London, Jan. 12: Bill Clinton’s candidacy as chancellor of Oxford University is facing growing opposition from dons who fear that his election would endanger the reputation of the institution and the virtue of its undergraduates.
A number of academics said the former President of the US would harm “the dignity of the office” if he were chosen to succeed Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, who died last weekend.
Clinton, who studied at Oxford in the 1960s and whose daughter is taking an MPhil in InternationalRelations at University College, his alma mater, has become the favourite to take over the chancellorship ahead of Shirley Williams, one of the founders of Britain’s Social Democratic Party, Michael Heseltine, the former deputy Prime Minister, and Chris Patten, the European Union commissioner for external relations.
Clinton has won the support of a number of heads of college who value his international renown and fundraising abilities.
Growing numbers of dons, however, are arguing that Clinton’s sexual peccadilloes, including his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a 21-year-old White House intern, render him unsuitable for such a prestigious post.
They also argue that his lies on oath about the Lewinsky affair and his decision to award presidential pardons to a number of well-connected criminals just before he left office in January 2001 should disqualify him from the role.
Jeremy Catto, the senior dean of Oriel College and a fellow in medieval history, said: “Having Clinton as chancellor wouldn’t exactly add to the dignity of the office. Given his past record, I shouldn’t think for a moment that the university’s women students will be safe.”
Mark Almond, a fellow of Oriel College and a lecturer in 20th century history, added that Clinton would face “endless allegations of sexual scandal”.
“There’s bound to be trouble,” Almond added. “We need a woman chancellor, not a womanising chancellor.
“People say he will be a good fundraiser but from whom' Probably from all those rich people he pardoned when he left office. Also, he is quite young, so we’re going to be stuck with him for 30 years. He’s a man who gets into scrapes. Who knows what collateral damage he could inflict'”
Female academics also admitted that choosing Clinton would send out a “dubious” moral message. Laurie Maguire, an English fellow of Magdalen College who specialises in feminist criticism, said: “He has made an appalling error of judgement which I found an abuse of power, regardless of how willing Monica Lewinsky was. I don’t think people in influential positions like that should have relationships with vulnerable young interns. As a moral figurehead, representing a university full of young people, I find it dubious.”
Other objections to Clinton include his patchy academic record — he went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar in 1968 but failed to complete his degree — and his extensive commitments in America. Since leaving office, Clinton, 56, has embarked on a series of lucrative foreign tours, giving lectures for a reputed £1,200 a minute.