Chapter 4, Part 2 – Dr. Failor
Unfortunately for Dr. Failor, he unknowingly accepted the leadership position at the beginning of one of the most troubling periods in the college’s history. The deluge of post-war students that created the boom period dried up overnight, leaving the college to face almost insurmountable financial difficulties. In response to student demands for a better education in better facilities, the college had moved to a new campus in 1947. It had retooled its curriculum, increased its admission requirements, added new faculty and staff, and assumed additional obligations in anticipation of a financially robust future. In short, by 1955, the college was overextended.
It would be myopic to blame the college’s financial situation solely on the downturn in enrollment. Although difficult to quantify, the decision to require two years of pre-professional college education for admission to WSC contributed substantially to the decline in enrollment. Two other chiropractic colleges, Los Angeles Chiropractic College (LACC) and Texas Chiropractic College (TCC), attempted a similar admission requirement the year after WSC imposed theirs. However, neither promoted the passage of legislation in their respective states to enforce that decision.
The other chiropractic colleges were unmoved by the commitment of the three, choosing to continue with the lower admission requirements. There is little doubt that new student enrollments at the three colleges suffered significantly from the imposition of higher admission standards. Many prospective students not meeting the new entrance requirements at WSC, TCC and LACC chose to go to chiropractic colleges where admission was more immediate. For LACC and TCC, the precipitous declines in new student enrollment suffered at each institution became too costly and the higher admission requirement was eventually discontinued at both. As stated previously, the higher admission requirement at WSC was written into the Chiropractic Practice Act in Oregon. Therefore, the college did not have the option to discontinue it. It would take decades for WSC to fully recover from imposing higher admission standards.
Immediately prior to the hiring of Dr. Failor, enrollment projections for the college predicted a less-than-rosy financial future. The seriousness of the situation was revealed in two successive reports to the Board of Trustees. In his initial report on Feb. 15, 1955, Dr. Failor shared the current student body: 12 freshman, 18 sophomores, 25 juniors and 13 seniors, for a total student population of 68. Dr. Failor forecasted further declines in enrollment through 1956. At a meeting of the board a month later, Dr. Failor shared a compilation of enrollment data from the previous four years.
The trend was beyond alarming; it prognosticated doom.
Only 24 students were projected to enroll in the fall class.
From Dr. Failor’s perspective, college operations could not be sustained. He proposed to the board that they close the institution as quickly as feasible and liquidate its assets. The HRF Board of Trustees denied the proposal and directed Dr. Failor to do everything in his power to keep the doors to the college open.
Three months later, Dr. Failor reported to the trustees that expenditures were exceeding revenues by $1,000 a month. Faculty was under-paid and the college was awash in delinquent accounts. Again, Dr. Failor recommended closing the college; and again the trustees refused. At the board’s urging, Dr. Failor was directed to approach the naturopathic profession for financial support. The trustees felt that his being a naturopath would help in an appeal to them.
Dr. Failor met with a number of naturopathic trade organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest over the subsequent months to solicit support. Most in the naturopathic community voiced support of the college, but little in the way of direct financial backing ever materialized. What did materialize, however, was the naturopaths’ growing resentment for the lack of representation on the HRF board and at the college. The naturopathic community had not gotten over being ignored when they first brought their concerns about equitable representation to Dr. Budden in 1948. Dr. Failor’s appeal to the naturopaths for support only widened the rift between the two disciplines.
The naturopathic profession’s growing discontent with and distrust of the chiropractic community was not completely unjustified or without foundation. Rumors of the college’s closure had circulated for more than a year. Dr. Failor was neither the first nor the only one to acknowledge the college’s uncertain financial future. At least publicly, Drs. Failor and Higgens were successful at dispelling rumors circulating within the chiropractic community. But now, the naturopaths voiced their concerns directly to the HRF and college. Not only were the naturopaths dissatisfied with the lack of representation on the HRF board and at the college, they also suspected the HRF was conspiring with the National Council on Education to discontinue the naturopathic program at WSC.
Sensitive information contained in correspondence and conversations between WSC and the Council on Education had been leaked to the naturopaths. Most alarming to the naturopaths was the suggestion that WSC would be denied accreditation from NCE if it didn’t discontinue offering the ND degree. Inflaming an already potentially explosive situation, news that the college had created separate accounts for the chiropractic and naturopathic programs became widespread. As innocent as this move may have been, it fed the fear within the naturopathic community. Rumors of the demise of naturopathy boiled to the surface in the early months of 1955, inciting the naturopaths to demand an audience with the HRF Board of Trustees. The naturopaths wanted reassurance from the college that it was committed to teaching naturopathy and conferring the ND degree. On May 14, 1955, an all-day meeting was held between the naturopaths and Dr. Higgens.
The naturopaths peppered accusations at Dr. Higgens, questioning his loyalty to the naturopathic profession. The naturopaths demanded that Dr. Higgens increase the number of HRF trustees from three to five by appointing two naturopaths. (At an HRF board meeting later that same day, the Board of Trustees amended its bylaws, increasing itself to a five-trustee board. Upon advice of legal counsel they rescinded the amendment just two months later on July 23, 1955.) A letter from the CE was read to the attendees, which clearly described its position regarding the relationship between the two professions. Even though the letter contained no threat from the CE to deny WSC accreditation, it was clear a “divorce” was being encouraged. In an unambiguous response to the content of the CE letter, Higgens told the naturopaths the ND degree program would continue at WSC, even if it meant losing accreditation. Higgens gave his personal commitment to support the naturopathic cause.
By the July 23, 1955, meeting of the HRF board, it was apparent to the trustees that continuing an affiliation with the naturopaths would be problematic if WSC was to achieve accreditation. At the meeting it was said, “We are privileged to continue naturopathy… [until] we can gracefully work out a solution.” In the end, the solution regarding the fate of the naturopaths was probably not as graceful as the parties would have desired. The HRF board minutes note that by February 1956, the naturopathic program at WSC would be phased out.
It was clear by the reaction of the naturopaths that financial support for the college would not be found with them. To their credit, the trustees refused to close the college, but some relief to the financial stress at the campus would have to be forthcoming. In response to a clearly desperate situation and in an effort to bring about financial stability, Dr. Higgens stepped forward on Sept. 8, 1955, and committed his personal assets by securing a $39,000 mortgage on behalf of the college and took out a $10,000 life insurance policy, naming the college as beneficiary. This was not the first time Dr. Higgens had reached for his checkbook to rescue the college, nor would it be the last. Regardless of the deteriorating situation at the college, and perhaps in spite of it, he was committed to doing everything possible to guarantee survival of WSC.
Synergist: Voice of the Student Body, January/February 1955
Synergist: Voice of the Student Body, March/April 1955
Synergist: Voice of the Student Body, June 1955
Graduating class June 1955
Graduating class September 1955
The infusion of cash from Dr. Higgen’s loan helped offset a distressful financial situation made worse by the departure of the naturopaths. The college struggled to remain viable for the remainder of 1955 and throughout 1956. Recommendations to close the college and liquidate assets continued to come from Dr. Failor. The HRF board would respond each time by recommending more cost-cutting measures and more aggressive pursuit of external financial support. The relationship between Drs. Higgens and Failor began to sour under the financial stress.
In an attempt to salvage a situation that was quickly spinning out of control, Dr. Failor implemented drastic cost-cutting measures and took steps to keep the creditors at bay. A significant number of faculty and staff were released, an action that increased the level of fear and discontent within the campus community.
Dr. Failor approached the Oregon Association of Chiropractic Physicians (OACP) to solicit financial contributions, but little more than sympathy was donated. In desperation, Failor appealed to Dr. Nugent at the Council on Education for help, sharing with him his doubts that the college could survive beyond July 1, 1956. The total student population was 73 and a number of disgruntled students announced their plans to transfer to the new naturopathic program starting in the fall. Dr. Higgins appealed to the National Chiropractic Association to support a policy compelling all chiropractic colleges to adopt a two-year, pre-professional college education admissions requirement. The NCA refused to budge.
By summer 1956, frustration with lack of support from the NCA, CE, OACP, NDs and DCs; compounded by the student, staff and faculty discontent on campus and a worsening financial situation at the college was more than Dr. Failor was willing to tolerate any longer. He submitted his letter of resignation to the HRF. Even though he had repeatedly recommended closure of the college and left the institution saddened and disappointed, he was effective in instituting stopgap measures that kept the college solvent. Without Dr. Failor’s efforts, the college would have closed.