Op-ed submission: An open letter to Puzder Pal and School of Law Dean Nancy Staudt

| Class of 2015

Dear Dean Staudt,

Last week, Washington University was the subject of another highly unflattering New York Times piece on its dreadful record of socioeconomic diversity. According to 2013 data, the school had over three times as many undergraduates from families in the top one percent of family income as it did from the bottom 60 percent.

During the same week, you spent some time (presumably not much based on the quality of the piece) lauding CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder—fierce opponent of minimum wage increases and Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor—in an op-ed for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

When someone of your status publicly lavishes praise upon a vigorous opponent of fair wages, it severely decreases confidence that the University takes economic access and equity seriously.

Dean Staudt, you write in your op-ed that Puzder believes in fostering open dialogue. Since I also believe in open dialogue, I will use this space to openly tell you—the highest-ranking official at a top 20 law school in the nation—that your column demonstrated the logical reasoning of a student freshly graduated from the nursery school in Millbrook.

In all seriousness, Dean Staudt, not a single argument supported by factual evidence can be found in your comically nebulous endorsement of Puzder. It has the substance of a Trump speech about “hiring the best people” or a garden-variety item from Breitbart’s homepage. You have the audacity to write that Puzder is inspiring because he is the grandson of immigrants, when he is preparing to work for the most anti-immigrant president in modern American history.

It appears your primary arguments are that Puzder is a good man and that his heavily criticized beliefs are actually chock-full of “nuance.”

Dean Staudt, when you interview professors for positions in the law school, is the most important factor simply whether they’re good people? Hopefully not, or your students should demand a full refund of their $53,000 in annual tuition. Even Trump University probably has more relevant job application criteria. And for the record, Puzder is not a good person. He is an alleged domestic abuser who believes that the state should regulate women’s bodies by blocking their access to abortions.

You also fail to describe what exactly is nuanced about his policy beliefs. You did comment in a previous Post-Dispatch article that Puzder supports gradual wage growth—just not drastic hikes. But that’s simply not true. In a 2014 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Puzder opposed a raise to merely $10.10 for the federal minimum wage.

According to employees, Puzder’s chain is also a cesspool of wage theft and sexual harassment. But don’t count on him to demonstrate any empathy. Puzder has admitted to degrading employees for their physical appearance, telling cable news host John Stossel that “my first memo [as CKE CEO] was ‘no more people behind the counter unless they have all their teeth.’”

Eager to replace human workers, Puzder also described to Business Insider just last year his preference for machines: “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”

Dean Staudt, I sincerely hope that Puzder’s trite comments about workplace discrimination and harassment do not reflect the education students at your law school are receiving about such issues.

As for your beloved open dialogue, that’s exactly what is happening now that Puzder has been nominated for a presidential cabinet position. He is being properly vetted, and the information coming out shows that he is among the least qualified people to serve as secretary of labor, a role that requires tireless advocacy on behalf of working people.

Dean Staudt, you should publicly apologize for your endorsement of Puzder and recant on the sentiments expressed in your op-ed. You should go ask some of the many brilliant students and educators in the Brown School of Social Work, where you have a joint professorship, what they think about the human toll of Puzder’s beliefs. You should speak with the University’s Dining Services employees, maintenance workers and adjunct professors, who could have their lives materially damaged by a Puzder-led Department of Labor.

And finally, you should remove Puzder, a man who willingly associates with the politics of hatred and violence promoted by Trump, from the School of Law National Council.

Your op-ed is a profound embarrassment to the Washington University community, and I hope that current students and fellow alumni join me in loudly and unequivocally condemning it.


Alex Leichenger

Class of 2015