Eastern Washington University faculty members would rather merge with the University of Washington than Washington State University, an informal survey shows.
EWU’s faculty union told a state education board in Cheney on Tuesday that 41 percent of its members said they support “being assimilated into the UW.” More than a third were against the idea and 22 percent were undecided.
That compares with 28 percent who would support merging with WSU, an idea floated last month by Sen. Jim West, R-Spokane. A walloping 59 percent were against a WSU merger, with the rest undecided.
“Eastern’s faculty seem willing to consider changes in state higher education, perhaps going to a one university system,” said Jeff Corkill, president of the United Faculty of Eastern labor union.
Corkill stressed that the survey was not scientific, meaning the margin of error was great. The union received 46 replies from its 133 members.
A large block of undecided voters could mean that the majority of faculty members would favor keeping EWU as an independent university.
The survey came up on the first of two days of testimony given to the state Higher Education Coordinating Board. The nine-member citizens group continues its fact-finding mission today in Spokane.
The HEC Board has been charged by Gov. Gary Locke to make recommendations by Feb. 15 on the best way to provide university programs in Spokane County. Locke asked for the review after EWU’s enrollment fell to unsatisfactory levels and West suggested merging with WSU.
Sandra Christensen, president of the Eastern Faculty Senate, said her own informal poll of teachers reflected the union’s survey.
Christensen said about half of the faculty seems open to a change in administration, possibly to a larger research institution. She said faculty members are concerned that, without the clout of a larger school, Eastern could struggle to attract state and private money. In addition, she said, teachers are frustrated with a slow response by Eastern’s leadership to reverse enrollment declines, compete for students and handle budget cuts fairly.
“It’s not just the president, but the trustees, too,” she said. “So whether it’s WSU or UW, many think that a link to these schools would help resolve things.”
Eastern students offered an emotional plea to retain the university’s independence.
“I’m begging you guys, don’t take away my university,” student Frank Klarich told the HEC Board.
Danielle Guffey and her classmates skipped their freshman honors class to join nearly 100 students who pressed into a room set up for the HEC Board in the Pence Union Building. Guffey told the board that she had just sent an application to attend Western Washington University in Bellingham because of Eastern’s “rocky foundation.”
But others gushed about Eastern’s caring faculty, low-cost tuition and housing, and the value of an Eagle’s degree in the workplace.
“Eastern is a bright light,” said Gregg Jensen, a 38-year-old education student, “but if the generator moves to Pullman, it’s going to get mighty dim.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: HEC IN SPOKANE The Higher Education Coordinating Board continues to take comment today from those who have opinions about the best way to provide a college education to students in Spokane County. Some of the groups scheduled to meet with the board include: 9:15 a.m. Students of the Riverpoint Higher Education Park, Room 201C, Spokane Intercollegiate Research & Technology Institute, 665 N. Riverpoint Blvd. 10:20 a.m. EWU and WSU faculty members, same location. 2-4 p.m. Public at large, auditorium of the Riverpoint Phase 1 Building, 668 N. Riverpoint Blvd. 4:30 p.m. Community Colleges of Spokane, Room 201C, SIRTI.