Whitman closes spring, summer

MCCC’s decision to close the Whitman Center during spring and summer semesters is getting opposition in southern Monroe County.

In an effort to save the college money in this struggling economy, the MCCC Board of Trustees in June made the decision to close the center during the summer, beginning next year.

The decision was opposed by one board member at the time, and now community members are working to reverse the decision.

 “This is really stupid,” vented a frustrated Mary Kay Thayer, secretary of MCCC’s Board of Trustees, who has noted on several occasions that 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.

Thayer isn’t the only person with connections to MCCC letting their thoughts be known. Former director of the Whitman Center, Judith Hamburg, is leading an effort to push back against this decision.

According to Bedford Now, a weekly newspaper in Bedford, Mrs. Hamburg and her eight-person committee are planning on rallying businesses and organizations to promote the center to be open all year- round.

“The Whitman Center is an integral part of the Bedford community,” Mrs. Hamburg told Bedford Now. “The purpose of the center was to have access to the area.”

Two MCCC students, Amanda Seromik and Alice Dewey, along with Dewey’s husband, David, were also present at the June board meeting 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.

“I’m really pleased to have it re-evaluated in the fall,” Mrs. Thayer told the Monroe Evening News. “However, there are not as many classes that will be taught there in the fall.”

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.”

Several board members expressed their opinions, still stressing the college’s expenses.

“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.

She 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.

(Agora staff reporters Taylor Pinson and Hannah Boulton contributed to this story).