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State senator proposes making Panhandle State a branch of OSU

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ After seeing broken windows, screens falling off and uncollected trash around campus, a state senator has introduced legislation that would make Oklahoma Panhandle State University a branch of Oklahoma State University.

State Sen. Robert Milacek said he intends to keep Senate Bill 352 alive for a year to see how the college's new presidents does.

In December, regents governing Panhandle State and Oklahoma State hired David A. Bryant as the school's new president. He succeeded John Goodwin, who retired.

``I was aghast at the way the campus looked the last time I was there,'' said Milacek, a Panhandle State graduate. ``I said maybe we just need to make a major change here. And so that was my reason to introduce this bill.''

The Goodwell school has been at the center of controversy in the past year.

Former Vice President and athletic director Dirk Hibler was found to have authorized payments to a former student that amounted to more than 20 hours a week, a violation of school policy. The student received more than $3,000 from four school accounts in 2001, documents showed.

The student resigned from the position and filed a victim's protective order against Hibler last year. Texas County prosecutors have asked for an audit of the school to see if there were any criminal violations.

OSU regents tried to get Goodwin to fire athletic director Dirk Hibler, but he wouldn't so they eliminated his position.

``Once people on campus knew who I was, they talked about academic deficiencies and problems with the NCAA,'' Milacek said.

After discussing the problems with other college presidents and Bryant, Milacek said he decided to wait a year and see what improvements are made on the campus.

``I would certainly be favorable to looking at the question of making Panhandle State a branch campus,'' said Paul Risser, state chancellor for higher education. ``We need to look continually for ways to be more efficient. It seems to be an entirely reasonable question.''

Milacek did not have an estimate of how much money could be saved by making Panhandle State a branch, but said he thought doing so would be more economical.

He said making Panhandle State a branch would help the campus academically and improve the quality of course offerings.
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