Mission statements for the University of Idaho, Boise State University and Idaho State University were tweaked this month in order to promote a climate that is "consistent and collegial in nature rather than comparative or competitive."
So says State Board of Education President Richard Westerberg in a guest opinion sent out this afternoon.
Westerberg further explains the board's controversial decision to strike the word "flagship" from the University of Idaho's mission:
"There was much thoughtful, and sometimes spirited, discussion about proposed updates. The proposed mission statement for the University of Idaho included the term 'flagship,' which was not used in previous mission statements and was not deemed appropriate by the board."
Here is Westerberg's guest opinion:
At a time when our state is beginning to recover from a long and difficult recession, our focus must be on how to work together to capitalize on Idaho’s strengths and position ourselves to benefit from a stronger economy.
Higher education provides a path to success for Idaho citizens. No one, least of all our students, is served by divisiveness over which institution can claim to be the best. All of our colleges and universities should be focused on how they can provide the best education to students not whether they can stake claims to prominence or superiority.
Each of our state’s public higher education institutions has an important heritage and unique capabilities. Each could claim an undeniable designation of leadership in some area. The members of the State Board of Education have tremendous respect for all of Idaho’s public higher education institutions; however, their missions, first and foremost, should be to provide high-quality educational opportunities that prepare our citizens for lifelong success.
As part of the university accreditation process, from time to time the State Board must conduct a formal review and approval of institutional mission statements. The mission statement of any organization should center on the fundamental purpose the organization serves and the stakeholders who benefit. Institutional self-interest should not overshadow the intent of this statement.
The process of revising and updating the mission statements for Idaho’s public institutions of higher education began last fall in response to a change in accreditation requirements. In a unanimous decision at the February meeting, the board approved updated versions of the mission statements for all of the institutions.
There was much thoughtful, and sometimes spirited, discussion about proposed updates. The proposed mission statement for the University of Idaho included the term “flagship,” which was not used in previous mission statements and was not deemed appropriate by the board. The proposed mission statements for both Idaho State University and Boise State University were also revised and changes made in an effort to ensure all statements were consistent and collegial in nature rather than comparative or competitive.
It is more important now than ever that those involved at all levels of education work together in a spirit of collaboration to serve the needs of Idaho students. Fortunately, there are many examples of cooperation among our colleges and universities.
The three universities have partnered with great success in the research and development work being done at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, where faculty and student researchers are laying the foundation for secure, sustainable energy options for the future.
The College of Southern Idaho has graciously provided administrative and systems support for the College of Western Idaho as they work to establish their own systems and processes to serve a burgeoning student body.
This week all eight of Idaho’s public higher education institutions partnered to hold the Idaho Economic Development Summit. This meeting brought together business, government, economic development organizations and higher education to discuss how to improve higher education’s contribution to the success of Idaho’s economy.
These efforts that look to our future success and prosperity deserve the kind of attention and support which is, instead, being spent on a single, outdated word.