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‘The whole thing just smells bad’: U of I faculty, taxpayers respond to Phoenix acquisition.

‘The whole thing just smells bad’: U of I faculty, taxpayers respond to Phoenix acquisition.

Idaho Statesman

Angela Palermo and Daniel Ramirez
July 5, 2023
The University of Idaho says its faculty have had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the news of its plans to acquire the University of Phoenix. But emails from U of I professors in the days following the announcement paint a different picture.
In the 24 hours after the details became public, the Idaho State Board of Education received dozens of emails from U of I professors, alumni and Idaho taxpayers urging the governing body to reject the $550 million deal. Only one person wrote in favor of buying the online school.
The board ultimately gave its approval for the proposal, but not before reviewing many of the messages, which were obtained by the Idaho Statesman under the Idaho Public Records Act.
“UI wants to sacrifice its reputation for a scheme it thinks can make money,” U of I climatologist and data scientist Erich Seamon said in an email to the board. “This has bad business deal written all over it. It is bad for Idaho and will end up costing more than it’s worth.”
Seamon said the University of Phoenix was looking for a buyout, and legitimacy to boot.
U of I Provost and Executive Vice President Torrey Lawrence told the Statesman by phone that the university community, dubbed the “Vandal family,” is eager for the school to take a stake in the realm of online education.
“Actually, a lot of people are very excited; they see it as a unique opportunity,” Lawrence said. “Many of those that reacted negatively didn’t quite have all the facts at the beginning, because it’s a complicated, complex transaction.”
James Spearman, an Idaho resident, said in an email shortly after news of the deal began to spread that “the whole thing just smells bad.”
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