Guest Column: Documents don't appear to support decision to place PCC on probation

2013-04-26T00:00:00Z Guest Column: Documents don't appear to support decision to place PCC on probationDavid G. Iadevaia Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The Star's editorial Sunday stated that four of the current board members of Pima College should resign. The reason given is that they "have no credibility and no base of public support."

The editorial continues that since Brenda Even, Scott Stewart, David Longoria and Marty 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 Southern Arizona Leadership Council is the latest group to call for the four members to resign, the Star reported this week.)

The question no one seems to want to ask is how could the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) team have visited and accredited PCC just three years ago for 10 years? 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, that did its evaluation of the college's fitness for accreditation during the alleged reign of fear and retribution of Flores, now says the college is on probation.

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

In my opinion, the HLC in the interest of fairness and transparency should answer some questions for the taxpayers 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 placing 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 shortcomings by several individuals. There are not many facts one would expect from a thorough investigation that leads to the serious pronouncement of probation. 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 the college is constantly reviewing and modifying its policies to improve and always with the input and representation of all college faculty and staff groups.

The questions I would ask are as follows: How does the HLC evaluate compliance? What are the maximum number of infractions to determine the criterion is not met? How is the severity of the instance determined? How is the severity measured - against what standards? What is the rubric used by the HLC?

All teachers must have the answers to those questions every time they grade a test and yet it seems the agency that accredits educational institutions does not. This is 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 appropriate legal means.

If, on the other hand, the community feels 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.

Thank you, the taxpayers of Pima County, for your continued support of the college and for my salary.

David G. Iadevaia is a professor of astronomy and physics at Pima College East Campus.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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