POWELL, Wyo. - Northwest College President Paul Prestwich announced today a change in the college's formal recruiting practices with respect to religion. The change was a direct result of reaction to a recruiting letter Prestwich sent in February to high school students who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS).
Prestwich explained the situation in a letter sent today to Big Horn Basin legislators, NWC Foundation directors, NWC Alumni Association directors and college donors in Wyoming and south-central Montana. The same letter was distributed on campus via e-mail to all employees and student senate officers.
In his letter, Prestwich explains his motivation for sending the first letter and a brief summary of that letter's contents, saying it "focused on the positive aspects of Northwest College," as well as "the benefits that are available to LDS students living in Powell, due primarily to the LDS Student Ward and Institute of Religion that are located adjacent to the NWC campus."
He also points out that "Similar mailings-where both NWC and LDS officials have collaborated-have occurred at least twice in the past. Most recently, one of my presidential predecessors and Fred Hopkin (LDS Cody Stake president) sent a joint recruitment letter to LDS students, signed by both individuals on NWC letterhead and sent by NWC." The envelope with Prestwich's recruiting letter included a separate letter written by Hopkin.
When talking about the response to the most recent mailing, Prestwich says, "Although none of our earlier mailings to LDS students received much attention, this time the effort has been the subject of criticism. To be blunt, we hit a nerve! I apologize for that."
He tapped into the root of that nerve by conducting open forums on campus last week, and continuing this week, to hear from faculty, staff and students about the matter.
As a result, Northwest is implementing immediate changes to its recruiting practices, which Prestwich explains in today's letter: "We are initiating a review of our recruitment strategies, especially those that include partnerships with local faith-based organizations. In the future, religion will not be the focus of NWC's formal recruiting practices. In addition, to address concerns regarding the use of public funds, a group of benefactors has volunteered to reimburse the college for funds expended on the mailing."
Even though targeted marketing through religious affiliation is no longer a part of the college's formal recruiting strategy, Prestwich says NWC will continue to foster positive relationships throughout the community. He believes it is important that NWC students are able to make meaningful connections both on and off campus.
For hundreds of students living in residence halls, Prestwich says NWC becomes a "home away from home," and therefore, "NWC will continue to highlight recreational, social, spiritual, cultural and co-curricular opportunities offered by our various student clubs and organizations and by our community; I'm committed to communicating that message to all prospective students."