“Mean and petty?”

 

As regular readers of this page already know, I am on a mission to critique the lame excuses, fallacious arguments, and egregious violations of the accepted standards of argument and evidence so relentlessly offered up by influential members of the ISU community.  

 

When Tony Hendrickson, chair of the Academic Affairs Council at ISU, was quoted in local newspapers referring to a proposal put forward in the Faculty Senate by Carl Mize, John Robyt, and Rick Hall as “mean spirited and petty,” my alarm went off again.

Two questions are at issue:

 

·        Is it in fact “mean spirited and petty” to object to the naming of the honors building after the former and still controversial president of ISU?

 

·        What is it about the cultural climate at ISU that would allow an influential representative of the faculty to engage in such ad hominem with impunity?


The naming of buildings was a theme throughout Jischke’s administration.

 

I first undertook my mission as a paparazza of rhetorical wrongs in response to the Catt Hall debacle, not because I cared much about the name of the building, but because I cared a great deal about how the students were being rhetorically brutalized. As an undergraduate student at ISU, Meron Wondwosen objected on September 29, 1995, only to a celebratory brochure portraying Carrie Chapman Catt as a paragon of virtue. She and the September 29th Movement that formed around her were always careful to acknowledge the good that Catt had done.

 

Our ersatz academic community was blindsided by the simple historical fact that the woman’s suffrage movement arose in the wake of a sense of betrayal after the long struggle for universal suffrage before the Civil War and was overlaid by resentment that “negroes fresh from slavery,” illiterate immigrants, and “savage Indians” could vote, while educated and refined women could not.  Academic integrity was the farthest thing from anyone’s mind when the students were accused of academic dishonesty in the newspapers, Free Speech Zones were mandated, and Jischke locked horns with Milton McGriff over introducing a moderator into their discussions.

 

After 22 years as VP for Student Affairs, you may recall, Thomas Thielen resigned in November 1995, taught one class in Spring 1996, then retired early. That’s all I know.  It is reported that when GSB proposed naming the new Health Center after Thielen in Fall 1996, Jischke became very angry.

 

Murray Blackwelder wrote a letter recommending the Honors Building be named for Jischke on June 7, 2000, to Randindra Mukerjea, first assistant to Jischke and chairman of the naming committee.  He requested that it be expedited so that the announcement could be made at Jischke’s July 12 farewell party.  It was approved at the July 17-19 meeting of the regents.

 

On July 18, 2000, Matt Ostanik, a GSB Senator, wrote a letter to the Iowa State Daily, asking why the rule was being waived for Jischke when GSB students were told, “the five-year rule is never waived, period.”  Ostanik said:This honor should not be given by trampling university policy fiercely defended in the past. The honor is devalued when the rules are bypassed.”  Like Wondwosen, Ostanik was careful to emphasize the positive.  He acknowledged the appropriateness of naming something after the former president after the passage of time.

 

I am the one who is saying that the quiet dedication ceremony for Thomas B. Thielen Student Health Center in Fall 2001 righted an old wrong.  When those in power insist on a strict interpretation of their own rules from others, then openly flaunt their privilege to violate those same rules, they don’t just undermine the social contract, they sneer in its face.

 

The ISU community achieved its rhetorical nadir when September 29th students were accused in the public press of academic dishonesty, while faculty scuffed the toes of their shoes in the dust and looked away.

 

Dissent is a symptom, not the cause of ISU’s image problems, and the rhetorical savaging of dissidents is no solution.

 

Virginia Allen

815 Seventh St

Ames, IA 50010