Leonard Hitchcock

 

POCATELLO – Four days after a column by Leonard Hitchcock that was satirically critical of Idaho State University President Arthur Vailas appeared in the Journal, the professor emeritus has been fired from his part-time job at the university library.

 

Last Sunday's column by Hitchcock referred to President Vailas as “King Arthur” and said that “when there is seditious talk of political rights and faculty governance, the king must adopt a stern aloofness and wield his authority without hesitation.”

 

Hitchcock had been acting head of special collections at the Eli M. Oboler Library on a part-time hourly wage since January. Dean of the ISU library, Sandra Shopshire, is out of the country on a Rotary exchange trip to Southeast Asia with her husband, so ISU librarian Jenny Lynne Semenza gave Hitchcock the news Thursday morning.

According to Hitchcock, Semenza told him ISU interim provost Barbara Adamcik had called her and instructed her to tell Hitchcock he was fired. A Thursday call to Adamcik was not returned, but ISU's Director of Marketing and Communication, Mark Levine said the provost would not comment on the firing.

“We do not comment on personnel issues,” Levine said.

Hitchcock is more than willing to comment on the loss of his job – one he did as an unpaid volunteer for five years before he began receiving $11 per hour in January.

“I can't say I was surprised,” Hitchcock said. “I can only speculate, but it may be they only recently discovered they were paying me.”

Sunday's column wasn't the first opinion piece written by Hitchcock which was critical of the Valais administration and its handling of a lengthy dispute over shared governance on campus. In the past two years two faculty senates have been dissolved with the blessing of the Idaho State Board of Education. Elections for a new faculty senate will be held next fall. ISU remains without a faculty constitution and bylaws and faculty unrest led to votes of no confidence in previous provost, Gary Olson and President Vailas.

Hitchcock said he has watched the events unfold with a critical eye and he has shared his observations with Journal readers. He said he had witnessed what the calls a “widespread resentment of the authoritarian mode of this administration.”

“It's a commonly held view among faculty that Vailas takes retribution,” Hitchcock said. “It strikes me this (his firing) is a political reaction by the administration.”

Before retiring in 2006, Hitchcock had been a full time professor at ISU for 21 years working as a humanities bibliographer and head of the collections division at the library. He served as acting dean of the library for one year. Prior to his arrival at Idaho State, Hitchcock taught at Cal State-Fullerton in California and Mohave Community College in Arizona. He was granted Professor Emeritus status by the university in 2006, the year Vailas was hired as president by the SBOE.

Although Hitchcock has served as a subsitute for the library's elected representative on the Provisional Faculty Senate at ISU during a couple of meetings during it's one-year attempt to draft a new faculty constituiton this past school year, he said he really wasn't politically involved in campus politics during his career.

During his working hours at the university, Hitchcock said he has never written anything critical of the administration. However, columns written on his own time for a wider audience have taken the Vailas administration to task. He had sharp words for the administration's decision to ignore a faculty constitution approved by a 201 to 98 vote this past fall.

“It is no doubt disappointing for a monarch to discover that there are nay-sayers within his realm, but when this occurs, firmness and discipline are called for.” Hitchcock wrote in Sunday's op-ed piece.

He said Thursday's firing proves his point.

Although the university has suspended his part-time pay, Hitchcock said he hopes to continue work he has stared on important collections at the ISU library as a volunteer. He said he had made plans with Dr. Shopshire to create a display on the works and correspondence of Idaho journalist and politician, Perry Swisher and much of the preliminary work is done.

“It's a great collection,” Hitchcock said before enthusiastically sharing snippets of Swisher's history. He shared that the longtime Idaho newspaperman also served as both a Democrat and a Republican in the Idaho Legislature and did a stint as a member of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

“He was a bit of a wunderkind,” Hitchcock said. “His work would make a great display.”

So even though the university administration has eliminated his paultry paycheck, Hitchcock plans to continue his work for ISU.

“I guess I'll go back to being a volunteer, unless I'm banned from campus,” he said.