CEU Carbon Rec partnership on dangerous ground

the dissolution of a long standing partnership
Posted Tuesday, April 20, 2010 - 7:02pm

The partnership between the College of Eastern Utah and Carbon County Recreation is set to expire June 30, 2010 and the chances for renewing the contract seem to be non-existent. The current memorandum of understanding (MOU) between CEU and Carbon Rec is coming up on its third year, although the agreement between Carbon Rec and CEU has been in place many more years than that.

Carbon Rec provides CEU students all the equipment for several of the outdoor classes including: river running, river guide prep, bouldering, kayaking and other classes. CEU also subsidizes the cost of renting outdoor gear for CEU students and staff allowing them to rent rafts and other gear for half price.

Greg Benson, vice president of academic affairs, explains another element of the MOU. "There's a provision in the partnership agreement for a joint employee, somebody who is a full-time employee but is part Carbon Rec. Part College of Eastern Utah so there's a payment that really goes to paying part of a full time employee's salary down at Carbon Rec. and that's Bo [Christensen] at this time."

According to CEU Interim President Mike King, "We've had this partnership with Carbon Rec for several years and it's been a very good partnership. We've done a lot of good things together and the college has benefitted from it and we believe the county has too.

"We have an [MOU] with them (Carbon Rec) that has to be renewed and it was at the end of its renewal period. The current agreement expires June 30 this year. We've been talking with Carbon Rec about this for some time and the need to take a look at this agreement and see if it, in fact, is something that we can continue to do the way we have been doing it."

The MOU contains a provision allowing either party to terminate the agreement. Because of budget, and other concerns, King wrote a letter to Carbon County Commissioners expressing concerns about the agreement in its current form.

King explains, "I sent a letter to the county commissioners a few weeks ago [the last week of March] and suggested we look at the agreement and make sure we could do what we needed to do to evaluate it and make sure we were going to keep the important parts and [also communicate] that there are budgetary constraints that may cause us to not do as much as we've done with Carbon Rec [in the past]."

Steve Christensen has two jobs, he works for CEU as coordinator of outdoor programs and is also the director of Carbon Recreation. Christensen manages the rental of rafts and other outdoor equipment and oversees the outdoor programs for the college.

Soon after the county received the letter, word got to Christensen, that there were questions about the agreement.

According to Christensen, he was not consulted before the letter was sent to the county. "I don't believe anybody was consulted. I don't believe anybody had any input. I don't know that, but that's my belief. I know I certainly didn't. I am supposedly outdoor program coordinator. I would think that a courtesy phone call might be in order," Christensen said.

Exacerbating the problem was the decision by CEU administration to not post the fall 2010 recreation class schedule until more was known about the status of the MOU.

King explains, "That's probably what precipitated this whole thing, at least that's the way I see it. There could have been other things, there might have been some dissatisfaction with what's been going on and the way things have been done, but basically that seems to be the match that started the fire. Because once that was out there, [the letter to Carbon Rec] then immediately there were discussions about we need to know what courses to put on the schedule and then from the other side, [Carbon Rec] well if we don't have an MOU we can't commit to any classes.

King continued, "the deadline to get the schedule out is right here, right now, and so the decision was made not to include those classes in those first round of the schedule simply because things were not worked out. That set everyone off saying we have cancelled this whole program and what's the deal? And that's not the case at all. We have indicated to the county we are very supportive of the program and it had been very good and we have appreciated their efforts in the college's behalf."

The "whole thing" King is referring to is the reaction Carbon Rec/CEU employee Bo Christensen and other adjunct teachers had when their classes did not appear on the fall 2010 schedule.

According to King and Benson, there are concerns about the MOU and until those issues have been resolved, the agreement between CEU and Carbon Rec is in jeopardy.

In the meantime, CEUSA student government drafted a petition which says in part, "We support the preservation and even the build up of the partnership between Carbon County Recreation and CEU Outdoors." At last count, 283 students and teachers had signed the petition.

King responds, "I think it's [outdoor rec classes] an important part [of the college experience] it's always good to have a diverse array of opportunities. All of those kinds of activities enhance the students experience here at CEU. And we don't want those things to diminish, we want them to be enhanced. I suspect that all 283 of those students don't really understand the situation very clearly about what's going on. And I would be more than happy to talk to all 283 of them."

A separate issue and a concern for adjunct teachers is the decision by Benson to change many of the current continuing education classes from for-credit classes to non-credit workshops.

"General categories of RECR classes that will not be on the fall 2010 schedule – guitar making, horsemanship, photography, silversmithing, stone cutting and polishing, wire wrapped jewelry. Instructors have been invited to submit ideas for offering these types of courses on a non-credit basis," Benson said.

King and Benson indicated their door is open to anyone that would like to discuss CEU Outdoors or CEU Continuing Ed.

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