I listened intently to the radio broadcast on March 5 on WITF-fm Radio Smart Talk: Wilson College’s decision to go co-ed with guest, President Barbara Mistick.
I grew up in Franklin County and attended Wilson College, graduating with a degree in psychology in 1994. I also decided to return to Wilson College in 2008 for pre-med requirements in order to apply to medical school. I knew that the science faculty at Wilson was top-notch and I would receive the attention I would need as someone who had been out of school for several years.
I was not disappointed by my choice in returning to school and four years later finished a second major in biology with honors.
I was, however, greatly disappointed in how President Mistick characterized the school during her radio interview. When asked about the lack of marketing, she stated, “the college has been in existence for 144 years. I’d say that’s a significant sign that people do know Wilson”.
However, those of us who live in the area know that the advertising that Wilson College has done is mediocre at best. If you go outside of Chambersburg, there are few who have even heard of the school. I travel almost an hour to work and listen to local radio stations during that drive.
I have heard many advertisements schools in our area. I listen to one of the most popular radio stations in Chambersburg and rarely hear an advertisement for Wilson.
I am also a sole proprietor and, within that role, I understand business marketing. When your numbers are down, you advertise more, not less.
President Mistick stated, “what we know is that even increased marketing efforts on average do not increase yields by more than 10 percent.” Not only does she not mention the source for that data, it also goes against multiple articles written in the financial field.
I am certainly not advocating unintelligent advertising, but when Brian Speers, the (school’s) new vice president of marketing and communication, states that he does not even know who the target pool is of potential students of Wilson College, it raises a red flag.
Dr. Mistick then states that the “marketplace has changed” and that the decision “was a comprehensive process.” Yes, businesses do have to be flexible enough to survive the flux in the marketplace, however, the recent article written by Gretchen Van Ness, Class of 1980, and former trustee of Wilson College, (http://chronicle.com/blogs/letters/process-that-broad-coeducation-to-wilson-was-rushed-incomplete/) points out that the research that was gathered by the commission was never presented to the president prior to her providing her recommendations to the board of trustees.
How can those entrusted with ensuring a thriving college make such an important decision without all of the facts? Yet another red flag is raised.
In fact, even though I was on the campus for the past five years, I was not aware of the significant changes that were being proposed until my class president contacted me after she attended the first open commission meeting, in September 2012.
This is the “transparency” that has been so widely touted? Even now, I suspect that there are alumnae that will arrive on campus for reunion this June who are not fully aware of the magnitude of the decisions that were made in January.
This lack of transparency continues even today. Questions that were asked multiple times during the commission meetings, in letters, and in face-to-face conversations remain unanswered. Alumnae have set up blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and even a website in order to have our concerns addressed.
I was taught at Wilson to question, do my own research and to act honorably in my personal and professional life. I am continuing that tradition now in the face of this decision and the conclusion that I have reached is one in which it is obvious that the information provided by the administration at Wilson College is definitely incomplete and one-sided.
Even now, this administration is continuing an unfortunate time-honored legacy of “divide and conquer” by currently holding committee meetings during inconvenient times for its various constituencies or segregating these committee meetings.
President Mistick is correct in that it is impossible for her to predict what will happen in the future, however, at the end of the day, Wilson College will survive, not because of the questionable actions of a few, but because of the people who decided to discover the truth.
Lori A. Fedorczyk