POP QUIZ REVEALING
Your candidate "pop quiz" proved at least one thing: the vast majority of politicians just don't get it. Not only should they be prepared for any question, and be willing to answer it with enthusiasm and sincerity from any constituent (including the media as a conduit to voters), but they should recognize the questions you posed as insightful, humanistic, and poignant to BW readers ...a significant voting public. Your quiz helped me as an Idaho voter and entertained me as a reader: no neat trick among all of the political spin, mudslinging, and annoying direct mail and recorded phone calls from Laura Bush, et. al., this time of year. It insults me as a voter to have several candidates decline to answer your phone calls, much less your questions, or treat them (and thus me and other voters) with disdain. Your quiz made me want to run for office, if only so I could participate in the next one. That would be the only reason, however, so don't look for my name on a ballot.
PUBLIC ED FAILUre
The Idaho State Legislature's failure to fund public education in the past few years has caused Idaho's educational institutions to cut corners and find solutions to deal with dwindling finances. In a state that sees big business benefit from over $200 million in tax breaks that have never been reviewed to see if they benefit Idaho's economy, Idaho's educational and social services suffer, while corporations prevail.
Being faced with increased student enrollment compounded with limited space, faculty and resources, the university experiences enormous strains while quality of education is compromised. However, public higher education institutions have a few advantages on Idaho's K-12 education facilities. They have the ability to charge student fees, seek sponsorships and endowments and use these resources to offset lack of state funding, build needed facilities and to help keep the university alive. Unfortunately, despite these additional resources students have seen their student fees jump nine percent on average each semester over the last few years, while seeing increases in class sizes and decreases in class options.
Boise State President Bob Kustra has sought to remedy this dilemma by seeking to change Idaho's funding for higher education, making it legal to use student fees to pay for instruction, which state law currently forbids, and by seeking financial backing from local corporations and the community.
As good hearted as Kustra's intentions are, his actions set some dangerous precedents. Kustra's call for the use of student fees to be used for instruction is a prime example. Idaho law enables anyone who wants an education the right to receive one, free of charge (student fees are supposed to be used to pay for the services and facilities that are used to support education.) First, Kustra has failed to call for the millions of dollars owed to Boise State due to inequitable distribution of state funds for higher education. For years, past student governments and Boise State's former administration sought to remedy Idaho's skewered higher education allocations. This drive has been all but abandoned by Kustra's administration. In addition to not seeking monies owed to Boise State, Kustra has not been active in seeking an end to this misdistribution of state funds, as it continues to this day.
Second, Kustra sent a dangerous message from the university by calling for a change in state policy without addressing the real problem behind the universities lack of funding for instruction: inadequate state funding for education. Kustra's solution for the funding of higher education will only make it more difficult for those seeking education to get it while contradicting the intent behind the concept of public institutions--providing educational opportunities to all.
Lastly, I'd like to address the university's increased efforts at obtaining funding for the university through the private sector. Boise State has a long history of partnerships with local patrons and businesses that have grown alongside Boise State. Contributions have helped Boise State, especially its arts and athletic communities, as they seek to highlight our University's achievements and put Boise on the map.
Kustra stepped over the line this summer when he and the athletic department snuck a proposal to the State Board of Education to seal a deal with Taco Bell to rename a student fee built building, the Pavilion, Taco Bell Arena. Trying to stifle growing university outrage, Kustra has made token attempts to say he's sorry, but his hands are tied and the contract is binding.
Because there was no precedent in Idaho for renaming state institutional facilities paid for by student fees after a corporation, both Kustra and the athletic department sought no institutional input and felt they didn't have to, even though there is a State Board code for renaming a building after a person that calls for institutional approval.
Boise State's attorney Kevin Satterlee, former Idaho State Board attorney, claimed at an university meeting on the subject that he wrote the State Board Code and he knows that there was no violation of state law. I give Satterlee a big thumbs down for leaving a corporate loophole in place for a few to take the rest of the University down with them into disgrace.
In a time where campuses across the country are waging "Boot the Bell" campaigns to get Taco Bell (a corporation that has been highlighted in the global community for human rights violations in the United States) off their campuses, Boise State will make students receive their diplomas inside Taco Bell Arena. This action not only undermines years of hard work by Idaho citizens, Boise State students and faculty to ensure a farm worker minimum wage bill, but creates a hostile environment for all Idaho farm workers, especially those who seek to further their educations, and shows that Boise State is unsympathetic to the struggles of lower class workers.
If Idaho is to keep public education public, we must make a stand to ensure that adequate public funding is allocated to our institutions. We must make sure that there are no loopholes in our state codes that allow a handful of individuals in power to make the decisions that affect the image and respect of the rest of the university community, and we must make sure that the institutional community is notified about proposed changes within the university and has a say in what types of alliances and sponsorships the university is considering. Boise State is a great public institution. Let's keep it that way.