Regents reveal recommendations to community
In a public meeting on Monday evening on the College of Eastern Utah campus, a panel of board of regent's members revealed that they would recommend to the entire board of regents during a regularly scheduled meeting at Utah Valley University that CEU become a "comprehensive regional campus of Utah State University.'
The recommendation has come after almost two years of partials studies by panels, a study by an ex-president of CEU, debate in the state legislature over the fate of the college and numerous meetings of faculty, staff, administration and the community in the eastern Utah area.
The recommendation will be forwarded to the regents who are expected to adopt it. When that happens then the board will recommend that the legislature put the proper legislation in place to make it so in the next session which begins next January.
"We have developed a time line for this recommendation too," said David Jordan, the regent who headed up the panel and did the powerpoint presentation for the audience. "We hope to have the two institutions deal with the thousands of details that must be worked out between the two schools from August to December of this year. Then there will be legislative action on the plan during the session and we hope the implementation will begin on July 1, 2010."
Jordan pointed out that the plan was a broad vision and that the devil would certainly be in the details, but he hoped the two schools could find common ground on the issues that need to be resolved.
"If we can get an agreement that works for everyone that is the best way to do it," he said. "That is a lot better than giving it to the legislature and saying to them 'here you figure this out.'"
Jordan said he hoped that there would be a great deal of input along the way to work out the plan including hearing from faculty, staff, students, community members and legislators.
Both State Senator David Hinkins from Emery County and Representative Patrick Painter from Nephi (who represents part of Carbon County) were at the meeting, along with two of the Carbon County commissioners and some other local dignitaries.
The panel presented a large amount of information including facts and figures as well as the options they had been charged with looking at to resolve what the state sees as a problem of decline at the CEU main campus. They also presented a general idea of what they are recommending as broad points of working plan for the implementation.
Utah State will be charged with responsibility for the governance, personnel, finances and facilities management of CEU through statutory amendments and regents policy changes.
CEU will be led by a Chancellor who will be the resident chief executive officer of the USU/CEU and will report directly to the president of USU.
Lower community college tuition rates for lower division and career and technical education programs will be maintained.
A diverse range of student activities, cultural, social and athletic programs will be supported.
CEU will be overseen by the USU Board of Trustees. The current CEU Board of Trustees will transition to a regional advisory council.
The governor will be encouraged to appoint a southeastern resident to be a member of the USU Board of Trustees and, if necessary, the size of the current USU Board will be increased to facilitate that representation.
After the presentation the panel left the floor open for comments as well as supports and criticisms, of which there were many.
Painter asked a number of questions including what might happen with positions that could be eliminated from the present CEU campus by handing over their duties to USU employees. Jordan responded that there could be some of that, but that it would probably be a gradual phase out.
"However, that would be part of the way to straighten out the financial problems of CEU," he said.
Painter also asked if some of USU's budget would be headed toward CEU.
"We anticipate that some of that will happen, but not directly," said Jordan. "It would, however, come more in the way of cost shifting than direct dollars. For instance USU doesn't have a criminal justice program and that would be valuable to them on their campuses. With long distance learning technologies CEU may have more students than are just sitting in a classroom here on this campus."
Mixed feelings came from various people in the audience. Some applauded the recommendation, others were suspicious of it and still others believe the college could stand on its own legs without becoming part of USU.
"I am a biology professor here at CEU and originally a farm kid from Loa," said Tyson Chappell. "I was thankful all those years ago that I was able to take long distance learning classes from USU. I think what we need to do here is to do what is best for the students and I think this would be beneficial to them. I would feel that way even if I was one of those whose job was eliminated by this move."
However Jordan Hatch, heavy equipment an trucking instructor at CEU felt differently.
"I think we are operating on the false premise that this school is broken," he said. "We are presently operating on the budget we were given and are doing just fine. We had to cut but I would rather have the people who work here swinging the ax rather than having someone at Utah State do it. I am sure our faculty would be willing to do what it takes to keep this school going. The problem is that you (directing his comments to the regents panel) are looking at this from the outside. We are on the inside looking out."
Ross Sacco, long time faculty member at CEU took a more middle ground, but a cautious one.
"Part of the problem here is that we all realized a long time ago that we were a part of the Wasatch behind and not the Wasatch Front," he said as the gathering erupted with laughter. "We are holding back because of our past experiences in dealing with things from upstate. I think if the legislature could have your vision as to what could happen it would be fine. But in a way I feel we might be used by USU. They may use their tie to us (energy related programs) to get money and the we might not any of that money here."
The panel listened to everyone's comments and answered questions but in the end it came down to a statement that commissioner of higher education, Bill Sederburg made almost at the end of the meeting. After panel members had explained that they came to the recommendation because of the changing world of education and how CEU needs to fit into Sederburg reinforced it with what he said is the reality of education today.
"Some schools have found niches they can fill, like the University of Phoenix," he said. "They are successful and growing. The truth is that small schools like CEU need a senior partner to complete in the marketplace for students."
The plan the task force has come up with will be presented to the entire board of regents Friday at UVU between 1 and 3 p.m. in the afternoon.
Legislators have said they would like to hear from constituents about this issue so they can make a balanced decision on how to vote on it if it comes before the legislature next session. They can be contacted through email. Patrick Painter contact is email@example.com. David Hinkins email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Christine Watkins email is email@example.com. Kay Mciff is firstname.lastname@example.org.