Dr. Jack Trammell of Randolph-Macon College, an associate professor of sociology, is an expert on disability issues in higher education.
Q: When and why did you decide to run?
A: I thought about it during the previous cycle but couldn’t commit. This January and February, I began to think about it again, and some began to encourage me. In May, things accelerated, and I wasn’t nominated until right before the primary.
Q: Was it a surprise to learn that you will be up against a colleague in the race?
A: Yes, and no. As the whole world now knows, my colleague, Dave, was perceived by some as an underdog before the primary upset. So, like the rest of the world, I was surprised. But I probably wasn’t as surprised as most, because I knew there was discontent in the district and that Dave was working very hard. I had mentally prepared myself to face whoever came out of the process.
Q: While at Randolph-Macon, was your relationship with Brat collegial and friendly?
A: Absolutely. We are blessed with a close-knit family at R-MC, and, although like all faculties we can seriously debate issues that come up, we generally know each other fairly well and respect each other.
Q: What are some of the issues you would like to tackle in the event that you are elected?
A: At the top of the list is education: student loan reform, improved college access, a re-energizing of special education, and a closer look at what the consequences of the accountability movement have been. I am also a champion of disability rights, awareness, and accommodation, not just in education but across the board in our culture.
Q: How will your work as a professor inform your campaign and, in the event that you do win, what lessons from academia would you bring to Congress?
A: My work as a professor has prepared me to be a better communicator, I hope, and the lessons I would bring to Congress would include: encouraging meta-narratives within the sciences, humanities, and social sciences to connect the dots—we’ve got such terrific brain-power and research data out there, we are just beginning to understand the power and possibilities of it; encouraging dialogue rather than obstruction; and bringing the power of optimism back into the political arena.
Q: What are some of the more important issues that higher education in this country faces today?
A: In my opinion, higher education is coming to a crossroads where questions must be answered: the role of external accountability; the ongoing flirtation with universal access that we haven’t been able to complete; the corporatization and commercialization of higher education; and issues related to academic freedom. If elected, I want to bring my experience into those Congressional dialogues to preserve freedom of inquiry and improve access to quality education.
Catherine Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.