Initial changes proposed by Pima College are encouraging

Our view: But the board, administration now must back up those ideas with action
2013-07-14T00:00:00Z Initial changes proposed by Pima College are encouraging Arizona Daily Star
July 14, 2013 12:00 am

Pima Community College has finally made its apologies for how it handled - or rather, didn't handle - reports that the school's then-chancellor sexually harrassed, intimidated and retaliated against employees.

The apology prefaces PCC's draft monitoring report to the Higher Learning Commission, which lambasted the school in an investigation into the college and Board of Governors' handling of the harassment reports and other problems. The findings led to the school being placed on probation by its accreditor, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

The preface, in part, reads:

"We must begin by apologizing to the people of Pima County for our past mistakes, pledging to do better and offering a plan by which the public can hold PCC accountable for meeting that pledge.

"We accept full responsibility and say we are profoundly sorry for these breaches of integrity cited by the HLC. We understand that as a result of these deficiencies, many members of the community we serve have serious doubts about our commitment to the public good."

The words are years overdue, and the apology is a sharp turnaround from the defiant and arrogant tone that ran through previous correspondence from PCC.

It's a welcome change in attitude and outlook, but the mea culpa is meaningless without changes in actions to back it up. It will take a definitive and consistent change from the four board members who presided over this troubled time at PCC before the public can, or should, turn the page.

PCC has a new chancellor and that, in itself, is progress. We, along with a chorus of business leaders and community members, have called on those negligent board members - Brenda Even, Scott Stewart, David Longoria and Marty Cortez - to step down, but that does not appear likely to happen.

Words will get PCC only so far. Some steps have been taken to improve how complaints from students, employees and the public are handled, and more recommendations are outlined in the draft report.

For example, one fundamental flaw - that nearly all complaints about the chancellor were funneled through his office, even if they were addressed to the Governing Board - is outlined, as are recommended changes.

Included in that list is having an external investigator who doesn't have a strong relationship with the college look into complaints against the chancellor.

Some recommendations are far simpler - creating a single email address or online contact form that allows a person to reach Governing Board members directly. The correspondence should go to all board members, so none will have the option of withholding information from the others, as happened with the complaints against former Chancellor Roy Flores.

In addition, complaints and grievances must be tracked and dealt with promptly, two steps not outlined in the confusing rules in place.

It's encouraging that these problems are recognized, and that the Board of Governors members have recently received training about how to more effectively do their jobs.

The draft report also acknowledges that PCC erred in how it handled a seismic change to its admissions policy - requiring students to take placement tests, setting the passing scores for those tests and funneling people with low scores to special classes instead of allowing them to enroll. This was a 180-degree change and was done without adequate input from the faculty or public.

The apology and draft report are encouraging. Now it's up to the Board of Governors and new administration to ensure that the change is real.

Arizona Daily Star

Got comments?

A draft of PCC's proposed next response to its accreditor is posted online for public feedback before it's finalized. The deadline for input is today.

To read it and comment, go to pima.edu and click on the "PCC addresses probation" link.

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

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