Keeping our local strengths strong

By Gary Huffenberger - Staff columnist

We who live in the Clinton County area are fortunate to have in our midst multiple strengths.

For this commentary and the next, I want to say a few words about two of those existing strengths — Wilmington College and the churches. The focus will be on keeping them strong and vital.

A July article in the News Journal indicated the college eliminated 15 positions across campus, involving 10 layoffs and five open positions that would not be filled. The article referred to “other cost-containment measures” such as more cost-conscious policies and deferring some physical plant maintenance.

There also have been a number of early-retirement packages offered and accepted by long-time faculty members.

In short, as the July article put it, there is a “necessity to restructure.”

The article concluded, “Small independent colleges are especially vulnerable to feeling this pinch, as nearly a third of all schools in the United States like Wilmington College operated with a deficit last year.”

To many of us who live here, the importance of WC remaining a strong institution of higher learning can hardly be over-stated.

What then might residents and local leaders do? One thing is to form partnerships. We can get stronger when we partner with each other.

One concrete example, which I came across in a book by traveling singer-songwriter Dar Williams titled “What I Found in a Thousand Towns”, is to offer mortgage incentives for faculty to buy houses here. After all, there will be new faculty members who will replace faculty who took early retirement.

A home-ownership incentive could be something offered by local community-minded banks, or it could arise from a partnership between the college and local government.

If we give joint attention to the college’s situation, other ideas and possibilities are likely to be served up.

The point, as our songwriting author writes, is that when it comes to town-gown relationships in a college town, there can be “a respectful shoring up of support” when one partner is lagging at some moment in time.

She adds, “That can mean a campus lending support to a town, but it can also mean a town bringing resources to a campus at a critical juncture.”

Gary Huffenberger is a staff writer for the News Journal.

By Gary Huffenberger

Staff columnist