I am very upset and sad at the direction President Mark Browning is taking Blue Mountain Community College.

I came to the college in 1969 and taught geography and anthropology full time for 30 years and have lived in Pendleton since. President Browning, who has been here eight months, is seeking to terminate the employment of 10 full-time faculty members who have a collective total of 152 years of service to the college.

These people have professional-level jobs. They purchase homes here, pay taxes here, buy goods and services in the community, serve on local boards and are active in the community in many other ways. Their children attend our schools, and many go on to the college, where they and other students have, at minimal cost, been able to complete the first two years of a college transfer degree or to seek training in a variety of vocations.

Browning intends to terminate my successor, Linc DeBunce, who has taught at BMCC for more than 20 years. According to the schedule for the spring term, Linc’s five classes are full, with 123 students occupying a possible 125 spaces.

Also slated for termination is Margaret Mayer whose three music history classes are full, offers private music lessons to students as well as provides music for college events.

Another termination is full-time instructor Ann Marie Hardin, one of the most versatile faculty members. She is teaching three math classes and one physics class while serving as department chair. Some of her classes have lower enrollments but that is because she was assigned higher level math classes that have fewer students.

Other faculty positions at the college being marked for elimination include faculty in writing, chemistry, business, criminal justice, industrial maintenance technology and college prep. The termination of these 10 full-time instructors is our loss, the community college district’s loss.

When I came to BMCC, my social science department had six full-time instructors. Browning’s plan will decimate that department, leaving only one.

“We’re not actually offering fewer classes,” Browning says. “We’re having fewer people offer the classes that we do currently have.”

Not true. DeBunce offers five classes. His five classes are full, all other social science classes are nearly full. Fewer classes will be offered. Where will these students go?

Over the years since I retired, the social science department has lost full-time positions in history, economics and political science. Recently, the full-time sociology instructor was not replaced upon her retirement. Over the past few years, the humanities department has lost full-time positions in Spanish, art and theater. These losses will further impact the college’s ability to provide courses to transfer students and to provide the enrichment that such classes offer to all who take them.

Additionally, if higher level math and science are cut, students interested in STEM fields no longer will be able to attend their first two years at home. Browning’s plan may be to seek part-time instructors from other areas to teach online, Portland perhaps.

This already has happened in political science and economics. Is that what’s slated for anthropology, geography, music, chemistry and calculus?

That, of course, means the money spent on their salaries will be leaving our area. I have heard the administration feels that the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree has been “privileged.” That contention certainly doesn’t stand up to these facts.

I fear that Browning is seeking to turn our comprehensive community college, one that has been supported by our district for 60 years, into a trade school. Rather than seek ways to bring more students to college, he is giving students more reasons not to attend BMCC. I haven’t yet seen a plan by President Browning to bring more students to the college. What a sad time this is for our communities and to the instructors who have contributed so much to the teaching of our people and to the well-being of our district.

I encourage the members of the college’s board of directors to refuse to allow this to happen. It’s time to begin to look for positive ways to promote the growth of the college rather than to oversee the demise of the wonderful place Blue Mountain Community College has been for so long.

Clark Hilden, of Pendleton, is a retired geography and anthropology faculty member at Blue Mountain Community College.

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