Risky political science

Via Kevin Drum a story about the political costs of certain kinds of political science research.

When a pair of graduate students from little-known Brandman University dug out the salaries of top administrators at all 34 cities in Orange County and made them public, they were showered with praise. Cindy Smith and Janet Voshall testified before the state Legislature, were honored by the county board of supervisors and rode limousines to TV news shows. … But then the gold turned to lead. Smith and Voshall said the fallout from their work so rankled public officials that they had to move out of the county to find work, and their academic advisor, a 30-year political science professor, resigned his post in protest.

Not long after the report was released, Laguna Hills Councilman Allan Songstad and Tustin Councilman Jerry Amante, officers in the Orange County Division of the League of California Cities, proposed that the group respond to the report, but the league took no action. The Orange County chapter later broke away from the parent group, saying the league was too liberal, and formed the Assn. of California Cities-Orange County. Along with the chief executive of the breakaway group, Amante and Songstad met with James Doti, the president of Chapman University. Smoller said they refused to meet with him. Songstad said he and Amante made it clear to Doti that Kogerman’s report would make it difficult for Brandman public administration students to get hired in the county. “It just seemed self evident,” Songstad said.

… In fall 2011, Brandman’s chancellor, Gary Brahm, met with the Assn. of California Cities-Orange County over a proposal that the university sponsor a training program for newly elected council members. The group decided not to go through with it. That October, Smoller said, Brahm told him that his days as the public face of the program were over and that a nonacademic was being brought in as the liaison with local governments. Smoller resigned as head of the public administration program the next day but continued working as a professor. The day he resigned, a photo of Smith and Voshall was taken off the Brandman website — a coincidence, university officials said. … Unable to find jobs in Orange County, Smith and Voshall moved. Smith is selling insurance in Phoenix. Voshall works in Los Angeles for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.Smoller is at Chapman, hoping to start a public administration program there.

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