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Front Page » April 11, 2013 » Carbon County News » Archives: Carbon College was once a branch of the Univer...
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Archives: Carbon College was once a branch of the University of Utah

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When the College of Eastern Utah merged with Utah State University in 2009 to become USU Eastern, a number of people in the area felt the institution was giving away its sovereignty and independence, while others saw the joining of the two as being a very good thing for eastern Utah. Opposition to the merger and support for it was varied amongst various groups in the two county area.

But this wasn't the first time opponents and supporters of a merger between the local college and a major university came out and spoke their minds. Something similar had happened once before.

In late 1958 a movement by a number of prominent local citizens and citizen groups arose to make then Carbon College a branch of the University of Utah. Some of this movement stemmed from the fact that the legislation that had been passed by the legislature in 1953 to close the institution for financial reasons (and which had later been struck down by a statewide referendum) had never actually been rescinded officially. In a sense the college's future still hung by a thread.

In early January 1959, Price City Judge Paul Keller began to head up a group of citizens and organizations to put together a bill that would be submitted to the legislature by the area's two representatives to the body at that time, Frank C. Memmott and Craig Justesen.

"This committee which includes representatives from organized groups in the county, was set up at a meeting held here last week at which time officials of the University of Utah expressed their approval of such branch status for the local institution of higher learning," reported the Sun Advocate on Jan. 15.

In the days before the Utah State Board of Regents was set up in 1969, all state educational institutions, both public and higher education, fell under the control of the Utah State Board of Education. Institutions had their own boards, but they were regulated by the state through that organization. Because of that, the institutions often acted a bit more independently than they do now. Looking back at what went on at the time, many of the supporters of the local school joining the flagship university of the state were graduates of the Salt Lake school.

As the issue boiled, and the state legislature started its session, the paper came out against the idea of the two getting together. On Jan. 22 an editorial called "So the People May Know!" appeared on the front page.

"It is the considered belief of this newspaper that adoption of resolutions by the Price City Council and the Price Chamber of Commerce to make Carbon College a branch of the University of Utah is premature, and may not be the desire of the majority of the people in the area," stated the writer of the editorial.

The piece went on say that not enough time and thought had been given to the idea, and in the paper's editor's mind, the haste was because 1959 was the year that the college and the high school would be separated from one another (Carbon High School as it stands today was being built while this was going on).

Complaints from supporters of the idea, must have poured into the paper because the next week (Jan. 29), another editorial with the same headline appeared on the front page, this time giving all the reasons the college should become a part of the University of Utah.

By that time the Utah State Legislature had begun its annual session and the movement to join the two had taken the form of House Bill 117. It was introduced on Feb. 2. Obviously, the news story presenting these facts on Feb. 5 was written by someone who was not too happy about the situation. At one point in the article the reporter pointed out that "The move to make the change was initiated in Price by a small group of citizens" and the piece later went on to point out that "Some opponents of the idea take the position that time has not been sufficient for the public to be provided with the information on the subject before making such a serious and far-reaching move."

The bill passed both houses of the legislature within the next two weeks. It was then sent to Governor George D. Clyde for his signature. The paper reported on March 19 that a group of citizens went to the governor's office on March 16 to meet with the state's top administrator and asked him to sign the bill. But it was not a sure thing, despite the fact that it had passed both houses overwhelmingly.

"It is reported that the governor made no commitments until further study," the Sun Advocate reported concerning that meeting. "His attitude at the meeting seemed to indicate that he would prefer the college continue as is, under supervision of the Utah State Board of Education, instead of becoming a branch of the University of Utah."

However on March 20, less than five days after the group took away the idea he might not support the bill, he signed it, making it law.

"Just what plans the University of Utah has for Carbon College are not yet known, but it is expected that the university board of trustees will dive into the situation to a great extent during its forthcoming meeting in preparation for taking over as of July 1 and with the beginning of the new school year," stated the paper on March 26.

Two weeks later University of Utah President A. Ray Olpin came with several members of the university's administration to visit the campus on what he described as a "get-acquainted and survey" according to the Sun Advocate of April 9.

"He emphasized that Carbon College would retain its autonomy and from all outward appearance there will be no drastic changes in administration," stated the paper. He did, however, mention that changes in the way students could be transferred to other higher institutions of learning would be changed.

In is interesting to note that despite all the buildup and some rancor about the change, particularly by the paper itself, when July 1 came, not one mention of the change was made on the front page of the paper around the July 1 date.

For the next 10 years, Carbon College, which was within two years to be renamed the College of Eastern Utah, would be a branch of the University of Utah.

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