Pima Community College has officially responded to a letter from Higher Learning Commission President Sylvia Manning – a letter that called for the college to be placed on probation for failure to adhere to the HLC Criteria for Accreditation.
PCC also issued a Corrective Action Plan to the HLC board promising to remedy faults found by a fact-finding team of peer reviewers sent by the HLC in mid-January.
Based on the fact-finding team’s discoveries, Manning’s letter to the HLC governing board criticized PCC on a number of issues, but focused mainly on accusations made against former chancellor, Ray Flores, for sexual harassment and for encouraging unfair bidding on institutional contracts.
Also included in the report was the fact that PCC changed its admission process without due notification to the HLC. The change denied admission access to students who could not perform at a seventh-grade proficiency levels in key subjects like math and reading.
On March 29, PCC Legal Counselor Jeffrey Silvyn responded to Manning’s letter.
In regards to admission procedures, Silvyn said the change to deny students based on proficiency level was implemented as “part of an attempt to improve the chances for success of these students in college-level courses.”
However, Silvyn points out that not all steps were considered before the change was made.
“We acknowledge that the process that resulted in the change was not adequate and that further study and consultation with faculty and staff, interested community members, and other educational institutions is necessary prior to making a change of such significance,” the letter reads.
The PCC Board of Governors since suspended the admissions changes while it reconsiders its processes. The final decision is to be reported to the HLC.
Referencing the claims of sexual harassment by former Chancellor Flores, PCC staff acknowledged in its Corrective Action Plan the failure of the Board to properly handle the claims in a timely manner.
“We are cognizant of the need to create a better mechanism for the college to receive complaints about the chancellor, and of the need to create an environment in which employees feel comfortable making complaints,” reads the report. “We recognize our errors and appreciate the HLC’s insight in this matter. We are working diligently to ensure that we do not make the same mistakes again.”
The report goes on to address the assertion that the board was aware, as early as 2004, that employees under Flores were fearful of him, and unhappy with him.
PCC argues that while it was aware of the former chancellor’s “direct style” with his employees it resulted in coaching. The report also denies that the Board knew of the extent of the allegations until the last 12 months.
PCC’s response letters to the HLC President and Board can be viewed at www.pima.edu under the Accreditation tab.
PCC will now await word from the HLC as to whether the school is placed on probation. If so, the college will have two years to remedy the problems presented by the HLC, or it could lose its accreditation.