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Pima prof: Probation based on hearsay from small groups

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Pima prof: Probation based on hearsay from small groups

  • Kynn Bartlett/Wikimedia

In Sunday's edition of the Arizona Daily Star, the editor stated that four of the current board members of Pima Community College should resign. The reason given is that they "have no credibility and no base of public support."

The editorial continued that since "Even, Steward, Longoria and Cortez were in office during the years when then Chancellor Roy Flores fostered a 'culture of fear and retribution,' a description given by an investigative report from the Higher Learning Commission, the organization that accredits community colleges", they should resign.

The question that no one seems to want to ask is how could the Higher Learning Commission team have visited and accredited Pima for 10 years just three years ago?

Wasn't that during Flores' reign, which allegedly fostered a "culture of fear and retribution"? How did the HLC team miss that? Where was the outcry from the small vocal groups then? It does not follow that the very agency that granted accreditation for 10 years while doing its evaluation of the college's fitness for accreditation during the alleged reign of fear and retribution of Chancellor Flores now says the college is on probation.

Didn't the HLC team do its job correctly the first time? I would say that the HLC has no credibility and it should withdraw its probation of Pima College.

In light of that one glaring bit of information I think that the veracity of the HLC should be under scrutiny and as such, in my opinion, the HLC in the interest of fairness and transparency should answer some questions for the tax payers of Pima County and the students of Pima College. These questions are geared toward the process by which the HLC arrived at the probation sanction.

I have read the HLC's report which places Pima College on probation. I have also read all pertinent documents sent to the college community regarding the investigation into the complaints leveled at the college by several small groups of individuals. However, I have yet to see actual, substantial documentation of support for the complaints on which the HLC issued probation on the college.

To be sure, there is hearsay and innuendo and possible short comings by several individuals but not many facts that one would expect from a thorough investigation that leads to the serious pronouncement of probation ... especially in light of the fact that according to the HLC these alleged problems existed when the HLC reviewed the college's fitness for a 10-year accreditation three years ago.

The college is financially and academically sound. I have served on several committees over the years and can say that the college is constantly reviewing and modifying it's policies to improve and always with the input and representation of all college faculty and staff groups.

Let's examine the HLC's criteria for probation:

Starting with the following ... The Criteria for Accreditation (effective January 1, 2013) identified in the Board's action as not being met are:

Criterion Two, Core Component 2.A, "the institution operates with integrity in its financial, academic, personnel, and auxiliary functions; it establishes and follows fair ethical policies and processes for its governing board, administration, faculty, and staff"

I would ask the HLC members to show the evidence on which they concluded that the college has not met their Criterion Two, Core Component 2.A? I find that Pima College has consistently met the Criterion Two Core Component 2A. standards except I do not know what those standards are according to the HLC, apparently no one seems to know.

The questions I would ask are as follows: How does the HLC evaluate compliance? What are the maximum number of infractions of the criterion before it is determined that the criterion is not met, one, two or three instances? What about the severity of the instances that a criterion is not met? How is the severity measured…against what standards? What is the rubric used by the HLC?

The HLC also concluded that the college did not meet its Criterion Five, Core Component 5B, which states:

Criterion Five, Core Component 5.B, "the institution's governance and administrative structures promote effective leadership and support collaborative processes that enable the institution to fulfill its mission," and Core Component 5.C, "the institution engages in systematic and integrated planning."

Again I must ask how does the HLC evaluate compliance? What are the maximum number of infractions of the criterion before it is determined that the criterion is not met, one, two or three instances? What about the severity of the instances that a criterion is not met? How is the severity measured ... against what standards? What is their rubric? All teachers must have the answers to those questions every time they grade a test and yet it seems that the agency that accredits educational institutions does not? Very curious indeed.

As a taxpayer of Pima County and one who is also a 30-year faculty member of Pima College I would like those questions answered. In the meantime the four Board members should not resign. If there is such an outcry of public dissatisfaction with those four Board members then the public will show that dissatisfaction by way of the appropriate legal means available. If, on the other hand, the community feels that the HLC should answer the questions asked here and the HLC does not then the community also has the option of taking legal action against the HLC for those answers.

Finally I would like to thank you, the taxpayers of Pima County, for my salary and for your continued support of Pima College, an important asset for our community.

Prof. David G. Iadevaia teaches Astronomy and Physics and Pima Community College.

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