Good Evening
Good Evening

Dolman: David Petraeus makes a well-timed retreat and takes a pay cut

David H. Petraeus, former army general and head

David H. Petraeus, former army general and head of the Central Intelligence Agency, speaks at the annual dinner for veterans and ROTC students at the University of Southern California. (March 26, 2013) Credit: AP

David Petraeus is a general who understands the value of a well-timed retreat.

Hired recently to teach an honors course for perhaps as much as $200,000 at the City University of New York, the former CIA director and commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has backed off—saying on Monday that, upon second thought, a fee of $1 would work pretty well.

That’s great news—because CUNY and the general have much to offer one another. For Petraeus a CUNY gig in the world’s largest media fishbowl can help him rebuild a reputation severely damaged by a highly publicized extramarital affair. For CUNY, which has made great advances rebuilding an academic reputation that hit bottom in the ’90s, the Petraeus visiting professorship is one more sign of prestige and gravitas.

Unfortunately, the original arrangement caused grumbling among the faculty and some politicians.

I know. There is always grumbling among faculty and politicians. But in the CUNY system, the average full-time instructor makes just south of $90,000 for a lot more work than Petraeus would do.

More importantly, CUNY faces an eternal struggle sweet-talking revenue out of Albany and private donors so it can give students of modest means a first-rate education for around $5,700 a year. A pricey star system muddies that pitch.

But now, happily, CUNY is keeping Petraeus, extinguishing a low-grade faculty and political flareup, and saving itself tens of thousands of bucks at all once. Everybody wins.