Thursday, November 01, 2007

Regents' Scary Halloween

November 1, 2007, 8:45 a.m.

Regents' "Progress"

The Regents have concluded their Halloween meeting, October 31. Are we all better off than we were two days ago?

The newspapers' coverage of the event is relatively sketchy. If you really want to know what all they considered, and had proposed to them on the agenda, check out this Regents' site.

Michael Gartner (and Rose Vasquez) are entitled to credit for their willingness to take a couple of unpopular stands that -- whatever may be your personal preference on the merits -- were research-based and principled. Both voted against the arming of campus police and against raising tuition by 3.2% (rather than the proposed 2%).

Gartner pointed out that putting more guns on campus was a non-solution in search of a non-existent problem -- one that held far more potential for negative than positive impact on an academic institution. The primary problems, he noted, relate to the abuse of alcohol -- a matter local voters might keep in mind when voting on the proposed ordinance November 6.

Aside from the weapons escalation -- in my view, a cheap, pandering response to public demands "something be done" -- I thought the overall security policy document was constructive in its range and detail, going well beyond the arming controversy.

Incidentally, if any Regents, or staff, are reading this: the reproduction of "Weapon-Related Data/University of Iowa" only provides the odd-numbered pages of the document. As a result, some very interesting descriptions of crime scenes and arrests leave a curious reader hanging.

The biggest disappointment for me was the naming policy.

Prior to the policy, during the Wellmark fiasco, there seemed to be a presumption that corporate naming was inappropriate, though chaos reigned and we had no declared specific standards as policy. Now we have simply embodied the chaos and absence of standards into policy, with a suggestion that corporate naming might not be so bad after all.

As I wrote yesterday (and on numerous occasions before) I think we have an even bigger issue that needs to be addressed, and one from which the naming decisions would easily flow, and that is the extent to which we want the University to be a part of, contributor to, and partner with, America's corporate culture generally -- as distinguished from an alternative, an academic, educational oasis through which students briefly travel on their way to corporate America.

That rather major issue aside, I would also repeat my plea that if we are going to take the former path -- which we appear to have chosen when we came to that "fork in the road" -- that we start "haggling over price," especially with regard to an ongoing payment -- as any corporation would expect to pay (rather than a one-time, lump sum for advertising that goes on forever). If we're going "marketplace," let's go marketplace and find out what a reasonable, monthly or annual commercial rate would be for advertising a corporate name in such a prominent way.

If my prediction is correct, we should join in congratulating UI President Sally Mason on achieving admission to the Iowa Business Council, a move that should help in promoting the business community's recognition that the UI is, after all, one of them.

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Anonymous said...

As the student loan scandal widens in Iowa (from the Des Moines Register):

John Barleykorn said...

As a 3rd generation alum, I am not happy about the possibility of corporate names on UI buildings, colleges, and institutions.

What is this all out quest for cash getting the University and its students? Tuition just keeps going up and up. Where does this end???? Could we have a politician buy the naming rights to the UI Dept. of Political Science as a form of campaign advertising? The Giuliani Dept. of Political Science at Iowa? Could the University of Iowa itself actually be dropped? Could it become Carver or Krause University? The day that happens, I will mail back my degree and disassociate myself with the University.

It's a sad day.