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Updated Mar 26, 2013, 9:01 am
Pima Community College officials have signaled that they are likely to reverse course on tightened admission standards in the wake of a accrediting body's report into administrative lapses at the school.
"We're going to openly admit that we erred" in not clearing new enrollment standards for most courses with the Higher Learning Commission, PCC interim chief Suzanne Miles told the college's Governing Board in a special meeting Monday afternoon.
Tightened enrollment was in effect a change in mission for the school, the HLC report said. That one of several allegations of mismanagement that has the accrediting organization looking at placing PCC on probation for two years. The HLC will vote on the probation question next month.
College attorney Jeff Silvyn told the Board that Pima's response to the HLC report would "acknowledge serious concerns" and that "changes need to be made."
The report noted that Pima had "a culture of fear and retribution that pervaded the administration." In addition to questioning whether Pima's admission standards were an abandonment of its community mission, the report pointed to allegations that former college chief Roy Flores sexually harassed eight women, questioned Pima's awarding of high-dollar no-bid contracts, and described a culture of "fear and retribution" among campus faculty and staff.
While no vote was called on suspending the new standards, most Board members seemed ready to do so as they questioned Miles and PCC Provost Jerry Migler.
One apparent dissenter was Board member Scott Stewart.
"I don't see why we should apologize," he said.
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"Citizens of this county do expect higher standards," Stewart said. "Serving the public good demands a cost/benefit analysis in our programs."
Friday, Miles told the Board that Pima should go back to an open enrollment system, at least temporarily.
Monday, she said that Pima should work to offer free remedial courses to those students who aren't prepared to do college-level work, while allowing any student to enroll.
"Enforcement of prerequisites" should become a priority, she said. The college has been lax in requiring students to take classes in order, she said.
Pima tightened up enrollment standards for most courses in 2011, while directing unprepared students to remedial courses.
The accrediting body said, "The College’s decision to change its admissions policy despite community opposition conflicts with its stated mission of developing the community through learning and demonstrates a lack of understanding of its role in serving the public good in its community."
While he didn't provide specifics, Silvyn said the PCC response would question some of the details of the HLC report. The college needs to ensure that there is "an accurate and complete factual record," he said, questioning the timeline of events that occurred under the watch of former Chancellor Roy Flores.
PCC must not "create the impression that we're not understanding that changes need to be made," he said.
As the college seeks a new chancellor — a search for a permanent replacement was botched when a consultant vetting candidates missed a California over-billing scandal that implicated one of two finalists announced in January — Miles announced earlier this month that she would step down as PCC's chief executive to become president of the Community Campus.
While Flores announced last year that he was resigning for health reasons, at least eight allegations of sexual harassment were filed against him.
Miles announced last March that she would not seek the chancellor's post on a permanent basis. Formerly the college provost, she moved over to become the president of the Community Campus while filling the chancellor's seat. Before that appointment, she had said that she would return to serve as provost after a permanent head of the college was hired.