Duane Fish, chairman of the NWC Communications Division, said the NWC Academic Advising Committee ranked Davis’ replacement as its highest priority and sent that recommendation to the President’s Advisory Council. But the council recommended that a decision on whether to replace Davis be delayed until after a budget analysis process that will take about six weeks to complete.
Northwest College is facing an expected reduction of $1 million in state funding for the 2013-14 school year, though that won’t be certain until after the Wyoming Legislature completes its supplemental budget in late February or early March. College leaders plan to begin the process soon to identify ways to make the expected cuts in spending.
NWC President Paul Prestwich outlined that process for the NWC Board of Trustees on Monday.
Prestwich said the process will begin soon and will continue through February. During that time, campus constituency groups will forward their recommendations for budget cuts to the council, and those recommendations then will move up the ladder, eventually reaching to the advisory council. The council will sift through and prioritize those recommendations, then finalize its budget cut proposals and forward them to the board for consideration.
But a delay while waiting for that process to conclude could result in a lack of options for the NWC radio and television broadcasting programs, even if college leaders ultimately choose to replace Davis, Fish said.
“I need time to recruit someone to replace Dennis,” and that will take time, Fish said. He noted that Davis has specialized skills that also will be necessary for his replacement to possess.
Finding a person with those skills won’t be easy, so it’s important to start as soon as possible, he said.
But time is something Fish doesn’t have a lot of — and waiting for the budget analysis process will mean he has even less.
There is more at stake than just finding someone to teach classes, he said.
The Federal Communications Commission requires that licensed radio stations continue to broadcast.
“Our failure to do that would result in us losing our license for the radio station,”Fish said.
The process to get that license took three years, hours upon hours of work and volumes of paperwork.
“Once we lose that license, we’re not likely to get it back, given the amount of time it took to get it in the first place,” Fish said.
On the television side, Davis said local cable systems decide what channels they carry, and the FCC doesn’t get involved directly.
“But if Northwest didn’t continue to produce new programming, the cable systems wouldn’t have much incentive to keep the channel on their systems,” Davis said in an email on Wednesday.
Currently, TCT carries NWC-TV in Powell, Cody and Meeteetse, and in towns in Big Horn County. Optimum, formerly Bresnan, carries the channel in Powell and Cody.
Plans were under way to expand those services, he said.
“We are currently working with TCT on a high definition (HD) channel in addition to the SD (standard definition) channel,” Davis said. “Programming would be the same for both. New software we recently ordered would make program times more predictable and available online.”
NWC Paul Prestwich said he believes there still will be time to hire a replacement for Davis, should that be approved, after the budgetary analysis is completed.
“It is a specialized position, so we don’t want to wait too long,” he said. “But it’s an attractive position, and there’s a lot going on in that particular program.”
Prestwich said budgetary talks are beginning about two months earlier than usual this year in order to make that and other decisions in a more timely manner.
“We don’t want to wait until the end of the semester,” he said.
Still, Prestwich agreed the timing is less than ideal.
“We usually make decisions on faculty positions before the end of the calendar year,” he said.
But it is important to consider all program areas during the budgetary process, he said.
Fish said it’s also important to consider the investments Northwest College has made in facilities, equipment and infrastructure for the broadcasting programs and the television and radio stations.
Davis said the costs for the radio station totaled more than $100,000, most of which came from Title III grant funds.
“TV equipment we’ve accumulated over time with funds from the (NWC) Foundation, Perkins grant fund and private donors. The studio remodeling was funded separately.”
A state-of-the-art recording studio was built in 2010 in space in the Nelson Performing Arts Center formerly taken up by a dance studio. The project cost estimate was roughly $500,000, paid for by federal money awarded for construction projects. The project also included other renovations, making the project total cost $730,000.
Prestwich said any budget cut recommendations made for any program will consider all ramifications.
“This is not isolated,” he said. “There are lots of ramifications. They are nowhere near confined to just this program.”
The bottom line, he said, is that budget cuts should have “as little impact on the student experience as possible.
“Certainly, our goal is to do that so that students don’t feel the impact of those cuts in any significant way,” Prestwich said.
Fish said the radio and television programs were possible only because of the extensive time and effort Davis put into developing them.
“I think this is a valuable program to students and to the college, and I would hate to see it disappear, especially after all the hard work that Dennis has done to make it happen.”
Gerald Giraud, NWC vice president of academic affairs, said, “We all realize the enormity of Dennis’ contribution to the college. It’s difficult to even describe the enormity of his contribution ... and no one that I know of doesn’t appreciate that.
“We also know that there is a possibility that the college will face a significant reduction in state funding, so it’s our responsibility to carefully examine our operation to determine the best choices to make, should we have to cut.”
Davis said the programs provide benefit to the community as well as to the college and its students.
“A community college not only serves students through classes, but also the wider community. We bring a wide range of the creative, educational and enriching aspects of Northwest College to a wider audience,” he said.
“We strongly believe the film, radio and TV programs should continue with a full-time faculty position to teach the classes in four degree programs as well as operate the radio and TV stations. It would be difficult to operate the stations without full-time faculty and student involvement,” he said.
Earlier this week, Fish sent out a campus-wide email, asking folks to share feedback about the TV and radio stations.
“If you watch or listen, let us know,” Fish wrote in the email.
“While we haven’t spent money for ratings or listenership surveys, we consistently get positive comments from radio listeners and TV viewers. People consistently tell us they appreciate the range of programs we offer on TV,” Davis said. “On radio, people tell us they appreciate the variety and hearing things they don’t hear on other stations.
“We made important, long-term investments to get to this point. We believe students, Northwest College and the communities these stations will benefit in the long run by continuing the film, radio and TV program with a full-time faculty member.”