BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The University of Idaho’s ego took a bruising Thursday when education officials said it can no longer proclaim itself the state’s “flagship” institution.
The state Board of Education revised mission statements for all of Idaho’s public universities during a meeting a Boise.
The University of Idaho’s mission statement has branded the school as “the state’s flagship and land-grant research university.”
But the state Board of Education felt the word “flagship” simply carried too much weight, suggesting a special prominence over the state’s other universities, and it was struck the mission statement on Thursday.
The board is trying to promote collegial relationships between the institutions, said president Richard Westerberg.
“We don’t want to do anything that tries to indicate prominence, or to not encourage them to work together,” he said.
The board voted to remove word “flagship” amid strong objections from university president Duane Nellis, who argued his Moscow-based school was part of the very fabric that made up the state. The university is Idaho’s oldest and was founded in 1889, a year before statehood. Also, the university has a statewide presence, Nellis said, and brings in substantial research dollars each year.
The use of the word “flagship” in the mission statement reflects how the university views itself, Nellis said.
“It’s part of our brand,” Nellis said. “I think it’s more divisive to removing it.”
The debate over the move was spirited, with board vice president Ken Edmunds playing for trustees a recorded voicemail left on his cell phone by a woman who was angry about the altering of the university’s statement of purpose.
“I have a great concern about this crap of not keeping the University of Idaho as the flagship of the state,” the woman said.
Edmunds apologized the move was being viewed as a slight to the university.
“We know the accomplishments of your institution. We value you and your faculty, your administration,” Edmunds said. “At the same time, from my personal perspective, I am looking for a statewide system, where we’re all working together to compete against other states, other nations, globally.”
A “flagship” university applies to the “fully mature public universities serving most of states,” according to Robert M. Berdahl, the former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley. Berdahl talked about flagship universities during his convocation at Texas A&M University in 1998.
“In most cases, these institutions were the first public universities to be established in their states,” Berdahl said, according to a copy of his remarks was that was posted online at the Berkeley chancellor’s website.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “flagship” as “the finest, largest, or most important one of a series, network, or chain.”