A few elections ago, I asked a friend to ask for the salaries of Boise State University people. The hard copy information exists in their library and is available upon request at the front desk. My friend got the run-around and finally when she was presented the information, the University wanted to charge her hundreds of dollars to have the information copied.This is a problem since the very same information was available online from the State Controller’s Transparent Idaho website for
This is a problem since the very same information was available online from the State Controller’s Transparent Idaho website for free. We can make this wrestling decision the most expensive personal decision Kustra made. In short, I am going to ask you to follow the money as my advice. Anyways, President Kustra personally made comments this is a budgetary decision. I wonder if the slogan “Make Kustra Revocable” would work, since he is saying his “wrestling program” decision is not revocable and is final.
First, the University having a baseball program should be independent of it having a wrestling program. I do not see the justification of purposefully pitting wrestlers against baseball players. Second, the timing of the current Boise city politics involving baseball makes the decision questionable. Thirdly, Title IX was brought up as a defense when there are significant questions about Title IX that Idaho public colleges and universities do not wish to address.
Kustra does have the unilateral decision-making ability to force these changes. If a current employee opposes him, that person’s job is literally being put on the line. Idaho State University had a situation involving exactly this type of undercutting. Tenure and 22 years of teaching at ISU did not protect a civil engineering professor (Sadid Habib). Please stress this with people and reiterate this is why you hold President Kustra personally responsible. The Idaho State University situation eventually involved precedents in the Garcetti v. Ceballos case, a U.S. Supreme Court case involving the free speech rights of public employees. Furthermore, the Idaho State Board of Education has persistently stressed they have given great autonomy to their university presidents. Both the University presidents and the State Board of Education do not like it when financial and personal matters publicly appear before them. For example, a request for a new home for President Valias at Idaho State University was nixed as an end result of a public information request. Here is the first big piece of advice: Make sure the petition goes to both the State Board of Education and to Kustra. Charles Ruch, President Kustra’s predecessor, played around with petitions and it was alleged he shredded a few that went to him. Having a petition only go to Kustra is a sure way of making sure it doesn’t see the light of day.
There are three special classes of people in consideration on how to handle this problem, 1) former university employees, 2) the taxpayers, and 3) students. Former employees know where bodies are information is located and how to access it. They can guide you in asking the right questions. For example, you and I might ask why are university professors listed as hourly employees for the public, while these people actually have salaried positions? Former employees, might ask you to consider how does this affect PERSI contributions as well as honesty in financial reporting to the public and the Legislature? It does not even have to be former employees from Boise State University’s athletics program. Former employees from other universities and colleges would also have insight into very difficult questions to answer since they can give different points of comparison; these people can give the options the University doesn’t want anyone to know exists. President Kustra wants his official point of view as the only point of comparison. For example, some of these people have even mentioned having a female wrestling team to take care of the Title IX concerns; other institutions have done this.
President Kusta kept this problem bottled up so that very few people knew it existed. By doing so, he kept interested parties from being able to provide potential solutions and help when it was timely. This lack of help killed the wrestling program over the long term and this may have been on purpose. In short, I believe he earned this righteous indignation. From public presentations so far, I have been given the impression that the decline in the program has been recent like the last two or three years. Requesting the financial information involving the wrestling program should go back a year or two before the departure of Gene Bleymeier to begin tracking what has happened. Gene left in 2011. The University’s athletics program was under sanctions and increased scrutiny for 3 years afterwards. This would line up time-wise when the perceived decline began. This will help to see if there is a purposefully bleeding of the program. Look to see if resources were siphoned off to bolster other programs like track and field or football. If there are multipurpose resources like weight training equipment, see if an undue burden was placed upon this program. My understanding is that Kustra and only a few of his staff has had access to these files.
From the taxpayer perspective, we should have reasonable access on how the University spends its money. Only the last six months of financial records might not be accessible to prevent rival colleges and universities from mining these financial athletic records for what the University considers proprietary practices. It doesn’t matter if it is a state university or if it is your local school or highway district, you have the right to see how your money is spent. I would suggest having a group of people request to look at the books for the wrestling program. Only at that point, would I suggest people make public requests of those records. The University administrators will be upset, but remember how this article started. The University has a history of showing bad faith when financial matters and transparency occurs. Sometimes, finding the necessary information takes work via public document and information requests. Please note the University’s personnel’s behavior and demeanor just in case; reporting this to the State Board of Education and to legislators might be necessary. Please also note if files or required entries are missing.
The students are the reason for the University in the first place. Many university officials forget this. President Kustra has always stressed he wanted to make Boise State University a metropolitan research university of distinction. I am not opposed to this, but this needs to have a proper place as well. Is having a master’s program in a particular subject an appropriate bridge for higher paying jobs in the local Boise community? I may question the push for advanced degrees into areas that Boise cannot sustain. I may even question why higher education has purposefully not made metrics to show their performance. I do take great offense when I hear the graduate catalog has course listings the institution has no intention of ever teaching; a few graduate students mentioned a few of these courses over the years and were quite explicit over the false advertising. But it is the undergraduates that the University should consider as its primary customer. The reality is the place will never become a pure research institution, and there will always be a sports component to it. But pushing the research emphasis can diminish the education emphasis for the student in behest of other things. Just as sports may have a higher prioritization than education in some minds, the same can happen to research. My concern here involves the rights of the students being abused or sacrificed for those other goals of sports and research.
During the Obama Administration, the Department of Education initiated many changes by the April 4, 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter under the guise of Title IX. They ordered or mandated many things. 1) It systematically ordered schools and colleges to disregard a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court Case (Davis v. Monroe Board of Education). 2) It limited free speech rights. Many schools and colleges already have problems on these limitations on what they can do. 3) The Department of Education advocated for schools and colleges to be judge, jury, and investigator in sexual assault cases instead of being a neutral party. Harvard and Janet Napolitano were critical of these forced changes. 4) The Department of Education even advocated schools and colleges to launch secret investigations against their students. The schools were also asked to withhold due process procedures, withhold necessary information like who is their accuser, and created situations where evidence being used against a person might not even be presented to the accused. The “Dear Colleague” letter did not go through the Administrative Procedures Act. This means the actions should not hold up in court, Congress did not approve this, and the general public was not even allowed to comment on this one-sided action. Boise State University went along with these changes just like most other schools and universities out of fear of losing federal funding. I do not believe Boise State University wishes to discuss these aspects of Title IX. This increases the potential for abuse from a school or college be it intentional or not. This is one, but not the only reason, I would advise students bring their concerns about the wrestling program as an organized group instead of a collection of individuals. It has been reported nationally that the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, wishes to move the standards back to get rid of “Dear Colleague” abuses.
This leaves Boise city politics to be readdressed. Mayor Dave Bieter wants a new baseball stadium for the Boise Hawks. Both Mayor Bieter and President Kustra have a “Build. Build. Build!” attitude for progress. This creates greater taxes and tuition for the appropriate venues. Gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist (http://bomaidaho.org/team/tommy-ahlquist/) claims to be serving on the President’s Board of Directors for Boise State University and is the Chief Operating Officer of the Gardner Company, a commercial real estate development company with corporate offices in Boise and Salt Lake City. The Gardner Company has been very influential in Dave Bieter’s “Streercar/Trolley” plans, which many people questioned the financial viability of this project. For President Kustra, the Gardner Company helped move the Computer Science program into Downtown Boise in 2014. President Kustra wants to build upon Mayor Bieter’s downtown baseball stadium for access and defer Boise State University’s costs. Greenstone Properties would be in charge of developing that stadium, but the Gardner Company could profit from projects immediately surrounding the stadium. Tommy Ahlquist may have done nothing wrong, but this has the appearance of backroom dealing that many that are critical of the Otter Administration do not like. The cost of a small wrestling program might not be as innocent as first presented.