By Kevin Wilson
Like others in the enrollment office, Christina Gregg-Cherry spends most days at Eastern New Mexico University trying to recruit students to come to the college.
A two-day effort last week saw Gregg-Cherry and other employees of ENMU recruiting letter-writers for the purpose of keeping Cannon Air Force Base, along with the economic and social impact it has on the university.
A letter-writing campaign, mostly generated from door-to-door visits to university departments, has resulted in 1,136 letters addressed to the nine members of Base Realignments and Closures (BRAC) commission.
The campaign’s success was surprising to some involved, considering that the efforts came one week after most students had left for the summer break.
May 13 was the last day of finals week, which is usually seen as a happy time for the university and its employees. May 13 was also the day, however, that Cannon Air Force Base was recommended for closure.
“I think everyone was very concerned, especially for those of us who were fulltime employees,” Gregg-Cherry said of the announcement. “It was, to say the least, the topic of the day.”
Denise Hobbs, who also works with ENMU’s enrollment office, said that a meeting between Enrollment Services and Communication Services generated the idea of a letter-writing campaign similar to one the city has implemented.
“We just felt if we put forth (the effort) to write the letters,” Hobbs said, “we could flood the commissioners’ offices.”
Hobbs said the departments went to every office they could Thursday, and pitched the idea of a hand-written letter praising the value of Cannon and its impact on ENMU if Cannon is shuttered.
“Cannon closing would have a huge impact here at Eastern,” Gregg-Cherry said. “They’re our students and I think we’re very protective of them, for lack of a better word.”
As part of the campaign, Hobbs said that employees were given stationery to write letters, an information sheet about Cannon and a day to write the letters. The letters were picked up about 2 p.m. Friday, Gregg-Cherry said.
“We expected probably about 500 letters because we knew we could count on our university community, but our campus pulled through,” Gregg-Cherry said. “Everybody made time to do this, because it was important.”
In addition to the letter campaign, the university also worked to post information online for students who might log on to check grades or other items at www.enmu.edu/keepcannon.
Janice Cowen, who runs the university’s alumni affairs office, said that New Mexico-based alumni with e-mail addresses were contacted and informed of Cannon and the BRAC list.
Cowen said that most correspondence with alumni is usually limited to updates on basic information, and that Operation Keep Cannon is probably the most important communication she’s made in more than 11 years with Alumni Affairs.
Cowen didn’t have specific number on how many letters came through alumni, but she has received replies that indicate some people have started letter-writing campaigns within their current workplaces.
“We have great support,” Cowen said. “We have many, many people that have such an allegiance to Eastern. When we ask for their support, they get on board and work with us.”
The campaign is expected to continue and might see a spike when students return for summer classes June 6. The university has printed 5,000 flyers to distribute throughout the university and community, as well.