The First Step, Missoula, Is Admitting You Have A Problem

by William Skink

Missoula has a tech problem, and part of that problem is Missoula’s leadership doesn’t think we have a tech problem. They think we have tech solutions, and they are therefore falling over themselves to create tech corridors or tech campuses or whatever the current term is. Tech is going to bring a new dawn to Missoula, right?

The deep, driving urge to court and develop tech has produced a new opportunity in Missoula–and it’s not just the Israeli firm, 4Cast, coming to town. Nope, it’s a strengthening of ties with that totally not racist and very peaceful nation, Israel. But don’t take that from me, take it from the Consul General from San Francisco:

The deputy consul general of Israel on Tuesday credited her country’s strong alliance with the U.S. and the hard work of a Montana economic delegation for landing an Israeli tech firm, which plans to place its U.S. office in Missoula.

Ravit Baer with the Consulate General of Israel’s office in San Francisco, began a 36-hour swing through Missoula on Tuesday to establish diplomatic ties with local leaders and extend Israeli cultural interests.

“A vast majority of what we do is really centered in the Bay Area, just because the Silicon Valley is so important to the Israeli economy,” Baer said in an interview with the Missoula Current. “But we’re doing as much effort as we can to get to all our regions to enhance collaborations within those regions.”

How exciting to be helping the Israeli economy. It’s not like they execute un-armed Palestinians or anything, or have a prominent member of the media issue threats against a 16 year old girl who had the audacity to shock the apartheid state with a slap.

In case you didn’t catch what Ben Caspit said last year, after Ahed was arrested, here it is:

“In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras”

The only thing more shocking than Caspit putting this in print is the utter lack of horror and disgust from those allegedly concerned about the experiences of women at the hands of oppressive powers that seek to humiliate and control them.

The imminent arrival of 4Cast is not the only big tech news making headlines. Unfortunately for Seth Bodnar, his wife and her “advocacy” for the Messina Group is also making news (though the Missoulian quickly got that story off the “front page” of their website).

To summarize this problem, a non-staff spouse is asking for student data and outgoing VP, Tom Crady, thinks that’s problematic:

Chelsea Elander, the spouse of University of Montana President Seth Bodnar, has been playing a significant role in the flagship’s preparation for a recruitment project with The Messina Group, records show.

CEO Jim Messina, who led former President Barack Obama’s 2012 election to a second term in the White House, is a passionate UM alum and longtime friend of Elander’s who volunteered the data analytics expertise of his firm to help UM recruit students. UM has experienced a nearly 30 percent enrollment drop since 2010.

This semester, Elander has been a liaison between UM and The Messina Group in discussions about providing the firm with student and family records. According to UM legal counsel Lucy France, the campus has not given the firm any data.

However, an outgoing vice president is raising concerns about Elander’s requests for information. Tom Crady, vice president for enrollment and student affairs, said Elander does not hold an official job description with the campus, yet she has asked for private records on more than one occasion.

“I’ve worked for 12 college presidents in my career. I have never seen the level of involvement with a presidential spouse that I have seen here and the inappropriate requests for extremely confidential information,” said Crady, who was told in January his contract would not be renewed.

In an attempt to get ahead of this emerging scandal (and that’s what it is), Clayton Christian and his spineless board have already issued a response to the Missoulian article:

The University of Montana and the Montana University System stand firmly in support of Dr. Chelsea Bodnar, spouse of University of Montana President Seth Bodnar, for her efforts to assist the university in enhancing its recruiting efforts.

“We were delighted to know Chelsea would be a strong advocate for the University of Montana alongside of Seth when we hired him as President of the University,” Board of Regents Chair Fran Albrecht said. “The University has always had active spouses who contribute in a multitude of ways. Chelsea’s excitement and enthusiasm for increasing enrollment is to be celebrated and commended. She is contributing her time and resources to helping the University of Montana and I am grateful for her commitment and support.”

While we value the press and the pillar it holds in our society, we simply want our perspective to be shared. The unequivocal truth is that universities across the country are safely and securely using broad data trends (not specific student information) to help attract and recruit students.

Well, glad we got that cleared up, Commish.

Because I have limited time to write this, I won’t even begin to approach how tech utopias like Bozeman and Silicon Valley impact housing. Hint: it doesn’t make it more affordable. Exhibit A: this burned out shack in Silicon Valley listed for $800,000.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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