Congresswoman Katie Porter (D, CA) is on Leave Without Pay from her job teaching law at the University of California, Irvine, and has been for the last four years while she serves in Congress. The concept isn’t particularly unusual; what draws attention is that the normal California (or at least UC Irvine) LWOP period is two years, and the school has just approved (after the fact) extending Porter’s status for the period January 2021 through December 2022.
What drew my attention, though, is the rationalization used by the UCI Dean, L Song Richardson, in arguing successfully for the decision to extend Porter’s status, especially after a senior Academic Personnel analyst at UCI had formally recommended against the extension.
…from the university’s perspective, it would not shed a good light on UCI for a member of the US House of Representatives to be told to either resign from a democratically-elected position or resign from UCI.
Moreover, this seems inconsistent with the aspiration for members of UCI’s faculty to serve at the highest levels of national public service. Finally, to have an elected member of the United States Congress who can advocate on behalf of Orange County, including UCI, surely has significant benefits for the campus.
I am also certain that when news of our decision to not grant her a leave of absence through the end of her second term in office goes public, it would surely reflect very badly on UCI[.]
[I]t would not shed a good light on UCI…. Here’s the school being more interested in its public image than it is in the rightness or wrongness of this highly unusual extension. There’s also nothing wrong with telling a (sort-of) employee to choose between her job at the school and the job she’s currently working instead. Porter’s job as a Congresswoman doesn’t alter that in the slightest. There’s no reason an employee of a collection of people in a district should be treated differently from any other employee of a local business who’s on leave to work an alternate job.
[I]nconsistent with the aspiration for members of UCI’s faculty…. Not at all. Nothing stops other faculty members from pursuing their aspirations for national service, at any level. They just would have to choose between jobs, the same as any other employee of a business.
[Having a] member of the United States Congress who can advocate on behalf of Orange County, including UCI…. No doubt, and that’s part of the duties of any Congressman. But they don’t have to be on leave from this or that organization in order to advocate for that organization while in office, or to advocate from any other platform. The well-known lobbyist revolving door is one of the more unsavory illustrations of that capability.
Finally, when news of our decision to not grant her a leave of absence…goes public, it would surely reflect very badly on UCI…. There’s that preference for public image over what’s right, bookending Richardson’s first rationale.
There’s that “rationale” term. It’s not entirely accurate. Richardson’s case is pure rationalization, and nothing more, for giving special treatment to a member of the Progressive-Democratic Party. Even an Emeritus Professor, or a Senior Judge, shows up for duty on occasion.