As Eric Crampton notes over at Offsetting Behaviour Steve Maharey, Vice-Chancellor of Massey University, has decidied he is a labour economist and that the standard views on minimum wages are all wrong. Eric deals with his claims and I agree with what he says so I will raise another issue: Should Vice-Chancellors go round politicising their positions?
Ex-Labour MP and cabinet minister Maharey has taken a position on minimum wages, against much of the economic literature - see "Minimum Wages" by David Neumark and William L. Wascher (The MIT Press: 2008) for a recent overview of this area - but supportive of the Labour Party and trade union views. Is taking such an obvious political stance the role of VCs? How do you feel if you are in the economics department at Massey given your non-economict VC has decide he is a labour economist? Should VC be careful to keep public comments limited to their roles as head of the university or at least restricted to areas in which they are academically qualified and actively engaged? Maharey was once a senior lecture in sociology and claims "academic interests" in social policy (particularly social development), education, media and cultural studies, social change and politics. None of this suggests a great knowledge of the economics relevant to minimum wages. When was his last academic publication and on what?
Surely the role of a VC is to advance the interests of university and public statements by a VC should be to advocate for policy changes that assist the welfare of the staff and students of the university. Public statements should not be used to make party political broadcasts.