While I have never tried to hide my bias in favor of BSU in the athletic competitions, when it comes to academics I don't think there is much room for rivalry. With the Idaho Legislature making it an almost annual quest to kill (or at least severely disable) public post-secondary education, disunity amongst Idaho's public higher education institutions makes that objective too easy. I think that there is a structural problem that breeds this sort of contempt, which I have tried to address in legislation the last two sessions. Alas, this post isn't intended to be about that problem so I'll leave alone for now.
First a little background. As a graduate student (and even in undergrad) higher education policy and economics was one of my primary areas of research. As a legislator, I have immersed myself in issues surrounding higher education and subsequently attended several leadership conferences on the subject including one to Boston with the US Department of Education and one in Denver with National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). As an instructor at the community college, I have seen the real life impact of higher education policies.
Last fall when U of I President Nellis was announced as the new president, he hosted a conference on higher education leadership, which I attended. At that event I had the opportunity to discuss the status of the U of I College of Law program with law school dean Don Burnett. I explained to him my dissatisfaction with the isolated nature (geographically) of the law school in Moscow and my desire to expedite the process of setting up a complete program in Boise. As we talked I learned that we had a common vision.
In order for the U of I College of Law to remain relevant in Southern Idaho, something needed to be done. No one, including me, is calling for an elimination of the College of Law in Moscow. However, we must recognize that it is a strategic disadvantage for the State of Idaho and its citizens to have the only public law school so far away from the majority of Idaho's government and commerce.
Dean Burnett and I both envisioned the old Ada County Courthouse, which was just used the temporary Capitol (aka Capitol Annex) as the ideal location for the U of I College of Law program in Boise. Right in between the Idaho Statehouse and Idaho Supreme Court and only a couple blocks from Law Library and downtown commerce you couldn't find a better place. I committed at that time make that vision a reality.
Now, today, with the generous support of the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation, the U of I College of Law is one million steps closer to that goal. The one million dollar donation will be a significant investment in Idaho and will pave the way for future development. While some may look at this and say its a waste of money spent on creating more attorneys, I have to disagree. Law education is not just about creating more lawyers. Law education is about teaching people how to think critically and work with divergent and sometimes contradictory information. As I have read many places many people that get law school school educations don't actually practice law. The benefit to society is a more intelligent and critical thinking workforce.
So from a third generation Boise State graduate, bravo U of I. Lets work together to get Idaho back on track and put public higher education as a priority.