Opinion » Bill Cope

President Me

Eat my dust, Kustra


I don't want to get anyone's hopes up, but I may be moving away soon. Yeah, I'm applying for this other job, see, and if I get it, I'd have to move up to Moscow. Yeah, Moscow, Idaho. You've heard before what I think about Moscow. There's hardly another town in the world that I'd rather live in. So I've really got my fingers crossed. For the job, for living in Moscow, all of it. Yeah. That'd be so cool.

Now, I should tell you, even if I get that job, it's not like you'd never hear from me again. No, it's a pretty high-profile gig and there's every chance I'd be in the news here in Capital City with some regularity. See, if I get it, I'd be the next president of the University of Idaho. Yeah, me. That'd be so cool.

See, they're having trouble hanging onto presidents up there. Counting interim ones, they've had eight different presidents in the last 20 years. Six just since 2003. The last guy, Duane Nellis, lasted only four years. Took a job at some school in Texas, I hear. And as hard as it is for me to understand why any sane, intelligent, educated, adult human being, qualified in any field more distinguished than that of pest extermination, would leave Moscow for any place in Texas, I'm sure Dr. Nellis had his reasons. Like, would you--as a sane, intelligent, educated, adult human being--want to have Tom Luna for your boss? Yeah, let your brain chew on that: I answer to Tom Luna.

That'd be so not cool.

Make no mistake, there are plenty of reasons beyond Mr. Luna for why the U of I can't hold onto presidents. Without state leaders at Luna's back who seem to think all you need to call yourself a "university" these days is a semi-pro football team and a rotating list of adjunct faculty willing to pay for their own on-campus parking, Luna would be one of the last people in Idaho anyone listened to.

And of course, let's not forget we have a Legislature that has as little regard for educated people--and the stuff educated people know--as they do for Obamacare and wolves. Not to mention, at fifth (from the bottom) we have one of the least educated state populaces in the United States. I'm confident we can throw most of Europe and Asia onto the "Who's More Educated Than the Average Idahoan?" list, too.

So yeah, it's obvious to me that the starting point of the U of I's woes is that the "I" stands for "Idaho." Think about it: Can it be mere coincidence that, as the thoughtless, anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-Enlightenment sludge of modern conservatism grew like some noxious mold on an unwashed petri dish to envelope the entire Republican Party, the great share of America's universities found themselves cursed by under-funding, extravagant tuition hikes, exorbitant student debt, falling enrollment, abysmal graduation rates and utter disrespect for what they offer civilization?

And where has the sludge of noxious conservatism taken hold any more firmly than Idaho? Seriously, about all that separates Idaho from Mississippi these days is the humidity.

So it's little wonder that our state's Flagship University--yeah, I said it!--has fallen on hard times, perhaps even more so than universities in other parts of the country, because there is something about Idaho's premier institution of higher education that just pisses off conservatives, have you noticed? It's been going on for years. Decades, even. They keep arguing that anything important--"important," of course, according to a conservative concept of importance--should be relocated down here in Boise where all the people are. Like, if Boise is going to be where all the mediocre lawyers end up, they should be going to law school here. Or if some Micron lackey needs a few engineering credits to advance himself, why shouldn't the local community college get the engineering school that Idaho can only afford one of?

But I can't help but feel the conservatives' disdain for the U of I goes deeper than the socio-politics of little-town vs. bigger-town. I'm convinced they distrust the idea of so many of Idaho's most promising students being up there, a couple of hundred miles beyond the range of the Naza-Mormo-fundamentalist force field that filters so much of what happens in Idaho; up there where they can't keep a grip on what kind of faculty might be spreading what kind of god-forsaken free thought amongst the youngsters; up there where Idaho's best minds might be learning (gasp!) unconservative ideas!

So nope, it's no mystery to me why the U of I can't keep a president. Imagine being qualified enough to lead an actual university, all chock-full of Ph.D.s and research facilities and a broad range of curricula and such, and then you find out your entire fate is in the paws of drooling baboons who can't even fathom the value of kindergartens, let alone universities.

It's gotten so bad, the university is proposing a new $2 million president's mansion to entice candidates for the position. I say forget that. Save your money, U of I. Give me the job, and I'll live in a double-wide in Genesee. For wages, I'll settle for gas money and a parking spot. I'll even pay for my own mortarboard.

And hey, out of all the applicants you're looking at, I may not be the most highly educated. Or, you know... most qualified. But as Luna proves every day, being "qualified" doesn't count for much in this state. I say what you need is a real Vandal. Someone who will fight ruthlessly for the school, its students, its faculty and its future. Someone not at all shy about telling Idahoans what a shitty boss he has.