Sunday, November 23, 2008

On Cowardice

If you don't pay attention to news via the campus of Idaho State University, you might not know the history of infighting that has taken place here over the last several years. As a student I've had a front row seat to the departure of Richard Bowen, the too short tenure of interim President Gallagher, and the current leader Arthur Vailas. Regardless of what you read, the infighting isn't simply among the administration and the faculty. There are plenty of battles between individual members of the faculty, many of whom are featured prominently in the local newspaper, as well as battles between student organizations and the administration.

Recently, Dr. Habib Sadid exposed many of his frustrations with the current administration at ISU in the paper. From what I understand he is now taking his case, whatever that specifically may be, to the courts. His beef is with President Vailas and the goal of making Idaho State University a premier research institution. Sadid's accusations and frustrations come in a long line of public statements along these lines.

Yesterday, Matt Spencer, the current president of the Associated Students of Idaho State University weighed in. His article appears to be a direct response to the recent complaints about Dr. Vailas.

Now, I realize that the Idaho State Journal is responsible for reporting news pertaining to ISU. I realize that news out of ISU, as one of Pocatello's largest employers, is important to those who live here. But at what point should the Journal say enough is enough?

We have now resorted to attacking those who have defended the people originally attacked. It appears to be an unbreakable cycle continuously fed by the next accusation laden article. And as if the attacks of Mr. Sadid for his criticism of the current administration aren't ridiculous enough, they are now calling him a coward for speaking against Vailas publicly. For some reason I can't seem to catch on to how speaking out publicly about someone, in this case a very powerful someone, is an act of cowardice.

Isn't cowardice the unwillingness to speak out against someone? In the revolving door of faculty and students at ISU, it doesn't seem to me that the cowards are the ones who publicly offer reasoning for why this is happening.

Personally, I like Dr. Vailas. I think he is a very nice guy. As a person, I have no qualms with Arthur Vailas. Has he made some poor decisions? Probably. Did he say that the faculty of ISU should take advantage of nights and weekends on campus to get the University ahead in the research game? Absolutely.

Whatever my feelings about Vailas, I am so far removed from the inner workings of the institution that I can't realistically offer my opinion of the status of the University or whether the short comings are indeed the fault of Vailas alone. However, I can say this: The problems at ISU are not the result of one change in leadership. In the time I have been here, just under five years, I have seen more mudslinging, challenges of leadership and policy, actual corruption (I'm referring specifically to the administrative pay raises of the Bowen administration and the unfortunate demise of the ASISU Constitution), and turnover both in students and faculty, than you can possibly imagine. In five years.

Blaming a single individual for this mess is irresponsible and inappropriate, but calling any of the individuals who have spoken publicly about it and even those that have left here in a certain amount of disgrace, cowards is plain stupid. There have been decent men and women who have come and gone in the past five years, men like John Kijinski, the former dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Mike Gallagher, the interim president between Bowen and Vailas, that were nothing resembling cowards. In fact, guys like Kijinski and Gallagher were pretty damn brave if you ask me.

If the infighting must continue, if the Journal is going to continue to print anything related to the crisis that is ISU, let's get one thing straight...talking about it isn't cowardice.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

I saw more corruption and cronyism at ISU than anyone can believe. It didn't start under Vailas and it certainly hasn't ended under him-there's just too much there to be tackled very easily.