Sometimes it is best to try, try again.
We are grateful that Bevill State Community College announced Thursday it will re-evaluate its program closures across all the campuses. It also announced it was canceling all its remaining town hall meetings after holding just one in Sumiton. The announcement came as one scheduled in Hamilton was set for that night, just hours after the announcement.
The new president of the college, Dr. Kim Ennis, said in the statement, "While I am still addressing budgetary issues, our first town hall meeting with community members, students, and local business and industry in Sumiton brought to light the need to enter into further discussions about program closures. We are currently taking the time to re-evaluate these decisions and align our programs with industry needs."
Those concerns were unquestionably brought out in the question-and-answer session during the second half of the Sumiton meeting, by concerned students and instructors — and they certainly would have been brought out at the Hamilton meeting, as people had organized for some time to make their response. Legislators, industry leaders and public officials, seeing how many layoffs and program cuts were listed for Hamilton, were so worked up that some of them still met outside on the campus anyway to give their concerns to a television reporter and air them on the internet.
The truth is, this reaction to the jarring initial announcement of the cuts and changes has been circulating for some time in not just one town, but across the region, including Walker County. The reaction was not necessarily a surprise to anyone before that meeting in Sumiton, and, judging from the tone heard that night, least of all to the college administration.
We were somewhat surprised at all the meeting cancellations as this announcement could have been made at the public meetings, and we could have still had feedback. However, we are just grateful that we have hit the pause button on what would have been changes that would have upended plans for many students in need of those programs and instructors.
Having said that, we have no doubt that there are probably deficits. We would like a more complete financial detailing of the situation at this most important of public institutions. We are hopeful with the town hall meetings cancelled that full sit-down interviews can now be conducted with the Daily Mountain Eagle, the Journal Record, the Time-Record and the Pickens County Herald, who represent the areas where campuses reside.
Most of all, we think high-level meetings should be arranged as soon as possible between college officials with legislators, mayors two-year college officials, industry, industrial recruiters and the like to go over what the problems are and how local industry, government and community leaders can help solve the problem. They would like to help and advise, and are eager for this institution to grow. The college should take advantage of that good will.
Moreover, we must again caution that if we have deficit spending that has run on for years, difficult decisions are still likely to come. There will be a time when we are all informed and we must possibly make hard decisions we must all support. But when that day comes, let us hope they are decisions that will help the college as a whole without territorial grabs, as we all depend on jobs being up and running in all our counties, linked by an interstate we have begged for over decades. Let us support our entire college, because we depend on each other as one large community. Let us not fight, but sit down, reason and help each other to train the next generation of workforce — in hopes we can still have a workforce at all.
–Daily Mountain Eagle