Monday, June 25, 2007

Let's review 

On Saturday's show, we did a rather obscure story that I'd like to review now and provide some background.

A seat is available on the MnSCU Board of Trustees for a student from one of the four-year universities in the system (one of which is SCSU.) The current holder, Michael Boulton, goes off on June 30.

Chapter 136F of the Minnesota Statutes governs MnSCU and specific provisions are provided for the selection of trustees. 136F.04 covers the student board members' selection, assigning them "the responsibility for recruiting, screening, and recommending qualified candidates" to the board. They can recommend between two to four. The statute explicitly states that the governor "is not bound by these recommendations." The student association covering the four-year universities is the Minnesota State University Student Association (MSUSA.)

During the show we reviewed first the case of Luke Hellier. Luke is a graduate of St. John's University, has been active in Republican politics both on and off the campus, and has experience in SJU student government. I met him while he was at SJU and active with Students Fostering Conservative Thought; I have spoken as well to the campus' College Republicans chapter. Luke says he is enrolled for classes this fall at MSU-Mankato for a masters degree in public administration. He tells that upon speaking with Boulton, and realizing he met the requirements for the position, he decided to apply for the post. Using the Open Appointments process meant he filled out a form. He reports that last week, he was interviewed for the position. Nothing on that form indicated to him that he should speak to MSUSA for screening, nor did anyone from the governor's office when they interviewed him.

We also interviewed Adam Weigold, a candidate who went through MSUSA screening. When I asked how he knew of the post opening, he reported that as someone affiliated with MSUSA he was aware of the process anyway. How was the position advertised? I asked. He replied that it was up to campus student government presidents to make the position known to people on their campuses. While Adam was very supportive of Luke's candidacy, he felt that Luke should have known this process by finding the statute.

That's a fair enough point. But what I would ask is, when the statute says (136F.02) that "Three members must be students who are enrolled at least half time in a degree, diploma, or certificate program or have graduated from an institution governed by the board within one year of the date of appointment." (emphasis added), it clearly contemplates the applicant pool to include a student entering school. Nobody disputes this. And this would appear to be the case: The entering student would be a graduate student coming to a MnSCU school. We do not offer doctorates (yet) and master's programs typically take two years. So it's most likely that if grad students are contemplated to join the board, they would most likely join it at the very beginning of their enrollment in a program. Without the provision I italicized, it is unlikely that graduate students could gain the 4-year student seat on the MnSCU board.

Yet the system by which MSUSA announces the process it uses is exclusionary to those who would enter a program a few months after the announcement of a vacancy. It puts candidates like Luke at a disadvantage to insiders within MSUSA and the seven campus student governments.

If you think that's fair -- that there should be preference for current over incoming students, even if the incoming student has experience in student government from a non-MnSCU school -- you're welcome to argue that point. Please indicate how you read that into current Minnesota statute.

Enter last week's folderol from the leftist blogs inspired by Hal Kimball. Long-time readers of the Scholars are familiar with Mr. Kimball. He is a past student government president. During his tenure his student government helped get a man elected homecoming queen, interfering enough with the campus' student finances that its student finance committee quit en masse, and causing enough ruckus with the student newspaper to have its editor make Kimball the focus of his valedictory editorial, including these famous words:
Kimball is a whiny, two-faced, corrupt liar- all of the personality traits of a politician. He probably has a good career ahead of him.
The career path was rather evident early on. The year before Kimball became president of the student government, SCSU's students voted to remove themselves from MSUSA. To do so requires legislation, so the vote was to bind student government to seek that legislation. Throughout early 2004 the debate raged, and when Kimball won election that April, he indicated he would still abide by the students' preferences.
Kimball and [VP Bianca] Rhodes [who also tried to quit as Kimball's VP during the finance flap in 2/05 but was persuaded to stay] intend to keep the pressure on, they said.

"We will still be working on the MSUSA issue," Rhodes said. "That is very important to the students and student government."
But in the greatest about-face since Gomer Pyle, Kimball not only does not press for SCSU's departure from MSUSA, he becomes its chair. In a scathing editorial of Kimball's tenure, the campus newspaper notes that this is "similar to President Bush becoming the head of the United Nations after his term."

So those who think I might have been a little over-the-top last Saturday on my show should review this fellow who you have followed into your calumny over Luke Hellier's legitimate candidacy for the MnSCU Board. Is it really about protecting the recommending authority of MSUSA -- a body that Hal Kimball has both said he wanted SCSU students out of, and then became chair of -- or is it in fact about the politics of Luke?

After reading the facts above, and reading Hal's post, you decide: Does this look like the post of a 35-year-old adult that should serve on a board of MnSCU to you?

UPDATE: Michael looks at the reporting and finds it lacking.

UPDATE 2 (10pm): Since some people are missing key points, let's review again:
  1. I don't really care if Mr. Hellier wins or loses the Board seat. I think he is qualified, but it is reasonable to assume all three candidates are. Having not interviewed one and having only talked briefly to the other two, I'm in no position to pick. Nor is that my job: It's Governor Pawlenty's.
  2. Mr. Kimball is not a student at SCSU at this time. Having left the university, he is not subject to any special consideration from me as a faculty member. I checked this before agreeing to do the story on the show by establishing he no longer had an email account at the university. He has never been in one of my classes and his resume indicates he left the university in 2006.
  3. Reporting on his past at the university goes to motive. Mr. Kimball is a political actor in this issue; the post I offered of his above shows a political argument disqualifying his contention that the issue is about the MSUSA recommendation. Even in his questions he would ask of Mr. Hellier, he makes Hellier's work with the Bachmann campaign an issue. There is no political qualifications or disqualifications for a Board position. And his inconsistent position on MSUSA ("it's not your daddy's MSUSA") should call his judgment on the MSUSA recommendation into question. The target of his post is not Hellier but Pawlenty, and his willingness to smear Hellier with misrepresentations to get at Pawlenty is in fact part of a pattern of behavior.
  4. We are grateful for the listenership of the leftist blogs to our show. We are glad you found it entertaining. That is, in fact, what we do. We both inform and entertain. If leftists could figure this out, maybe they'd draw more than a 9% share of the talk radio format.

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