[Vision2020] Keeping Focused (was: Open Letter)

Gier, Nicholas NGIER at uidaho.edu
Wed Jul 28 14:53:14 PDT 2010

Hi Ken,

Nice analysis and nice civil tone.  I knew that our "hate BSU" rhetoric would get us into trouble.  And the excuse that everyone else does it was children say.


Nicholas F. Gier, Professor Emeritus
Department of Philosophy, University of Idaho
President, Idaho Federation of Teachers, AFT/AFL-CIO www.idaho-aft.org/ift.htm
208-882-9212, 1037 Colt Rd., Moscow, ID 83843

-----Original Message-----
From: vision2020-bounces at moscow.com on behalf of Ken
Sent: Wed 7/28/2010 1:55 PM
To: vision2020 at moscow.com
Subject: [Vision2020] Keeping Focused (was: Open Letter)
On Wednesday 28 July 2010 08:27:34 Tom Hansen wrote:
> Courtesy of Mountain Home News (Mountain Home, Idaho) at
> http://www.mountainhomenews.com/blogs/1137/entry/36258/

After 40 years of marriage, Al and Tipper Gore announced a couple of months 
ago that they will part ways and divorce. This announcement shocked some and 
surprised many, considering the Gore union had been considered happy and 
stable. On what caused the breakup I am no expert, but I suppose one should 
not rule out the possibility that Al's Nobel prize and his rejuvenated status 
as a globe-trotting environmental advocate may have had some effect. 

In stadiums far removed from symbolic campaign kisses, it should not be so 
shocking that when one partner in a 40-year football game series has been 
able to parlay its performance record into offers to travel to new venues for 
more money that it will seek the necessary freedom to accept the invitations. 
The Boise team's desire to divorce itself of its ties with the Moscow team 
should be handled with the good grace and sophisticated style exhibited by 
the mature adults the Gores are, and that others would do well to emulate.

After the divorce, then what? Well, there are separate lives to lead; separate 
loci of foci to maintain for the former partners. In the preferable situation 
where one hopes the best for both parties, one hopes that each will do better 
at what it does best. And so it is with the University of Idaho.

In Taylor's letter to Kustra, he used a link labeled "only 26 percent" to 
point to the web site www.collegeresults.com and its comparison of the two 
school's 6-year graduation rates. BSU's is 26.2 % and UI's is 56.6 %. Rather 
than churlishly remarking some epithet about BSU's academic prowess, one 
might better inquire why the UI's graduation rate is over twice as high as 

One set of clues might be found in the characteristics of the school's 
students. Boise has 13,381 full-time equivalent (FTE) students compared with 
Moscow's 8,334. Of BSU's students, 36.5 % are part-time, and 38.2 % are over 
age 25. By contrast, only 11.4 % of Moscow's students are part-time, and only 
15.4 % are over age 25. What is one to conclude?

BSU has a larger portion of its student body comprised of older individuals 
from the much larger local population (Ada county 384,656 versus Latah county 
38,046) who are taking a course or two at a time, probably while pursuing 
other vocational or retirement activities concurrently. One expects that 
revealing a larger number of individuals taking a larger diversity of classes 
in the evening, for example, would support the idea that more part-time 
students require more calendar years to complete degree requirements at Boise 
State versus Idaho. Consider, too, that a greater portion of those students 
may not be seeking degrees, but rather just personal enrichment as they work.

If Boise State changes leagues and goes a different way in the world, what is 
the University of Idaho to do? Well, first of all, stop comparing itself with 
its former football rival to the south. Idaho's only land grant and premier 
research university would do well to embrace its greater freedom from 
responsibility to provide sporting and entertainment services to the state, 
and to continue to improve its performance relative to peer academic 
institutions out-of-state, even as the continual comparisons with in-state 
funding rivals must continue for legislative and state board decision-makers.

For example, if one looks westward from Idaho, one sees at WSU the full-time 
faculty percentage at 83.6 versus 83.8 at the UI, and the FTE to faculty 
ratio of 11 to 1 at WSU versus 13 to 1 at the UI, yet the 6-year graduation 
rate at WSU is 66.9 % of 18,309 FTE versus 56.6 % of 8,334 FTE at UI. Why is 
WSU doing better graduating students in Pullman versus UI in Moscow? Answers 
might lead to changes and improvements in Moscow.

(And if that's not challenging enough, even further west, the UW-Seattle 
campus graduation rate is 76.9 % of 25,663 FTE. What's up with that? Yes, I 
understand there are lots of variables, and many of them have dollar signs 
associated with them, but still, interesting questions are raised by these 

If Boise State University wishes to focus its resources on sports and 
entertainment, let it have the freedom to do so. The University of Idaho has 
its own life, its own achievements to attain, its own excellence to seek. 
That it may do so with fewer comparisons in conflict is even more satisfying.


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