State Rep. Todd Thomsen referred to recently-passed House Bill 1227 as “a hostile takeover by a minority shareholder.”
Thomsen and State Sen. Susan Paddack said the bill, which makes Ardmore Higher Education Center a branch campus for Southeastern Oklahoma State University, was done behind closed doors and pushed through as quickly as possible.
Thomsen said the state doesn’t have money for a branch campus and the bill puts East Central University’s nursing program in Ardmore in jeopardy in the long run.
Paddack said ECU wasn’t initially invited into negotiations about the bill. One meeting was held with ECU at the table. Paddack said the language on the bill was not reflective of what was discussed in that meeting when it went to the Senate floor for consideration.
“They said they’ll work out a mutual agreement. Southeastern is the branch campus,” she said. “If we’re supposed to work out a mutual agreement, you’re in a position of authority and I’m not, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to be a mutual agreement.”
As of now, Thomsen said ECU will continue to offer its courses in Ardmore.
Paddack said ECU has been at Ardmore’s campus for 30 years and has more students there than SOSU.
“Both universities have had 30 years to invest in that center and ECU has doubled the students,” Thomsen said.
“They’ve talked a lot about growth but a lot of the growth is attributable to ECU’s presence down there,” Paddack said.
Paddack said the Russo Board, a board of regents for regional universities, sent a letter asking that the bill be slowed down.
Thomsen said the letter was sent out on Friday. The bill, however, ran in the Senate on Monday. It was approved by the House on Thursday and is now headed to the governor’s office.
“The Russo Board, who should have been consulted, didn’t even have time to act,” Thomsen said.
Paddack said Wes Stucky, President and CEO of Ardmore Development Authority, wrote a letter in response to the Russo Board’s letter saying the bill didn’t need to be slowed down.
Paddack said the questions she has about the bill should have been resolved early in the process.
“Good public policy would have worked all these issues out before; not after,” she said. “This is not how government is supposed to work.”
Paddack encouraged Oklahoma residents to contact the governor to let their voices be heard on this issue.
Paddack and ECU President Hargrave said ECU and Ada had a lot of good things going on in the community despite this temporary setback.
“This is just a speed bump in life,” Paddack said.