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PCC faculty call for Board to resign; Chancellor searches continue

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Pima Community College

PCC faculty call for Board to resign; Chancellor searches continue

Vote on admission standards expected; probation response due Friday

  • PCC Governing Board members Even, Cortez, Stewart, Lee and Longoria at Monday's special meeting.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comPCC Governing Board members Even, Cortez, Stewart, Lee and Longoria at Monday's special meeting.
  • Migler and Miles, with Silvyn in the background, at Monday's special meeting of the PCC Board of Governors.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comMigler and Miles, with Silvyn in the background, at Monday's special meeting of the PCC Board of Governors.

Embattled Pima Community College is looking for two chief executives at the same time. PCC is looking for a (very) interim head to replace interim Chancellor Suzanne Miles, who's stepping down from that post. The college is also looking for a permanent leader, whom PCC officials hope to have in place by July 1.

The interim position may be filled as early as Monday.

Meanwhile, instructor and staff dissatisfaction with the college's administration has reached a boiling point.

The PCC Governing Board is slated to interview and discuss candidates for the interim position in an executive session Friday at the board's second special meeting of the week.

The candidates will also be questioned by representatives of PCC’s Faculty Senate, Staff Council, the Pima Community College Education Association, Association of Classified Exempt Staff and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees during the executive session.

Those candidates were vetted by the Association of Community College Trustees, who are also checking the backgrounds of applicants for the permanent post, Board Chairwoman Brenda Even said in an email to staff on Thursday. None of the candidates are employed by the college.

Also at Friday's 5 p.m. meeting, the Board will consider Miles' recommendation to suspend PCC's tightened enrollment standards for most classes. Stricter admission rules that were not reviewed by the Higher Learning Commission are one of the issues that prompted the accrediting body to move to put Pima on a two-year probation.

The Faculty Senate also plans a Friday afternoon meeting, where the 60-some members will vote on a resolution calling for nearly the entire Board to resign.

Board members Even, Marty Cortez, David Longoria and Scott Stewart are "an impediment to change" and should step down, a draft resolution states. The only member not targeted is newly elected Sylvia Lee.

"The Faculty Senate believes that these four Board members have contributed to the present crisis by their failure to recognize and act ethically and prudently upon problems brought to light that occurred during and after the Flores administration," the draft resolution says.

The resolution, if passed Friday, will also call for PCC to suspend its search for a new chancellor until those Board members resign and are replaced.

"People in the community really need to hear from us at this point," Faculty Senate President Joe Labuda said Thursday. "The HLC is one thing" but the ongoing "horrible problems" in the college's management are hurting it's ability to teach students, he said.

The report and publicity over Pima's administrative turmoil are "a terrible shadow over us," Labuda said. Resignations — timed to be orderly and not leave the Board without a quorum — would help the college move on, he said.

"I feel for them," he said of those he's calling on to step down. "They're good people"

But it's time for a change at the college, he said. "There's no point in dragging it out," he said. "It's been too long already."

Pima's Staff Council, which represents non-faculty employees, is also poised to weigh in on the issues facing the college, but has yet to publicly release a statement.

HLC investigators made the probation recommendation in a report that noted 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.

The HLC will vote on the probation question next month.

An HLC spokesman declined Thursday to address what might happen if the organization puts Pima on probation.

John Hausaman referenced a densely written page on the HLC website, and said "each institution is different" in how the accrediting body approaches probation and the benchmarks for removing such a sanction.

College officials have repeatedly told faculty and students that probation would not affect PCC's academics, with neither financial aid nor transfer credits in danger.

The HLC site states that to move off probation, an institution must undergo a comprehensive evaluation, and "provide clear evidence of its progress toward ameliorating those conditions" that led to probation.

Report response due

Pima's response to the report is due Friday.

At a Monday meeting of the Governing Board, Miles said the school would "openly admit that we erred" in not clearing new enrollment standards for most courses with the HLC.

College attorney Jeff Silvyn told the Board that Pima's response to the report would "acknowledge serious concerns" and that "changes need to be made."

While no vote was called Monday 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.

"Citizens of this county do expect higher standards," Stewart said. "Serving the public good demands a cost/benefit analysis in our programs."

Last 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.

Draft PCC Faculty Senate resolution

THE FACULTY SENATE, the governance representative of the entire Pima Community College faculty, does not have confidence in the four current members of the PCC Board of Governors who were in office during the Dr. Flores administration – Marty Cortez, Brenda Even, David Longoria, and Scott Stewart – to effectively guide the College out of its present crisis.

FURTHERMORE, the Faculty Senate believes that these four Board members have contributed to the present crisis by their failure to recognize and act ethically and prudently upon problems brought to light that occurred during and after the Flores administration. And, Faculty Senate believes that these four Board members constitute an impediment to change.

WHILE THE FACULTY SENATE appreciates the efforts these four Board members have made on behalf of the College, the greatest service that they can now perform to help restore the College to a climate of trust, honesty and credibility is to resign. The Faculty Senate urges these four Board members to follow the example of Dr. Miles who has stepped down as interim Chancellor.

IN ADDITION, the Faculty Senate urges the Board of Governors to suspend the current search for a new College Chancellor until such time as these Board members – Marty Cortez, Brenda Even, David Longoria and Scott Stewart – are replaced.

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