A Commentary On A Comment…

I try and publish all the comments submitted on my blog.  Occasionally I will choose not to publish a comment, either because it adds nothing constructive to the discussion or is downright hateful or disrespectful. But I do recognize that some of these comments I do not post deserve my comment.  As such, I tend to reply back to folks whose comments I don’t post, either to clarify something or to explain why I didn’t post their comment.  Indeed, sometimes I reply back with a thank you to readers who point out an error or omission in a blog entry.

Every once in a rare while a comment will be the genesis of another blog post.  Such is the case with Don’s comment on the Senate Bill 2326…don’t drink the Kool-Aid! blog post.

Don said:

“I love all these opinions from ivory tower professors who couldn’t find Williston or Watford City on a map. They rely on bs from publications like National Geographic and the NY Times but wouldn’t dare actually drive out to western ND to look around. I’m sure you are against the license plate redesign because you would rather see that money go to more wasteful higher Ed spending.”

Well now Don, let’s chat about some of the assumptions you made in your statement.

1.  Thank you for dropping me into the group of “ivory tower professors who couldn’t find Williston or Watford City on a map.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ivory tower as “an impractical often escapist attitude marked by aloof lack of concern with or interest in practical matters or urgent problems.”  I hardly think I reside there.  I have pressing concerns and a distinct interest in the practical matters of how the State of North Dakota fosters oil extraction and the urgent problems the oil extraction has been causing.

Did you mean to label all faculty from higher education institutions as belonging in this state of rarefied air that exists in academia?  Air so thin that they are disconnected from the realities of society…is that the ivory tower you envision? If you really do believe that all the folks who teach in these institutions are out-of-touch and only able to form their views based on what they hear or read from others – well then, the world is in real trouble.  These are the folks educating the youth of America.

I can tell you from my own experience that the air isn’t all that rare where I am at and faculty members are not bumbling fools with no independent thought.  You can rest assured that at NDSU in particular, a land grant university with service as a key portion of its mission, the faculty is well-grounded in the reality of the communities and state the university serves.  And I can tell you that I am sure that they can point out Williston and  Watford City on a map (and of note, so can I).  In fact, I am sure some of our faculty members have traveled to those areas during their tenure with the university.

2. You assert that the ivory tower professors “rely on bs from publications like National Geographic and the NY Times but wouldn’t dare actually drive out to western ND to look around.”

Three things:

First, if National Geographic and the New York Times are publications that publish “bs”, then what publications would you recommend to fairly and accurately report on the topics of fracking, environmental degradation, community identity, infrastructure, safety, energy complexities, and the myriad of other topics that deserve examination and discussion in regard to North Dakota’s oil patch?

Second, there are many faculty who would love to conduct research out in the patch, but there are some real trials with doing so – the most pressing is a place to stay.  As for your assumption that they would not “dare” drive out there – I am confused.  Are you saying it is a dangerous enterprise to visit Williston, Watford City and the other areas populated with oil workers in Western North Dakota?  If you are, then you are yourself signaling a dangerous shift in the identity of this section of North Dakota which has heretofore been filled with kind, gracious, and caring North Dakotans who are committed to creating and maintaining strong, healthy communities.

Third, do you mean to say that folks cannot legitimately form grounded opinions about goings-on if they do not physically visit a place?  Does that mean that you have no opinions about any place you have never visited?  You have no opinion about nuclear testing in North Korea, combat in Afghanistan, or shootings at school and university campuses in other states?  Do you diminish the ability of thinking folks to examine all the facts involved in a situation and come to a sound conclusion based on their belief system, education, etc.?

3. You assert: “I’m sure you are against the license plate redesign because you would rather see that money go to more wasteful higher Ed spending.”

You make two assumptions above.  The underlying assumption in your statement is that higher education spending is wasteful and it is followed with an assumption that I would like to redirect the license plate money to such wasteful spending.  You are wrong on both assumptions.

I always waffle a bit at folks’ assumptions that spending decisions made at an administrative level have anything to do with worker bees like faculty and staff.  We may have “input”, but we are relative plankton when it comes to the big money decisions at the university.  And I can personally assure you in regard to NDSU staff and faculty salaries that no one is running away with the golden goose.  Indeed, our faculty salaries have historically ranked at the bottom of the list nationally; and, our staff could probably make at least 25% more money in a similar private sector position. Good people work at NDSU and I object to any statement that even remotely suggests that they are paid too much.

Now, if your remarks are generated based on the old  Joe Chapman spending debacle, it is time to move on.  Things have changed.  The free-wheeling spending that went on under Chapman’s direction (mostly for Chapman’s own benefit) was stopped years ago.  Feel free to go back to those days in my blog archives.  I wrote about my disdain for the fallout Chapman left for NDSU as he moseyed off into the sunset with a wad of money.  I was not a fan of the way he left so many others with little, to no, power holding the bag.  But as I said, NDSU has moved on.

NDSU is a large institution with what appears to be a very large budget.  I can understand why folks who are unfamiliar with the nuances of operations on campus have difficulty fathoming how all that money is spent.  The reality is, it isn’t all that large a budget at all given everything it is supporting.  Plus, faculty and staff bring in millions annually via grants and that money supports the university infrastructure and many positions as well.

As for my objection to the license plates being tied to funneling more money to higher education – this is not the case at all.  I would object to the plates doing anything that honors or memorializes oil even if there was no cost involved.  But since there is – potentially 6.2 million – I would rather see that money go toward programs that support K-12 schools, children’s health, mental health services, or programs invested in animals’ well-being.  The Governor has a line item in his budget for higher education – the state’s commitment to higher education is clear.  But yes, it is true – I do have a hard time seeing our state put license plates before the needs of people or creatures.

Here is the bottom line Don, the assumptions in your comment above are not fully informed; however, I wanted to allow you your voice. I allowed your comment even though I thought it to be offensive to higher education as a whole, and faculty in particular.  Now that I have cleared this up by providing you with accurate information and some things for you to reflect upon, I trust you will have a better-informed view of where I am coming from and will refrain from such broad sweeping assumptions in the future.

Day one thousand three hundred and twenty-two of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C