Saving EOU: work together and build up programs
How do you save a university? That was the Street Talk question posed in a recent Observer. There were a couple of suggestions mentioned. The one about paying students to attend, I thought, was a bit much, but I think I would like to offer up some suggestions of my own.
Eastern Oregon University is a school that has been in this area since the dawn of time. It has been a staple of the town since I came here in 1996.
I came here to play football and then sign with the Seattle Seahawks for the rookie minimum and go to work on my professional football career, and I have done that, many times over. Thank you Madden Football 2005.
But seriously, I did come here to play sports. That didn't go so well for me, but it opened a door to what I feel is the heart and soul of Eastern Oregon University. Namely, its art and performing arts departments.
I am an Eastern Oregon Theatre Program alumni from the tip of my graying head all the way down the bottom of my size-13 foot. This alumni status has been conjoined with my media arts degree as well, so now I bleed Gold and Blue even thicker. The point being, I think what EOU needs to do is invest in those programs that grab headlines namely the art and performing arts departments.
When a theatre program show opens, people come. When the choir is in concert, people are there. People in this town, whether it's Bill Shakespeare to Brian Wallis, love to come out and attend what I think are some of the social events of the year. The music department does a wonderful job of uniting the community and the school with its community choir and performances.
I can't speak for all the programs on their level of success, but what I'm suggesting is following an old business adage passed down through the decades: "Spend money to make money."
I think one thing EOU needs to do is put money back into these successful programs. You can't put up shows that draw crowds if you don't have the money to put them up, plain and simple. Without the art and performing arts departments bringing people in with the art gallery openings, productions and concerts, why is anyone going to come to the university who isn't already attending it?
My only other suggestion, and then I swear I will go back to writing my scripts, is to strengthen the link between the town and EOU. Not the community, but the town.
I've been to Pullman, to Moscow and you ought to see those places, if you haven't already. They have totally embraced their universities as part of their heritage. You can't walk down the street in Pullman without seeing Crimson and Silver everywhere. This is what I think La Grande needs to do.
If you want to keep your school, start showing people, near and far, how much it means to you. Plaster the school logo in your intersections. Businesses, sell more EOU merchandise in your stores. Make use of the downtown as a place to host dances more often.
EOU/La Grande, celebrate your students, because you're missing them now that they are gone. EOU, get your students even more involved with their community.
EOU/La Grande, work together to make this happen.
What would happen to La Grande if EOU left? I know one thing, it would be a lot quieter. Just think of any George Romero film, after the zombies have ravaged it and are in hiding. (Insert rolling family of tumbleweeds.)
Make it happen.
Peters is a partner in a small business in downtown La Grande at Valley Video Services. He holds degrees from EOU in theatrical directing and media arts film studies.