DC-Shiprock College Opens Despite Fire

Nov 15th, 1998 | By | Category: 10-2: Assessing Student Learning in a Cultural Environment, Tribal College News

Despite the devastating fire that destroyed the two-story area of the Diné College Shiprock Campus on August 12, college classes and programs began as scheduled August 31. “The fire at our Shiprock campus was a major setback, but I know that with the help of everyone who understands the importance of Native American higher education, we will bounce back even stronger,” said Dr. Tommy Lewis, president of Diné College.

The fire destroyed one third of the building where science, fine arts, humanities, and GED classes are offered. Various collections within the science, math, and fine arts departments were lost, as well as many of the library’s books, periodicals, priceless archives, and collections of Navajo materials. College officials estimate the cost of the fire at approximately $3.8 million, based on the square footage. The scientific equipment loss, including microscopes and a genetic decoder, may exceed one-half million dollars. Fortunately many upper floor rooms were cleared for renovation when the fire broke out.

At press time, the cause of the fire was still under investigation. Roofers were working on the roof earlier during the day of the fire, and several witnesses reported flames coming from the area where they had been working.

The largest of Diné College’s satellite campuses, Shiprock, is itself larger than many other tribal colleges in the nation with an average of 500 students. The campus occupies an old 1950’s BIA boarding school facility. Four years ago the Bureau of Indian Affairs tried to condemn the crumbling structure, which was a 1950s BIA board school. Since then, the college has begun plans for a new campus. The Navajo Nation has provided $2 million toward the $40 million campus. New Mexico voters are considering a $1 million bond issue for the new campus.

In the meantime, however, the needs of present students must be met. The college has been meeting with federal, tribal, and state officials as well as private industries and individuals to seek assistance, such as modular classroom buildings, office furniture, and money. Anyone interested in more information can contact the Diné College Development Office, P.O. Box 218, Tsaile, Ariz. 86556 or call: (520) 724-6687.

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