Construction vehicles and work crews act as an ever-present reminder that Wilson remains in a period of transition. President Mistick addressed the community regarding the future direction of the college during the All Campus Forum held on Thurs, April 24, 2014.
Mistick’s presentation began with an update on one of the school’s largest projects to date, the John Stewart Memorial Library. Fundraising goals have been met with donations totaling $9, 952, 792 at the time of forum. Mistick announced that demolition to the annex of the former library is scheduled for May and the remaining construction on the new library will begin during the summer of 2014. Mistick speculated that the new library will open in time for the Fall 2015 semester.
“We are really ready to move ahead with this and construction for the new library is expected to take a little more than a year,” said Mistick.
Mistick introduced Vice President for Enrollment Mary Ann Naso to discuss other top priorities for the school, including long-term budget considerations and financial plans. Student enrollment and retention rates were the key factors discussed.
“Our budget has been out of balance for at least the past six years. Until we get to full enrollment, things will continue to be tight,” said Naso. “One of our biggest problems is holding onto the students who do come here.”
Naso reassured everyone there that Wilson’s attempts at recruiting new students will pay off for the upcoming year. Recruitment efforts have largely come from the athletics department, with 128 new applications submitted by the coaching staff. International student numbers will increase, as interest in Wilson is growing in places such as India, China and Korea.
“We have our first-ever deposit from a student from Vietnam that we recruited,” said Naso.
Dean of Faculty Mary Hendrickson also presented updates on current and future academic programs during the forum. Highlighted areas of study mentioned that will excite potential students include: healthcare, sports science, animal studies, and fine arts. New masters degrees will be available in many of these fields.
Hendrickson noted that the changes to the academic structure benefit both the school and its students.
“Revisions of the current curriculum will make our programs more attractive to prospective students and will also lead to an increase in staffing,” said Hendrickson.
Mistick addressed concerns over complaints filed against the school’s new charter. As a requirement of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Wilson filed the charter to include its decision to become co-ed. The application for the new charter received 40 complaints from individuals protesting the decision.
“It only takes one complaint to initiate a hearing,” said Mistick.
Of those 40 complainants, four were chosen to represent their views in a hearing scheduled for June 16, 2014 in Harrisburg, Pa.
Although the goal of the forum was to inform the audience on the progress of the school’s ventures, several questions posed by faculty in attendance raised concerns other than those addressed.
Professor of English Larry Shillock questioned the decision-making process and whether or not the faculty would have input.
“The previous process was not complete. It revolved around the committees and not many people in this room know about the initial results,” said Shillock. “This leads to a certain amount of suspicion.”
Other faculty expressed concerns about the decision making process which is fueling the school’s future plans.
Fulton Farmer Sarah Bay asked Mistick for details on the proposed location for a new athletic field house.
“It would be beneficial to know strengths and weaknesses for a decision that would impact the farm,” said Bay. “I am very concerned.”
Mistick assured the audience that no decisions have been made. She noted that the library should serve as an example for the way that the school will handle important decisions that impact the entire community.
“If you are nervous, look to the library for my philosophy in the process. We held several different sessions to get everyone’s viewpoint,” said Mistick. “Will everyone be happy? I don’t have a crystal ball.”
Discussion of the school’s future financial stability sparked concerns from faculty regarding their personal financial security. Associate Professor of English Michael Cornelius questioned Wilson’s decision for a moratorium on faculty salary increases.
“No one is getting raises for the next three years and there have been none given in the past six years,” said Cornelius. “I worry that some of these expenditures are frivolous when some of the faculty can’t pay their rent. I know this because I am their landlord.”
“There is no plan this year for raises. We do understand that you all are our best assets and I agree that it is important that our faculty is fairly compensated,” said Mistick. “I assure you that we are keeping up with these concerns and they are in the top priority of our trustees.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Michael Cornelius clarifies his statments in a letter to the editor that can be found here.