SDPURC???

SDPURC???
There perhaps is nothing a governmental agency can do to generate mistrust among the general public than to suddenly, without warning, make a decision that appears to be unwarranted.

The South Dakota Board of Regents has done just that.

At its Aug. 11 meeting in Spearfish, the board decided that USDSU, the public higher education center in Sioux Falls, should now be known as the South Dakota Public Universities & Research Center.


In other words, SDPURC.

This name change comes as plans move forward to permanently locate and expand public university courses and services in the state's largest city.

Naturally, Board of Regents representatives praised the decision they made last Friday – a decision that, to the best of our knowledge, was made in a vacuum, or at least the rarified air of the Black Hills.

"A new identity – represented by this new name – reflects our commitment to bring courses and programs to this center from all six public universities in South Dakota," said Regents President Harvey C. Jewett.

"This designation reflects a new partnership among all six public universities in Sioux Falls and the evolving mission of public higher education – in both instruction and research – in that community," said Robert T. Tad Perry, the regents' executive director.

In the past, USDSU had been a partnership of The University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University, and Dakota State University. Folks here in Vermillion could gain a bit of comfort in recent years when it appeared that USDSU was an entity that will always stay, and likely grow, in Sioux Falls.

USD was part of the Sioux Falls school's name, truly reflecting the partnership forged with major state universities to make the this education center a reality.

But SDPURC?

Suddenly, USD, and every other state university involved in providing education courses in Sioux Falls, have lost their identity.

We can't help but wonder why.

The regents' news release last week did not say who came up with the new name for USDSU.

Years ago, when USDSU was just getting on its feet, it naturally spread concern throughout our community.

The Board of Regents, in a meeting with the public here, assured people in a question and answer session that there was no hidden agenda to eventually begin yet another institution of publicly-financed education in Sioux Falls.

Such a move could eventually cripple USD, as potential students would decide that living or commuting to Sioux Falls would be just as easy as doing the same here.

Things are starting to move awfully fast, however.

The mysterious name change comes at the same time that regents approved preliminary plans for two new building projects to create space for classrooms, research, and graduate education on property the regents acquired earlier this year in northwest Sioux Falls.

A 52,000-square-foot classroom building, along with a graduate education and research facility of about 35,000 square feet, will be built. Both projects have been authorized by the state legislature, which also appropriated $8 million for the classroom building.

The graduation education and research center has come to be known as the GEAR Center, the regents said in a news release.

It doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to picture SDPURC 10 years from now as growing to be South Dakota's second largest university, with total enrollment ranked somewhere between SDSU and USD.

And naturally, with such a large institution in the state's largest city, we can't help but wonder if the Board of Regents will eventually be pressured by Sioux Falls citizens to transform SDPURC into a truly separate, unique educational entity.

In other words, another state university that offers more than just classroom activities.

It wouldn't surprise us if someday, the regents make another announcement introducing us all to SDPURC's mascot and its athletic and other extra-curricular activities.

In other words, SDPURC likely could be transformed into a separate state institution – a new public university.

The regents could put ease our fears, at least for awhile, by announcing that such plans aren't waiting in the wings.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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