The largely autonomous Hoover Institution is noted for the conservative politics of its scholars while Stanford's teaching faculty collectively is much more liberal.
Seeing Raisian in the helmet, Faculty Senate members were amused.
Raisian appeared again before the Faculty Senate last week under much more serious circumstances.
His decision to appoint former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose policy decisions shaped the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to a one-year position as "distinguished visiting fellow" at Hoover touched off an impassioned protest from many faculty members.
Raisian set the right tone from the beginning. Standing in front of the senate, he thanked the members for inviting him to attend their meeting, prompting applause and laughter.
Raisian wasn't just "invited," he was summoned by a vote of the senate at its Oct. 11 meeting.
Raisian, an affable man, was disarmingly candid about the firestorm he created on campus by offering a one-year visiting post to a former government official who is reviled by many faculty members.
A faculty member asked Raisian if he didn't realize the turmoil the Rumsfeld appointment would create.
"I didn't see it coming," Raisian admitted. "I just blew it."
Raisian also apologized for not informing Stanford President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy of his decision to recruit Rumsfeld before it was announced publicly.
"I clearly blind-sided them with this appointment," Raisian said.
Hennessy and Etchemendy have been publicly neutral about the controversy.
Hennessy was out of town for last week's meeting. But Hennessy did say something important at the Oct. 11 meeting.
Debra Satz, a philosophy professor and an organizer of the faculty opposition to Rumsfeld's appointment, has repeatedly said that opposing the appointment is not a matter of free speech since Rumsfeld is welcome to speak on campus and say whatever he wants. Satz and others opposed the appointment because they think Rumsfeld was an incompetent secretary of defense and that his appointment reflects badly on the university's reputation for academic excellence.
But Hennessy said Oct. 11 that isn't how the controversy will be perceived.
"I absolutely believe Professor Satz and the faculty that signed this petition don't intend to abridge free speech," Hennessy said. "But it will be absolutely interpreted that way."
While faculty members are worried about the effect of the Rumsfeld appointment on the university's reputation, Hennessy said he is worried about the perception of a denial of free speech on the university's reputation.
The Hoover Institution has a world-class archive of historical books, pamphlets, newspapers, posters and other artifacts that Herbert Hoover began to accumulate after World War I while he was in Europe as part of a famine-relief commission, before he became president.
Hoover was also a member of Stanford's inaugural graduating class in 1895.
But the institution bearing his name has long been identified with conservative politics. When Ronald Reagan became president in 1980, it seemed like half the institution's scholars were part of his transition team or became officials in his administration.
The Hoover Institution's sometimes uneasy relationship with the larger university was underscored when supporters of Reagan hatched plans to build his presidential library in the foothills behind the campus. That effort sparked a faculty protest and the library was built in Southern California.
Now, with the Rumsfeld appointment, the Hoover-Stanford relationship is once again being provoking concern among Stanford faculty.
Rumsfeld will only be on campus four or five times during the year he is part of a Hoover "task force on terrorism" and may not make any public appearances.
Raisian, from his comments last week, never intended to create a crisis and was well-received by the Faculty Senate.
Stanford's reputation for academic excellence, in all likelihood, won't be harmed by the Rumsfeld appointment.
This story contains 647 words.
If you are a paid subscriber, check to make sure you have logged in. Otherwise our system cannot recognize you as having full free access to our site.
If you are a paid print subscriber and haven't yet set up an online account, click here to get your online account activated.