Protesters urge accreditation suspension of Pima Community College

 By CHELO GRUBB

The Coalition for Accountability, Integrity, Respect and Responsibility has sent a letter recommending that Pima Community College be placed on probation by the organization that accredits the college.

C-FAIRR, a local organization formed in February 2012, claims the college inadequately handled multiple situations, including claims of sexual harassment against former Chancellor Roy Flores.

 

C-FAIRR’s requests

 

C-FAIRR expressed “great regret” about the need to make the following four recommendations to the organization:

1. Pima Community College should immediately be placed on probation.

2. Members of the current governing board who have said they knew about the sexual harassment claims before the formal complaint was made should be dismissed from their positions.

3. Interim Chancellor Suzanne Miles should tender her resignation or be removed from her position at the college.

4. The current members of the board should not select the new chancellor.

“Our request to suspend accreditation to Pima Community College is based upon the documented failure of its governance obligations to students, employees, administrators, and the taxpayers of Pima County,” C-FAIRR’s letter states.

 

Grievances

 

The letter, dated Aug. 31, is 17 pages long and has 77 pages of attachments.

The attachments include a list of C-FAIRR members, three articles from local publications, PCC’s harassment policy, invoices for “misconduct reviews” from a law firm, Flores’ resignation letter and pages taken from board meeting packets.

The letter also says C-FAIRR is looking into other cases of misconduct at PCC.

“We are in the process of gathering evidence on two particular egregious cases: one involves providing students with sub-standard instruction, which negatively impacted their career paths.

“The second involves defamation of an employee by a senior administrator,” the letter states.

 

Sexual harassment claims

 

In March, a group of eight women lodged allegations of misconduct against Flores. Pima then launched an investigation.

A leaked email from governing board member Sherryn “Vikki” Marshall said the board was “not blindsided” by the claims.

The email said the board had previously heard “gossip” about Flores’ behavior, but everything lacked details.

 

 

“Even people who were no longer working at Pima refused to tell me what they knew firsthand,” Marshall wrote. “I would have jumped on ‘facts’ like a tick on a dog – but NO ONE would give me any facts or data.”

C-FAIRR quoted the board’s sexual harassment policy in their letter, drawing attention to the expectation to investigate harassment claims immediately.

Flores denies any wrongdoing.

 

Pima’s response

 

The Higher Learning Commission, the accreditation organization associated with the college, received two complaints about PCC over the summer, one of which was from C-FAIRR. The HLC forwarded the complaints to Miles and asked her to respond.

“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 such as opening up a third party phone line for employees to make complaints anonymously.

In their most recent letter, C-FAIRR called Miles’ response reprehensible, incomplete and “beneath contempt and not factually based.”

“We are saddened that the College has continued to characterize anyone who criticizes its policies or actions as disgruntled employees from the tenure of Dr. Flores or political agitators,” C-FAIRR’s letter reads.

Miles’ letter talked about Sylvia Lee, a former PCC administrator. The letter indicated Lee might have been working with C-FAIRR and a local journalist to cast the college in a negative light.

Lee, who is referred to in Miles’ letter as “Former Administrator A” is running for a seat on the College’s governing board.

“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.

C-FAIRR, however, is denying a close relationship with Lee.

“We also categorically state that ‘Administrator A’ has no influence within our organization although she and several other former administrators have met with us; moreover, our group has not endorsed her bid for a seat on the governing board.”

The HLC has not contacted Pima since receiving Miles’ letter in July.

C-FAIRR and the HLC did not respond to interview requests by press time.

 
C-FAIRR calls for PCC accreditation suspension
 
Suzanne Miles letter to Higher Learning Commission

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