Trustees need to loosen their tight grip

Lariat Editorial Board

In 2004, an accreditation team found that Saddleback was in violation of four-out-of-seven areas of improvement that were required after a visit in 1998.

Since 1998 the team has repeatedly noted that the South Orange County Community College District board of trustees is too invested in the affairs at the colleges and that they must reduce “hostility, cynicism, despair and fear that continue to plague the college” (Progress Report to President McCullough in 2007).

The board was also asked to “cease their involvement in college and district operations and delegate all non-policy issues, including policy implementation… to the chancellor… and to the president, (same progress report).

So what the heck is the board supposed to do?

The general consensus is that Saddleback will not lose accreditation regardless of the board, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that there are only three recommendations that need to be fully addressed, and they don’t seem that hard.

The US Department of Education regulates that recommendations must be made within two years or the Commission of Accreditation must take action to terminate accreditation.

It seems that the board is guilty of what is deemed “micromanaging,” which is really just a fancy way of saying that the individual members take personal interest when making decisions. The board was accused of “creat[ing] policy or forbid[ing] certain routine actions because they may appear to be contrary to the political views of an individual board member” and of “censoring points of view that they find to be politically incorrect or personally distasteful,” ( January 2008 Commission Report).

In the actual report it was found that the board is treating Saddleback College and the district like a social club, regarding their own private ventures when making decisions rather than what is in the best interest of the campus.

The accreditation team has found that the board is too involved in affairs and that the staff is resentful and fearful of them. Instructors and staff are fearful to speak out against the board for fear of retaliation, since the board has done things like canceling the school trip to Spain after the Madrid bombings or outright denial of a trip to Cuba. Instructors have been hired who don’t fit the credential requirements. Positions have been hand crafted and staff personally selected without going through the proper hiring process.

We don’t know what it is the board does with its time, or why, after 10 years, it continues to meddle in campus and district affairs. Even in regards to the accreditation reports from 2004, the Academic Senate created its own report before the team of accreditors came to the college, but the board told them to change it, and created an addendum to supplant the college’s report.

By positively disregarding the thoughts of faculty, students, and shared government, the board of trustees is hurting the people who are standing up and having opinions.

The college is graciously being given until October 2008 to fully comply with the recommendations, almost an entire extra year. The January 2008 report, which emphasizes that the college must fully comply with the recommendations, also recognizes that the school has been given ample time to complete the standards and that if in October the issues are not fully resolved, Saddleback should lose its accreditation.

When Compton College lost its accredidation, it was slowly denied funding and resources until it had to b ecome an extension of El Camino College. If Saddleback loses its accreditation, there may be a ripple effect and draw ATEP and IVC into a district dilemma of who would take over the campuses. Will Orange Coast College or Santa Ana College pick up the sister schools?

Discussions with instructors have indicated that the road has begun to correct several of the problems, but after 10 years these problems are only now being addressed. The things that are happening may not be illegal, but they are not right, evidenced by the problems presented by the accreditors.

So far the attitude by the board seems to be that it doesn’t want to change, which is hurting the district in the long run and fueling the ongoing resentment from staff members.

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