Last May, during a pandemic-fueled live-streamed graduation ceremony at North Idaho College, Kai Sedlmayer-Nardi had the honor of deliver the Pledge of Allegiance since she was the student body vice president. (She has since become president.)
But she wasn’t content to just deliver the Pledge as written. After all, she’s also the founder of the school’s Secular Student Alliance chapter.
So when it was her time to speak, she said the Pledge without the words “Under God” (at the 4:41 mark):
Fantastic. It was, by all accounts, an uneventful omission. The ceremony continued. No one remarked on the matter. All was well with the world. (Weirdly enough, the closed captioning for that video includes the “Under God” phrase even though it was never said out loud.)
But now there’s a completely separate controversy at the school involving Todd Banducci, the right-wing chair of the school’s Board of Trustees, that involves that godless Pledge.
Banducci is facing multiple calls for resignation due to “complaints of aggressive, threatening and unprofessional behavior toward the college president, employees and his fellow trustees.” Whether that will happen, I don’t know. But when you look at what he’s doing on behalf of the students, the answer is… nowhere to be found.
For example, according to an article published Monday in The Chronicle of Higher Education, reporter Emma Pettit talks about how Banducci demanded a ridiculous amount of material from the school’s president Rick MacLennan in the span of a few minutes earlier this year:
“Per your contract,” Todd Banducci wrote in an 8:44 a.m. email to Rick MacLennan of North Idaho College, “I believe you are to provide an accounting of leave days on an annual basis.” Banducci said he’d like to get MacLennan’s most recent report within seven business days.
Five minutes later, Banducci told MacLennan he wanted meeting notifications as far in advance as possible. He had a very busy schedule, he wrote, and did not like being told of a recent meeting on such short notice. Two minutes after that, he requested that MacLennan start sending regular summaries of his activities. Banducci’s motto, he explained, is the “more communication the better.” In the next two minutes, he requested “an accounting of your submitted expenses for the last 1.5 years.”
Finally, four minutes later, amid other requests, Banducci noted that a student had not uttered the words “under God” when she recited the Pledge of Allegiance at the previous year’s graduation ceremony.“
I expect,” Banducci wrote, “that this institution will work hard to see that should never happen again.”
A similar version of that story was also told last month in the Spokesman-Review.
I’m going to sidestep the bigger issues involving Banducci, but the point is a conservative in a leadership position at a college flipped out over a student who delivered an older version of the Pledge that’s more inclusive than the Christian prayer it has since become. This is something he thinks a college president ought to step in and stop (because conservatives love “cancel culture” when it supports their idea of Christian Nationalism).
Sedlmayer-Nardi didn’t respond to my request for comment, but as far as I can tell, she hasn’t expressed any regrets on her end (nor should she have any) and MacLennan hasn’t stepped in to censor her in the future. But when a college board leader uses his power to try and shut down a student’s speech, it’s a sign he shouldn’t be in his position.
Republicans like Banducci constantly try to make public education worse. We should be grateful when students and other campus leaders push back.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)