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Doan: Listen to students during tumultuous times on the rim

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Sunday, March 25, 2018 11:39 AM
Sierra Doan

In the face of a changing administration, whose voice matters most?

Students — who must live through the changing administration for the next few years and whose tuition funds the college’s budget — or someone else’s?

With college enrollment at an all-time low across the nation, the Fort Lewis College administration has been forced to make cuts to the school’s budget, as well as work to increase enrollment. A variety of options have been considered to help in these times of need, and outside resources have been brought in to help.

It’s no secret to the Durango community that there are a lot of changes happening with the administration. Over the last few months, there have been a multitude of budget cuts because of a decrease in enrollment. In November 2017, The Durango Herald reported, “Declining enrollment at FLC has been a cause for concern over the past several years. Fall enrollment is 3,356, down 6.6 percent compared with last year, or 239 fewer students,” In January, the Herald also reported FLC faculty concerns regarding administrative decisions, departmental budgets and potential layoffs. Faculty members involved in budget discussions were required to sign non-disclosure agreements, thus rendering them unable to discuss these matters publicly and openly.

Despite the constraints put on some faculty members, they still had an opportunity to voice their opinions on the future of the college. But what about the opinions of the students? No student opinions are mentioned in the article and the word on the street is that student voices have fallen on a majority of deaf ears. After all, shouldn’t the thoughts of FLC students be important – if not the most important – when discussing administrative changes?

Some may assume that the problem is that students are just not willing to speak, but this has been proven false. Last April, when the college hired FLC alumnus Ramona Pierson as a Strategy Officer, many students spoke out during an open forum against proposed college changes. The students were willing to voice their opinions when given an avenue to do so.

One of the worst examples of student voices not being heard is with respect to the changing of FLC’s mission statement. A survey sent out last year regarding changes to the Fort Lewis College name asked if the school should maintain it’s liberal arts missions statement. A press release that followed confirmed that the students had voted not to change the mission statement. Yet, just a few months later, Pierson announced that the mission statement would be changed anyway, and FLC would change its focus to STEM (science, technologies, engineering and math).

Now, a new opportunity has come up for FLC students to voice their opinions. On March 21, Fort Lewis announced its candidates for college president – a position that will be vacated by current President Dene Thomas, who is retiring. Open forums to meet the candidates will be held March 29 and March 30, as well as April 2 through April 5. These discussions present an opportunity for Fort Lewis students, as well as the entire Durango community, to make their voices heard about the state of the college and the best direction for the future.

My hope is that the board of trustees can take into account the opinions of the student body voiced at these forums. With any luck, student voices will be heard and elevated in importance during this tumultuous time on the rim.

Sierra Doan is the IndyTV editor for The Independent, Fort Lewis College’s student news organization. She is a junior from Littleton majoring in English. Reach Sierra at sjdoan.theindependent@gmail.com.

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