? Does he have a record of publishing in law reviews? Was his service to his country particularly distinguished?"
Gonzales said he is confident that at the end of his one year professorship, professors and critics will see that "my hiring has been a net gain for the university."
"We live in a country where, in the academic world, people can express publicly their approval and disapproval of various issues," he said. "What I'm focused on, is demonstrating that I'm serious about this teaching responsibility. I'm also serious about promoting diversity within Texas Tech. I hope that people will treat me fair and give me an opportunity to demonstrate that."
Schaller said he believes students will not be taking a good course with Gonzales as professor because "there's so much that he has to be silent about because there's legal issues that could arise if he were to tell the full truth."
In response, Gonzales said he will try to be as candid as possible during classes and that all the ethical questions have been reviewed by various authorities with no finding of wrongdoing.
"I just don't think he'll be honest in a way that a regular faculty member could be," Schaller said. "Too much is at stake. Too much is at stake in what he says. Anything he says can be in the New York Times the next day and Department of Justice, day after that. He's got a lot of secrets he just can't be forthright about."
Schaller said he understands that a binding contract has solidified Gonzales' position at least for the next year, but he hopes that these professors who have taken a stand against the recent hiring will resonate when his initial year is over.