You can check out the FOXNews.com story here; like all reporting, it isn’t perfect.
Of course, that’s better than CNN which isn’t covering this story at all. Let me emphasize that not reporting at all is a form of reporting too.
The somewhat better coverage in the local news is here.
There’s a bit of a firestorm on campus, with an official letter of clarification sent out to faculty by SUU’s new president after coverage on the local radio turned … hmmm … misinformative.
Here’s the straight story:
- Harry Reid is a 1959 graduate of SUU’s former incarnation as the 2-year College of Southern Utah.
- SUU’s last president was a pretty good fundraiser.
- Under SUU’s last president, a number of campus “engagement centers” were created. These were in name only; they aren’t supported much in the way of line items in the budget, and are intended to attract external funding.
- One of these was named after Harry Reid. There was a pretty obvious notion that supporters of Reid would contribute money to support the new center. I don’t think anyone had any illusions that they’d most likely have to be supporters from outside of Utah.
- Basically no money came in to support the Harry Reid Center and it never opened in an official sense (whatever “opened” means when you use bureaucratic-speak about whatever the heck an engagement center actually is).
- The Harry Reid Center was later merged with another center which had low, albeit better, support.
- The Harry Reid name was retained on the merged center, again, thinking he’d have some supporters that would contribute money.
- There was confusion because there is no basis in public knowledge for attaching Harry Reid’s name to an “Outdoor Engagement” center. Management of the Outdoor Engagement Center pointed out that the name was not benefitting them.
- The concept of outdoor engagement continues to attract some external funding, while the Harry Reid name brings in nothing to SUU.
- So administration split the centers again. SUU retains a Harry Reid center (feel free to donate to support it).
- The current SUU president stated explicitly that donations for outdoor engagement that were contingent on removing Harry Reid’s name from that center were declined.
You can make what you want of that. I report, you decide.
As a business professor, I will note that this sounds like a typical problem in brand management that probably does not deserve a firestorm. Executive decisions about weak brands are often messy.
The really big implication here is that Harry Reid is not a brand that’s successful: nationally, Democrats ought to think long and hard about what it means to have a Senate majority leader whose brand even they don’t support.
And heck … as an economist, I’ll point out that if you’re a Democrat the marginal benefit of donating money on behalf of a Harry Reid center would be highest if that center was located in one of the reddest states.
Finally, would it be cynical or realistic of me to point out that this is prima facie evidence that perhaps the contemporary Democratic party really doesn’t care much about the red states?
FWIW: I quipped in the office that if SUU wanted to name something after Harry Reid that was relevant to his time here, perhaps it should be the general studies or associates degree programs … since we were a 2-year school when he was here.