The Maricopa Community College district governing board is under investigation by the Higher Learning Commission for allegations of micromanagement, abuse of power, and overall lack of direction. A letter sent to the HLC in May 2009 by an anonymous district employee stated, “We believe our governing board is overstepping their role.
“They are acting as the chief operating officer and ignoring the shared governance structure.”
The HLC is a Chicago-based agency responsible for college accreditation.
In response to the complaint, Rufus Glasper, chancellor of the district, invited an independent consultant team to investigate the legitimacy of the allegations.
The team will submit their report to Glasper who will then respond to the HLC inquiry.
After review, the commission will decide if the complaint is valid. If so, the district could face sanctions or even lose its accreditation.
The consultant team selected from outside the district, is comprised of Gerald Baird, Michael Chipps, Darrell Shumway, Pearl Washington, and the chair of the team Margaret Lee, who all have community college experience as administrators or board members.
On Sept. 22, the team held a public meeting with the governing board in which they addressed various issues the Board may be in violation of.
At the meeting Lee said to the governing board, “It seems that there’s not a mission and vision that’s guiding a clear set of priorities.”
“We are here to affirm the scope, the value to the actual community, the good that you do for your students .”
The consultants also revealed that in their interviews with 117 individuals over two days, they received overwhelming feedback that district employees are “operating under a cloud of fear and intimidation,” including threats of firing from board members.
“People have told us that they live in fear and dread of . the next thing that’s going to come around the corner,” Shumway said.
The consultants asserted that the role of the governing board is not to micromanage, but to engage in macro-governance. They stressed that board members lack any authority outside of the board room and emphasized a need for members operate as one governing body.
“When the board starts going around the chancellor and the chain (of command) to get things done, it starts developing an environment of mistrust. And you can’t operate when people start mistrusting other people,” Shumway said.
This included inappropriate requests by board members for information from staff and faculty.
One reported incident necessitated a 2,100 page response to an inquiry, which prompted the consultants to emphasize the need for advance board approval of these requests.
In response, Governing Board President Colleen Clark said, “We’re not looking to waste our employee’s time or waste the dollars that we’ve been charged to be agents of.” Outcries of disbelief from the audience followed Clark’s comment.
The consultant team also emphasized the need for additional training among board members.
“There is no one on this board (who is) qualified to run an institution like Maricopa Community Colleges . you need professionals, professionals that know how to run educational institutions. And that professional isn’t on the board,” Shumway said.
Another primary issue addressed at the meeting was the dissonance among board members. Washington advised that members “put those egos on a shelf.”
“You have to have a genuine respect for each other as board members,” she added.
In his final comments Shumway said, “I think there’s one paramount thing that you need to leave here with today, and that’s the reason why you’re here. You’re here for one reason and that’s the students.
“We came because Maricopa is the flagship and . we want you to remain in the position. And the problem is, the board is not going to allow that in this present condition. I can assure you of that.”
Clark responded, “We are committed to making sure the status does not dissipate as you said, and that’s why we’re here.