When the community is concerned, a name is everything

Dear Editor,

Northwest Community College was born in 1975 when the NDP government established several community colleges around B.C., as the vocational school was established in Terrace already and lots of classroom space existed, it made sense to add an academic faculty.

I had the opportunity to serve as a coordinator and instructor for eight years, a wonderful experience building the academic section of the college from scratch.

The community college was established to deliver education to people that had not had access to higher education, emphasized the needs of women, aboriginal people and workers. These preferences had long ago been stripped from college policy, in other words, the college was established to provide opportunities to study special programs such as nursing, social services etc., but also provide first and second year university classes.

Transferable university programs over the years have made it possible for local people to transfer to university. It is very challenging for a young person, especially from a small town, to fit into a class of 200 students at university, and in the first year the failure percentage is very high. To take the first two years at a community college with much smaller classes and close communication with instructors gives the student a much better chance of success, as well as saving thousands of dollars of travel, room and board and so on by staying at home while studying.

The Northwest Community College has in recent years systematically closed programs to the point that it is difficult to provide enough subjects for first-year university transfer and impossible for second year – one would be forgiven for thinking that the plan is to revert back to the vocational school and just keep enough academic courses to complete the special programs, nursing, social services etc.

As a journey person I am in favor of vocational training, but not everyone wants to become a construction worker or machine operator. The changes to the college are reverting back to where it used to be, where only wealthy people can go to university.

The spending of millions to expand the vocational part of the college while diminishing the academic faculty enhances my suspicion that the college board members, mostly businesspeople all selected by the previous government, and the administration insisting on removing the word” community” from the name, the community part has in fact been taken out years ago.

So what’s wrong with having the word “community” in the name? Nothing if you serve the community but I would assume that a more classy name is favorable if your strategy is to sell the college to students from overseas. The fees for these students are much higher than the already high fees the locals pay. The college has as many as four people [$100,000 per year each] travelling to places like China to recruit students. Last when I inquired, there were 40 such students who probably will receive a diploma stating they passed Business Administration – my guess is that what is happening is English as a second language.

What is the purpose of recruiting overseas? It is apparently not to improve programs, therefore the only reason that I can see is to keep the 30-plus non-teaching administrators on the payroll [close to $4 million a year]. They seem to have forgotten that education is not a business.

If the” community” is removed from the name, it relieves the college from its responsibility to the northwest communities – the intent of this move might be exactly that.

Patrick Rife. former college Bursar in his letter September 28 clearly stated his position regarding the college name change and was very proud to have been part of purchasing five campuses. While I agree with Mr. Rife regarding the logo, the Thunderbird displayed is not a West Coast totem and in fact was not created by an indigenous person, it should be redesigned but not necessarily discarded.

Living in the U.K., Mr. Rife may not be aware that several of the buildings that he was proud of purchasing are no longer being used, which is another indication of the removal of community involvement.

Keep the name but more importantly the spirit of the community college.

John Jensen

Terrace, BC

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