Board closes Whitman Center next spring, summer semesters

Tempers flared among MCCC’s Board of Trustees members over the Whitman Center at the June 25 budget meeting.

The board decided to close the Whitman Center for the spring and summer semesters beginning next year.

“This is really stupid,” vented a frustrated Mary Kay Thayer, secretary of MCCC’s Board of Trustees, who has said on several occasions she is the only board member from the southern part of Monroe County.

Thayer said she had been getting phone calls from students concerned about the Whitman Center being closed for spring and summer semesters.

“People struggle from south county to get to the main campus,” Thayer said.

Two MCCC students, Amanda Seromik and Alice Dewey, along with Dewey’s husband, David, were also present to voice their protest of the closure. Alice Dewey read a letter written by another student, Katie Macaro, who could not make it to the meeting.

All three offered comments after leaving the meeting.

“It would certainly be a loss for all the people involved if it closes,” Alice Dewey said.

“I really think this school should be thinking of expanding it, not closing it,” David Dewey said.

 “All of my credits transfer to Owens Community College. I would highly consider transferring there if the Whitman Center was closed during the spring and summer,” Seromik said.

Thayer voiced her own concerns that by reducing service at the Whitman Center, MCCC could drive potential students located in the southern part of Monroe County into seeking educational opportunities from other nearby schools – such as the Toledo based Owens Community College.

Thayer attributed the declining enrollment figures at the Whitman Center in part on decisions made by MCCC in previous years to cut down or eliminate many of the general education classes that were previously taught at the center, particularly Biology.

“Biology was a big one. It was always filled,” Thayer said.

MCCC stopped teaching Biology at the Whitman Center after the Fall 2011 semester, when three of the four sections were canceled due to low enrollment.

 “I’m looking at being student centered. We should be taking our classes to students,” Thayer said. “Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.”

Thayer said Bedford High School had recently switched from a trimester system to semester system. She said that could potentially help boost dual enrollment at the Whitman Center.

MCCC Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Bacarella dismissed Thayer’s arguments as “wishful thinking.”

Several board members expressed their opinions on the subject, many saying Thayer’s idea was not economically viable at this time.

“This year’s budget is very tight,” said MCCC’s Vice President of Administration, Sue Wetzel, citing a decline in revenue and projections that the decline will continue.

“We’ve really had to look at this from a different perspective,” said MCCC President David Nixon. “We’re recommending some difficult decisions.”

“We’re not talking about locking the doors” said Board of Trustees Vice Chair Bill Braunlich, referring to the decision to close the Whitman Center only during the spring and summer semesters. “It’s a very modest change.”

“We either lay off people or cut services,” Bacarella said.

“I obviously don’t have support on what I’m talking about,” Thayer said.

“You don’t understand the long commute many south county students face coming to the main campus,” said Thayer, who estimated it cost a typical student from the southern part of Monroe County $15 in gas to reach MCCC’s main campus.

MCCC’s Vice President of Instruction Grace Yackee cited a cost analysis done by MCCC that found in the unlikely event that none of the students that attended classes at the Whitman Center chose to attend classes at the main campus, MCCC would still save upwards of $15,000 by closing Whitman during spring and summer semesters.

“I understand that, but I feel like if we do this we’ll be cutting off our nose to spite our face,” Thayer said.

“These aren’t the answers we want,” Braunlich said. “Right now, we don’t have any easy answers, so let’s pick the least wrong one.”

The budget was approved, but only after Thayer offered an amendment be added to review Whitman scheduling during the months of May and June and to re-evaluate the budget for purposes regarding the Whitman Center at Board of Trustee’s September meeting.

In other business, the Board also accepted the retirements of Biology and Chemistry professor Andrew Parsons and Accounting professor Cheryl McKay, and the hiring of Nursing professor Michelle Schwartz.