Open Letter to the Community
Open letter to the taxpayers and owners and stakeholders of Eastern Wyoming College
I have a heavy spirit and a broken heart. I am so disgusted with the actions of the board of EWC that I had to write and stand up for the truth. The amount of dysfunction at EWC and the mistreatment of employees and students is truly out of control. I have been in higher education for over 26 years, and I have been on more rural college campuses than any other person in the U.S. I’m overwhelmed with what I found at EWC.
EWC hired a search firm for their recent president search. The going rate is usually around $50,000 for this. They did not need to spend this kind of money on a search. That money should have been used to hire a much-needed faculty member and not wasted on a worthless search consultant, especially when the College has very capable people in house who can conduct the search. The search consultant is the same one they used when they installed their current president, and he messed up that search. This search consultant has a track record of installing his previous employees into positions. He absolutely installed the current president at EWC, and she has been a total disaster. He installed his former vice president into a position at WNCC and that was a disaster as well. He has a horrible track record and they hired him anyway. Two of my references told me that when the search consultant called them, he was rude, disinterested, and didn’t even ask specific questions. This is not the way a search consultant should perform the duties for which he was hired. He is a disgrace to this process. You have a disaster in your president’s chair due to this search consultant and they re-hired him anyway. Make no mistake, he is the one who makes all the decisions, and the Board allows this. The search consultant was inept, rude, wants to install his choice and clearly runs the process. This was a very poor decision by the current Board. They allowed themselves to be manipulated and dominated by a search consultant who had his own agenda. Something is underhanded here and it does not make any sense at all or pass the smell test.
During the forums and meetings to listen to the candidates, the EWC board members were absent except one. Amazing. Kudos to Mr. Sittner, who attended every session and took his responsibility seriously. In the formal interview, one board member was even absent. The mayor was missing. How fair and equal was the process when board members attended some interviews and not others? Again, a disaster and not consistent with equal employment opportunity laws.
In the statement published by the trustees on the EWC website they lied to you, the public and taxpayers. In their statement they said that after “much deliberation and feedback from students, employees and community members, the decision was made that none of the candidates aligned with the needs of the college.” This is simply not true as the majority of students, employees and community members were aligned with me. It was a landslide. They did receive comments from employees, students and the public and they completely disregarded them. The board and the search consultant threw all the employees and public who attended the sessions and wrote comments under the bus.
The current President and the VP of Academic Affairs treat employees with disrespect and contempt and belittle and demean them constantly. Ask any EWC employee. The stories of evil treatment will blow you away. These two individuals have no business in an administrative / leadership position. Nobody deserves to be constantly belittled and demeaned. Additionally, EWC employees are the lowest paid in the state - by a large margin. It makes me sick to my stomach to hear what has been going on. It truly is evil. Board where have you been? The morale is lower than low. The employees are mistreated, and they can never perform with excellence because they are scared and threatened. It absolutely impacts the way they can do their job.
It is a total disgrace how much these employees are paid. This Board has allowed this for years. What makes it even worse is that there is money to give them a much-needed raise. It can be done and done immediately. The administration is choosing not to. Due to morale, climate and pay, the employees are leaving and multiple positions are open and can’t be filled. Go figure. The faculty and staff are the lowest paid in the state and their working conditions are worse than poor. A student told me he had four teachers quit in one semester. The students are directly impacted by the climate and lack of employees. This is heartbreaking. Students are the ultimate victims. How can you have a consistent or excellent or proper education when you go through four faculty members in one semester? I’ve never seen anything like this, ever, in my 26-year career. Think about this. Would you work at a place where you were not valued, where you were belittled, where there was no communication, where there are constant threats, where you are called names, and where you are the lowest paid in the state for your position? Furthermore, would you send your kid to a college where this was happening and where your student had to endure multiple changes due to faculty resigning regularly? You cannot have a quality education when you have no faculty members and staff positions go unfilled.
Enrollment at EWC continues to drop each year. Again, another disaster, but when you have no employees, no student activities, poor morale, the lowest paid faculty in the state, and horrible campus climate would you choose this institution for your higher education?
An engaged student is a retained student. This is critical, and the most important factor of student retention. The students told me that when they would suggest an activity, they were always told no. Simple activities that would have been easy to organize. Horrible. There is no student focus from the administration. They do not understand the major importance of engaging students outside the classroom. The students are the customers, and they are not being served. Enrollment will continue to fall until all of these issues are addressed. There is not even a written enrollment management plan - no training on enrollment management and no plan on how to bring the numbers back up.
After talking with colleagues in the state, it is widely known the board at EWC has been a problem for years and they micro mange and do not understand their role. It’s widely accepted across the state that the Board at EWC will run the college into the ground and LCCC will then be there to inherit the campus and students and FTE. They are right. I was told by colleagues, “I would not touch that job with a million-foot pole no matter what the salary was.” The reputation of EWC is poor and getting worse. Do you think students will choose to attend EWC with this kind of perception statewide? Do you think faculty and staff will want to work at an institution with this kind of perception and pay and environment? No wonder the multiple open positions cannot be filled.
It's apparent the board wants to be administrators and not board members. They obviously do not understand their role and have not for years. It’s time for the community and service area to call for all board members to resign except for Mr. Sittner. If they won’t resign, a recall election needs to be organized. It’s also apparent the board chair wants to run the college. However, he does not have the background, experience, education, or talent to do so, and he is running this college into non-existence. This is a critical time, and the college will not survive unless this board and the two administrators (president and vice president of academic affairs) are removed.
Athletics is a means to bring in student numbers. Currently, athletics is not recruiting as they should be, and they could easily double the number of students they could bring in. They are not engaged with the faculty or the community. The rodeo program should compete for a division title. They need to bring in double the number of students it currently has. The amount of money the college pays to rent the county arena is outrageous and there are not even any facilities for them to stable their horses. The team can’t have regular practices when the students must trailer their horses to the arena instead of just saddling up and going straight to practice by keeping their horses at the arena. The college needs its own arena with stalls, hay storage, tack storage etc. Rodeo student athletes will choose another school when they see the lack of facilities at EWC. Additional sports should be offered, and it will boost enrollment at the college - this can and should be done immediately.
EWC can be saved, and it can thrive, with the correct leadership. It will take a very unique leader, but it can be done, and this college can be the best in the state. Employees should be valued and appreciated and paid well. Students can have amazing activities and academic learning. The college can grow. Students are the best recruiters for future enrollment. New programs can be initiated that will bring in students. EWC can and should be involved in local economic development and workforce development activities.
Most importantly, students and employees should have a great campus climate, and they should be valued and appreciated and supported. Just imagine the potential this college has if employees were not scared and running for cover, but instead, are appreciated, communicated with, and unleashed to reach their full potential where they are free to have energy and ideas and where they hear yes instead of no.
As the taxpayers and owners of the institution, it’s time for you to stand up and request board members resign and request the resignation of the president and academic VP. The search consultant should be fired, and no payment should be made due to his complete failure of duties. This would be the first step. This board is destroying the college. Action must be taken now. I pray you will step up and ensure your community has a viable, growing and sustainable institution of higher education for many years to come. With the current board, administration and search consultant, that will never happen.
I love rural colleges and rural students and employees. I want them to thrive. They can and so can the college. Please stand up for what is just and right and good and save your institution.
Dr. Randy Smith,