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Alumnus Considered for Czech Presidency

File this under bizarre.

So a couple of years ago--back in the Lehman era--there was an open deanship at the ILR School. At the time, President Lehman selected Jan Svejnar '74, an ILR alum and professor of economics at Lehman's former school, the University of Michigan.

What followed was all all sorts of controversy. Some faculty welcomed the appointment with open arms, looking forward to a new direction in the ILR School. Others expressed discontent that an individual without significant experience in 'Industrial Relations' would be selected as dean. And then some cavalier students decided to take matters into their own hands, emailing Svejnar directly and telling him not to accept the appointment.

In the end, for whatever reason, Svejnar declined the appointment and the ILR School had one of their own--Harry Katz--appointed to the deanship.

But now it seems that Svejnar is being considered for a new leadership position. As President of the Czech Republic:

In a last-minute effort to gain support for his bid for the presidency of the Czech Republic, Ross School of Business Prof. Jan Svejnar told Czech voters he will give up his United States citizenship if he wins the election 10 days from now.

Svejnar, whose work at the University focuses on economic growth in Eastern European countries, announced his bid for the Czech presidency six weeks ago after receiving requests from Czech parliament members dissatisfied with the incumbent president's economic and environmental policies.

Svejnar, who was 17 years old when he immigrated to the U.S. to flee from the communist government of former Czechoslovakia, earned degrees from Cornell University and Princeton University in labor relations and economics.

Svejnar's policy suggestions, which include adopting the Euro, have been well received by Czech citizens, but he has faced criticism for holding American citizenship and residing in the United States. In response, Svejnar said he would relinquish his U.S. citizenship if elected.

Fully 52 percent of Czech citizens support Svejnar's candidacy, but the Presidency depends on the votes of Parliament. If elected, Svejnar would join other Cornellians who have served as head of state -- including Taiwan's former President Lee Teng-hui, former President of Cuba Mario García Menocal, and former Iranian Prime Minister Jamshid Amuzegar.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on January 29, 2008 (#)

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