Recommended probation for NIC | Bonner County Daily Bee

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North Idaho College has received a disturbing report from a panel representing the institution’s accrediting body.

Probation and the ability for the state to step in in a college oversight role are both recommended.

The report, distributed on campus Thursday afternoon, lists dozens of concerns, some serious enough to suggest that the college’s accrediting body put NIC on probation.

The panel also recommends that the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities “notify the Idaho State Board of Education of probationary status and serious threat to NIC accreditation if action is not being taken promptly, and encourages the Idaho State Board of Education to institute oversight oversight of immediate actions by the NIC Board and administration to restore compliance with NWCCU’s standards and eligibility requirements for accreditation.

At the heart of several complaints cited by the fact-gathering committee is the leadership of council chairman Todd Banducci.

Here are some of the main concerns listed in the 27-page report:

Governance structure, CEO and administrative positions: Concerns about the process used to select interim president Michael Sebaaly have reduced his ability to effectively lead the institution, and the separation of the board from the day-to-day operations of the institution is not clearly defined or operationalized. .

Academic freedom: The political pronouncements of board chairman Todd Banducci and his role in challenging curriculum content have had a chilling effect on faculty independence and diversity of thought.

Institutional integrity and ethical standards in governance, management and operations: The report refers to Banducci and other administrators’ disregard for North Idaho College policies.

Physical, technological and health infrastructure: The panel concluded that the facility had a communicable disease policy with no operational plan in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The effect is to leave students, faculty and staff vulnerable to rising COVID-19 cases and disruptions to educational programs.

Other observations and conclusions sent to the NWCCU:

• The North Idaho College Board of Trustees is dysfunctional.

• Several resolutions of “censure” against the Board of Directors have been issued by the governing bodies of faculty and staff.

• The former chairman was fired in part because of a dispute with Banducci over the separation of board decisions and institutional operations. This disruption was a major factor in the resignations of the three vice presidents and other senior administrative leaders.

• With the resignation of one director, there remain four directors with a chasm of disagreement; two administrators on each side unable to form a majority agreement or arrive at a consensus.

• There is a lot of fear and mistrust of the board. The distribution of responsibilities between the board of directors and the institution is not clearly defined.

• The board continued to ignore North Idaho College policies, including policies surrounding its own ethical responsibility.

• Fear for tenure, health, job security and punitive public ridicule abound among faculty and staff.

• Faculty report adjusting course content and assignments to make them less potentially controversial for fear of reprisals by political factions supported by Banducci. It degrades the atmosphere of open discussion of ideas under the principles of academic freedom and undermines the institution’s responsibility to maintain “an atmosphere that promotes, sustains, and sustains academic freedom and independence that protects its constituents from the influences , inappropriate internal and external pressures and pressures”. harassment.”

The committee found that the college is currently meeting financial resource standards and requirements, but that this area needs improvement.

However, according to the report, the longer the board’s problems drag on, the greater the stress and potential hit to NIC’s finances in the short and long term. Investigators concluded that the area should be closely monitored by the NWCCU to assess the continued financial impacts of the upheaval created by the council’s actions.

Disruptions to NIC governance led to the departure of critical executives, a change in Moody’s outlook from stable to negative, donor losses, and uncertainty about future fundraising success.

The committee also found that the college was substantially in compliance with human resources standards and eligibility criteria, but needed improvement.

Given the high turnover of trustees and the hiring of an interim president with little executive administrative experience, there is significant concern about whether “the institution employs faculty, staff and trustees sufficient in role, number, and qualifications to fulfill its organizational responsibilities, educational objectives, establish and oversee academic policies, and ensure the integrity and continuity of its academic programs,” the report states.

The panel’s recommendations include immediate board action to:

• Review and affirm institutional policies defining the responsibilities, expectations, and appropriate professional and ethical conduct of Board members;

• rule on unresolved grievances of the Board of Directors;

• Rebuild trust with North Idaho College faculty and staff by following all board policies as directed, consistently reinstating and allowing public comment at board meetings, demonstrating professionalism and courtesy in meetings and involving appropriate college stakeholders in policy development;

• And complete the actions recommended by the Association of Community College Trustees consultant to restore trust.

The committee recommends that the college “act aggressively” to rebuild leadership by hiring, as quickly as possible, a long-term president with the full involvement of faculty, staff, students and community members, as well as similarly filling vacancies/acts. Dean positions and Vice President position after the identification of the long-term President.

According to the report, with probation status, the NWCCU would create a compliance timeline for restoration of full accreditation. If progress does not occur according to this schedule, then the NIC will have to demonstrate continued accreditation, according to the report.

Accreditation is necessary for the college to remain in operation, as it enables NIC to provide federal financial aid to students, guarantees the transfer of credits earned when transferring NIC to other institutions, and allows NIC graduates to sit for the licensing exam, according to NIC’s FAQ page.

The NWCCU Peer Committee recommended that the NWCCU monitor the college’s actions to assess progress toward compliance according to schedule, as well as conduct a campus visit this fall.

An unscheduled meeting between Sebaaly, NIC Accreditation Liaison Steve Kurtz and the NWCCU was canceled, with access to the final report given instead.

Sebaaly said the college has 10 days to prepare a response and then meet with the NWCCU executive committee. The NWCCU will then evaluate the peer report’s final recommendations, review the response, and vote on the recommendations and actions.

The NIC will be notified of the NWCCU’s decision in an action letter, the final statement, within 10 days of its vote.

Although no date has been set for the meeting with the NWCCU executive board, Sebaaly said in an email that the different 10-day deadlines made him feel like they could see a conclusion to the process. current and to the action letter by the end of March. or early April.

“We have been through a turbulent time and reading the report of the peer panel will probably stir up some emotions in you. It did it for me,” Sebaaly said in an email to college. “Keep working hard for our students. We will go through this together.

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