Fair Observations

The “Welcomes” have now been delivered and the “wish lists” vocalized. Above all else, we are excited about the possibilities that are ahead of us. Equally, we are pleased that administration and faculty are both committed to providing a first class learning opportunity here at WCU. While our voice is not what will define the objectives of this administration or faculty, our observations, however, might be worth some consideration in their debates as they unfold this semester, especially in light of the financial uncertainty that is still ahead. We support seeking alternative funding for our university’s goals. But we would warn against being too shortsighted. Rather than just seeking the contributions of the corporate or outside donor, for whom some payback might ultimately cost more in the long run, we should also be cultivating our own fields here at home. After all, the present student population will have their pay-offs supposedly when they graduate, provided everyone does his/her job now. Regardless of what you see, the real potential to develop or not develop is fully in the hands of both the administration and faculty. The reality that some would close the WCU door for good once the sheepskin was hanging in the new office is a possibility, provided they do not transfer before hand and acquire that degree someplace else. While some students acknowledge the positive aspects of the changes taking place, others cannot help but feel that it really does not matter what they think, because they will not be the ones ultimately benefiting from this “progress.” However, if this is more than a perception of occurrence, failure to adequately address the issues facing the present classes can damage a main source of future external revenue, true for this and most universities. While short term funding might be the fruits of the labors, longer range, sustainable funding could be hampered for decades.

Flipping through pages of past “Catamount” annual editions of days gone by, you see a lot of the same faces that you pass on campus today. What happened then that made them want to stick around after graduating and actually get a job here? Or, even seen as more severe by some, for those that left to actually return here, what made this place so special? If you ask some, they tell you WCU has never been known as a particularly “intellectual” bastion. For others, before coming here, everybody they asked couldn’t get over talking about how beautiful it is. And judging from their success, they were not handicapped by the learning environment either. Maybe it was not just about being intellectually superior, but happy as well, learning was the ultimate coincidental result.

Amazing as it may seem, WCU actually has a staff member that retired after more than 35 years of service and then turned right back around, returned to work, is still working here and will reach the 38-year mark this October. Not withstanding are their six children whom are still, or were at one time, in the service of the university. Dedication goes a long way in the right environment.

When looking through these past publications at the people of our community, the faces were happy, the atmosphere seemed free, and overall, even without the fancy buildings, athletic centers and new mighty shrines to endowment, you/they made it through because more than anything there was a true sense of SPIRIT and community.There is no doubt that the intention of our progress is for the better. But somehow the view is still hazy and it all stems from the fact that while something is happening you can never fully realize it until it has been completed. Until the fact, it remains blurry, out of focus and more of an illusion than anything else.

We must remind ourselves that emotions run high when secure places are “invaded” to make way for progress. In terms of jargon, “the model” is always changing. If the model becomes complacent, then the result affects everything and no doubt, the first symptom reflects in retention. And as has been acknowledged, growth is the only way to sustain even our present institution’s employment and funding priorities. Therefore, decreased retention could actually jeopardize all the great plans imagined for the outcome of our “growing pains.” We may not reach 9,000; we may grow more; but to imagine that we would not grow at all is to ignore reality. But to do so successfully is all a matter of how that growth happens. Sacrificing the learning experience now for superficial differences, while important, is petty in the big picture and detrimental to everyone. In this thermal valley, surrounded by Mother Nature’s oldest, it is easy to get lost and out of touch with the ever-changing microcosms in existence out there. For those that ask why bother, in case you have not noticed “progress” waits for no one, choose not to be involved in your own world or the world around yours, you can loose in the end. Unless you take a proactive position in the transition, regardless of how lovely everything will be, the scars encumbered along the way may never heal and that would be the worst kind of progress to have to endure.

Perhaps the most sobering fact economically, whether real or perceived, is that the progressive growth and action of the nineties is just a memory. In reality, “the bubble” has burst and if our plans are to be achieved, we must factor this into our practices and our decorum.While financial facts can serve up a good dose of reality, rolling with the punches and realizing that funding “brown-outs” are not necessarily a permanent fact can all help our mental durability en route. As well, we must remember we are all just human and must work together. Believe it or not, our interaction and our interdependency really does effect whether things will turn out all right for everybody.

So what do you say, are you with us or against us?