Is PUC Selling Land?

By D. Malcolm Maxwell, President on November 12, 2007

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Over the past few months, you may have heard that the college has considered selling some land. It's an option PUC has prayerfully explored, seeking out the advice of experts and the opinions of the college's constituents. Because so many people genuinely and passionately care about PUC's future, the discussion has been widespread. Unfortunately, some incorrect information has circulated, so we want to report on what is (and isn't) happening.

An Overview

The finance committee, a subcommittee of PUC's board of trustees, met last March to explore ways to achieve the three goals outlined in PUC's new strategic plan. For sure, the goals are bold and worthy: [1] Access, [2] Quality, and [3] Resources.

ACCESS: PUC will make Christian liberal arts education more accessible to qualified applicants by expanding PUC's capacity to provide financial assistance and by providing expanded delivery systems.

QUALITY: PUC will enhance our program of continuous and intentional development of faculty and staff to their highest potential in order to ensure distinctive student learning outcomes.

RESOURCES: PUC will support academic excellence by generating resources adequate to promote and fund the twin goals of access and quality.

Tackling this brave plan, the committee favored the concept "of a possible sale of land" in order to augment the college's current endowment. The committee's recommendation, however, did not specify how much land to include in the considerations.

One subsequent proposal would involve the sale of approximately 150 acres of PUC's 2,000 acres, with an option to buy the land back in 35 years at a predetermined price. The money from the sale would be added to the school's endowment, and the income from this account would help PUC achieve the three goals from the strategic plan. In order to achieve the three goals, money would go toward financial aid, scholarships, library needs, faculty wages, and old debt. Also, money would be set aside to buy back the land.

As word spread about the committee's recommendation, various entities expressed an interest in the land. Because of Howell Mountain's reputation as a premium grape-growing region, some wineries expressed interest.

The board of trustees did not immediately discuss the finance committee's recommendation. Rather, it instructed the administration to invite comments from various constituencies. The morning after the meeting of the board, the administration began putting together a survey. About 4,400 surveys were sent to a random sample of alumni, to some constituents, and to all faculty, staff, and students. Explanatory materials accompanied the surveys fitting the different groups to which they were sent.

The board intended to reconvene on June 15 to hold their discussion of the issue; however, because several could not be present and other feedback needed to be assembled, the meeting was canceled. The topic will be on the agenda at the board's regular session in September, where the results of the survey and other feedback will be presented to the board members.


Examining the Hearsay

HEARSAY: PUC is experiencing financial crisis and, therefore, must sell land.

TRUTH: PUC continues to balance its budgets (as it has over the last six years) and remains fiscally strong. The recommendation came only as a suggestion to advance the three goals of access, quality, and resources spelled out in PUC's strategic plan.

HEARSAY: The committee recommended selling land for the purpose of producing wine grapes.

TRUTH: No, the committee's recommendation was to explore the sale and buy-back of land as a means to augment the school's endowment and, therefore, advance the strategic plan's three goals. The yield from the endowment would provide long-term financial support. The recommendation did not suggest or imply who would purchase the land. Some wineries expressed interest because of Howell Mountain's reputation as a premium grape-growing region.

HEARSAY: PUC wants to sell land in order to increase faculty wages.

TRUTH: The finance committee proposed selling land in order to augment the school's endowment, the yield of which would go toward the strategic plan's three goals. To achieve these goals, of course, PUC wants to increase financial aid, scholarships, library resources, as well as to raise faculty salaries to what the North American Division of Seventh-Day Adventists recommends. (Currently, all members of PUC's faculty work for less than the denominational pay scale.)

HEARSAY: PUC's board has been secretive about the recommendation.

TRUTH: The morning after the recommendation, PUC began preparing a survey that would both inform and solicit opinions concerning the recommendation. About 4,400 surveys were sent to a random sample of alumni and constituents, and to all employees and students. The recommendation has also been discussed at alumni chapter meetings. Press releases concerning the recommendation were submitted to a variety of publications that reach PUC's constituency. Furthermore, one day following the recommendation, a newsgroup (an open forum on the Internet) was set up so that interested parties might voice their opinions.

HEARSAY: Selling land is the only option that has been suggested to achieve the strategic plan's goals.

TRUTH: To date, there have been nearly 50 suggestions. These have included building a retirement center, planting crops, planting olive groves, leasing land, establishing a preserve, and many more. However, because of zoning, the land is limited to agricultural purposes.

HEARSAY: The deal is already done.

TRUTH: This couldn't be more mistaken. Up to this point, only the finance committee has taken up the discussion. The school is currently soliciting feedback from its constituents before the full board considers the recommendation in September.


Thanks for Your Concerns and Prayers

Quality education-academic and, most of all, spiritual-is important to all of us. Much prayer has been devoted to the long-term well-being of Pacific Union College. We sincerely encourage continued prayer for PUC's future. God has blessed us with resources, and we want to be faithful stewards of His gifts. We want only to do His will, and we trust that He will continue to lead us in the right direction-His direction. The concerns and prayers of our constituency mean much to us.

Thank you.

D. Malcolm Maxwell, July 1998.