Save Open Space

During the summer of 2013, members of the faculty of the University of Montana developed a series of community forums regarding the relationships of the Missoula Colllege to the University and to the City of Missoula. These open public discussions were intended to provide a fair and balanced overview of the potential future of higher education in Missoula. The faculty organizers titled the series:

Seeking Opportunity & Excellence among Town and Gown

A dialogue through a series of community forums

Forum #1 – Local Governance & the Missoula College
June 25, 2013.. 7.00pm.. City Council Chambers

Forum #2 – Jobs & the Local Economy
July 23, 2013 7.00pm City Council Chambers

Forum #3 – THE VISION: The future of higher education in Missoula
August 29, 2013 7.00pm  City Council Chambers
....................................................................................................................................................................
All three forums were held in Missoula City Council Chambers, moderated by Jim Parker of WestRidge Creative.  Of the three proposed forums, only the first one can be considered representative of what public forums should be.  All seven invited participants were present, and the discussions were lively and informative.  This is a link to the MCAT Community Forum in June  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF68Mz-trBw   Much came out in this forum that still needs to be addressed.  And, although the East Broadway location has been selected for Missoula College, it is worth reviewing the alternatives that might have been considered had the University sought real public involvement.

The Missoulian refused to report these forums, even though reporter Martin Kidston did attend the first one.  The University President and the City Government withdrew from the second and third forums.  Thus, although these were public forums, the agencies most responsible to the public refused to participate.  The following announcements were available to describe formats for the forums.  The panelists who did participate can only speculate on the refusal of those who did not.  The MCAT links for the first two forums are posted here.  The third will be posted when it becomes available.
...................................................................................................................................................................

FORUM #1: Tuesday June 25, 2013 at 7pm
.

Theme: Local Governance & the Missoula College http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF68MztrBw

Question: “In your view, what is the educational mission of the Missoula College and how does it align with the current role of the Missoula College? As we look ahead, what will students and the local community need from, and want for the Missoula College?”

Panelists:
1] Dr. Mehrdad Kia, Professor, Department of History, UM (U For UM Faculty);
2] Peggy Kuhr, VP for Integrated Communications, UM (UM President’s Office);
3] L. Jack Lyon, PhD., President, AFM (Advocates for Missoula’s Future);
4] Asa Hohman, President, Associated Students of the University of Montana (ASUM);
5] Alex Taft, Missoula City Councilor, Ward 3 (Missoula City Council);
6] Michele Landquist, Missoula County Commissioner, Chair (Missoula County Commissioners);
7] Joe Knapp, Trustee (Missoula County Public School Board).


FORUM #2: Tuesday July 23, 2013 at 7pm
.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YshqB08Daac

Theme: Jobs & the Local Economy—What makes a campus? How are they related?

Question: “What are the economic and community impacts of where the Missoula College is located?”

Panelists:
1] Michael Mayer, Professor, Department of History, UM (U For UM Faculty);
2] UM President’s Office; Declined to participate
3] Renee Mitchell, Fmr. City Council, Ward 5 (Advocates for Missoula’s Future);
4] Asa Hohman, President, Associated Students of the University of Montana (ASUM);
5] Missoula City Office of Development Services; Declined to participate
6] John Snively (University Area Homeowner’s Association);
7] Tom Roy (Former Director of UM’s Environmental Studies Program.

“I’m very disappointed that the two public entities (read: tax payer funded) have declined to participate,” said Jim Parker the organizer and moderator for the Forums. “It’s in their best interest to be responsive to the public they serve and share what they know even if it’s not when they think it should happen. No wonder citizens wonder what’s going on, it’s a shame.”
The MCAT filming of this forum is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YshqB08Daac

Forum #3 ­­ Thursday August 29, 2013 • 7:00pm

Theme: “THE VISION: The future of higher education in Missoula—How do we plan together, who’s in charge?”

Question: “How shall we continue and conduct open communication about the challenges and opportunities of planning the Missoula College?

Panelists:
1] Professor Linda Frey from the UM Department of History, U For UM Faculty;
2] Lewie Schneller, Advocates for Missoula’s Future;
3] Asa Holman, President, Associated Students of the University of Montana (ASUM);
4] Montana State Representative, Republican ‘Doc’ Moore (former HD 91);
5] Montana State Representative, Democrat Doug Coffin (former HD 93).
(invited) Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian; unavailable (invited) UM President’s Office; declined to participate
(invited)Former Congressman and Regent Pat Williams; unavailable
(invited) A current Regent; unable to participate
(invited) Dean Barry Good, Missoula College; unable to participate
(invited) Mayor John Engen; unable to participate

Invited Guests: The citizens of the City of Missoula and Missoula County; The Governor’s Office; The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education; Missoula County Legislators; The Missoula Mayor’s office; and the media.

An introductory remark by Representative Doc Moore emphasized the problem in this process when he said, “I have been disturbed by the promise from President Engstrom that there will be public forums once we have a decision. At that point, it is no longer a forum. It is simply another presentation.”

Rather than summarizing individual presentations from the Forums, this Missoulian Guest Column appeared on September 3rd.  It is very comprehensive and essentially summarizes the discussions from all three forums.
....................................................................................................................................................................
Blending UM, Missoula College demeans missions of both
Missoulian
September 03, 2013 •  Guest column by MICHEL VALENTIN and 24 CO-SIGNERS

In a recent Missoulian interview, University of Montana President Royce Engstrom called on the university and the Missoula community to move forward and leave behind several agonizing years of embarrassing publicity, governmental investigations, dramatic decline in enrollment, and significant cuts to the academic offerings at UM.

While it is understandable that any beleaguered leader would wish to leave behind a discomforting record, one can legitimately ask the questions: How do you intend to move forward? And, move forward toward what?

If the guest opinion column by associate provost for global century education Arlene Walker-Andrews (Missoulian, July 23) is any indication of where the UM administration is heading and how it intends to approach the present crisis at the university, we need to pause and wonder whether the problem all along has not been a fundamental lack of vision by a leadership long on adding high-paying administrative positions and adopting a mouthful of commercial jargon and titles (Global Century, Integrated Communication, Thrive, etc.) but short on analytical foresight and genuine commitment to discuss publicly and openly the future direction of the university.

Among all the problematic arguments raised by Walker-Andrews, perhaps the most alarming is the attempt by the university administration to justify blending UM’s four-year curriculum with that of Missoula College and its two-year programs. To expect a truly workable synergy to emerge from this “pre-arranged marriage” is, to say the least, disingenuous.

Although, it may sound administratively convenient, the proposed “blending” of the Missoula College and UM is demeaning to the missions of both. To juxtapose two radically different institutions, with the hope that their merging will somehow benefit all, is destructively naïve and simplistic. Osmosis always implies a dilution of both systems and their missions.

Four-year universities and two-year community colleges have separate missions, constituencies and objectives. Four-year research universities offer students a holistic liberal arts education, focusing on the development of critical and creative thinking. This process has a fundamentally separate purpose and a longer time frame than what is desired by many Missoula College students. Those Missoula College students who do wish to pursue a four-year degree can transfer and complete their education at UM.

UM and Missoula College are separate, but not because schools such as Missoula College lack arts/sciences courses. As a comprehensive two-year institution, the Missoula College offers arts and sciences courses for not only transfer students, but also for students in applied and occupational fields. Missoula College students in occupational programs do not need to attend UM arts and sciences classes not because they are less intelligent or talented, but because they pursue a different set of professional and employment objectives than UM students who start at university-level.

Schools such as Missoula College are better prepared than four-year universities to train students in an occupational program or to develop their academic potential so that they can transfer and finish a four-year degree elsewhere. Accordingly, Missoula College faculty members are required to have only a masters of arts to teach arts and sciences subjects. Missoula College’s role and mission, although clear to many, seems confusing and overwhelming to a UM administration that is determined to impose an untested and malformed model on UM and Missoula College.

The academic and curricular merger between the University of Montana and the Missoula College hides a reactionary political agenda behind an egalitarian façade. While claiming to diminish differences between UM and Missoula College through integrating the two institutions, it will, in fact, erode the very intellectual foundation and academic mission of a genuine four-year, as well as a strong two-year, education.

UM faces continuing decline in enrollment and a gloomy budgetary forecast, which might involve additional cuts in academic programs and classes. At such a time, blending UM and Missoula College might seem to offer an easy and quick solution, one that would increase UM’s enrollment figures and boost revenues. However, like all momentarily easy and simple solutions, the long-term impacts of such a move might in future prove irreparable.
.....................................................................................................................................................................
The Missoulian refusal to report the three forums created this sequence of communications:
.......................................................................................................................................................................

Communications with the Missoulian............concerning the first public forum.

Email from L.Jack Lyon, copied to Sherry Devlin and Martin Kidston in June 26,

> We’ve come to expect biased reporting, but Martin Kidstron set some new standards for the Missoulian this morning. He finally managed to report on a public forum that took place last Tuesday, cherry-picked the discussions to provide a story quite divergent from the real event, failed entirely to determine or even mention the actual sponsor, and created a position statement for the Advocates for Missoula’s Future that is an absolute falsehood. On the remote possibility of a printed correction, the sponsor was Jim Parker of WestridgeCreative, and the driving force behind this first in a series of three public forums came from within the tenured faculty of the University of Montana. AFM has taken no position on the East Broadway location, and has never mentioned “cease and desist” in relation to properties other than the historic athletic fields purchased by UM Alumni in the 1930s. The forum was filmed by MCAT, and the best we can hope for is that someone at the Missoulian will review those films for an accurate report. An accurate report on the statement by Mehrdad Kia, for example, would reveal a whole new vision of the actual event


Reply from Missoulian..............


On 6/28/13 7:55 AM, Sherry Devlin wrote:

> Jack,

> Here are a few inaccuracies in your email.

> The Missoulian has asked Jim Parker repeatedly who is the sponsor for the forums -- who he is working for. I myself have asked him that question. He has said he is not working for anyone, although he obviously is working for or is a member of the Advocates based on the way he set up the panel and moderated the discussion this week. There was no reason to identify Mr. Parker or his marketing agency in the story.

> Two, it is the newspaper's job to report on the new information presented. That came from Alex Taft, talking about the city's interest in the East Broadway area and his concerns that there might not be enough room there for both student housing and Missoula College. I asked Martin to follow up with Mr Taft after the meeting and to flesh out that information more completely, as again, it was the new information we could deliver to readers. I also asked him to check in with the state commissioner of higher education's office, to update the readers on the timetable for the decision.

> The purpose of today's story in the Missoulian was to further our coverage -- not to provide a rehash of statements made by all parties to this controversy over the past year. Therefore, we focused on the new information.

> We have published many, many lengthy stories and guest columns in the Missoulian featuring members of the Advocates and also Professor Kia, highlighting all of their concerns about the university and Missoula College. All of those folks -- including you -- have received very, very significant coverage in the newspaper.

> As always, feel free to contact me at any time by phone, 523-5250 or by email at this address.

> Sherry Devlin

> Missoulian editor


Comment by Jim Parker on Devlin reply.....................


Subject: Re: Missoulian

Date: Friday, June 28, 2013 10:44 AM

Sherry,

Just for the record, and to correct your assumptions:

You say,

*"The Missoulian has asked Jim Parker repeatedly who is the sponsor for the forums -- who he is working for. I myself have asked him that question. He has said he is not working for anyone, although he obviously is working for or is a member of the Advocates based on the way he set up the panel and moderated the discussion this week."*


I'll answer you the same way I did when you asked the first and only time: I am not working for anyone. I am not getting paid. I am not a member of the Advocates (you didn't ask me that the first time, or ever). I alone invited the panelists and moderated the conversation. Were you there? Sounds like you did not like how I moderated the panel.


I don't expect, want, or need recognition...it's not about me, but accuracy would be nice without assumptions.


Thank you for your attention to detail next time.


Jim

--

Jim Parker, Owner

WestRidge Creative

PO Box 8492

Missoula, Montana 59807

(406) 396-0985

www.WestRidgeCreative.com


Comments by L. Jack Lyon on Devlin's reply.................


> Two, it is the newspaper's job to report on the new information presented.”


If we are to believe this assertion, it must also mean that new information includes any kind of unverified assumption by the editor [see Parker comment above] or any inaccurate statement that appears in the newspaper story. For example:


The group looks to block development of the college anywhere but at Fort Missoula, and it has filed a cease-and-desist order threatening the Montana University System with a lawsuit if it builds on the South Campus or East Broadway properties.”

This statement is a total fabrication invented by Martin Kidston in support of an obviously biased report. It is provably inaccurate based on the content of the letter from Attorney Quentin Rhoades which has been available to the Missoulian since first mailing on May 5, 2013.


Second example, from the Missoulian story:

Last year, group members [of the Advocates] initially shaped their argument as one to save open space, that being the golf course on the South Campus. When the state announced its alternative East Broadway location, the group shifted its focus, saying Missoula College must be separated from UM both in mission and proximity.”

This also is a biased and inaccurate interpretation of the three objectives listed on the Advocates website (saveopen.info) more than two years ago, and never modified.


Finally, a complete review of Missoulian reporting going back at least three years would disprove this statement:


> We have published many, many lengthy stories and guest columns in the Missoulian featuring members of the Advocates and also Professor Kia,”


The Missoulian has, indeed, been extremely generous with guest columns and letters to the editor concerning the athletic fields and Missoula College. The Missoulian has NOT, however, published a single story featuring the facts, history, and materials made available to their reporter by the Advocates. The Missoulian has never interviewed any representative of the Advocates, or published any story featuring any member of the Advocates and has in fact gone out of the way to invent untrue statements attributed to the Advocates. We agree with Jim Parker, that accuracy would be nice without assumptions.

....................................................................................................................................................................