On Thursday, May 25, Governor Kristi Noem condemned South Dakota’s public universities as gross failures in need of revitalization. But it’s her new whistleblower hotline—605-773-5916—for citizens to call in and accuse university professors and other staff of promoting anything other than right-wing political ideas and whitewashed history seems to be the real gross failure in need of revitalization
I called 605-773-5916 twice this morning, at 6:43 and 6:46, and received the same automated response:
Automated female voice 1: Mailbox for is full. you are being transferred to the attendant.
Automated female voice 2: Thank you for your call. All attendants are busy at this time. Please hang up and try again.
It’s Memorial Day weekend—our campuses aren’t even open, and the rat-out-libs line already has more reports of liberal craziness in South Dakota higher education than it can handle?
Jacob Newton got similar results Friday, just a day after Noem declared open season on professors:
Whereas on May 25 those calling the number were directed to leave a message with their name, university and comment, callers as of the morning of May 26 were met with a different message: “Mailbox full.”
By the afternoon of May 26, the voicemail box was again accessible [Jacob Newton, “No Plan Apparent for Noem’s ‘Whistleblower Hotline’,” KELO-TV, updated 2023.05.27].
Newton recorded this audio preceding the opportunity to leave a message. The audio seems to be a different voice, recorded by a slightly less vocally polished female staff member reading from a hasty script from the Capitol Second Floor:
Thank you for calling the South Dakota Board of Regents whistleblower hotline. This hotline was created for students and faculty to keep our universities accountable to South Dakota values and be an example to the nation of what good higher education looks like. Please leave your name, university, and phone number before your message in case follow-up is needed. Thank you for speaking up and keeping our universities accountable [South Dakota Board of Regents whistleblower hotline, recorded answering message, transcribed from audio posted in Newton, 2023.05.27].
That message conflicts with the Governor’s Thursday announcement, which said the hotline was for parents and taxpayers as well as students and faculty. It also seems awkward to say the whistleblower hotline exemplifies to the nation what higher education looks like. The hotline seems to better exemplify fascist tactics to turn citizens against each other and target certain groups with fear and baseless allegations and no clear statutory or administrative process for verification or due process.
If the Governor has a plan for the practical operation of this hotline, she’s not telling the public about it:
[We] reached out to Noem’s office, requesting an interview to learn more about the philosophy and implementation of the hotline. We have received no response as of the time of writing.
…Without word from the governor’s office, it is currently unclear how this hotline will be managed. At present, it does not appear to have the capacity to receive the calls. It is also not known who will be listening to and recording the messages.
Beyond this question, it is also not known what type of enforcement will be taken as a result of whatever calls are received, how the complaints will be vetted or how any allegations made will be verified.
Will additional staff be hired for the task of listening to, recording, vetting and investigating what could wind up being thousands of reports?
If so, where will the money come from? In January, the legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriations approved a budget proposal of $2,789,385 for the Governor’s Office in FY 2024, which will begin July 1, 2023.
Within the governor’s recommended budget for FY 2024, $2,185,269 are earmarked for ‘personal services’ — of which employee salaries are included — for a staffing level of 21.5 full-time-equivalent employees [Newton, 2023.05.27].
Fat-headed fascist Senator Jim Stalzer (R-11/Sioux Falls) says each university should be able to investigate hotline allegations with existing staff. But the Regents say the Governor’s Office is running the hotline. So this hotline appears set to drain resources away from educating and governing.
But it doesn’t take more staff or formal planning or even functioning technology to intensify an atmosphere of fear and oppression and chill free speech and academic inquiry.