Local reaction varied this week after Western Nevada College President Carol Lucey announced her resignation from a position she has held since 1999.
At the same time, however, there was united support for WNC’s Fallon campus and its importance to the community.
“I taught 24 years with WNCC (when it was Western Nevada Community College) and was always a supporter of having local classes in the community,” said Ron Evans, president of the Churchill County School District Board of Trustees and longtime educator. “The community college system is a real asset as a stepping stone to vocational schools and colleges ... getting their basic education stuff out of the way before they move on in the college system.”
Lucey cited legislative budget cuts as the reason for her decision to resign. In the meantime, she will continue on in her position until a successor is found.
Support for Lucey was voiced by County Commissioner Bus Scharmann, who served 37 years as an administrator for WNC, with much of that time spent on the Fallon campus.
“I have only positives to say about her,” Scharmann said. “She’s guided the college through some really, really difficult times, and kept the doors open.”
Ron Knecht, a Carson City resident who holds the Board of Regents District 9 seat representing an area that includes Churchill County, echoed that sentiment.
“It’s been really a very tough four years for WNC and she’s certainly fought the good fight and taken a beating for doing it,” he said.
Bob Clifford, chairman of the Restore Our College Campus Committee (ROCCC), understands Lucey’s decision to resign after years of budget cuts.
“We worked with Dr. Lucey during the last legislative session to try to get a full hold harmless from the formula cuts, but the representatives from the south got what they wanted, and only through the efforts of (Sen.) Pete Goicoechea did we avoid a complete budget disaster,” Clifford said.
Clifford and Evans expressed views about the direction of the Fallon campus that they feel differed from those Lucey had.
“We (in Fallon) have not seen eye-to-eye about how past restructuring and cuts were handled,” Clifford said. “Dr. Lucey’s vision of Western Nevada College seemed to be more of a Junior College than a Community College.”
As a result, the vocational programs were particularly hard hit, he observed.
“Well before the budget cuts came she had already centralized administration in Carson City and took almost all autonomy away from the Fallon campus,” Clifford added. “The nursing program that was originally started in Fallon was ultimately cut in Fallon while retained in Carson City.
“More recently, however, Fallon seemed to be recovering, and improvements were being made, so we were pleased with the progress and happy to be working with Dr. Lucey over the legislative session.”
Evans felt his perspective of local classes differed from those of the president.
“I can’t help but believe this community is going to be better off and better served by somebody else who will recognize that people can’t drive once or twice a week to Carson City (60-plus miles one way) when they should have the same class locally,” he said.
The focus now for the board of regents is on the next president, Knecht emphasized.
“We will have a regents search committee, which will probably have half a dozen regents and then have an advisory committee which will include faculty, administrative staff, students and people from the western communities,” he said. “I’m looking forward to that search. What we need, I think, is a president who will help revitalize WNC overall and especially Fallon ... who will promote electronic-learning and educational restructuring ... promote academic rigor and who will be involved in Fallon, Carson, Douglas, Lyon and all of our communities ... and finally, one who will streamline the administration somewhat.”
Scharmann expressed concern in regard to any suggested mergers of community colleges in Northern Nevada, which also include Great Basin College and Truckee Meadows Community College.
“That’s the biggest question I would have, are the regents going to move forward and hire a new president?” said Scharmann, who was one of ROCCC’s organizing members. “And I would hope that Fallon would have representation on that selection committee.”
Knecht noted discussion has been raised in the past about mergers — “I don’t see any prospective restructuring with regard to Great Basin, Truckee Meadows and Western” — but definitely supports searching for a new president and that Fallon should be part of the selection process.
“To not have Fallon represented would be a great mistake,” Knecht said. “I’m kind of looking forward from here in terms of what we do and certainly one of the forward-looking aspects of it is what do to help restore the Fallon campus, to stabilize it.”
Ginny Dugan, who worked 21 years for WNC before her retirement and current recorder for ROCCC, is passionate about her support for the Fallon campus.
“I know there are students in our community who really want some of these classes to come back to the Fallon campus if at all possible,” she said. “So I hope whoever becomes the next president will be somebody who will be very supportive of rural education and I hope our committee may be able to assist in making sure that happens.”