Chapter 7, Part 3 – 1979
The year began on a positive note, when the college received a $3,900 grant from the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The grant was specifically earmarked for library improvements and was put to good use by increasing reference materials, journal subscriptions and texts.
In late January 1979, the college received notice from the CCE that it was deferring a decision on WSCC’s application for accreditation. CCE defers WSCC accreditation decision for one year. The college had expected to achieve full accreditation; to hear otherwise was a crushing blow to the entire campus community. Despite assurances from the board and administration that the college would survive this latest setback, the patience of the college community had worn too thin.
The campus erupted in expressions of anger, fear, frustration, accusations and threats. Petitions from various campus constituencies were forwarded to the president and the board chair. An all-student assembly was held at which President Timmins received an almost unanimous vote of no-confidence. The board shared similar levels of frustration, but they aimed their anger elsewhere. As a collective, the trustees were having difficulty deciding on an appropriate direction to take. Divisiveness at the highest level of governance contributed profoundly to the college’s inability to manage the crisis.
Further confusion about the college’s accreditation status was created when letters discrediting the college began to arrive at the Council on Chiropractic Education, the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards and the U.S. Department of Education. The letters claimed the college had not been in compliance with established standards for some time. The unflattering letters came from a disgruntled former faculty member who had been discharged the prior year for “…not supporting the CCE and conversely WSCC’s Standards, and actively speaking against diagnosis as well as holding a rebellious attitude towards his superiors and violating policies of the college in sheer defiance of their authority.”
The trustees had a clear recollection of the displeased employee from a different letter he had sent to them, in which he offered $120,000 if they would agree to replace the current administration and appoint him as academic dean. It was no secret to anyone associated with the college that the former faculty member represented the straight philosophical approach. It would take considerable effort and time by the college to enlighten CCE, FCLB and the USDOE on the particulars of this situation. All of the states and provinces in North America received a similar letter from this individual. The Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards intervened by sending a letter to the member states and provinces discrediting the letter’s source.
The board was unsure that President Timmins was the right person to lead the college out of its perilous situation, despite his having been the executive secretary of CCE immediately prior to his appointment as president of WSCC. Senior administrators, faculty and students shared the board’s doubts. On Feb. 21, 1979, the WSCC board held a special meeting to address the campus disruption and listen to differing points of view being expressed by senior administrators.
The following day, the board issued a campus-wide memorandum to address the many rumors floating about. Attached to the memo was a copy of an evaluation report from the college’s consultant, stating that the college was in compliance with CCE Standards and had provided evidence to that effect in documents submitted to CCE. The memo responded to each of the non-compliance issues and concerns identified in the CCE’s letter notifying the college it was deferring a decision on its accreditation status. The memo ended with “…a solid vote of confidence was given President Timmins and his procedures for working toward accreditation.” Board memo of confidence in Timmins
The same day the memo was distributed, WSCC Academic Dean, Dr. Herbert Vear, submitted his letter of resignation. In late February, Timmins called the CCE to see what could be done to ameliorate fallout from its decision. He conveyed to the CCE that the campus was about to ignite and the college needed some action by the CCE to help defuse an explosive situation. The CCE agreed to send a two-person evaluation team at the end of March. The team came and went, but no response came from the CCE. Nevertheless, their concession to send an evaluation team to campus was enough to bring about temporary peace, but not enough to avert a looming confrontation amongst the board, college administration, faculty and students. The WSCC Reporter, official newsletter February 1979
May 1979 was a difficult month. The college again faced financial difficulties and was forced to obtain a bank loan to meet operating expenses. In large part, this most recent financial crisis was brought on by the college’s decision to enroll a class for each of the four quarters. It helped to have a constant flow of students enrolling year round, but this approach significantly increased costs, primarily in the areas of clinic operations and faculty compensation. Faculty members were already carrying heavy teaching loads and teaching their courses every quarter, year-round. Enrollment only increased that burden.
In early May, students were notified that their fall tuition would increase by 15 percent. Already angered by lack of progress on the accreditation front, a hefty tuition increase did little to lift the spirits of distrustful students. The college’s inability to achieve accreditation was the central topic of discussion on campus. Almost weekly, one or more state licensing boards announced that applicants for licensure in their jurisdiction must have graduated from a fully accredited chiropractic college. This turn of events only increased the level of student anxiety. Junior and senior students found themselves in a race to obtain a license to practice in their chosen jurisdiction before requirements for licensure changed to their disfavor. To protect themselves, students began the process of transferring to chiropractic colleges having full accreditation. Between January and April, seven students transferred to other chiropractic colleges and 30 more sent transcripts in anticipation of transferring.
In mid-May, a delegation from the board met with student leaders to respond to their concerns, which were many and serious. The Willamette Week newspaper had been investigating the college unrest and was planning to publish a less-than-flattering article about the college. Willamette Week informed the college that it would wait to hear what the board had to say before going to press. The students’ demand was simple and direct; unless the board took immediate steps to address the issues causing campus turmoil:
- students would strike
- a class-action lawsuit would be filed against the college and the board
- the Willamette Week would be encouraged to print an exposé highlighting college improprieties
President Timmins had become the focus of much of the dissatisfaction on campus. It may have reassured him to hear the board declare its “…solid vote of confidence…” months earlier, but he was a seasoned higher education administrator and he must have recognized that with all the continued campus unrest, his survival was tenuous at best. On May 16, 1979, shortly after the board met with the student delegation, Dr. Timmins submitted a letter of resignation to the Board of Trustees effective June 30, 1979. His letter of resignation was accepted and Dr. Herbert Vear was appointed acting president.
News of Timmins’ resignation brought an end to much of the campus unrest, but distrust and anger remained palpable. Many within the campus community had lost faith in the college leadership’s ability to govern appropriately. Trust was in short supply and the wounds from this tumultuous period would not heal quickly. The WSCC Reporter, official newsletter Spring 1979.