When asked where someone who attends the University of Idaho can go, President M. Duane Nellis said in his Friday Letter on March 1 that his answer is “anywhere.” The scope of anywhere narrowed for Nellis a few hours later to Lubbock, Texas, when he announced he is the sole finalist for the presidency at Texas Tech University.
Nellis’ announcement raises questions about UI’s future as we wait for the Texas State Board of Regents to make a final decision. It would seem, though, it’s an inevitable decision, and no one should blame Nellis for leaving.
Texas Tech University is a much larger institution than UI. Its preliminary spring enrollment is 30,399, while UI’s is 12,493. A bigger school in a bigger state is bound to have more resources and opportunities. Especially in comparison to Idaho, a state that doesn’t put funding or resources toward advancing higher education.
In March 2012, the Idaho State Legislature voted to pass a 2 percent Change in Employee Compensation for all state government departments and agencies. It was the first pay increase for UI faculty and staff in four years. This year, however, UI employees will receive no CEC during fiscal year 2014.
Many people will react to Nellis’ announcement with the assumption he will be accepting a much higher paying position. That’s not exactly true. Nellis started at UI almost four years ago with a salary of $335,000. Former Texas Tech University President Guy H. Bailey’s salary was $350,000, according to the Collegiate Times.
Nellis didn’t apply for the presidency at Texas Tech University — he was recruited. It’s a prestigious opportunity that would advance his career, exactly what most professionals are looking to do.
Texas law requires a 21-day period between the naming of a sole finalist and the final contract approval, but all signs point toward Nellis’ acceptance. UI should start focusing on solidifying its future and the reason for its existence — students.
It is the students, not the president, who make UI great. UI will function just fine with an interim president, but it would not function at all without the thousands of Vandals who choose to attend Idaho’s flagship institution.
We shouldn’t be bitter or sad about Nellis’ announcement. We should accept it for what it is and base future decisions on leadership positions at UI with students’ best interest in mind.