North Idaho College faculty and students have launched petitions to fight the naming of Boswell Hall auditorium after a controversial college president.
And the secretary of the College Senate resigned her position in disgust over the matter.
Last month, the NIC Board of Trustees voted to name Boswell Hall auditorium “Schuler Auditorium” in honor of former NIC president Barry Schuler.
Schuler served many years at the college, but left after the faculty gave him a vote of no confidence in the mid ‘80s.
In her resignation letter from the College Senate, English department secretary Linda Erickson wrote, “I am ashamed to face my constituents or try to explain to them why this happened when the general understanding on campus was that the Faculty Assembly … (employees and students) had voted unanimously NO on naming the Boswell Hall auditorium after President Schuler…”
On Thursday, the Faculty Assembly voted to ask the board to reconsider its decision and began a petition drive in opposition to the name.
Last May, former trustee Donald Sausser proposed the auditorium name and presented a petition signed by 21 others to trustees.
Board member Betty McLain signed the petition and voted for the name change. Some faculty members said it was inappropriate for McLain to vote on the issue because she had signed the petition.
“That didn’t deny me a vote, for heaven’s sake,” McLain said with a laugh. “I still feel the board did a good thing. We’re forgetting the 16 years that Mr. Schuler had with the school. I don’t think one mistake should cloud 16 good years.”
Schuler resigned under fire in 1986. A controversy erupted over his failure to renew the contract of the journalism adviser, who refused Schuler’s request to squelch a student newspaper story he disagreed with. Schuler said the incident was unrelated to the lost job.
Two supporters of the adviser lost their jobs following the controversy.
Schuler also was accused of being a tyrant and earned a “no-confidence” vote from the faculty.
However, Schuler also oversaw the construction of several landmarks on campus, including Boswell Hall, and is credited for saving NIC’s beach from private development.
Faculty opposed to the new name for Boswell Hall’s auditorium also said the NIC board chairman voted on the name out of order.
Chairman Norm Gissel broke the tie, but did not vote last.
“His preference may have influenced the decision of others,” said Judith Brower, a math instructor. “They did not give equal treatment either in time or attitude to…the school representatives.”
In the mid ‘80s, Brower delivered a prayer at the dedication of Boswell Hall, which was named to honor Joyce Boswell, a former teacher who was popular with students and staff.
“At that time, we very specifically said that this theater, which she enjoyed, that it was in her memory,” she said.
But the hall’s theater was never named, McLain said. Everyone just calls it Boswell Hall auditorium, or Boswell auditorium.
“There’s no way in the world I would have voted to take Joyce Boswell’s name off of anything,” McLain said.
The student government initially opposed the name change because it would be confusing, and because of the questionable circumstances under which Schuler left NIC.
But the recent student petition being circulated around campus is not sponsored by the student government. Kris Stein, president of Associated Students of NIC, said it’s unlikely that ASNIC will get involved.
Current students were not around when the Schuler controversy began in the 1980s.
“Until there’s a big enough concern from the students,” Stein said, “it’s a risky political maneuver to take on the board of trustees.”
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