It has been an eventful beginning to University of Idaho President Scott Green’s tenure, to say the least.
In his first four years at the helm, the school has faced three crises: a significant budget deficit, the COVID-19 pandemic and the tragic murders of four University of Idaho students.
Green and co-author Temple Kinyon have detailed UI’s journey through these challenges in a new book, “University President’s Crisis Handbook,” that was released in bookstores Thursday.
“This book really is a celebration of the Vandal community, and I mean that broadly, not just our campus, but also the community of Moscow,” Green said Thursday. “What we accomplished together over these four years is really remarkable when you think about it.”
Kinyon said the book is not just aimed at the Vandal community, but for anyone in a position of leadership, whether in higher education, business or public health.
The book includes interviews with more than 50 people, including university and Moscow leaders who were involved in addressing these challenges.
When Green first took over as president, he faced a “daunting” financial hole, he said. UI’s enrollment numbers were falling, while its employment rate had been increasing. UI Chief Financial Officer Brian Foise told Green UI had 18 months’ worth of cash left before it became insolvent. Green said the university was on the verge of losing $22 million.
Green said he set a campus-wide goal to save the university $14 million, and he praised employees for exceeding that goal to the point where the UI reported a small surplus by the end of his first year.
“I think it’s because they understood the crises we were in and they responded,” he said.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the university had to decide whether to keep its campus open during a public health crisis.
“You have to put health and safety first and you have to make a call whether or not you can keep your campus safe,” Green said.
UI opened its own COVID-19 testing lab and infirmary while working with Idaho Public Health. Mandatory employee furloughs were put in place to save money. The campus remained open, but that decision received pushback.
In a chapter called “The Grim Reaper,” the book discussed accusations that the school was putting profits over lives. One student protest that took place in front of the president’s house included a student who was dressed as the grim reaper.
“Reliving that was very stressful, just thinking back through all those decisions we had to make because the stakes were so high,” Green said about writing this section of the book
Ultimately, Green said, no COVID-19 illness was traced back to UI’s classrooms, Gritman Medical Center never went into a crisis standard of care like other Idaho hospitals did, and the university avoided a $30 million loss that it had forecast at the start of the pandemic.
“We’re just very proud of what we accomplished and we realize that others can learn from that and utilize our experience,” Green said.
Kinyon said the book was meant to be about only UI’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and budgetary issues. Then another crisis emerged.
“We were finished with the manuscript and pitched it,” she said. “And then the capital crimes happened.”
UI students Ethan Chapin, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Madison Mogen were killed in an off-campus home on Nov. 13, 2022. The aftermath is discussed in the chapter “When Evil Visits Your Campus.”
Kinyon said it was a tough decision to address the murders in the book, but they felt it was important because this kind of crisis is becoming more common on school campuses.
According to UI, proceeds from the book will go to support the Vandal Healing Garden and Memorial, which is being designed to honor the four victims.
As he worked through these challenges, Green said he was motivated by his history with UI and Moscow. He grew up in Moscow, received his undergraduate degree at UI and is a third-generation Vandal.
“I just care deeply about this place,” he said.