TORRINGTON – Seven of the nine candidates campaigning for five seats on the Eastern Wyoming College Board of Trustees took advantage of a moderated forum hosted by the Goshen County Republicans at the Lincoln Center to discuss their views on some major issues facing the college, including preventing discrimination against LGBTQ students and students carrying firearms on campus.
In May, the board made headlines when it first supported, then dropped two policies intended to provide protections for transgender EWC students. The first bill would have allowed transgender student-athletes to compete for EWC athletic teams, while the second would have added language to a personnel policy to protect transgender employees from discrimination. During the forum, several of the candidates expressed beliefs that EWC should ensure a safe learning environment for everyone.
“We need to make sure everything is equal for everyone,” Robert Baumgartner, the current board member representing Huntley, Yoder and Veteran, said. “Everyone needs to have the opportunity for education. Students are paying for their education. Basically, what it comes down to is that the policies are there to help the students, and put them in place to curb the problem before it happens.
“We’re trying to make this a better place for everyone to receive an education.”
Candidate Danny Tadewald, a rancher and EWC alum, agreed with Baumgartner.
“I’m kind of a redneck, I was brought up in the sticks,” he said. “The world is what it is today, everything should be equal for everybody.
“Everyone should be treated equal, by God, this is the Equality State. Get with the program,
Incumbents Angie Chavez and Judith Bartman, as well as hopefuls Thomas Eaton and Thomas McCreery also advocated for equality on campus.
“Intellect knows no boundary, cultural or otherwise,” Eaton said.
Not all of the candidates agreed, however. Cecil Sauer, an instructor at EWC running for a spot on the board, wasn’t present at the forum. He submitted a statement, which was read by the moderator. In the letter, Sauer said he is running because the board’s focus should be on education, not on promoting liberal propaganda.
“There seems to be a focus on promoting Hollywood’s immorally –skewed world view instead of educating students,” he said in the letter. “I would suggest that we need a bit of house-cleaning on the board, and need to elect some folks who care more about providing useful classes and being frugal with the budget. Let us continue to offer vocational training and general education for transfer students as a community college should, not focusing on indoctrinating liberal propaganda.”
Eaton was the only candidate in favor of allowing students to keep and carry guns on campus.
“I would want to know the weapon and I would want to know which student is carrying it,” he said. “I would want to talk to the student and ask them why, because this a nonthreatening environment. The main purpose of this college is education, however, they have the right to carry and I would protect the right to carry on campus.”
The other candidates disagreed. Several candidates voiced concerns about the maturity level of the students. Jackie Van Mark, an instructor at the college, cited a specific incident in her career that she says could have been serious if a struggling student had been allowed to carry on campus.
“He thought it was his right to pack a pistol. I can guarantee you this kid would pull that pistol out just to make a point or to scare somebody else,” she said. “I think we’re dealing with some hormones, even as freshmen in college, that we probably shouldn’t give a gun to.”
Chavez echoed Van Mark’s concerns about the maturity of the student body.
“We have the Torrington Police Department on campus and they are there to help,” Chavez said. “We have security systems. I will never will feel safe with guns on campus.”