KSU faculty weigh in on Trump cabinet members

Deborah Spake

Cameron Hoover

Betsy DeVos is President Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. secretary of education and was confirmed Feb. 7. Her job as secretary will be to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation.

DeVos is known within the realm of education for her unabashed support of school choice, school voucher programs, for-profit charter schools and teaching of creationism in science classrooms. DeVos comes from a wealthy family that has donated over $20.2 million to federal Republicans candidates since 1989.

DeVos’ appointment was controversial; Vice President Mike Pence had to break a deadlock in the Senate to confirm her by a vote of 51-50. Her lack of public school experience has caused rampant protesting around the nation, including at Kent State where on Feb. 8 students participated in a walkout protest on campus.

Todd Hawley – associate professor for the School of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Studies

“I’m just disappointed (by DeVos’ nomination). My first reaction to her nomination was that she is someone who hasn’t even been a part of public education,” Hawley said, “whether that was as a student, a teacher or an administrator.”

Hawley said he’s happy to see people pushing back against this decision from the Trump administration, especially on Kent’s campus.

“We live in Ohio, where state funding is being diverted away from public schools toward charter schools,” he said. “These issues have been talked about for years. She represents everyone’s greatest fears about dismantling public education. So I am excited to see people pushing back against her. My hope is that it will lead to her paying more attention to the hard work public school teachers do.”

Rick Perry is Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Energy, but has not been officially confirmed yet. If Perry is appointed, his job would be to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.

He has served as the governor of Texas for 15 years and a vocal opponent of the Department of Energy in the past. During his 2012 presidential campaign, he said he would like to see the department abolished, but now upon being nominated for the position, he had retracted his previous statements. Critics are unsure how well he will handle nuclear weapons because he has no prior work in the field.

Robert Sines – dean of the College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology

Though Sines said he doesn’t wish to get into politics or second guess President Trump’s nominations, he didn’t seem to be too concerned with Perry’s general lack of experience in the energy industry.

“Being a leader is what’s most important, because he’s not going to do anything as far as researching sustainable energy or which types of energy are better for us,” he said. “He’s got thousands of employees in the Department of Energy, so those are the folks that do that kind of stuff. He just has to orchestrate it.”

Sines takes a patient approach to judging Perry as a potential secretary.

“It’s hard to say what will happen,” he said. “We will have to wait and see what sort of programs he comes up with.”

Wilbur Ross is Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Commerce, the cabinet department tasked with promoting economic growth, creating jobs, sustainable development and improving standards of living for Americans. Ross has yet to be officially confirmed by the Senate.

Ross has spent his life amassing his wealth through investing and banking, and has grown to a net worth of approximately $2.5 billion, according to Forbes. Recently, Ross has become a more attractive nomination to Democrats after the 79-year-old veteran private equity investor promised to divest around 90 percent of his financial holdings and resign from more than 40 professional titles to avoid conflicts of interest.

His critics have expressed concerns about Ross’ plans to erect high tariffs for foreign competitions to protect U.S. businesses because they believe it inhibits free-trade.

Deborah Spake – dean of the College of Business Administration

Spake was apprehensive to pass judgement on Ross’ appointment. She echoed the “wait and see” approach.

“It’s hard to predict what people may or may not do since nothing’s been enacted yet,” Spake said. “The cabinet is still being appointed. It’s easier to react to policies that have been changed than to predict what might occur.”

While Spake was fairly mum about potential policies or stances, she said that she would like to see more federal funding go to small business grants.

“Small business administration is an area where we’d certainly like to see more support of start-up businesses and small business in general,” she said. “That helps to drive local economies and certainly is the engine of the economy. So any way the federal government can support entrepreneurship would be helpful.”

Rex Tillerson is Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, and was appointed Feb. 1. Tillerson will be the president’s chief foreign affairs adviser, and he will have to carry out any foreign policies enacted by the Trump administration.

Tillerson is the CEO of ExxonMobil, a lucrative, multinational oil and gas company. Since he began working for the company in 1975, he has never worked anywhere else.

Some critics see Tillerson’s appointment as a broken campaign promise from President Trump, who vowed to “drain the swamp in Washington, D.C.” by ousting the rich for something a bit more familiar to average joes.

Tillerson has little experience with foreign diplomacy, and some see this as a problem during one of the more non-diplomatic presidencies in recent memory. Despite that, he comes with recommendations from former secretary of defense Robert Gates and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

Steven Hook – professor of political science

Hook said that he was not very comfortable with Trump’s selection when Tillerson was appointed.

“Given the fact that he comes purely out of the business area and doesn’t really have much background in being someone who’s representing the United States around the world, I don’t think he’s the best choice,” Hook said.

Hook said he found Tillerson’s appointment to be a contradiction from President Trump’s campaign promise to “drain the swamp.”

“You look at all of the Cabinet members, and they’re (almost) all billionaires,” he said. “Trump is saying he’s looking out for the poor people, but I don’t see that. I haven’t seen that yet. It seems like it doesn’t match up with what he said he was going to do.”

Scott Pruitt is Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency and was confirmed on Feb. 17. Pruitt will be tasked with protecting human health and the health of the environment by enforcing regulations enacted by Congress.

Pruitt has spent much of his political career as attorney general of Oklahoma, where he fought against environmental regulations and referred to himself as the “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”

While many nationwide have accused Pruitt of being a climate change denier, recently he conceded that the climate is changing, and humans most likely have something to do with it.

Joseph Ortiz – professor of geology

Ortiz said he was not impressed with Trump’s selection of Scott Pruitt as the head of the EPA.

“Scott Pruitt certainly wouldn’t have been my first choice,” he said. “I think it’s kind of odd to select the head of an agency to be someone who’s sued that agency 14 times and is a known climate (change) denier.”

Ortiz said that he feels as though most people tend to take the environment for granted, and he cited some local examples to highlight his fears for the EPA over the next four years.

“There’s a reason we have the EPA. The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act of Ohio was in many ways a poster child for those laws,” he said. “The Cuyahoga River is infamous for having caught fire not once, but (several) times throughout its history because of the fact that it was legally used to dump industrial chemicals directly into the riverways.”

“Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it’s right or scientifically sound,” he continued. “It certainly costs companies a lot less money to just dump their waste directly into our water, but the environmental damages are going to last for decades, if not centuries.”

Cameron Hoover is a general assignment reporter, contact him at [email protected]