By Mike Leonard
Joshua Claybourn is no David Letterman. And Myles Brand is no Oprah.
But as the Indiana University president's final weeks at the university wind down, Claybourn is pushing a campaign inspired by Letterman's obnoxiously persistent plea for talk show host Oprah Winfrey to invite him to be a guest on her show.
It's called "Myles call Josh." And unlike Letterman's complaint against Oprah, Claybourn has a point to make.
During a campus "town hall" meeting in Woodburn Hall on Sept. 10, 2001, Claybourn questioned the IU president on that year's tuition hike at the university. Brand defended the move and rationalized it as amounting to little more than a "pizza and dinner out" a month.
As Claybourn writes on the portion of his Web site dedicated to the "Myles Call Josh" campaign, "Because President Brand didn't consider this to be much of a burden, I asked him in front of everyone to have 'pizza and dinner out' with myself and my house mates."
"I think at first he thought I was joking," Claybourn said last week. "He said, 'Are you buying?' and I said sure." Brand then smiled and agreed.
Claybourn claims that for the rest of the semester, he tried to get a commitment from the president's office and couldn't. At the end of the semester, he was offered a handful of times that "aligned almost perfectly with my tests."
After that point, he says, his attempts to host the president for dinner were rebuffed on the grounds that he'd had his opportunity and didn't take it. That didn't settle well with the (now) IU senior, a conservative political activist and editor of the Hoosier Review, a Web-based publication of political opinion.
Claybourn launched his "Myles call Josh" campaign, let it slide after a while and decided to revive it after Brand announced he was leaving IU to become president of the NCAA. "I'm not trying to antagonize him. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Brand as a person and for what he's done for the university," he says.
"I do think he's had a rough relationship with the students here, and this is a good example of where he could make up for some of that, or at least follow through on his own word," Claybourn says.
The common perception of the IU president among students is that he is aloof and unavailable to students except at carefully planned opportunities, the IU senior said. And while Claybourn may well be sincere in his declaration of respect for Brand, he and his housemates call their modest house on Bryan Avenue, "Bryan House," for another pointed reason.
"It is true that the Bryan House on campus once served as the primary residence for the presidents of Indiana University ... But since President Myles Brand chose to base his residence in Indianapolis, there has been a void in leadership on the Bloomington campus," the students' Web site says.
Claybourn says he got the attention of the president's office when he revived his "Myles call Josh" campaign recently, urging people to contact the president at his office phone number and the e-mail address he uses: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"They seemed less concerned about him breaking the promise he made to me publicly than the fact that I listed his personal e-mail address," Claybourn says. "Hey, it was listed by the NCAA when they posted their announcement, so I'm not divulging anything that wasn't already out there."
The message from the president's office remains the same. No time for pizza. Too busy.
"I'm not buying it," Claybourn says. "This has gone on for more than a year now. He's been busy for more than a year? He doesn't eat? He's too busy to eat? I mean, he's got to eat sometime. He can come over and eat with us and then he can go do whatever he needs to do."
Mike Leonard can be reached at (812) 331-4368 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
More on the "Myles call Josh" campaign can be found on the Internet at www.joshclaybourn.com/mylescalljosh.html.