Admission standards may rise at FLC

Getting accepted into Fort Lewis College could become more difficult for prospective students in the near future. The local college is currently soliciting input from the campus community on a proposal to change admission standards from "moderately selective" to "selective." Stiffening admission standards would improve retention at the college by ensuring more new students could handle the coursework.

Fort Lewis College adopted a long-term strategy three years ago to reduce the number of students who are not prepared to do college work. By state policy, the college is permitted to accept 20 percent of its applicants who do not meet the specified standard for admission. Now the college is looking at raising that specified standard.

Dave Eppich, assistant to the president for external affairs, noted, "For several months now, we've been discussing creating a niche as a quality liberal arts institution. The efforts to increase retention at the college all have indicated that the selectivity standards need to be addressed."

Eppich said that many freshmen students have trouble dealing with the existing curriculum. The hope is that tighter admission standards will mean more students returning for second semester and sophomore year.

"We have an excellent faculty, and they maintain a rigorous curriculum, and part of the problem is that students fall out," Eppich said.

The college is currently considering adopting new standards over a five-year period. Eppich said that if adopted, there will be no impact on existing students, and the college will work to maintain its current diversity.

"In terms of diversity, we would continue to maintain our 25 percent minority enrollment and obviously a large part of that is Native American," Eppich said.

While new admission standards have yet to go down on paper, the college is already being more selective when considering applications, and the efforts are paying off. At the start of the 2004-05 school year, the college had retained 4 percent more freshmen students than the year prior. In spite of tightened admission standards, the freshman class grew by 67 students from a year ago, and this year 990 freshmen are enrolled in the college.

If implemented, new standards would bring Fort Lewis College closer to institutions like Colorado State University in Fort Collins and CU-Boulder and in line with Colorado State University at Pueblo, according to Eppich. A decision on new standards is expected at the end of February.

Durango turns out for tsunami relief

Durangoans turned out in force last weekend and again converted good times into a good cause. Several separate efforts raised nearly $20,000 for tsunami relief, and locals went home well fed and entertained as a result.

On Sat., Jan. 22, 24 local restaurants pitched in for earthquake and tsunami relief through an effort called "EAT for the People." Participating restaurants donated 10 percent of their total sales to charitable organizations providing services to victims of the Asian tsunami.

The total haul from the event came out to roughly $4,500 plus many other individual donations, though organizer Jen Shupe was still tabulating at press time.

"I would like to say thank you to all of the restaurants that participated and all of the community members who came out and supported the effort," Shupe said.

Sergio and Hydi Verduzco, the owners of East by Southwest, hosted a separate fund-raiser on the same evening. The $50-per-plate event consisted of a five-course, Omakase traditional Asian meal and benefited the Save the Children charity.

The restaurant sold out the event, seated a total of 150 people and raised $10,000. "The proceeds from the meal were $7,000 plus our wait staff donated all of their tips and customers made additional contributions," said Sergio Verduzco. "We were able to reach $10,000. There was a great reception from the community, and we had a lot of fun."

Last Friday night, the Hot Strings, a local bluegrass band, did their part for tsunami relief. All proceeds, which totaled more than $3,000, from their show at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College were donated to UNICEF. The sum included donations taken at the Concert Hall, a contribution from Student Productions and Other Things (SPOT) and funds collected from four different banks in Pagosa Springs. The show also gave the young newgrass band a chance to play material from their forthcoming CD, "Uncharted."

Energy boom expected to continue

The Colorado energy boom is expected to continue into 2005, and gas well drilling around La Plata County will be no small part of it. Energy companies are expected to spend more than $1 billion on oil and gas exploration throughout the state. Locally, companies will be on pace with last year's busy schedule.

"This really is an extension of the trend seen in the last several years," Brian Macke, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, told the Rocky Mountain News. "We issued a record 2,917 drilling permits in 2004 and anticipate at or above that level this year."

Several factors are contributing to the boom. Energy prices are continuing to push record highs. In addition, the Bush Administration has pushed to open the Rocky Mountain region to more oil and gas drilling. However, Macke noted that this energy frenzy is also raising concerns.

"There is an increase in the potential for land-use conflicts," he said. "This (development) also brings with it an increase in concern that public and local governments have regarding issues such as noise, traffic, dust and well-side reclamation."

Within La Plata County, BP, one of Colorado's top natural gas producers, has announced plans to drill 50 new wells this year, the same as last year. However, the company is also trying to acquire another rig and drill an additional 25 wells in the coming year.

Local woodworkers take top honors

Two Durango artisans received honors at a recent regional woodworking competition. Doug Hunderman and Gardy Catsman, both builders of custom hardwood furniture, received Best of Show and Second Place honors, respectively, at the recent Woodworkers V Exhibition in Farmington. The work of two dozen woodworkers from throughout the region will be on display at the Henderson Fine Arts Center through Feb. 3.

Hunderman received Best in Show for one of his rocking chair submissions. Following the awards ceremony, one of the jurors explained that the Best in Show honors actually came down to a toss up between Hunderman's two submitted chairs. The award eventually went to his "Mountain Rocker." Hunderman called the award gratifying, saying, "The experience certainly affirms the direction I've set for developing my woodworking interests and producing comfortable art."

Catsman, a lifelong woodworker, submitted a freestanding shelving unit entitled, "Bent," which earned him the Second Place Furniture Award. The piece contrasts walnut with maple hardwoods and horizontal shelving with bent vertical supports. Catsman is currently setting up a new shop in Durango where he will produce custom furniture and cabinetry by commission.

Purple Cliffs temporarily closed

The "Purple Cliffs" section of La Posta Road, located south of Bodo Park, was temporarily closed this week to alleviate public safety concerns. Doyle Villers, La Plata County Director of Road Maintenance, explained that the stretch of road becomes unsafe during winter months.

"We have historically had problems maintaining this stretch of road in the winter months," he said. "The potential for falling rocks has always been a safety concern, and icy winter conditions have made it difficult to maintain."

The closure follows the recent opening of the Rivera Crossing Bridge, which connects La Posta and U.S. Highway 550 near Home Depot. The $3.2 million bridge spans the Animas and was named in honor of Juan Maria Antonio Rivera, the Spanish explorer who named the Rio de las Animas Perdidas.

"The Rivera Crossing Bridge is now the primary access to U.S. Highway 550 via River Road, so it makes sense from a public safety perspective to temporarily close the Purple Cliffs section of C.R. 213 (La Posta Road)," Villers said.

- compiled by Will Sands




News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index