U of I president to leave in 2019

The State Board of Education and Chuck Staben have mutually agreed that the 2018-19 academic year will be Staben’s last as University of Idaho president.

Staben has been the U of I’s president since 2014, but he will leave next spring, when his contract expires. Meanwhile, the State Board is developing a request for proposal for a firm to lead the search to find new presidents at the U of I and Boise State University.

The State Board announced Staben’s departure in a brief news release issued late Friday morning.

“The board and President Staben agree this is the proper course to take,” said State Board President Linda Clark.  “I thank him for his service and I wish him the best.”

Shortly after the State Board’s announcement, Staben issued a letter to the U of I community, in which he said his time as president “has not been without contention.” He said his departure is unrelated to an ongoing sexual misconduct investigation in the U of I’s athletics department; Athletic Director Rob Spear has been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues.

“That review is proceeding, and a report will be available soon,” Staben said Friday.

Last fall, Staben was a finalist for the president’s job at the University of New Mexico. Staben interviewed on the campus in October, but UNM ultimately selected Garnett Stokes, an administrator from the University of Missouri. In his letter, Staben said his application at UNM “caused a distraction” for the U of I.

(To read Staben’s letter in full, scroll to the bottom of this story.)

A U of I news release touted several milestones during Staben’s time as president — such as effort to boost university research, now a $109 million undertaking; developing a nine-year strategic plan focused on increasing enrollment and improving student access to courses; staff training on Title IX issues; and bringing the idea of a new, on-campus basketball arena “from a dream to an achievable reality.”

Friday’s news leaves the State Board to fill, arguably, the two most visible administrative jobs in Idaho’s higher education system.

Boise State President Bob Kustra announced his retirement plans in November, but no successor is in place. After an initial search that attracted 53 candidates and carried a price tag of about $100,000, the State Board abruptly decided last week to start over.

For more details on the BSU president search, click here. 

The State Board will set a timeline for the U of I and Boise State searches once a firm is selected.

“The board will now focus on finding the next leaders for the University of Idaho and Boise State,” Clark said.

The U of I shakeup comes amidst historic turnover in the state’s higher education system. In April, the State Board named new presidents at Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College. Kevin Satterlee, former chief operating officer, vice president and special counsel at Boise State University — will take over at ISU in June. Cynthia Pemberton, vice president for academic affairs at Colorado Mesa University, will take the LCSC job on July 1.

Staben’s letter, released Friday

Dear Friends,
This is a difficult letter to write. But I have always been upfront with our Vandal family, and I know word travels fast. In a mutual decision reached with our State Board of Education, the upcoming 2018-2019 academic year will be my last as president of the University of Idaho.

The past four years have been personally very rewarding, and I am proud of what we have accomplished together. I know that the road we’ve traveled has not been without contention. My candidacy for another position in fall 2017 caused a distraction. We’ve had disagreements about the appropriate place for our football program and other topics. Not every decision has been popular, and some issues have been divisive.

Some may wonder whether this decision is related to recent, well-publicized sexual misconduct issues in our Athletics Department. This decision is not connected to our ongoing review of such issues; that review is proceeding, and a report will be available soon.

While some may focus on the more divisive issues, we have made significant progress together during these years in many key areas for the university. We’ve achieved consecutive years of enrollment increases, countering a national trend in the opposite direction, and have had student success efforts pay off with increases in retention — 82 percent last year. We’ve grown our annual research expenditures from $95.6 million in FY14 to $109.5 million in FY17 — the fuel behind innovation and discovery that makes an impact throughout Idaho and beyond. We have also set U of I records for fundraising.

In the year ahead, I am focused on continuing our university’s progress toward Strategic Plan goals and implementing key initiatives in support of those goals. These are big wins that will long outlive my time here. For instance, the ICCU Arena project continues to be a top priority — a much-needed space for student-athlete success and a showcase for Idaho wood construction. We have raised about $35 million in this $45 million project, with notable support from Idaho Central Credit Union, our student government, our alumni association, the U of I Foundation and others. Let’s work together to finish the fundraising and break ground this year to take this project over the finish line.

I also want to continue to improve our state’s college-going culture. The Direct Admissions program and other State Board of Education collaborations like Apply Idaho have laid the groundwork for bringing more Idaho students into the life-changing educational experiencewe offer at U of I. Higher education offers a way forward for our state’s citizens, who want to grow and learn and excel in the fast-changing, global economy. The outstanding success of our graduates — with unmatched career outcomes in our state — testifies to the importance of bringing more people into that experience. Let’s make sure we’re fighting for each and every student to grow and thrive at our university.

Innovation is another area of continued focus. Whether among our interdisciplinary teams at the Integrated Research and Innovation Center, at our Rock Creek Ranch rangeland research project, or in the humanities and social sciences, we have applied Vandal excellence to searching for solutions to critical problems and complex issues. One important initiative is the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE), the largest and most advanced research dairy in the country. We have a chance to apply our land-grant strengths to this interdisciplinary project in service to the largest agricultural industry in the state. It is vital we move this project forward.

We achieve excellence through a united effort. In the coming year, we must stay focused on achieving collaborative success, and on continuing to serve land-grant ideals in our educational, research and outreach missions to the state of Idaho and beyond. I am committed to offering stable leadership as we carry out this important work.

It is an honor and a privilege to be the president of the University of Idaho, and to have helped write a chapter in the nearly 130-year history of this university. Transitions like this are rarely easy. Thank you for your understanding, and for your support of the University of Idaho as we write our next chapters. Go Vandals!

 Chuck Staben


Idaho EdNews Staff

Idaho EdNews Staff

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