News To Know by Taylor Jones
Discussions at a recent Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees work session has local residents rallying in support of Southern Union State Community College’s Wadley campus. On June 13, an item on the agenda of the monthly work session was presented by Susan Price, the Vice Chancellor for System Development and Strategic Advancement for the Alabama Community College System, on behalf of Southern Union Interim President Mark Ellard, who was not in attendance. The item was a request to move Southern Union’s main campus from Wadley to Opelika and would be voted on in mid-July, as first reported by Kara Coleman of the Opelika-Auburn News.
The proposal came as a surprise to many, including District 37 Representative, Bob Fincher. “I found out about it when people started messaging me, and I started getting phone calls from those who were present at the meeting (on June 13),” said Fincher in a phone call. “I did get a message that afternoon from the Chancellor’s office as to what had happened.” In the proposal, Price stated that the potential move would recognize Opelika as the main campus for purpose of correspondence, as well as financial aid by the U.S. Department of Education. Price also described the differences in population between Wadley and Opelika, as well as enrollment numbers
with Opelika’s campus serving more than 4,000 students, while Wadley has approximately 600 students. However, one quote from Price has caused confusion among the Southern Union service area. Once the proposal was voiced, an unknown member of the Board of Trustees asked Price if there was any pushback from the Wadley community in regards to this possible shift. Price said that Ellard had not expressed comments from the community, but felt that the numbers were enough to advance the item to the voting process. “I know that the Wadley staff, members of the community, are very supportive of this action item,” said Price. “They think that the data itself illustrates that it’s time for this change.” Carol Knight, a member of the Southern Union Foundation and adjunct professor at the college, says that the responses that she has received from the community, as well as members of the Southern Union staff, on this matter are contradictory of Price’s statement. “I have not spoken to a single person who has said, “I think that this is a good idea,” or “I helped get these numbers together.” Not one person is supportive of such a move. Southern Union is a family. Loyalty here to this campus and what it has meant to this community... No one here will say “we should just relocate the main campus” because it would be devastating to our little community and our service
area.” “Devastating” seems to be a fitting adjective for the potential move from Wadley to Opelika. Wadley Mayor Donna McKay used the term when discussing the idea with local postal workers, due to the College using Wadley’s post office and bank, as well as the possible departure of Bison athletics and the top-notch fine arts program. McKay also mentioned that the move would go against why the two-year system was initially created. Bob Fincher feels that the overwhelming support is a step in the right direction, and assures supporters that he, and so many others, are fighting hard to shut this item down, to preserve the tradition and economic impact that Southern Union has established in Randolph
County. “We need to remember that Southern Union was originated from the Wadley campus, that community has continuously fed and supported the college over the years, and has kept it afloat,” says Fincher. “We are going to fight this as hard as we can to try to prevent this. The fear is, that if the administration has moved, that other entities will follow and that it will be very detrimental to the Wadley campus.” Key dates to remember: the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees will vote on this item during their next meeting, which is set for July 11. If the item is passed, Opelika will become the main campus of Southern Union State Community College on January 1, 2019.
For more on the story read... Southern Union Builds Students To SUCCEED
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