Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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The Aberdeen American News published an editorial today with the intended purpose of advocating that Northern State Univeristy join the rest of the state's univerisities in scientific research. The world, especially its scientific, literary, educational, and economic components, would be a better place if the editorial had never seen print.
The writer must have made a list of all the current cliches to be found in the most banal media and determined to use them all in one editorial.* Besides trotting out mindless cliches, the piece evinces bad reporting, profound ignorance, and utter cognitive failure. As an editorial that ostensibly encourages intellectual activity, it reflects a mental environment that is the last place where genuine scholarship and intellectual creativity could occur.
It berates NSU for not proposing an area of scientific research in which to engage with other universities that are embarking on a program to obtain some attention for the state in scientific research. South Dakota has studiously refused to support research as a mission of its universities. It ranks 50th among the states in research and development in the private sector, 50th in federally funded research and 50th in the number of patents and copyrights issued, and 50th in the number of Ph.D programs it has. South Dakota ranks last in per capita research spending - lower than even Puerto Rico, Guam or the Virgin Islands.
The Governor and Board of Regents are putting $2.8 million into four new research centers intended to put the universities on the map of research institutions. This expenditure is ironic because the Board of Regents has carefully tended the system so that it has remained the most backward university system in terms of research in the nation. The problem is that in the last quarter century, governors have not appointed people to the Board of Regents who have academic backgrounds. Rather, it has appoinetd lawyers, accountants, and a few other professionals who toe the political line and have the patronizing attitude that professors are dangers to conservative politics if they are allowed to do too much research and scholarship. Ironically, these are the people who are now promoting research, not out of any real interest or knowledge of areas in which the state can participate in research, but out of embarrassment at the state's perennial ranking as dead last in areas of intellectual activity.
The Regents have never paid any attention to the research possibilities at NSU. While some notable research has been done at NSU, none of it has had the support of the state higher education agencies. Rather, professors have sought outside funding for their projects and have spent their own money on them.
The Aberdeen American News misreports the situation at NSU in regard to research. Its editorial staff clearly has not the vaguest notion of what it takes to do research in terms of faculty workloads and facilities support. It berates NSU for not applying to be part of research funded by the state, but it is not even aware of program cuts, faculty reductions, and the impediments put in the way of faculty and staff for any significant research in any of the arts and sciences at NSU.
For the Governor and Board of Regents, we suggest that if they want to help NSU and the rest of the system grow, they should start listening to their faculty, not the political hacks on the Board. And for the Aberdeen American News, we suggest that it just shut up or send its staff to NSU's Writing Center for remediation. Its bad information and bad writing can do more to harm any intellectual effort put forth at NSU than help it.
*Oh, here is a partial list of the cliches in that one editorial:
- It is an exciting time at NSU
- a cornerstone for economic development
- establish a research center from the get go
- Northern's plate has been full
- research center bandwagon
- hit the ground running
- a cutting edge
- outside the box
- research center game plan
- get in the game