Having had the privilege of being on the USU Eastern campus on almost every weekday for over two years now, here are some of the things I have learned.
During 2009-10 the Utah State Board of Regents and State Legislators made efforts to “affiliate” the College of Eastern Utah with Utah State University” (USU). A Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) between all parties was signed that, stipulated that the college would maintain its, 1) colors (navy blue and gold), 2) mascot (the golden eagle), and 3) separate recruiting efforts. The MOU reflected what local community and college leaders had been previously promised by the parties. It also provided a basis for Senate Bill 69 and the law that was sponsored by our local State Senator, David Hinkins. For brevity the colleges name was changed by law from Utah State University- College of Eastern Utah to USUE in 2010.
Under the leadership of Senator Hinkins and others the State has provided for a new building and physical enhancements. And with the USU affiliation classes and degree offerings have been greatly expanded.
But since the name change, both the MOU, Senate Bill 69 and its legislative intent have been disregarded, and a steady, sustained movement away from “affiliation with” towards total assimilation or absorption of USUE by USU has occurred. The Golden Eagle has been changed to a blue Eagle, the colors are now Aggie blue and white, and the separate recruitment efforts have been lost. (Those things that Senator Hinkins and local leaders had feared.) There has not been any new MOU or legislative action to replace or alter the original ones. Opposition to such movement has been down-played, ignored, or overridden.
In the most recent action by administration, the long establish USUE Alumni Association has been dissolved to be replaced by a USU Alumni / Price Chapter. Thus negating a planned 80th Year Celebration of the college’s establishment in 1937 and its long standing Founders Day program. The USUE Alumni Association sought to support and enhance the college’s efforts in every aspect to achieving its mission. Its individuals still stand in support of the college and its students.
I feel like those people in Logan and Cache Valley must have felt in 1897 when they faced similar circumstances regarding their college and they spoke out.
The overall result has been a loss of Identity and autonomy and an undercurrent of confusion, frustration and discontent among staff, faculty, students, and alumni.
Related and as concerning is that fact that the colleges enrollment has steadily declined 15% since 2011while enrollment at its closest rival, Snow College in Ephraim, has increased 19% over that same period. Currently USUE has 1,960 students, while Snow has 5, 567. .
There is a better way! The honorable way and a win -win will be for USUE faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, and USU and Eastern administrators to work together to:
1) Recognize and keep USUE as a unique member of the USU family and with balance and parity build upon that affiliation, using all the good that has come from the affiliation thus far.
2) Honor the moral, ethical, and ethical commitments of the MOU and Senate Bill 69 (colors, mascot, and separate recruiting efforts, etc.)
3) Maintain the USUE Alumni Association by keeping it as it has been and allowing to make the tremendous contribution it is capable of.
Through it all and above all, I have found a college with amazing students, inspiring and devoted faculty and staff and dedicated administrators. Let’s now all work together with balance and respect to remain a great college community not just be a community with a college.
Jim Piacitellli, Price, Utah
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