A County Turns Against Its College

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tags: conservatism, higher education, Idaho, colleges and universities

On a Friday morning in January, the new board chair unloaded his requests of the college president rapid fire.

“Per your contract,” Todd Banducci wrote in an 8:44 a.m. email to Rick MacLennan of North Idaho College, “I believe you are to provide an accounting of leave days on an annual basis.” Banducci said he’d like to get MacLennan’s most recent report within seven business days.

Five minutes later, Banducci told MacLennan he wanted meeting notifications as far in advance as possible. He had a very busy schedule, he wrote, and did not like being told of a recent meeting on such short notice. Two minutes after that, he requested that MacLennan start sending regular summaries of his activities. Banducci’s motto, he explained, is the “more communication the better.” In the next two minutes, he requested “an accounting of your submitted expenses for the last 1.5 years.”

Finally, four minutes later, amid other requests, Banducci noted that a student had not uttered the words “under God” when she recited the Pledge of Allegiance at the previous year’s graduation ceremony.

“I expect,” Banducci wrote, “that this institution will work hard to see that should never happen again.”

MacLennan, who leads North Idaho College, a community college in Coeur d’Alene, about 13 miles from the state’s western border, had had enough. His concerns weren’t solely about Banducci’s emails and the trustee’s instruction to constrain students’ speech, he wrote in an email to the full board, first reported by the Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press and obtained by The Chronicle through a public-records request. Rather, the president pointed to what he called a pattern of “aggressive and intimidating” behavior by Banducci, including, he wrote, disparaging MacLennan’s wife for supposedly being a Hillary Clinton supporter, and telling the president that they’d be meeting more frequently so that Banducci could give him his “marching orders.” That, plus Banducci’s latest messages, indicated to MacLennan that the trustee intended to “inappropriately direct me without full board involvement and knowledge.”

The board, MacLennan wrote, needed to do something.

MacLennan’s appeal for help was just the latest in a saga that has enveloped North Idaho for months, a story of partisanship and distrust of higher education. In Kootenai County, as in counties across America, disdain for colleges is thriving among people on the right and far right. For years, locals have made bogeymen out of the faculty, characterizing them as radicals with leftist agendas, committed to indoctrinating students.

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education

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