North Idaho College Threatened by GOP Take-Over

by Nick Gier

published in Moscow-Pullman Daily News (9/3/22)

I’m battling the NIC “deep state” on an almost daily basis.
 We are registering victories and will register more wins.

— Todd Banducci

Todd Banducci, county Republican leader and former chair of the Board of Trustees at North Idaho College (NIC), believes that the campus had been infected by a liberal conspiracy. He firmly believed that he had the authority to reform the college at every level — including raising the grades of students who complained about liberal professors.

Local pastor Stuart Bryan agreed with Banducci, whom he said “is endeavoring to shape the vision of NIC to better reflect eternal truths rather than contemporary fads, truths that have formed the foundation of our Republic and of the great State of Idaho.”

Our founders, however, supported the critical reasoning of the academy, which, according to Thomas Jefferson, allows us to “question with boldness even the existence of God” (letter to Peter Carr, Aug. 10, 1787). For more see

Banducci and his conservative majority had been feuding with NIC president Rick MacLennan for months and, on Sept. 22, 2021, the board, without warning and without cause, voted 3-2 to fire MacLennan. He was ordered to leave his office the very next day.

By overwhelming votes, NIC faculty and staff assemblies strongly objected to this rash decision. They then voted to declare no confidence in Banducci and asked for his resignation, which of course he refused to give.

Longtime trustee Christie Wood stated: “Staff and faculty have made it clear. They find great value in the leadership of Dr. MacLennan, as do I. I think this is a train wreck for the personal liability that you’re bringing upon us.”

In April 2020, Wood and trustee Ken Howard sent Banducci a private letter of censure over actions “perceived to be threatening, intimidating and/or rude.” When Wood called for Banducci’s resignation, he became so upset with her that he declared: “I ought to take you outside right now and kick your ass.”

In the aftermath of MacLennan’s firing, NIC is now facing the loss of accreditation. Furthermore, the school has now been forced to pay, not only a year’s salary ($221,692) to MacLennan, but also a $250,000 settlement for his ill-advised termination.

The tide turned against Banducci when it was discovered that one of his allies on the board was not a legal resident of Kootenai County. Wood and Howard resigned when no agreement could be found on filling the empty seat. The State Board of Education appointed three new trustees, each of them promising (implicitly) to repair the damage done by the Banducci coalition.

On June 16, the Board interviewed five candidates to replace MacLennan. During the meeting, Banducci ally Greg McKenzie “disparaged, interrupted and shouted at his fellow trustees.” On June 22, over the objections of the GOP minority, the board hired Nick Swayne, a college administrator from Virginia, as NIC’s new president.

I see the NIC crisis as a microcosm of GOP actions elsewhere in the country. Banducci’s authoritarianism and rejection of basic democratic processes follow Donald Trump’s MAGA ideology.

GOP state legislative attempts to limit voting and abortion rights run counter to consistently large national majorities (note the Kansas vote on abortion) on these and other major issues.

GOP legislative attempts to control school curricula at the K-12 and university level are signs of tyrannical governance. It is only a small step from book banning to book burning. The burning of Qurans by fundamentalist pastors during the height of the Muslim scare is a good example.

One of the principal features of fascism is political violence. The threat of violence and the condoning of violence (note the Jan. 6 insurrectionists and Banducci’s “kicking ass”) are now widespread among militant Republicans.

Fascist states also used militias to kill and intimidate. According to the Idaho Statesman (Aug. 30, 2020), “North Idaho state representative Heather Scott has expressed outward support for the Oath Keepers, even taking the oath herself. Sandpoint Police Chief Corey Coon ‘likes’ (on Facebook) the North Idaho Militia, while Bonner County Commissioner Dan McDonald ‘likes’ Facebook groups such as the Oath Keepers of Bonner County.”

President Biden was not exaggerating when he warned that MAGA Republicans are “semi-fascists.”

Gier is professor emeritus at the University of Idaho. Email him at

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