Posts tagged: University of Idaho
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― The University of Idaho's student body president says more than 6,300 signatures were collected on a petition asking the state Board of Education to reconsider removing the proposed term “flagship” from the school's updated mission statement. Samantha Perez implored trustees Wednesday to revisit their decision, prompting a chuckle when noting more people signed the petition than live in Preston ― board president Richard Westerberg's home town. Westerberg responded, tongue-in-cheek: “We are working on our population.” Perez and others approached trustees over the “flagship” removal during a board meeting in Moscow. School officials have long used the term “flagship” to brand the university, Idaho's oldest, but it was only added to a proposed new mission statement last year. Board members didn't deem the term appropriate and it was struck in February.
The Associated Press reports that the University of Idaho has reached a settlement with the family of Katy Benoit, the 22-year-old graduate student who was shot to death last August by a former professor who then killed himself, and that the state Board of Education will consider the settlement this week. Click below for the full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.
The University of Idaho, the Idaho Wheat Commission and Limagrain Cereal Seeds have announced a new $2 million effort to boost wheat research at the university, including two faculty research endowments. The project will allow restoration of five research-related positions in Moscow, Aberdeen and Lewiston that had been cut or kept vacant during the recession and budget cuts, and will launch new research on breeding wheat varieties. “It is a great day, and what we're celebrating today we'll be harvesting for years and years to come,” declared Gov. Butch Otter.
UI President Duane Nellis praised the Wheat Commission and Limagrain, and called the partnership “a great example of the relationship between the University of Idaho and the agricultural community here in the great state of Idaho.” He said, “I believe this is a catalyst for other growers in our state and other agricultural leaders to step forward.”
The agreement grew from talks generated by concerns over deep cuts in agricultural research and extension services as Idaho's universities weathered state budget cuts. “These past few years, we have seen severe cuts to our state universities' budgets,” said Gordon Gallup, chairman of the Idaho Wheat Commission. “Although cuts were necessary to balance budgets, those reductions have caused an erosion of our ability to fund research that is necessary to keep agriculture healthy. Idaho's wheat growers are hopeful that the state of Idaho will continue to invest in agriculture. We encourage other agricultural related industries to join in this effort to keep our land grant university's research programs healthy and productive.”
The Idaho Wheat Commission, which will take the money from its assessments on wheat growers - which may have to rise in the future, partly as a result - presented a check for $500,000 to the University of Idaho Foundation for the first payment toward the endowment, which will total $2 million; it goes to the UI's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to support Idaho's 4,500 wheat growers, whose harvest totals $766 million a year.
Police have completed an investigation into the murder of a University of Idaho graduate student, the AP reports, finding a professor acted alone when he killed the young woman he had recently dated outside her Moscow home and then committed suicide. “No evidence to date has been found to indicate that (Ernesto) Bustamante acted with or was provided assistance by another person while committing this crime,” the Moscow Police Department said Friday; click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — A state judge has ruled in favor of the University of Idaho in a lawsuit challenging the school's restrictions on keeping firearms in on-campus housing. The ruling was handed down Thursday by 2nd District Judge John Stegner in a case brought by second-year law student Aaron Tribble. Tribble filed his lawsuit in January, claiming that the university's ban on firearms at his on-campus apartment infringed on his constitutional rights. The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/szuuZ4 ) that Stegner concluded that Tribble essentially waived his right to keep guns at his apartment when he signed a license agreement live there. Stegner also wrote the state Board of Regents has a right to regulate and maintain a safe environment on campus. University officials intend to issue a response later Thursday. You can read the court decision here, and click below for a full report from the AP and the Daily News.
University of Idaho administrators should develop better ways to handle concerns about disturbing or disruptive behavior by faculty members, an independent panel is recommending, to keep students and employees safe. AP reporter John Miller reports that the panel, headed by former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Linda Copple Trout, sent the university a five-page report today, reviewing the Moscow-based university’s safety protocols after psychology professor Ernesto Bustamante resigned Aug. 19 then gunned down 22-year-old Katy Benoit three days later.
Copple Trout called it imperative that the university figure out a better way for people on campus to report alarming faculty and staff behavior. “While this area is more challenging to address than concerns about student behavior, it is no less important,” she wrote in her report to UI President Duane Nellis; click below for Miller's full report.
Idaho state Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, has been named the new special assistant to the president of the University of Idaho for state governmental relations - chief lobbyist - and will start his new job Dec. 1, UI President Duane Nellis announced today. “The pool of applicants was truly impressive,” Nellis said. “However, Joe’s breadth and depth of experience in the legislature and business, as well as his commitment to education made him stand out from many other capable leaders.”
Stegner replaces Marty Peterson, who retired from the post after two decades; the seventh-term senator said he was “honored” to be chosen for the job, and said, “This is an exciting opportunity that doesn’t come along very often, and I’m very thankful for this chance to work for the continued excellence of the University of Idaho and Idaho’s higher education community.”
Stegner, 61, a retired grain dealer and a University of Idaho graduate, served as assistant majority leader in the Senate until this year, when he was ousted by Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Meridian; he currently chairs the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee. You can read the university's full announcement here.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — University of Idaho officials say at least one police officer knew of alleged gun threats against a graduate student before she was shot and killed by a professor she had been dating. The school issued a statement Wednesday saying a police officer included on a threat assessment team was made aware of the threats that 22-year-old Katy Benoit reported. Benoit complained to the university in June that professor Ernesto Bustamante had threatened her with a firearm three separate times during the relationship. Moscow Police Chief David Duke said Friday he was unaware of gun threats until after Bustamante shot and killed Benoit on Aug. 22 and committed suicide. On Wednesday, Duke said the officer on the assessment team reported after the shooting that the team had brief talks about gun threats.
Police didn't know about alleged gun threats a University of Idaho professor made against a graduate student until after he shot and killed her, Moscow Police Chief David Duke told The Associated Press today. The news comes as reporters around the state continue to comb through thousands of documents released this week by the University of Idaho on Ernesto Bustamante, the former professor who shot graduate student Katy Benoit to death in August and then killed himself. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.
You can also read the Spokesman-Review's full story here from today's paper, which includes reporting from S-R reporter Kevin Graman along with the Idaho Statesman and the Associated Press. Also, AP reporter John Miller has a report here on how UI faculty and officials struggled after the killing, wondering whether they'd missed clues to Bustamante's true nature, and the Statesman has published Benoit's June 12 formal complaint here, raising serious concerns to the university about Bustamante.
As reporters comb through the thousands of documents released by the University of Idaho yesterday regarding former professor Ernesto Bustamante, disturbing details are emerging, from allegations that the professor engaged in orgies with students to his not only denying his victim's complaints against him, but also maligning her as a drug abuser and drug dealer. Bustamante shot a 22-year-old graduate student, Katy Benoit, to death before killing himself in August. You can click below for the latest story from AP reporter Jessie Bonner, and click here for S-R reporter Kevin Graman's latest report.
Records released by the University of Idaho yesterday include student evaluations from the fall of 2010 in which a student complained that then-Professor Ernesto Bustamante talked about shooting students, the Associated Press reports. “He talked about shooting students, which was disturbing, and implied that he was (and we should be) drunk and high every other day,” wrote the student, who is not identified in the teaching evaluations. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner. You can read Spokesman-Review reporter Kevin Graman's story here from today's paper on how the UI is strengthening its ban on faculty-student relationships after the slaying of 22-year-old graduate student Katy Benoit by her professor, Bustamante, who then killed himself.
Click below to read a detailed timeline released by the University of Idaho today from the hiring of former professor Ernesto Bustamante in 2007 to his murder of graduate student Katy Benoit and his subsequent suicide. The information was released pursuant to the Idaho Public Records Law; the university and news media outlets from around the state went to court for a ruling on whether a personnel records exemption blocked the release of Bustamante's employment records, and 2nd District Judge John Stegner ruled that the public's right to know outweighed any privacy concern in releasing the records.
Among the information in the timeline: Reports of Bustamante's “flirtatious behavior and favoritism” starting coming in within his first semester of teaching, prompting his department chairman to counsel him on proper faculty-student relationships; his student evaluations in 2009 were “consistently good;” the first report to the university's Ethics and Compliance Hotline of Bustamante having sexual relationships with students including an abusive and coercive relationship with a student other than Benoit, came in December of 2010, but that purported victim refused to file a complaint and Bustamante denied any wrongdoing. Benoit complained to the university about Bustamante in June of this year, but asked to delay the serving of her formal complaint to Bustamante; it was served on him in July.
Then, on July 14, a University Threat Assessment Team was convened, including a representative of the Moscow Police Department, and Benoit was advised that investigators would interview Bustamante on July 19 and that she should stay somewhere other than her apartment to avoid contact with him. Bustamante acknowledged the relationship but denied threatening Benoit, then agreed to resign. The university sent police to Benoit's home when she missed a meeting that day; she was at school and had forgotten it. The university had five contacts with Benoit between then and Aug. 22 expressing concern about her safety, including when she attended a mandatory sexual harassment workshop for graduate students on Aug. 18. She was shot to death on Aug. 22, the same day a university official met with her to inform her that Bustamante's employment had ended Aug. 19 and to urge her remain vigilant and contact police if she had safety concerns.
In response to questions from reporters, UI President Duane Nellis said former professor Ernesto Bustamante was allowed to resign rather than fired because it was “the fastest way to make that happen.” He said, “We were interested in expediting this, and that was the fastest way to get that done.” Asked if UI personnel gave recommendations to Bustamante, who reportedly had other employment lined up, Nellis said, “Not to our knowledge.” He said, “I think we acted aggressively and appropriately.”
Nellis said, “We did immediately contact the Moscow Police Department.” But asked why the university didn't immediately inform the Moscow Police that the professor had assaulted graduate student Katy Benoit with a handgun and threatened her life, UI general counsel Kent Nelson said, “That was information that Katy had and did not want us to disclose it to police. … We respected Katy's wishes.”
Nellis noted that the university did put together a threat team that directly involved the Moscow Police. “That's part of the documents that we have provided today,” he said.
In response to questions about whether the university knew about Bustamante's mental problems, Nellis said, “As the timeline indicates, the chair of the psychology department was informed by Bustamante … that he was bipolar and that he was taking medication for that.” He noted that the university isn't permitted to ask about medical conditions when hiring. “Bipolar is certainly something that's treatable,” he said. When a faculty member asks for assistance or counseling, we certainly want to be supportive of them.”
Said Nellis, “As anyone associated with our university knows, we have a very special community here. We've come together in the wake of an unthinkable tragedy. Going forward we'll be stronger and wiser, and we'll never forget our responsibility to Katy, her family and her friends.”
“We must learn from this tragedy and do all that we can to prevent it from ever happening again,” UI President Duane Nellis said today. “I believe that that the university's response to Katy's concerns … speaks for itself. The university responded immediately and decisively to protect Katy and to remove Bustamante from our community. We communicated and coordinated with Katy and the Moscow Police Department and counseled Katy repeatedly to seek protection and to use violence protection resources available to her. We still, however, suffered an unthinkable tragedy. We must learn from this and empower our community to take the best possible care of each other.”
Nellis said UI policies already prohibited relationships between a faculty member and a student they supervise or have influence over, but he has asked the Faculty Senate to strengthen its rules about consensual relationships between faculty and students. “We're trying to put stronger wording into that part of the policy,” he said. “Clearly our policies prohibited the situation that evolved here, and Bustamante was advised of that directly.” He said he also wants to implement “criminal background checks on faculty before they're hired,” and on any university staff. “In this particular case, that wouldn't have led to” not hiring Bustamante, he said. “But I think it's just good general practice as we move forward.” In addition, he said the UI will “redouble our training and education efforts in the area of sexual harassment to include additional mandatory courses for supervisors, faculty and staff.”
The university is releasing Bustamante's employment records today, sending them by overnight delivery to media outlets that filed public requests for them; there are more than 4200 files, aabout half a gigabyte of data.
University of Idaho President Duane Nellis said, “Today we are publicly releasing university records pertaining to the tragedy surrounding the death of Katy Benoit. In doing so we're honoring the commitment to transparency that I made personally to the people of Idaho and the family of Katy Benoit as well as the University of Idaho's commitment to full disclosure. I'm also announcing policy and procedural changes that are now under way. Today's release includes the university's record of Ernesto Bustamante's employment at the University of Idaho. This includes his evaluations by students and superiors, documents of the circumstances that led to his separation from the university, and additional detail on the incident timeline that we released earlier.”
The University of Idaho will hold a news conference momentarily regarding release of the personnel records of former professor Ernesto Bustamante, who killed graduate student Katy Benoit before taking his own life.
The University of Idaho's Oppenheimer Ethics Symposium is today at the state Capitol Auditorium, and it's free and open to the public. From 8-9:30 a.m., businessman Bill Drake, chairman of Drake Cooper Marketing and Advertising, will give a keynote address, with Sean Evans, publisher of the Idaho Business Review, serving as MC. From 2-5:30, there will be three symposium presentations:
* “Journalists, Judges and Lawyers: Converging or Diverging Standards of Ethics,” by Dean Donald Burnett, University of Idaho College of Law
* “New Media and the Law,” by Lisa McGrath, Internet and social media attorney
* “Media Ethics in the Digital Age,” a panel discussion - I'm the moderator - featuring Vicki Gowler, Idaho Statesman editor; Anne Wallace Allen, managing editor, Idaho Business Review; Wayne Hoffman, publisher, IdahoReporter.com; and Kate Morris, executive news director, KTVB
At 6 p.m. is the symposium keynote: “Rules of the Road: Navigating the New Ethics of Local Journalism,” given by Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab. All sessions both free and open to the public, and will be web-streamed live by Idaho Public Television. The symposium is underwritten by a gift from Doug and Skip Oppenheimer, and supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council. The event is subtitled, “Reinvigorating ethics in education and practice in the digital age.”
The Lewiston Tribune reports today that Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, is among three finalists to replace the retiring Marty Peterson, longtime University of Idaho special assistant to the president for government relations and top lobbyist for the university in Boise. Stegner, a seven-term senator, current chairman of the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee and former assistant majority leader, will join the other two finalists - Wayne Hammon, Gov. Butch Otter's budget chief, and Idaho Grain Producers Executive Director Travis Jones - next week on the UI campus for interviews and open forums with the UI community.
Tribune reporter Joel Mills reports that there were about 100 applicants for the position; both Stegner and Jones are UI alumni. UI Vice President for Advancement Chris Murray told the Trib, “The interest was very, very high,” and praised all three finalists. “First and foremost, they're very solid people,” he said. “Each of them has great skills relative to working in the state Legislature. That's an important part of our budget, and it's an important part of our success. In order to serve the state, we need to have the proper state funding.”
2nd District Judge John Stegner has ordered the personnel records of former UI Professor Ernesto Bustamante released, in a court case in which the University of Idaho and media organizations from across the state appealed to the court to see if privacy protections for state personnel records persist after the employee is dead; Bustamante shot himself to death after police say he fatally shot UI student Katy Benoit outside her Moscow home. “This provides us with what we sought: a clear path forward,” University of Idaho general counsel Kent Nelson said in a statement. “It has always been the university's intention to be as open and transparent as the law allows in this matter.” Click below for a full report from the Lewiston Tribune and the Associated Press.
Judge Stegner, ruling from the bench, held that the definition of “former official” does include one who is dead, but then applied a balancing test and ordered disclosure of the records, determining that the public's right to know outweighed the privacy right of the “former official.” The UI doesn't plan to appeal the ruling, which sets precedent for such cases in the future.
The University of Idaho asked a court on Monday whether it can release employment records for the late Ernesto Bustamante, a former assistant professor who killed himself last week after murdering a graduate student, 22-year-old Katy Benoit. The university joined with media outlets including the Idaho Statesman, the Lewiston Tribune and the Moscow-Pullman Daily news in filing the motion for declaratory judgment, which asks the court to interpret the meaning of the Idaho Public Records Law §9-340C(1), which bars public agencies from releasing most personnel records for current and former employees without the employee’s consent. The question is whether that bar still applies after the death of the employee.
Kent Nelson, university general counsel, said, “We want to provide a timely accounting for the public within the bounds of the law. … We’re working with the media outlets to gain a timely answer to this question.” Click below for a full report from the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.