By ANDREW PAXTON
When the Higher Learning Commission’s liaison spoke to Pima Community College’s governing board on May 3, her message was very clear.
“We expect our institutions to provide information and be transparent with information being provided to the student body and constituents,” Karen Solomon, a vice president with the HLC, told the board.
This is coming straight from the college’s accrediting body, the same organization that has placed Pima on probation. The HLC will also determine if Pima will be allowed to keep its accreditation after February 2015, based on how the college responds to the sanction.
However, less than a week after Solomon’s clear statement that the HLC wants more information available to students, the board decided to hold a special meeting on May 10. It barely cleared the legally required 24-hour public notice.
Notice of the meeting was not sent to the Aztec Press despite an explicit request for “press releases and any other official releases from the college.”
There was no notification sent to the student body or most constituents of the college, despite Solomon explicitly telling the college to provide information to these groups.
Instead, the information was posted on Pima’s website. The notice was not posted on the college’s homepage for easy access, but was tucked away on the governing board’s meeting calendar. The only way to know the notice was there was to search for it.
Does that sound like transparency of information?
It would not have been difficult to inform the community and students, because hundreds of them were in attendance at a May 8 board meeting.
It is difficult to imagine that the board was unaware on May 8 that they would be meeting again in 36 hours.
Board members are only allowed to discuss matters such as planning meetings during an executive session.
The board held an executive session just before the May 8 meeting, while students, faculty and members of the community rallied outside PCC’s district office and demanded resignations from the four board members who served while Roy Flores was chancellor.
Was the board afraid or unwilling to disclose their upcoming May 10 meeting when faced with hundreds of angry members of the college and the community?
Even if the decision wasn’t made until May 9 to hold the special meeting, an email could have easily been sent to all students and other interested parties to meet the HLC’s desire for information to be disseminated.
During the May 8 meeting, Brenda Even, Marty Cortez, David Longoria and Scott Stewart all offered apologies for Pima being placed on probation, but said they will not resign and will not make the same mistakes again.
The problem is, they are still making the same mistakes that got Pima placed on probation in the first place.
Solomon made it clear that the HLC expects the board to act with integrity, display ethical and responsible conduct, disclose policies, listen to internal and external groups and practice transparency.
So far, the four board members facing calls for resignation have refused to listen to internal groups such as Faculty Senate and Staff Council, as well as outside groups including Pima Open Admissions Coalition and Coalition for Accountability, Integrity, Respect and Responsibility.
Longoria has said he will not resign, no matter what the situation or circumstances. He feels he was elected to do his job, and will serve until forcibly removed or his term ends.
“I know this will be misconstrued or portrayed by many as defiant. But I would challenge anyone to think of an instance in which one’s expressed desire to carry out and perform the duties of their job was such a display,” Longoria said at the May 8 board meeting.
Challenge accepted, Mr. Longoria.
On June 25, 1876, Gen. Armstrong Custer had a strong desire to do his job, which was to round up the Lakota and drive them to a reservation. Heavily outnumbered, Custer disobeyed orders and engaged Sitting Bull’s tribe, sparking the Battle of Little Bighorn.
It is reported that shortly before being killed, Custer proclaimed “Hurrah, boys, we’ve got them!”
We all know how that turned out.
Having a strong desire to do a job isn’t enough. A true leader must know when to listen to others, when to compromise and when someone else may be more fit or better equipped for the job.
These four board members have two choices.
One choice would be to start making real, tangible reforms right now to display that they are serious about rebuilding trust, moving forward and restoring faith in the college’s leadership.
If the board members are incapable or unwilling to make genuine changes instead of hollow promises, then they must make the second choice and resign for the good of the college, students, employees and the entire Tucson community.
The ability to make a decision that is best for the college is what the HLC expects and everyone who cares about Pima demands.
Paxton is the incoming editor-in-chief for the Aztec Press and hopes everyone can work together to do what is best for Pima.