To the Editor:
Having served for more than a decade as president of Southwestern Community College, I was dismayed by what was reported in The Smoky Mountain News and the Sylva Herald as opposition by some Jackson County commissioners to the building of a much-needed and long-planned access road for Southwestern Community College. After 10 years of intense planning and tireless effort in securing legislative action and state support for funding, it boggles my mind that our local commissioners would consider opposing what is obviously an overwhelming need where a workable solution has been found along with the funding to fix the problem.
Is it wrong for Southwestern Community College to seek the necessary roadway infrastructure funding that other North Carolina public educational institutions routinely receive from the state? Are the commissioners aware of the safety risk posed by a single entrance and exit point to and from the campus? This was the primary reason for seeking funding to build a connecting road to eliminate the risk. Enrollment growth has now made the road an imperative.
From my perspective, opposition to the building of an essential ingress and egress roadway for the Jackson Campus must be based on something other than what is a factually and reasonably obvious need and proposed solution to a problem destined to grow worse unless addressed. Why not solve the problem while state funding is available rather than put the burden directly on local taxpayers as some schools have done? It troubles and confounds me that a public institution is being criticized for doing what is in the best interest of its students, the general public and local taxpayers.
Whatever the political persuasion or position, most agree that an educated citizenry is essential to the preservation of our freedom and a trained and knowledgeable workforce is critical to our economic prosperity. No one addresses these issues better than Southwestern Community College. Southwestern has more than proven its vital importance to the citizens of Jackson County and Western North Carolina. What better evidence is there than the soaring enrollment of local citizens, young and old, seeking a better future for themselves and their families? With its singular dedication to student teaching and learning, Southwestern offers the highest return-on-investment of taxpayer dollars.
Finally, I am most grateful to the Board of Trustees at Southwestern. During my tenure as president, board members never asked individually or collectively that a decision be made based on political or personal consideration. Decisions were made based on what is best for the students and the communities served. Appropriately, the naming of the new building in honor of Conrad Burrell was based on his years of dedicated service and accomplishment for all the citizens in Western North Carolina and especially for his support and advocacy at the local, state and national levels on behalf of Southwestern Community College. To allege or infer otherwise is wrong.
Southwestern Community College