Area legislators and East Central University officials are correctly concerned about the process that led to Ardmore Higher Education Center (AHEC) being designated a branch campus of Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SOSU).

In 2007, the Ardmore facility’s board of directors accepted a similar proposal to make Ardmore Higher Education Center a branch of East Central University. Oklahoma State legislators later nixed the idea, citing insufficient funding.

This brings up the first of many questions. There is less funding today than there was in 2007. How could the idea be financially viable now with even fewer dollars to go around?

State Sen. Josh Brecheen, Senate coauthor of HB1227, said great cost savings will accrue by what he called consolidation of SOSU and AHEC. This is one of those throw away lines that looks good in type but, to date, has not been verified by anything resembling evidence. This leads to the second question. Where is the verification that it will somehow cost less when it almost certainly will be more expensive rather than less so?

The most pointed question is for Oklahoma’s legislative leadership who tout themselves as championing an open and transparent political process. In this instance, nothing could be further from the truth. The first version of the bill only claimed to change the name of the Ardmore facility and no one objected to that. Only later was it discovered that something more substantial was afoot.

ECU officials and local legislators had to pry the figurative door off the secret sessions in which this cabal was planning its scheme. By the time they did, it was already a done deal. No amount of logic provided by Rep. Todd Thomsen or Sen. Susan Paddack could dissuade those who had already agreed to vote their approval.

One more opportunity remains for doing the right thing. Gov. Mary Fallin should veto HB1227. 

 — Loné Beasley


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