It's hard to blame Bill Lockyer for wanting the CSU Chancellor position, soon to be vacated by Charles Reed.
The post is prestigious, pays more than three times Lockyer's current salary, and could extend the 71-year old Lockyer's career past his termed out 2014 date.
Yes, it might be nice for Lockyer, but is it good for California?
Lockyer has attributes, to be sure. He served in the state legislature for 25 years and was elected attorney general prior to his winning his current post in 2006. To that end, being a skilled politician is certainly part of the tools required of a CSU Chancellor.
Still, there are other considerations fundamental to the job. A chancellor must have a thorough understanding of the CSU system and its delicate relationship to the other higher public education institutions as well as the K-12 network, including general student education requirements, maintenance and planning, faculty work conditions and, most of all fund raising. Lockyer has a lot of experience, but not in these areas.
The next chancellor will walk into the job under the most trying conditions.
The CSU system has been decimated by layoffs and hiring freezes, deferred maintenance of the infrastructure, tens of thousands of qualified students who have been turned away, and a faculty--the life blood of the institution--demoralized from endless brouhahas with outgoing Chancellor Reed and his team. Simply showing the ability to win election to office does not in itself qualify someone to deal with these complex issues.
Sure, nomination of Lockyer by Governor Jerry Brown to the chancellor position might provide short-term benefits. It would put a known commodity into the job instead of the unknowns that come from a national search.
It would also allow the governor to name a new state treasurer.
But these benefits for Lockyer and the governor would be outweighed by the costs.
The next chancellor needs to be someone with a strong background in education administration--someone who needs to be innovative in challenging times while getting the most from a distrustful faculty who have felt abused and dismissed. He or she needs to be a prodigious fund raiser willing to reach out to the private sector and governments alike.
Most of all, "convenience" should not be a condition of appointment.
Larry Gerston teaches political science at San Jose State University and is the political analyst for NBC Bay Area.