Latest from The Spokesman-Review
In honor of Constitution Day this Wednesday, the University of Idaho will sponsor a statewide panel discussion on constitutional questions surrounding same-sex marriage. The discussion will start at 4 p.m. MT, 3 p.m. Pacific, at the Idaho Water Center in Boise; students and faculty in Moscow and Coeur d’Alene will participate through video links, and the program is free and open to the public. Speakers will include Deborah Ferguson and Craig Durham, the attorneys for four Idaho gay couples who successfully sued to overturn Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, and Tom Perry, attorney for Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who is defending the state law.
Shaakirrah Sanders, UI associated professor of law, will moderate the panel in Boise, and Michael Park, assistant professor of journalism and mass media, will moderate questions and provide commentary in Moscow. There’s more info here. Past Constitution Day observances at the UI have covered free press and fair trial issues, leaks of government secrets, violent images in video games and federal drug laws.
Say, maybe the Idaho Vandals and Florida Gators can play each other on Xbox 360.
It may come to that. Another day passed with no resolution on whether the two teams' game — washed out by rain and lightning last Saturday — will be played on another date this season, or whether the Vandals will get the $975,000 payday they were counting on for their trouble.
For more on the Vandals, follow the link.
Questions stemming from the soon-to-be-implemented “guns on campus” law are wide ranging and answers are a bit uncertain. Finding the answers is what a group of University of Idaho officials have been asked to do as part of a 14-member task force established by President Chuck Staben last month. The task force has been assigned to evaluate the changes in Idaho code and State Board of Education policy in an effort to develop a new campus policy in compliance with the recent legislation that permits some people to carry weapons on university and college campuses. Matt Dorschel, executive director for UI Public Safety and Security, said members of the task force are in the information-gathering stage and he's taking input from students, staff, faculty, administrators and Moscow residents/Elizabeth Rudd, Lewiston Tribune. More here. (Lewiston Tribune photo: Barry Kough)
Question: Are you expecting an incident involving a gun on a Idaho college campus next year?
WILDERNESS — Enrollment is open for University of Idaho students up for spending a semester living and learning in Idaho’s beautiful and rugged mountains through the College of Natural Resource’s Semester in the Wild.
What better way for a college writer to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act?
Here are the details from UI:
Semester in the Wild combines upper-division science learning, leadership, environmental literature and writing while living in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Students learn the ecological and social relationships in nature through hands-on investigation and writing, while building leadership skills and personal understanding. This limited-enrollment experience unites students from across the country to live, learn and grow together in America’s Wildest Classroom.
Preferential enrollment is open through April 11. To enroll, go to uidaho.edu/wild.
Semester in the Wild is in its second year, having touched the lives of 11 undergraduates in 2013. The program is possible because of the college’s ownership of the Taylor Wilderness Research Station, which is used for year-round research and education.
“This experience was amazing, it changed my perspective on life and I loved it,” said Susie Everly, a UI student in the inaugural class.
The students live at Taylor with the station managers. Faculty from the college and from the UI English Department fly in on a rotation to teach classes in blocks.
“We knew this was a perfect setting to teach things like river ecology and wilderness management, but it is equally ideal for classes like environmental writing and western literature,” said Tom Gorman, professor and associate dean of the College of Natural Resources.
Chuck Staben, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Dakota, has been named the new president of the University of Idaho; the state Board of Education voted unanimously today in favor of the choice. Staben’s salary will be $350,000 a year, and he was appointed for a term of three years, starting March 1. Asked how long he plans to stay in the position – at a university that’s seen considerable turnover in its top position in recent years – Staben said, “Longer than three years,” to loud applause from a crowd gathered for the announcement in an auditorium on the U of I campus in Moscow.
Staben, 55, said, “What I was really looking for as I looked at this opportunity, was the opportunity to have what I call … one last good job for me. I can work 10 or 15 years more. … My wife hates to move. It turns out she’s enthusiastic about this move, but she may not have any more in her, and that’s OK.”
You can read my full story here at spokesman.com. Staben cited increasing the number of students who both enroll and graduate, and strategic expansions in university research as among his priorities. He is a biochemist with a Ph.D from the University of California at Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois. He's been at South Dakota since 2008, and previously served as a vice president and professor at the University of Kentucky, from 1989 to 2008. His wife, Mary Beth, is a physician; they have three grown children, all in college or graduate school. Among Staben’s successes at South Dakota has been managing through a series of state budget cuts.
The University of Idaho is among a group of research partners, led by Colorado State University, who have been awarded nearly $10 million in USDA grant funds to study how to convert insect-killed trees into an advanced liquid biofuel, right on-site in the forests. The project would explore “recent advances in scalable thermochemical conversion technologies,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in an announcement today. The hope is that this kind of processing of beetle-killed trees could generate highly usable biofuel, while avoiding the harvest and transportation costs otherwise present in salvaging the logs.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “Infestations of pine and spruce bark beetles have impacted over 42 million acres of U.S. forests since 1996, and a changing climate threatens to expand the threat from bark beetles on our forest lands. As we take steps to fight the bark beetle, this innovative research will help take the biomass that results from bark beetle infestation and create clean, renewable energy that holds potential for job creation and promises a cleaner future for America.”
He also took the opportunity to note that the research effort, made possible by a provision of the 2008 Farm Bill, points up the “critical need” for passage of a new farm bill this year, something that’s been stalled in Congress. “I urge Congress to achieve passage of a new, long term Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible,” Vilsack said.
The research project also includes the University of Montana, Montana State University and the University of Wyoming; it’s led by Colorado State’s Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies. The grant, which covers five years of research, comes under a program for research that contributes to reducing dependence on foreign oil, has net positive social, environmental and rural economic impacts, and is compatible with existing agricultural and forest production systems.
Memo to Don Soltman, President, Idaho Board of Education:
With all due respect allow me to bring to your attention the most recent ranking of universities and colleges in the United States put out annually by U.S. News and World Report. Please note that Idaho’s land grant university, the University of Idaho, despite the reduced rations the board and legislature have had it on, still is ranked 161list of national universities. The faculty, the administration, boosters, alumni and students are all to be congratulated on this accomplishment for it comes despite your and Governor Otter’s systematic starving of its budget and your increasingly burdening students with more fees and charges. … Boise State is listed as #65 on the list of best REGIONAL universities in the west. Idaho State made the list of “also rans” (somewhere between 200 and 300) among NATIONAL universities. Spokane’s Gonzaga University is listed as #4 on that list of best western regional universities/Chris Carlson, Carlson Chronicles. More here.
Question: Would you rather have a nationally ranked football team (which Boise State currently doesn't) than a college known for quality academics?
Item: Board names five candidates for UI job: Former UI College of Law Dean Don Burnett has been serving as interim president/Elizabeth Rudd, Lewiston Tribune
More Info: The candidates include James Applegate, a consultant for higher education and philanthropy; Donald Birx, chancellor and professor at Penn State Erie; Laurie Stenberg-Nichols, provost and vice president for academic affairs at South Dakota State University; Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and administrative head for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Science at the University of Florida; and Chuck Staben, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Dakota.
Question: What would you like to see in a new University of Idaho president?
Five finalists have been named for president of the University of Idaho, hailing from Kentucky, South Dakota, Florida and Pennsylvania. “The search committee was impressed by the number of outstanding applicants for the position,” said state Board of Education member Emma Atchley, who is chairing the search committee. “We are looking forward to having the final five candidates visit Idaho and tour University of Idaho sites across the state.”
Former UI President Duane Nellis left this year to become president of Texas Tech University, which is more than double the size of UI. Law school Dean Don Burnett is now serving as interim president, but said he didn’t plan to seek the permanent position. The five finalists named today are consultant James Applegate, formerly with the University of Kentucky and the Lumina Foundation; Donald Birx, chancellor and professor at Penn State Erie; Laurie Stenberg-Nichols, provost and vice president for academic affairs at South Dakota State University; Jack Payne, senior vice president, agriculture and natural resources, University of Florida; and Chuck Staben, provost and vice president for academic affairs, University of South Dakota. You can read the state board’s full announcement here.
S-R photojournalist Tyler Tjomsland covered the WSU vs. University of Idaho game in Pullman. Check out this big picture gallery of his photos.
The 2013-14 PayScale College Salary report offers an interesting factoid — University of Idaho graduates start with higher salaries and are still earning more at mid-career that their Boise State University counterparts. The report shows that University of Idaho graduates average a beginning salary of $45,300 and are earning an average of $82,700 by mid-career. By contrast, Boise State graduates average a starting salary of $43,100 and are earning $67,000 by mid-career. UIdaho is tied for 242nd among USA's colleges, while Boise State ranks 648th. Maybe there's more to Idaho secondary education than a natonal college football ranking? You can see the entire report here.
Question: What do you make of this report?
Idaho’s state Lands Department is under fire from two different directions this morning: In a new lawsuit that charges it’s about to hold a conflict auction on a family burial ground, and from a bipartisan group of lawmakers who say an inadequate appraisal allowed a private party to benefit to the tune of $1.6 million on a state land exchange, instead of the state endowment’s beneficiaries.
The new lawsuit over Priest Lake state-owned cabin sites charges that two cabin-site lessees who will face conflict auctions in late October haven’t been allowed to challenge their appraisals, as all other lessees at the lake were allowed to do after big concerns were raised over the newly set values; that the two weren’t allowed to go into land exchanges to avoid the conflict auction, though the department had indicated earlier that would be allowed; and that one of the cabin sites has been held by the same family since its inception in 1933, and five family members' remains are located there, including scattered ashes and permanent memorials. “The earliest of these human remains has been on the property since at least 1939,” says the lawsuit, filed in Bonner County.
Lands Department Deputy Director Kathy Opp said she knew nothing about the graves and hadn’t yet seen the lawsuit; she confirmed that lake cabin lessees who were targeted with conflict bids this year – there were four, including three at Priest Lake and one at Payette Lake – aren’t being allowed to appeal their appraisals or join land exchanges until the conflict auctions have been held.
The land exchange issue involves the University of Idaho’s McCall Outdoor Science School Campus, which had been owned by the state endowment, but last year was traded for commercial property in Idaho Falls that houses Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC, the operating contractor for the Idaho National Laboratory. Both properties came in with identical appraisals of $6.1 million; after the swap, the private owner of the Idaho Falls property, IW4 LLC, sold the newly acquired McCall property to the university for $6.1 million. That left the university in control of the site, which had been the source of increasing tensions as the Lands Department considered big rent increases to match its constitutional requirement to maximize income from endowment lands.
But House Majority Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, and House Assistant Minority Leader Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, have joined a new group with former GOP Rep. Bob Forrey and attorney John Runft, the Tax Accountability Committee, that commissioned its own review appraisal on the Idaho Falls property, and it came in at just $4.5 million. If that’s right, the private owner in Idaho Falls profited to the tune of $1.6 million, at the expense of the state’s endowment, something the TAC group dubbed “a travesty.” Vander Woude and Burgoyne, who held a Statehouse news conference this morning, say they’ll bring legislation requiring review appraisals in all future endowment land exchanges, along with more legislative scrutiny over such transactions. You can read the TAC letter to the Land Board here.
Opp said the department stands by its appraisals, and hasn’t routinely ordered review appraisals in addition. “It can be costly – you’re paying another appraisal fee,” she noted. Opp said the Idaho Falls property has been “performing as expected” as an endowment investment; it earns annual rent of $538,312, more than double the annual rent from the McCall science campus lease of $248,000. The series of transactions was approved by both the state Land Board and the State Board of Education.
PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is warning college students that officers will be patrolling popular sand-dune party spots along the Snake River.
Some public land areas are notorious for big parties, especially after the Aug. 25-26, 2012, blowout at Illia Dunes that attracted about 3,000 partiers and left behind thousands of pounds of trash, broken glass, foam coolers and other liter along the beach as well as about three miles of road ditch. The area had to be closed to the public for cleanup.
Illia Dunes, on the Snake River about three miles downstream of Lower Granite Lock and Dam, is a popular end-of-summer gathering place for students — but it will be patrolled.
The University of Idaho was ranked 25th in the newly released Forbes Magazine list of “Best Value” colleges across the country.
U of I was one of four universities in the western U.S. to make the list. The other 3 are Wyoming, BYU and University of South Dakota.
Any Vandals out there?
The University of Idaho is asking the state Board of Education for approval to demolish its current president's mansion and build a new $2 million one, as part of its efforts to attract a new UI president, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports. It would work with the UI Foundation to fund the project, after determining that renovating the existing 1967 structure wouldn't be feasible or cost-effective. Click below for a full report from the Daily News via the AP.
Idaho needed candor from Duane Nellis as he departed the University of Idaho presidency on his way to Texas Tech in Lubbock. Nellis didn't provide it. In a farewell essay published in the Idaho Statesman Tuesday, Nellis wrote: “If I could give one final piece of advice to my friends in the state Legislature, it would be to invest in these people (faculty and public employees). I would hope that your highest priority next year is CEC - Change in Employee Compensation.” Faculty and state workers have taken it on the chin these past few years as first the bottom fell out of the state budget and then lawmakers opted to funnel what little new money they received into tax cuts for the well-off and corporations. But is that really the primary crisis facing Idaho education?/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.
Question: Does Nellis leave behind any kind of significant legacy?
The University of Idaho has named Michael Satz, associate dean in the College of Law, to serve as interim dean of the college, effective June 1. Satz succeeds Don Burnett, who was named interim president of the University of Idaho. When Burnett accepted the interim university presidency, he said he would neither return to the dean's position nor apply for the permanent presidency; he will retain his faculty status after his interim presidency. Satz joined the U of I as an associate professor in the College of Law in 2006; he was appointed associated dean for faculty affairs in 2012. The university said it will begin a national search to identify candidates for permanent College of Law dean; click below for the UI's full announcement.
PUBLIC LANDS — Two Washington Fish and Wildlife police officers followed a tip to find a large college party underway recently on state wildlife lands along the Grand Ronde River at the bottom of Shumaker Grade.
In the past, these gatherings have resulted in large amounts of litter, destruction of habitat, illegal burning, etc.,” reported Capt. Dan Rahn. The photo one of the officers snapped (above) indicates the 160 students already were getting a good start on trashing Snyder Bar.
The area is a popular staging and camping area for anglers launching or taking out boats for floating the Grande Ronde.
The party was an annual event organized by a University of Idaho fraternity, according to the officers' report.
“After locating the frat president, the officers issued numerous citations for No Vehicle Access Permits and MIC,” Rahn said. “They were warned for not having required group permits and advised these gatherings would not be allowed in the future. They agreed to have all of the litter cleaned up by morning or they would be subject to litter citations and they agreed to not return in the future. There were a total of 13 kegs of beer on site and the purchasers were identified. Possible charges of Furnishing to Minor will be forwarded to the Prosecutor.”
Stability at the top has emerged as a key ingredient as the State Board of Education begins its search for the next leader of the University of Idaho. When Duane Nellis departs this summer, the university will be on its sixth president - four interim and two who stayed four years each - since the resignation of Robert Hoover in 2003. “We need to find someone who is going to be there,” Ken Edmunds, immediate past board president, told the Idaho Statesman. “It is highly detrimental to keep having this turnover”/Bill Roberts, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Why can't the University of Idaho keeps its presidents?
The State Board of Education is meeting in Moscow on the University of Idaho campus today, and considering tuition and fee increase proposals for state colleges and universities. The U of I is requesting a 5.9 percent increase in tuition and fees next year; BSU, 8.6 percent; ISU, 4.5 percent; Eastern Idaho Technical College, 4.9 percent; and Lewis-Clark State College, 4 percent.
Since fiscal year 2009, state funding for the four-year institutions, UI, BSU, ISU and LCSC, has dropped by $41.1 million, while total tuition and fee revenue has increased by $74.7 million. So far this morning, U of I officials and student leaders have spoken out in support of the proposed increase; you can watch live here. State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna said, “I don’t think we talk much about what a bargain it is to go to our universities here in Idaho, when you look at even the surrounding states, what they charge.”
With the proposed increases, full-time resident tuition and fees for a year at the U of I next year would be $6,580; at BSU, $6,392; at ISU, $6,344; at EITC, $2,122; and at LCSC, $5,784.
A University of Idaho student injured after falling from a three-tiered bunk bed at the Delta Chi house following a party two years ago is now suing the national fraternal organization for incurred medical costs and other damages.
She alleges the injuries came from falling out of a third-story window.
Krysta Huft in her lawsuit filed Friday against the national fraternity and 10 “John Does” alleges the Idaho chapter was negligent in providing her with beer and vodka despite her being underage and not verifying her age at the time. That, the suit argues, contributed to her falling from a window on the third-story sleeping porch where she was taken after falling asleep at a party in April 2011. She also alleges Delta Chi did not maintain safe premises, including a lack of window stops, lock guards or bars to prevent her fall. Her medical costs are stated to be more than $10,000.
The lawsuit contradicts an investigation by the Moscow Police Department, which concluded Huft had fallen to the floor from an upper level of the bunk bed where she was taken after falling asleep during the party.
Two very different versions of the same event. Which one do believe is more likely?
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho State Board of Education has named Donald Burnett as interim president of the University of Idaho. Burnett is the dean of the College of Law at the Moscow-based university. The board voted unanimously on Wednesday to place Burnett in charge while it searches for a permanent replacement for Duane Nellis, who is leaving to become president of Texas Tech University. Burnett will be paid $240,000 a year and his new position becomes effective on June 1. Nellis took over UI's top administrative post in 2009 after an 11-month search. Since 2003, UI has had four different leaders, including two presidents and two interim presidents.
University of Idaho President Duane Nellis has been named the sole finalist to become president at Texas Tech University, signaling he'll be leaving the U of I after four years. Nellis called the Texas post a “unique and exciting opportunity.” Click below for the full announcement from the U of I; and a full report from the Associated Press.
The University of Idaho’s McClure Center for Public Policy Research is inviting the public to a Symposium on Federal Fiscal Issues on Tuesday evening, with panelists including Sen. Mike Crapo, Congressman Mike Simpson, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, retired Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The free symposium will take place from 8-10 p.m. in the Capitol Auditorium and will be streamed live online; those who would like to attend are asked to reserve their free tickets at www.uirsvp.com.
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The state of Idaho is suing the federal government for nearly $1.6 million because state attorneys say members of the U.S. Navy's Reserve Officer Training Corps negligently caused a fire at the University of Idaho. The lawsuit was filed in Boise's U.S. District Court earlier this week. Deputy Idaho Attorney General Mike Gilmore says members of the Navy ROTC program at the University of Idaho caused serious damage to a World War II-era building when charcoal briquettes were left smoldering after a BBQ last year. The state contends that that the federal government was responsible for the upkeep of the ROTC building, and that Navy ROTC officers and students should have known that dumping briquettes in a flowerbed would pose a fire risk. Click below for a full report.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) ― University officials are trying to figure out how to respond after a series of falls from buildings that have injured students at the University of Idaho and Washington State University campuses. But they also acknowledge the challenge of changing student attitudes on alcohol and dangerous behavior. Washington State University Dean of Students Melynda Huskey says more needs to be done to help educate students on risky behavior. But she also says males in their early 20s aren't always the best judges of personal risk. Since September, the Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/TvTIVM ) there have been five cases of students suffering injuries after falling from buildings at both campuses. Alcohol was a factor in four of five falls. WSU has created an alcohol and drug task force as part of its response.
Click below for a full report.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation is giving $5 million to two Idaho universities to better equip and train teachers. The grant announced Monday will be divvied up between the University of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene University. The money will be used to create two new centers for innovation and learning. The centers ― scheduled to open early next year ― will focus on developing new teaching methods for incorporating technology in the classroom and studying the latest hardware and software available for teachers and students. University of Idaho President Duane Nellis says he's hopeful the research that emerges will help the state make better choices for bringing technology into classrooms in the future.
The grant actually totals close to $8 million over three years; in the first year, NNU will get $4.6 million, and UI in Moscow will get $983,000. UI then will get subsequent payments in the second and third years of $962,000 and $1.1 million, respectively.
Idaho's state Land Board has voted unanimously in favor of a land exchange to trade the University of Idaho's McCall Outdoor Science School property for a 32,138-square-foot office building in Idaho Falls that houses Battelle Energy Alliance, the contractor for the Idaho National Laboratory. The office building, known as Education Research Center 1, has an existing lease with Battelle that runs for another seven years, and annual base rent is $538,312. That compares to the $248,000 that UI is currently paying to lease the McCall property, which is adjacent to Ponderosa State Park.
The university plans to buy the McCall property from the office building owner for its appraised value, $6.1 million. UI has leased the McCall property from the state endowment for 65 years; this year, the annual lease payment went up fivefold. Land Board members had several questions before their unanimous vote, noting that the two properties being exchanged have equal value and the rate of return to the state endowment will substantially increase.
“I want to thank the staff for the background information that they provided that showed the impact this would have on the property tax base in Bonneville County and also historically the impact that state owned lands has had on the property tax of Bonneville County,” said state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna. “It was helpful for me, it answered my questions.” Lands Department staff reported that Bonneville County collected $36,000 in property tax in 2011 from the office building, and once it becomes state endowment property, it'll generate no local property tax, meaning the rest of property taxpayers in the county make up the difference. However, since statehood, 64,669 acres of endowment land has been sold to private parties in Bonneville County, an estimated $45 million in property value that generated nearly $550,000 in local property taxes in 2011.
Click below for a statement from the University of Idaho about the transaction involving “one of the most beautiful and pristine settings in the world,” its McCall outdoor science campus.
Idaho's State Board of Education has unanimously approved the University of Idaho's purchase of its McCall campus, which is along the shore of Payette Lake adjacent to Ponderosa State Park. It's currently endowment land managed by the state Land Board, and the UI has leased it for 65 years. The site includes the university's forestry camp and other education programs through its College of Natural Resources.
The Land Board raised the lease rate this year from about $50,000 a year to about $250,000, prompting the university decide to buy the land. Developed over the last several years, the complex transaction includes a land exchange. A private party, IW4 LLC, plans to acquire the property from the Department of Lands through a land swap for commercial property, and then sell it to the UI at its current appraised value, $6.1 million.
The UI plans to draw on its internal reserves to cover acquisition costs, and then reimburse the reserves from a future bond issue; it also is fundraising, and hoping to reduce the size of the future bond issue with major gifts. It's forecasting that the university will end up saving money on the deal, because its debt service on the bond should be less than the $250,000 annual lease payments.
The board is gathered for a special meeting this morning; among items on its agenda are possible repeal of the requirement that Idaho high school students take two online classes to graduate from high school, now that voters have rejected the “Students Come First” school reform laws that proposed the online grad requirement.