By Debbie Brown
“I’d like it to stay the way it is.” That was the simple, straight-forward answer given to me by state representative Al O’Brien, when I asked him if he was in favor of Cascadia Community College merging with Lake Washington Technical College, and converting the present CCC campus over to UW Bothell.
Democrat O’Brien represents the 1st state congressional district, serving portions of northeast King County and south Snohomish County, including areas of Bothell, Woodinville, Mountlake Terrace and Brier, as well as parts of Lynnwood and Edmonds.
“I don’t think that’s true,” O’Brien said in response to a statement in The Husky Herald dated November 5, 2009. Herald editor Sam Shupe, reporting on Chancellor Kenyon Chan’s Town Hall meeting, wrote:
The gorilla in the room is the fact that the current campus location is simply not big enough to support a fully grown UW Bothell and a fully grown Cascadia Community College. Sooner or later, one of the schools will have to leave.
“There’s plenty of room for expansion and the two schools can co-exist.” O’Brien went on to say that the two colleges on one campus serves a purpose: it gets people into the education system via Cascadia Community College, and then makes it easy to transition over to UW Bothell to get the higher degree.
On his web site, O’Brien talks about his position on higher education:
Due to the state’s budget challenges, our state colleges and universities are facing significant cuts, and students will likely see a hike in tuition. The irony is that rising unemployment is pushing more people to our colleges and universities at the very time those institutions are forced to scale back. This is particularly true at our two- year colleges where students and workers seek job-training and certification programs, or an affordable entry point to a four-year degree. http://housedemocrats.wa.gov/highered.asp
“It’s not a done deal as far as I’m concerned,” O’Brien said emphatically, after I mentioned to him that a full professor at UW Bothell had recently told a student that the plan to merge CCC and LWTC was “a done deal.” O’Brien went on to say “It hasn’t been discussed in the legislature to my satisfaction.”
But it is being discussed? “There has been talk,” O’Brien admitted. “It’s being discussed.” O’Brien went on to say that he has talked to both UW Bothell Chancellor Kenyon Chan and Cascadia Community College President William Christopher, but he did not divulge the details of those discussions.
When I pressed O’Brien for specifics, such as a possible time line for a bill to come out of the Higher Education committee, he said “I can’t tell you because I’m not on that committee.” He referred me to his colleague, state senator (Democrat) Rosemary McAuliffe, who also serves the 1st district and serves on the Higher Education & Workforce Development committee. According to its website (http://www.leg.wa.gov/Senate/Committees/HEWD/Pages/default.aspx), this committee:
…considers issues relating to the state’s public and independent baccalaureate colleges and universities, public community and technical colleges, private career schools, and workforce training. Issues include governance and coordination of higher education, accountability, the development of a highly skilled workforce that will sustain Washington’s economic vitality, financial aid, tuition, campus safety, and the licensing of private colleges and career schools.
The Husky Herald will be contacting Senator McAuliffe with a request for an interview.
Since The Husky Herald broke this story on November 5, 2009, it has continued to grow. In the near future, look for my interview with CCC President Dr. William Christopher, as well as a story about UW Bothell, CCC and LWTC student reaction to this proposal. The Husky Herald has repeatedly attempted to contact LWTC President Dr. Sharon McGavick, but as of yet we have not secured an interview with her.