We've all heard of individual identity theft. This occurs when your credit card numbers or your checking account number is hijacked by a bad guy in a myriad of ways and then they proceed to drain your checking account and run your credit cards up to the max. This has all sorts of negative consequences for the victim and it's a tragedy whenever it happens.
But this column isn't about personal identity theft; it's about institutional identity theft. Several people have contacted me in the past week or so, either by phone or in person, about a mailing they received from the Mid-Plains Center for Enterprise, located on the second floor of McMillen Hall in McCook, expressing dismay that McCook Community College, except for a photo, wasn't mentioned in the brochure.
This is a battle I've fought for the past 15 years and it's a battle I'm apparently losing. After my conversations with these concerned McCookites, I did an Internet search for colleges in Nebraska and guess what I didn't find? I didn't find McCook Community College. I found Mid-Plains Community College in McCook a couple of times and Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte but no McCook Community College.
The last battle we had over this culminated in one of the famous town-hall meetings we had at True Hall on the McCook campus. During a question and answer session, I stood up and specifically asked a question about signage and was told (assured? promised?) that the signage wouldn't change. It hasn't changed on our campus but it sure has changed everywhere else.
McCook Community College is the oldest community college in the state of Nebraska. It has a true campus with six different buildings spread out over a city block with parking taking up part of another block and our new event center currently being built occupying a third block. Most other community colleges are housed in one building which doesn't make it feel like a college campus at all.
One thing I discovered almost immediately after arriving to teach here 17 years ago was the pride the people of this community have for its college. We have always had an active college foundation which raises significant sums of money to donate to the college. The business people on the bricks take great pride in the college and realize the significant economic impact that students, faculty, staff and administration have on their businesses.
But over the course of several years, the name so many of us are proud of has been slowly eroded away and I thought it would happen this way. There was no sudden declaration that we would now be called Mid-Plains instead of McCook because those in power knew that would bring an outcry from the citizenry like it did when President of the college Bill Fitch came up with his right-sizing program back in the mid to late '90s and later lost his job because of it.
He wasn't fired but a no-confidence vote failed by only one vote by the Board of Governors and he saw the writing on the wall and resigned shortly afterwards.
The community uprising over his proposal was sudden and loud and it prompted a town-hall meeting at True Hall similar to the one I referred to at the beginning of my column. The first one, however, brought a capacity crowd to the college and Mr. Fitch heard their objections loud and clear and, perhaps for the first time, realized the significant role that McCook Community College plays in the lifeblood of this city.
I don't know who's responsible for morphing MCC into Mid-Plains Community College but whoever it is obviously learned their lesson from Fitch's troubled tenure here. So instead of announcing the change in a press release, it just wasn't announced at all. And instead of doing it all at once, it was done slowly and piecemeal and gradual enough that they hoped no one would notice.
But people have noticed and this column is being written because they have.
They want their McCook Community College back.