I’d like to share a few thoughts with you this morning from two different perspectives: first, as a businessman from the community, and second, as a member of the Board of Trustees.
1. As a member of the business community, I practice my craft in the local marketplace, a small and distinct arena from academe. Because many of my day-to-day associates tend to be of the Chamber of Commerce set, I am acquainted with the views of the so-called “downtown business people.” Those views are no more monolithic than your views as academics. But then I suspect you are aware of that. No successful merchant or service-oriented person doubts for a moment that you are a main-spring of the life-blood of, this community. The entire academic structure with its personnel depends upon each of you as faculty continuing to draw and retain the student to Central.
Years ago, Ellensburg ceased to be an agriculture-based community. We have been, for some time, a valley of small shopkeepers, scholars, and assorted government employees, KittitasCounty’s revenue is generally divided: 40% merchant-generated, 40% tax-generated, and 10% agriculture generated. To translate this economic reality into political action, politicians in Central Washington must stop thinking that KittitasCounty is a county of farmers and ranchers. We are not. We have only a handful of big fanners and ranchers left. We are, instead, a county of people running small businesses, employees working for state agencies and university personnel employed at CentralWashingtonUniversity. We are not like GrantCounty, or YakimaCounty, or DouglasCounty. We have different needs and potential. For instance, higher state taxes are not necessarily the bane that they are in surrounding counties because we live and die, economically, on tax revenue.
One final comment as a business-type in the community. From time to time, one hears of the split in our community between the town interests and the gown interests, or the Rotarian mentality and the non-Rotarian mentality. And I think there is that split, but the dividing line is not Eighth Street. It is a meandering, ever-changing line running throughout every neighborhood and city block and office, as well as through the university campus. There is no community tltat-1 know of in this state where there is such a heterogeneous mix in neighborhoods, friendships, clubs, teams – whatever — as there is in Ellensburg. There might be differences in job assignments and in certain economic motivations, but I believe it is for the most part impossible to distinguish a division along any other lines.
While I feel the interests of various groups are rarely the same or similar in each and every respect, I do feel that there is a commonality of interest between the groups. A commonality which permits groups to function effectively, individually and/or in tandem to achieve mutually held goals.
Further, it has been my sense that the objectives of groups are susceptible to modification and that a good of effort expended in working with groups can bring about changes which may serve the best interests of all.
My sense of our community is that we are functioning quite effectively despite the wide variety of the groups at work.
2. Secondly, a couple of thoughts as a member of the Board of Trustees.
I am one of those who believe that research and teaching go hand-in-glove. That is, I believe the best teachers are those individuals who are at the same time writing articles and papers, composing and performing music, writing or directing or staging theatrical performances, doing basic research in their disciplines acting as consultants in the marketplace, or whatever else is appropriate in a given field of scholarship. I think Central needs to be committed to genuinely rewarding those who are engaged at the frontiers of their specialty. Consequently, I think the State legislature makes a major mistake in channeling the lion’s share of the research money to the University of Washington and WashingtonStateUniversity. That legislative wrong-headedness stifles your efforts, with the result that you and your clientele — the students of this state — suffer.
Another thought I have is I am perplexed about the direction of Central. Since I have been on the Board, it is apparent the financial problems of this state have caused us to engage in management by crises rather than long-range planning and goal setting. It seems to me to be the province of the Board to engage in such discussions with you folks and the administration. Possibly others do not sense a drifting, but many times I feel as though I were a caretaker member of a Board of Trustees which is having a difficult time getting a handle on where we ought, as an institution, to be going. Let me be quick to say that I have been pleased and honored to learn from such Board members as Linda Clifton and Sterling Monroe during some difficult times.
Some of the issues which I would like to see us discuss, even argue over are, for instance:
1) Merit Pay
Does the concept of a pay increment and recognition for exceptional performance have a place in academe? I believe it does, but I might be wrong. If the notion of merit pay has no value — why doesn’t it? If it does, can merit recognition be fairly and consistently dispensed? If not, why not?
2) Educational Emphasis
Should Central provide a full orbed educational offering as Eastern and Western are doing, or Should we specialize and focus on one or specific areas of education? Should we seek our unique place and role in the sun of Washington’s higher education?
I know that many of the issues that perplex me have been adequately settled and put to rest in some of It your minds and indeed, perhaps by the University in general. But, I think higher education is a dynamic and fluid commodity and needs to be constantly scrutinized, evaluated and, perhaps, changed.
One final comment: I sympathize with you in having to suffer through the continual changes in the membership on the Board of Trustees. Most of us on the Board are here for 6 years at the most and then we’re off. And every time a new Board member is appointed, many of you, particularly the administrators, hold your breath wondering what kind of creature is now one of five to decide direction and policy philosophy for this institution. 1, as you would suspect, think that the Board comprised as it is of political appointees from various geographic regions with different philosophic and ideological perceptions, is a healthy thing and an accurate reflection of the interests of those citizens of this state who support higher education. If those Board members treat their appointment as a sacred trust for the people and the institution, then I think, despite differences of opinion (and there will be those) our state will be properly served.
I take it to be a high privilege to be associated with men and women of your accomplishments and excellence. And my desire is that when I leave the Board, the general judgment of you and the administration is that I supported and was a champion of academic excellence and scholarship at Central.