College of Eastern Utah President Ryan Thomas announced to faculty last Tuesday that the school had formed a committee to address concerns raised by student government.
The announcement occurred at a meeting on Jan. 31 at CEU's Price campus.
The meeting was also broadcast by closed circuit television to faculty and staff at the Blanding campus.
Last week, elected officials of the Associated Students of College of Eastern Utah released a document listing several concerns involving the college.
Worded as a formal resolution, the statement of expectations listed several general areas which student leadership felt required closer attention.
The statement met harsh criticism from some faculty members, who said that the statement was too broad and general.
Theater instructor Corey Ewan said that because the approach was too broad, it didn't pinpoint areas that need specific improvements.
Ewan explained that there are already policies in place for addressing the specific concerns and student leaders should use the methods to deal with individual problems.
In the statement, ASCEU noted that the college has a declining enrollment and that the state board of regents and commissioner of higher education are exploring options for combining with other state institutions.
In December, state regents requested that a study be performed to assess the possibility of merging the Southeastern Applied Technology College with CEU.
In many ways, Thomas explained that the college and the ATC are already merged.
A number of personnel and administrative functions of the ATC were absorbed by the college three years ago and facilities owned by the college are used extensively by the ATC.
The college president said that any merger would not likely result in financial savings, but would formalize the actions taken three years ago when the college took over the administrative and accounting functions of the ATC.
The statement prepared by student government officials also addressed factors that they believe impact the declining enrollment of the college.
The ASCEU statement cited that student enrollment has been declining for five years and that the college lost 200 students according to enrollment figures released last fall.
Thomas said that a committee had been formed which would report directly to him regarding the issues addressed in the statement along with others that the committee discovered.
Pat Thayn, chairperson for the college's inter-club council, asked how such a committee would be any different from an ad hoc committee formed last year to address the subject. Thomas explained that the committee will report directly to him and he can determine what actions need to be taken.
"My hope is that this committee can help us evaluate our non-academic processes," said Thomas.
This year, the Northwestern Commission on Colleges and Universities would be performing an interim review of the college. He explained that every ten years, the college receives a full review to determine its accreditation status.. Midway between the reviews the association reviews the progress of the college.
While Thomas believes that the college performs well in its academic areas, he said that many of the areas referenced in the student document related to areas outside of the academic functions of the college. Those functions include many areas such as extracurricular activities, athletics and student services, like cafeteria and housing.
The college president appointed five individuals to sit on the committee, including Kim Booth, institutional research director; Michelle Fleck, dean of arts, sciences and humanities; Todd Olsen, high school relations director and scholarship director; Jay Stevens, human resources director; and Jesse Holt, president of ASCEU.
Thomas also said that over the last year he has learned that many decisions that should be made by faculty, staff and other administrators are forwarded to his desk. He urged faculty to make the decisions where the information is available.
He said the college needs to review the decision-making process to insure that decisions are being made at a level where information is available. Thomas noted that in academic matters, college personnel are doing this already. He gave an example that if a student feels that a grade is unjust, the matter is taken to a dean, who reviews the issue with the instructor who gave the grade.
However, Thomas said that other decisions, notably those outside the realm of academics, are too often elevated to a level of the administration where little or no information is available. He added that the appeals process should reflect that directive as well, where appeals are dealt with by deans, department heads and directors before appealing to an a vice-president or president.
The president told faculty, staff and students that he understands the need for the college to focus on some of its non-academic programs and to expand and create academic and non-academic programs that will increase enrollment, he said that regents and state legislators fail to understand that need for CEU.
"We are unique. No one has to recruit the same way we do," said Thomas. He explained that when he was an administrator at Utah Valley State College, the board of regents and state legislators understood growth and when the college explained its need for funding relating to growth, state officials responded.
However, Thomas said that he didn't feel that state officials understood the need to increase funding for an institution such as CEU, which needs to develop new programs to attract outside students.
He said that a financial increase as small as 10 percent would likely give the college enough financial support to increase its scholarship offerings to the level needed to sustain enrollment.
In unrelated matters, Thomas report on the progress of higher education initiatives at the legislature. He said that given the surplus expected by lawmakers, higher education officials had hoped to receive an increase. After several years of declining funding, lawmakers left funding for many colleges virtually flat last year.
Thomas said that this year is likely to be a repeat of last year, with no additional funding coming from the legislature.
However, costs for personnel and other costs are increasing despite the lack of state funds. As a result, the college will likely see a tuition increase of seven to eight percent next year.
Thomas said that a bill drafted by Rep. Joseph Hickman of Magna attempts to increase funding for smaller schools in the state. Essentially, the bill would increase funding for Snow College, Dixie State College, Salt Lake Community College, UVSC, CEU, Weber State University and Southern Utah University. CEU's portion would be near $500,000.
However, the two schools adversely affected by the bill, University of Utah and Utah State University, are represented by an undefeatable voting block within the legislature. Unless legislators who represent the two largest schools in the state are persuaded otherwise, the bill is not likely to pass, said Thomas.
The college president also said that a similar measure is being looked at by state regents which would increase funding at half the level proposed in Hickman's bill. Thomas said the measure is more likely to pass and that college presidents across the state are watching the issue as it comes to the floor of the capitol.