The DCCC Board of Trustees approved a resolution that affirms its intent to pursue the merger with FHSU as proposed in March.
So that there is no question as to the intent of the Dodge City Community College Board of Trustees, it explicitly and unanimously affirmed its approval of the concepts outlined in the "white paper" proposing a merging of DCCC into Fort Hays State University.
"This proposal we are going to be voting on will basically approve the concepts in the white paper and give KBOR the ability to move forward with their next steps, but does not exempt us as a board from future development of this plan," DCCC Chairman Merrill Conant said prior to the discussion, Tuesday.
FHSU, DCCC, the Kansas Board of Regents, the Legislature and the governor could ultimately say no, but on the college's part, it won't say no because it opposes becoming part of FHSU, according to the resolution.
The resolution declares that the board endorses the "one institution" plan in which the existing community college would become a component of FHSU.
In that, the resolution kills the "elephant in the room," that there would be room to negotiate a position for DCCC to operate as-is and FHSU would create a separate presence on the campus, Regent Shane Bangerter said in an impassioned speech during public comments.
"I don't think anyone in this room disputes that this is an awesome opportunity for this community. … What's the rub?" he asked.
That rub is one question, he said. "Why become one institution? Why not just come here and establish the technical institute and establish those courses and leave us alone? 'We're doing just fine.'
"I get it, this is a great sandbox, and we're happy playing in it. … But let me tell you, that's not going to happen. There is no political will to get that done. We will not get $5 million to add something on top of what we have. You have one proposal, one opportunity and you have to kill that elephant in the room to make it happen," Bangerter said.
One institution would also be better for students, and allow for operational efficiencies that will be attractive to legislators, he added.
The resolution also affirms that the college board has reviewed the Kansas Board of Regents' report on the statutory changes that would need to take effect and "urges" that those changes be sought in a piece of enabling legislation. That bill will likely be pushed in the 2015 legislative session.
It also affirms that the DCCC board wants KBOR to advocate for the merger and authorizes FHSU to pursue money from the state in connection with the merger.
The resolution and the vote followed a request from KBOR to provide clarity following statements made by members of the college board and senior staff members that the vote made in March was not a strict endorsement of the proposal authored by former FHSU President Ed Hammond.
"At this point, the Board of Regents believes it would be premature for it to take any further action to forward this proposal without a clear and official statement from the Board of Trustees," KBOR President Andy Tompkins wrote in a letter to the DCCC board.
The resolution also meet a requirement set by the City of Dodge City that required the college board to state that it would actively and in good faith pursue the merger if it wanted access to the $5.5 million in bonds needed to build the student activities dome project. That issue, though related, was treated as a separate matter by the board.
During the discussion prior to the vote, Trustee Floris Jean Hampton voiced concerns that the previously planned work sessions have never happened, a feasibility study has never been created and she questioned the state's willingness to continually fund the new institution with $5 million of state money per year.
"Questions remain among us that have not been addressed. The people of Ford County own Dodge City Community College. We trustees are charged with the care of it, not the ability to give it away," Hampton said in a prepared statement.
Trustee Jason Joy agreed with Hampton on several points, saying that without a feasibility study and a financial study, the board would be taking the risk on faith.
"If it's such a great deal, why does it have to be done so fast?" Joy said. "To me, it feels like it's just trying to be shoved through." Though, "If we don't follow all of our options and follow through in the way we were elected to follow through, I don't think we're doing our due diligence."
Bangerter countered: "That's really Hays' risk. You're not being asked to put anything into that technical institute. There's nothing you're being asked to put into the upper division college." If it fails, DCCC will end up with a $10 million building used to house the technical institute and no loss, he said.
Hampton's vote came down to the wire, she said afterward, and she only approved because Rep. John Ewy stated that the merger needs to include an exit strategy that would protect the college's academic credentials. Otherwise, dissolution of the merger would likely leave the college unable to restart without at least a multi-year gap in its accreditation, a potential death knell for the college.
DCCC Vice President of Finance Vada Hermon, who has been skeptical of the financial numbers used to sell the concept, also voiced her concerns, saying that the board members should not cast its vote on the financial numbers as they are not in line with reality.
Several financial obligations were omitted from the white paper, Hermon said. "You won't be decreasing your mill," she told the board.