Jim Bacchus: Presidential Material?

St. Mary’s is a college that prides itself on values of: social responsibility, civic-mindedness, environmental stewardship and global engagement among others. These values are clearly demonstrated by the myriad of progressive initiatives and student led reforms on campus, from the purchasing of renewable electricity, to engaging youth in the democratic process of voting, to getting a large portion of our food from local sources. These values and progressive ideals help guide what our college does, and personally, what I do and engage myself in. However, these progressive ideals which value people over profit, the natural environment over corporate greed, and democratic process above the falsely named “free” trade are being threatened.

Jim Bacchus, a founding judge of the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body (the seven person board that hears appeals and disputes by the members of the WTO) as well as a former congressperson from Florida’s 11th District, is one of four finalists for the position of the President at St.Mary’s College of Maryland. It is my belief that St. Mary’s College, the Presidential Search Committee and the Board of Trustees (who ultimately make the decision) would be spitting on these ideals if they chose Mr. Bacchus as the next president of St. Mary’s College.

The World Trade Organization, which Mr. Bacchus was heavily involved in from 1995-2003, has a storied history of resistance from progressive groups because of the overarching and often catastrophic decisions in globalized trade they have made, often in favor of wealthier, “more developed” nations. Martin Khor, the director of the South Centre (an organization that fights for the rights of the global south) states that through the WTO, wealthy nations are allowed to maintain high import quotas on specific products, which in turn stops imports from more impoverished nations, because they can not afford the high import fees for the products that would make their nation money.

A common criticism of the WTO that I find particularly enlightening in terms of Mr. Bacchus’ leadership styles is the fact that the Third World Network has called the WTO “the most non-transparent of international organizations” due to how little input smaller economies and countries have in the process of the WTO. While the comparison is a large gap to bridge, I do see similarities in the WTO’s failure to be transparent and include the “little nations” and Mr. Bacchus’ potential presidency of this college. Will he include the students? The students who don’t give the college millions of dollars and don’t serve on the Board of Trustees? Will Bacchus care about student involvement or will he merely give in to the powerful machinations of the Board of Trustees and the administration…who have already shown that student involvement and inclusion is not something they value highly (see the revision of the Student Handbook, the protest policy of last year- although it was removed, and the fabled union negotiations that led to the sit-in in the Presidents office).

So please, do your part to help keep St. Mary’s civil, socially just, globally engaged (not globalized) and environmentally responsible. Show up to the Presidential Search forums. Ask tough questions. Demand honest answers. And if Mr. Bacchus does manage to become our next president, lets give him a welcome worthy of the 1999 Battle in Seattle!

Submitted by Aaron French, ‘11

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