By CHELO GRUBB
The Higher Learning Commission, the organization that gives Pima Community College its accreditation, received two letters over the summer raising concerns about the college.
The first letter was an anonymous note, reportedly from a PCC employee. The second included a packet of blogs and articles from various news organizations, including the Arizona Daily Star.
The packet was compiled by the Coalition for Accountability, Integrity, Respect and Responsibility, better known as C-FAIRR, a local organization founded this year.
According to the website, cfairr.org, C-FAIRR was founded because of a shared desire to address issues facing the Tucson community.
All of the current pages on the website are focused on PCC. The site’s homepage urges users to sign petitions against the college’s board and top-level administration.
C-FAIRR did not reply to requests for comment by press time.
The HLC passed news of the complaints to PCC interim Chancellor Suzanne Miles, offering a chance to respond to the allegations.
Miles disagreed with accusations that the college has been downplaying its role in recent controversies, noting that each of the subheads in her letter correlated with concerns listed in C-FAIRR’s complaint to the HLC.
“We take all of our complaints very seriously,” Miles said.
“It’s one thing if you’re attacked personally … but when someone goes to our accreditation committee, that’s even more serious.”
“In my mind, both [letters] were totally unjustified, especially because we have been working to correct problems and do our due diligence,” Miles said, referring to recent changes the college has made.
Those changes include hiring a third-party hotline to accept anonymous comments and complaints from college employees.
In Miles’ eight-page response to the HLC, she refers to an unnamed “Former Administrator A” numerous times. Miles later confirmed with the Aztec Press that the former administrator was Sylvia Lee.
Lee, who is currently a candidate for a seat on PCC’s governing board, was cited in Miles’ letter as having a rumored vendetta against Pima’s former chancellor.
“I do not believe that an individual who can derive political benefit from casting the college in a negative light can be considered unbiased,” Miles wrote.
Miles went on to write that Lee had collaborated with a reporter from the Star, who had written numerous articles portraying PCC in a negative light and was rumored to have expressed a desire to “get Pima College.”
Lee called this and other statements made in the letter “ludicrous” and “laughable,” adding that she thought it was “petty to include gossip in a formal response.”
Miles added, despite all the headlines, Pima’s primary focus remains to provide low tuition and quality classes for students.
Lee echoed Miles’ sentiments, adding that Pima is “an excellent institution. The educational quality has never changed.”
Miles said the college is expecting an official response from the HLC, which will be posted at pima.edu once received.