News broke on May 3rd that Leonard Hitchcock, a professor emeritus who had been employed in a part-time role at Idaho State University, had been fired for writing an opinion piece in the Idaho State Journal that was highly critical of University president Arthur Vailas. It immediately crossed my mind that I should say something about this man, a friend and former colleague of mine, but I thought my personal connection to the story could detract from what I might write of the situation. Weeks later, I now realize that my personal connection to this story and what I know about Leonard Hitchcock is exactly what needs to be told.
Idaho State University is not commenting on the dismissal of Hitchcock, citing employees' privacy rights, but ISU's recent history tells most of the story.
Hitchcock has been a vocal opponent of the current administration of Arthur Vailas at ISU. His vocal opposition has come via an opinion column in the Idaho State Journal that he has penned for several years. Hitchcock's opposition to Vailas and former provost Gary Olson, arose during the tumultuous campus reorganization and dismantling of the Faculty Senate which appeared to be in response to votes of no confidence in both Vailas and Olson. Hitchcock is not the first employee at ISU to be fired for challenging the administration's current direction--the last, Habib Sadid, sued the university for what he claimed was retaliation for his vocal opposition--and will likely not be the last.
What the Idaho State Journal has reported on Hitchcock's firing is that during the week following Hitchcock's op-ed in the Journal, he was called into the office of librarian Jenny Lynn Semenza and informed that word had come from ISU interim provost Barbara Adamcik that he be fired immediately. The dean of the Eli M. Oboler Library was out of the country at the time. In his firing, there was never issue taken with his work performance and it was clear that his firing had absolutely nothing to do with what his service as interim head of the library's Special Collections department. As an at-will employee, a part-time one at that, the administration did not have to give any reason to Mr. Hitchcock for his firing. However, there seems to be no dispute that Hitchcock was fired for his opposition to the administration and the fact that the administration, for whatever reason, had just recently learned that he was on the payroll.
Not lost on the majority of the readers of Hitchcock's column is the fact that in firing him, Vailas has proven the very point Hitchcock was making. Though he knew it possible for Vailas to fire someone for merely speaking out against the administration, Hitchcock surely didn't foresee that his own job was at risk. By firing Hitchcock, Vailas proved that it is indeed "disappointing for a monarch to discover that there are naysayers within his realm" and that for Vailas, "when this occurs, firmness and discipline are called for." Firmness and discipline that clearly includes the firing of faculty and staff.
Hitchcock told the Journal that he hoped to continue to volunteer, something he had done for five years prior to being placed on the payroll as acting head of Special Collections. Now it appears that Idaho State University, Barbara Adamcik on up, does not want the services of Hitchcock in any form and he has been asked to cease volunteering. The exact quote Hitchcock gave the Journal, rather tongue-in-cheek, was that he would "go back to being a volunteer, unless I'm banned from campus." As of yet, he has not been banned from campus, but given the fact that Sadid was banned from campus, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if they did ban him.
The entire situation disgusts me and for good reason. A bit of how I came to know Leonard Hitchcock, why he volunteered for five years in Special Collections and how he came to serve as acting head of the department:
In the spring of 2006, Hitchcock retired from the library where he had worked for two decades as first a Humanities bibliographer, then interim University Librarian and finally as the Associate University Librarian for Collection Development. That same spring, I spent the semester wading through the papers of former Congressman Richard Stallings, a collection that had received minimal processing and attention in the fourteen years it had resided in Special Collections. With the blessing of the current head of Special Collections Karen Kearns, I wrote a proposal to the Office of the President, then Michael Gallagher, applying for a presidential internship that would place me in Special Collections to undertake the complete processing, indexing and cataloging of the Stallings Papers. When the fall semester began, I had been awarded the internship and had the privilege of meeting Mr. Hitchcock who had decided to spend some of his retirement working along side me on the collection.
To truly understand what we were up against when we began the task of processing the Stallings Collection, you have to understand that neither of us had ever processed a manuscript collection and we had before us 266 boxes to sort through. It was then and remains the largest manuscript collection housed in the department. Having spent an entire semester going box by box looking for one particular thing, something that didn't exist in the collection anywhere, I knew far better than Leonard what was ahead. There is no better way to describe the project than daunting.
For four years, two of them as a presidential intern (the second year approved and awarded by none other than Arthur Vailas) and two as a part-time employee of the library, I had the pleasure of working alongside Hitchcock on what I suspected then and believe now to be the highlight of my professional career. Without Hitchcock's dedication, I would still be at work on that collection and it still wouldn't be open to researchers.
There's more than the Stallings Collection, however. Hitchcock did volunteer his time on it for over four years, but he also volunteered his time on various other library projects. He worked tirelessly on the library's Rare Books Collection, a collection he personally bought and donated volumes to. He was a mainstay of the Friends of Oboler Library. And even in retirement he continued as a bibliographer.
What's most important to understand about Hitchcock's recent paid employment is how it came about. Keeping in mind, of course, that he was making $11 per hour, 20 hours per week, with no benefits (at least a third of what other department heads make at ISU).
Last November the head of Special Collections, Karen Kearns, was put on catastrophic medical leave after suffering a heart attack. Karen's absence left the department understaffed and by understaffed I mean there was an administrative assistant and a volunteer, Hitchcock. When the new semester began, it was apparent that the department needed direction. Hitchcock stepped in as acting head of the department, a position he did not seek out and one he did not necessarily want. He accepted the position when no other option presented. Putting someone in place proved crucial, Karen Kearns passed away in March. ISU had made no attempt at beginning a search for Kearns' replacement prior to or following her passing. In fact, Karen was serving in dual positions as University Archivist and Head of Special Collections as well as University Records Manager because the position of Records Manager was never filled when it's occupant left ISU more than four years ago. The responsibilities of Records Manager were merely combined with Karen's workload. Hitchcock took on the responsibilities of the records management program in her absence.
If Hitchcock's past schedule is any indication, it's safe to say that the 20 paid hours per week were not his only hours at the library devoted to Special Collections. While working on the Stallings Collection, we were often at the library and off the clock after hours and on weekends. At $11 an hour, 20 hours per week, the library was getting a steal. In the five years he volunteered, his time and commitment to library projects was invaluable.
In firing Hitchcock, the Vailas administration may have given themselves the momentary pleasure of ridding themselves of a thorn in their side, but they've created problems in so doing.
Special Collections lacks much needed institutional memory. The loss of Karen Kearns is felt in numerous ways, perhaps the most important being that no member of the library faculty and staff has the grasp on what resides in the manuscript collections, rare books collection, and university archive as well as how the university's records management program operates that Karen did. Kearns came into the position after the untimely passing of her predecessor, Gary Domitz. There are many questions that Karen had to find the answers to herself after taking the position after Gary's death. There were many questions that Leonard had to find the answers to on his own after Karen's passing. When ISU finally gets around to beginning a search for Karen's permanent replacement, that person will be in the dark and left with many questions to answer for themselves. Whether or not Kearns' replacement will have access to Hitchcock is unknown. The wealth of knowledge Hitchcock accumulated in the few months he was in the position could prove quite useful to the next head of the department.
Without Leonard Hitchcock in the department, there is no longer anyone employed by the library with any experience or knowledge of Special Collections' largest manuscript collection, the Stallings Collection. Even Arthur Vailas once believed the Stallings Collection to be important in the advancement of ISU's research mission, saying that it provided research infrastructure for the university for years to come. The administrative assistant currently staffing the department has no knowledge of the various finding aids created for research in the Stallings Collection. This may seem inconsequential and yes, I am invested in the collection, but consider this: The Office of the President paid for 4 semesters of tuition, 4 semesters of health insurance and nearly $9 an hour, 20 hours per week for 4 semesters to employ me alone on the processing of the Stallings Collection. That's not including the 2 years I worked as a part-time employee of the library itself. In addition to my pay, the library employed a part-time student assistant who worked with me for almost a year. None of this includes the cost of supplies for a project of this size. It wouldn't surprise me if the final tally for the cost of processing the Stallings Collection and preparing it for researchers, including labor and supplies, amounted to $30,000. And to what end?
At the time of his firing, Hitchcock was preparing a display to highlight a large donation by former state legislator, newspaperman, and long-time public utilities commissioner Perry Swisher. Swisher donated the remainder of his papers to Idaho State in August of 2010 to accompany his collection that was processed by ISU in 1985. The collection now complete, the display being prepared by Hitchcock was an public acknowledgment of Swisher's donation as well as a way to educate library patrons of the great resource housed in Special Collections. In the wake of Hitchcock's firing, the display may never come to fruition.
Whatever Vailas hoped to accomplish by firing Hitchcock, he surely failed to consider that the firing would have a devastating impact on one university department that has found itself floundering in recent months. Whether it sends a message to potential donors who might otherwise have chosen to donate their collections to ISU remains to be seen, but the message it has sent to two donors whose collections already reside at ISU is clear.
If a professor emeritus who devoted nearly three decades to Idaho State University has no right to speak ill of the current administration without a retaliatory firing, I shudder to think what Arthur Vailas won't do. Discontent at ISU amongst the faculty and staff will continue as long as Vailas conducts business the way he has and, mind you, with the blessing of the State Board of Education.
The firing of Leonard Hitchcock isn't about free speech, though that aspect is one of the troubling components of this story, and it isn't about what Hitchcock said in one particular column in the local newspaper. The firing of Leonard Hitchcock is about how much damage Arthur Vailas is willing to do to the university and how quickly he is doing it.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
by Tara A. Rowe at 3:24 PM
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
In honor of primary election night:
“It’s not just tougher out there. It’s become a situation where the contest is how much you can destroy the system, rather than how much you can make it work. It makes no difference if you have a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ after your name. There’s no sense that this is about democracy, and after the election you have to work together, and knit the country together. The people in the game now just think to the first Tuesday in November, and not a day beyond it.”
-- Peter Hart, political pollster
by Tara A. Rowe at 11:32 PM
Friday, May 11, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Editor's Note: I regret not writing about Specter's final Senate speech when it occurred. I wasn't about to make the same mistake with Lugar.
A fairly lengthy sample from Lugar's letter:
"If [my opponent, Richard Mourdock] is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.
"This is not conducive to problem solving and governance. And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve...
"Unfortunately, we have an increasing number of legislators in both parties who have adopted an unrelenting partisan viewpoint. This shows up in countless vote studies that find diminishing intersections between Democrat and Republican positions. Partisans at both ends of the political spectrum are dominating the political debate in our country. And partisan groups, including outside groups that spent millions against me in this race, are determined to see that this continues. They have worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise. If that attitude prevails in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years. And I believe that if this attitude expands in the Republican Party, we will be relegated to minority status. Parties don't succeed for long if they stop appealing to voters who may disagree with them on some issues."
"Too often bipartisanship is equated with centrism or deal cutting. Bipartisanship is not the opposite of principle. One can be very conservative or very liberal and still have a bipartisan mindset. Such a mindset acknowledges that the other party is also patriotic and may have some good ideas. It acknowledges that national unity is important, and that aggressive partisanship deepens cynicism, sharpens political vendettas, and depletes the national reserve of good will that is critical to our survival in hard times...
"I don't remember a time when so many topics have become politically unmentionable in one party or the other. Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change. Republican members are now expected to take pledges against any tax increases. For two consecutive Presidential nomination cycles, GOP candidates competed with one another to express the most strident anti-immigration view, even at the risk of alienating a huge voting bloc. Similarly, most Democrats are constrained when talking about such issues as entitlement cuts, tort reform, and trade agreements. Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives. If fealty to these pledges continues to expand, legislators may pledge their way into irrelevance. Voters will be electing a slate of inflexible positions rather than a leader."
It is a sad day when a dedicated public servant like Dick Lugar has no place in today's Republican Party. And he is absolutely right, parties cannot continue on this path without irrevocable consequence.
This country and the world is a better place because in 1967 Dick Lugar was elected mayor of Indianapolis and embarked on a career of public service, a career that included nearly four decades in the U.S. Senate. As John Kerry said yesterday, "[t]his is a tragedy for the Senate" and a "blow to the institution during a period when the institution itself has been strained."
Dick Lugar will be missed.
by Tara A. Rowe at 11:01 AM
Monday, May 7, 2012
|Pudge Rodriguez blocks the plate in the final play of the|
2003 NLDS between the Florida Marlins and the
San Francisco Giants.
As a young kid playing little league baseball, I idolized Pudge Rodriguez. The year I decided to put on the tools of ignorance, i.e. the catching gear, Pudge Rodriguez hit .300 with 192 hits. Pudge played in 153 games that year, an ungoldly number for a guy who spends 9 innings in a crouch (not to mention the ridiculous heat he was playing in as a Texas Ranger in Arlington). That same year he was a ridiculous 25 Rfield--the number of runs a player is better or worse due to their fielding. In other words, Pudge was worth his weight in gold when it came to fielding. Despite his offensive accomplishments, Pudge was the best defensive catcher of his generation and has a rightful place in the discussion of best defensive catchers of all time. I would imagine that there were hundreds of little leaguers who sat behind the plate and thought about Pudge when they threw down to second base or attempted a pick-off at first or third. There simply was nobody better than Pudge Rodriguez.
|Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is honored by a pitcher|
he once caught and now team president Nolan
Ryan in Arlington, Texas.
Pudge Rodriguez has the following Major League Baseball records and accomplishments to his name:
- 14 All Star Game appearances
- 13 Gold Glove awards
- 7 Silver Slugger awards
- 1999 American League MVP
- 2003 NL NLCS MVP
- 2,427 games caught, the most by any catcher in Major League Baseball history
- 14,864 put-outs as a catcher, the most by a catcher in Major League Baseball history
- 9 times the leader in caught stealing percentage in the American League, 6 of them consecutive
|After throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, Pudge|
took his rightful place behind the plate and threw
a strike to former teammate Michael Young at second base.
For thirteen years, if you were running on Pudge Rodriguez, you knew your chances were fifty percent or less. For the additional seven years of Pudge's big league career, runners did not have much better of a chance to run on him. Pudge could and would gun a runner down at first, second or third base. This is what was so fitting about ceremonial first pitch in Arlington. After Pudge threw out the first pitch, he quickly took his rightful place behind the plate and threw one last strike down to second base. Surely with that pitch, players around Major League Baseball breathed a sigh of relief. But pitchers who had the privilege of throwing to Pudge over the course of twenty seasons knew that the greatest at controlling the running game would no longer be in his familiar position behind the plate.
Pudge Rodriguez has left a mark on the game of baseball in ways few other position players can--he has mentored great young pitchers like Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander as well as promising young catchers like Wilson Ramos and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. His mentorship of baseball's young players is what earned him kind words and congratulations recently from his former general manager with the Nationals. When you think about the caliber of pitchers Pudge Rodriguez has received, it's unbelievable. Pudge caught Cy Young Award winners (Nolan Ryan, Justin Verlander,); Hall of Famers (Goose Gossage, Nolan Ryan and future HOFer Mariano Rivera); World Champions (Josh Beckett, Livan Hernandez, Bobby Witt, Rick Honeycutt, Kenny Rogers, Kevin Brown, Brad Penny, Mike Stanton, Mike Morgan, Andy Pettitte); and, Rookies of the Year (Dontrelle Willis, Justin Verlander, Neftali Feliz).
Unfortunately, it wouldn't be fair to highlight the career of Pudge Rodrigez without at least mentioning the era in which Pudge played and the accusations that have surrounded Pudge since 2003. Whether or not Pudge Rodriguez was one of the 5-7% of Major League Baseball players who tested positive for steroids or other performance enhancing drugs in 2003 may never be known. There is plenty of speculation that Pudge was indeed among the 103 players on the list. He has said "only God knows" about that possibility. Though Jose Canseco says he personally injected Pudge with PEDs, the integrity of Canseco has crumbled since he began talking about steroids in baseball. Whether or not there is truth to Canseco's accusation may also never be known, though Pudge denies this particular accusation vehemently. Pudge Rodriguez is not listed in the Mitchell Report. Where Pudge played will certainly have weight, but the proof does not seem to have materialized. It remains one of the most difficult cases to come of the steroid era for me personally.
This may not be the last time we see Pudge Rodriguez around baseball, but it will be the last time we have the pleasure of watching Pudge Rodriguez gun a runner down in the time it takes for them to realize they're in trouble.
by Tara A. Rowe at 10:26 AM
Saturday, May 5, 2012
In Plain Sight has ended. Thank you for entertaining my recent quote spree. The voice-overs from the show came to mean something to me. Their snark and their wisdom may be what I miss most about the show, even more than Mary's one-liners.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I caught the "halfway happy" reference in the final voice-over which first appeared at the end of the first episode of season four. The voice-over from season four:
"Whether it's secrets, justice or the Amazon rainforest, every one of us protects things a thousand times a day. It doesn't take a gun; for most of us, protection is as quiet and reflexive as a breath. For some, though, for knights in shining armor, the lone ranger, a boyfriend or a mom, protection can be a hard habit to break. As much as we thump the bible about the vital need to change, the fact is, we hardly ever do. We stay here, halfway to happy, in our old familiar places, with our feet stuck firmly on the ground."
And the final, perhaps even the best, voice-over of the series:
"Nobody likes letting go. From our earliest moments -- from birth ’til we’re six feet under -- our instinct is to grab, grip, cling. To a finger, a bottle, a best friend -- to a faded old racing form.
Sometimes we hold on for dear life to the very things that keep us from actually living it. But that comes with an upside. It’s the way we feel when we finally let go. The trick, I guess, is not to find a way around the curve balls life serves up, but to live with them, in halfway happy, uneasy alliance. And to search for new things to cling to and when you finally find them, to hang on just as tight.
And around and around we go. Holding on until the time comes to say goodbye. And, like it or not, ready or not, you have to accept one universal truth: Life is messy. Always and for all of us. But a wise man once said, ‘Maybe messy is what you need.’ And I think he might be right."
Life is messy. And maybe we're all halfway to happy.
by Tara A. Rowe at 9:59 AM
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Editor's Note: The following opinion piece was printed in the Idaho State Journal on Sunday, April 29, 2012. It is reprinted here with the permission of the author. Leonard Hitchcock has subsequently been fired by Idaho State University. Perhaps worth disclosing is the fact that Leonard Hitchcock is my dear friend and was my colleague at the ISU Department of Special Collections for four years.
IDAHO STATE UNIVERSITY HAS A KING AT ITS HELM
by Tara A. Rowe at 8:05 PM
"Politics is weird. And creepy. And now I know lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality."
-- Shepard Smith, Fox News
There are few things I could say that Rachel Maddow didn't say last night on her show. Shepard Smith of Fox News is brilliant and perhaps the only sane voice left on that network. If he ever decides to take his brilliance elsewhere, he will have a solid following.
by Tara A. Rowe at 10:00 AM