Can NMC Avoid Closure?

July 8, 2010

Can the governor and members of the legislature stop interfering in the affairs of the Northern Marianas College?  The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges has put NMC on Show Cause status.  The college is once again out of compliance with eligibility requirements and accreditation standards.  One issue is outside political interference.

The WASC Special Visit Report stated:
The team heard numerous examples and allegations of governmental interference with college operations. Prior to the team visit, the Commonwealth governor announced a proposal to reduce NMC staffing by nine positions as an austerity measure. When questioned about how Board intended to respond, regents admitted there had been no Board discussion; although several regents further suggested that the Board should try to educate the governor on the impacts of the proposed cuts. There was no recognition, among the interviewed regents, that the Commonwealth government's ability to dictate college staffing infringed on institutional autonomy.

The team also heard repeated reports that the governor had given direction to the Board Chair to terminate the employment of the former president because of political differences. It was reported also to the team that at the Board meeting in which the former president was placed on suspension, at least one representative of the governor's staff was present, lending credence to campus perceptions of external influence. The team has no opinion regarding a governing board's authority to employ or dismiss a college president; governing boards can change presidents for any reason and for no reason but must follow appropriate personnel policies in doing so. Rather, the team is concerned about the fragility of this college if the governing board's priorities can change so radically with one gubernatorial election and that a newly-appointed Board could abandons its policies. The Board is not shielded from undue influence or pressure.
A June 20, 2010 letter to the college stated the seriousness of the action:
Since the loss of accreditation will likely cause the institution to close, during the Show Cause period the Northern Marianas College must make preparations for closure according to the Commission's "Policy on Closing an Institution," which is enclosed.
A closure report from NMC must be submitted by October 31, 2010.

Nearly all individuals interviewed expressed that the college was in a state of confusion and unrest. Students indicated that many staff and faculty seemed morose and fearful. Although the students did note the efforts of some faculty to shield their classes from the campus turmoil, they also expressed that other faculty were using the classroom to rail against the previous administration. Many staff described a climate of fear, although there were clearly camps that attributed this climate to the previous administration and others who attributed this to the recent events.

The team determined, through interviews and documentation presented to the team, that Northern Marianas College is not in compliance with eligibility requirements and Standards of Accreditation in four key areas: Institutional Autonomy from Outside Interference, Institutional Financial Management and Integrity, Institutional Governance, and Security and Handling of Student Records.

On the other hand, during the course of the special visit the team determined that individual College employees and several Regents did not provide accurate and honest disclosure. Interview responses by several regents were misleading, inaccurate, and contradictory. Newly-appointed regents have, what appears to be, a total lack of understanding of Commission Eligibility Requirements, Accreditation Standards, and Commission policies. One newly-appointed regent firmly refused to meet with the team despite repeated attempts by team members and college staff to schedule the interview. Following the scheduled on campus visit the team was alerted by college staff that the regent had changed his mind and was willing to meet with the team; nevertheless he later reported to the local media that he did not intend to be individually interviewed.
The regent who failed to attend the meeting was Andrew Orsini.

The recommendations:
Recommendation # 1
To meet the Eligibility Requirement and Standards the governing board should exercise its authority to govern the college and protect the college from undue influence by the by the commonwealth government including the government's ability to line-item dictate the college budget. The governing board should act autonomously to govern the college free from indirect interference by Commonwealth governor or members of the legislature; this will defend the college from the vagaries of changes in political power. (ER 3, Standard IV.B.1.a, IV.B.1.c) 
Recommendation # 2
To meet the Eligibility Requirement, the team recommends that the college ensure that Commission policies are followed at all times and that the institution respond to Commission requests truthfully and accurately. (ER 21)

Recommendation # 3
To meet the Eligibility Requirement and Standard, the team recommends that the college the college integrate financial planning with institutional planning and ensure that fiscal resources are adequate to support student learning programs and institutional effectiveness so that financial stability is maintained. (ER 17, Standard III.D.1.a)

Recommendation # 4
To meet the Eligibility Requirement and Standards, the team recommends that the college assure the financial integrity and responsible use of its financial resources and ensure that the financial management system has appropriate control mechanisms and widely disseminates dependable and timely information for sound financial decision making. The College must also correct noted audit findings. (ER 18, Standard III.D.2, III.D.2.a, III.D.2.d, III.D.2.e)

Recommendation # 5
To meet the Eligibility Requirement and Standard, the team recommends that the governing board immediately initiate a search and hire a qualified chief executive officer (CEO) and ensure that the CEO has full-time responsibility to the institution and possesses the requisite authority to administer board policies. (ER 4, Standard IV.B.1.j)

Recommendation # 6
To meet the Eligibility Requirement and Standards, the team recommends that the college ensure that the administrative staff of the college has the appropriate preparation and experience to provide administrative services; this includes the college chief executive. The governing board should delegate the authority to college administration to operate the college and hold the administration accountable for institutional effectiveness and for adhering to adopted policies and governance processes. (ER 5, Standards III.A.3.a, IV.B.1.j, IV.B.2.a, IV.B.2.b, IV.B.2.c, IV.B.2.d, IV.B.2.e) 
Recommendation # 7
To fully meet the Standards, the team recommends that the college restore ongoing, collegial, self-reflecting dialogue about the continuous improvement of institutional processes. The college should provide evidence that planning is broad based and offers opportunities for input by appropriate constituencies. (Standards I.B.4, I.B.6)

Recommendation # 8
To meet the Standard, the team recommends that the college ensure that faculty distinguish between personal conviction and professional views and that information is presented fairly and objectively. (Standard II.A.7.a)

Recommendation # 9
To meet the Standard the team recommends that governing board engage training on the proper role and conduct of regents, general governing board relations and practice, college policy and Accreditation Standards and Commission Policy and adhere to its role in establishing policy and strategic-level decision-making; in accordance with its own policy. (Standards IV.B.1, IV.B.1.b, IV.B.1.e, IV.B.1.j, IV.B.1.h)

Recommendation # 10
To meet the Standard, the team recommends that the college maintain student records securely, and confidentially and that it publish and follows established policies for release of student records. (Standard II.B.3.f)


Anonymous said...

NMC is grossly overstaffed. Always has been. There are some very good people there. There are some "Professors" that are known alcoholics and abusers of the system. Certain Instructors are using NMC equipment for their own side business and could care less about their students. Check out the ceramics department or the media lab. This has been going on for years. Most of the Instructors at NMC are wash outs from the Mainland who couldn't get a job teaching Phys Ed at a small High School.

However, there some very talented workers there who should jump off that sinking crate.

Shut the place down. Get University of Phoenix to set up a small online campus.

Anonymous said...

The Chair of the Board of Regents is micro-managing the place to death.

Sadly, given the CNMI's fiscal constraints, we can't afford a college.

The students would be well advised to transfer to a community college on Guam or on the mainland such as Idaho or Oregon.

Captain said...

I am curious of how many that are employed at the NMC in a "Governing capability" do not have a college degree. This goes from the Regents down.
How many are/were political appointees from this and any other Gov.
In the case of other business, it is not uncommon to have Sup. with many years of actual experience in lieu of a degree in a specific field.
In a college, which is an institute of higher learning, what is the minimum qualifications for management etc.
I would believe that it should be a degree in the area of the specific responsibility.
But this may not be the case here.
As in the report, it stated too much political interference.
Though much of this problems have been ongoing from before this Gov. took office, it seems that this Gov. tries to micromanage all agencies and has no knowledge about and "infects" everything he touches by infusing his incompetent friends and relatives in positions they are not even closely knowledgeable for.
Everything so far that this Gov.(and his ring of convicted felons)is involved in has deteriorated and is still having a "domino" effect on the NMI economy.
What will the further effects be if this NMC actually closes?
So what is the private sector going to do with over 5000 Govt. employees when this Govt. goes bankrupt.
Everything so far that has transpired with this Gov's actions have caused a further decline in NMI revenues. (directly and indirectly)

Anonymous said...

WASC ignored the problem with Carmen Fernandez and her contributions to the problems at NMC. Politics exists within NMC, but Fernandez's dictatorial and flawed administration was the problem-- as a result the Regents had to act. The majority of Regents had to act and as a result their actions seemed magnified due to the inaction and passive management by Charles Cepeda. Objectivity was lost.

So the WASC report must be taken with a grain of salt to sift through the bluster in order to carry out the reforms.

Anonymous said...

AON 5:54
I agree. Shut it down, but put install a nice satellite on-line campus. It is not necessary to have all of these warm bodies here, especially for core studies. For more advanced degrees most would go off-Island, but the on-line could handle some of that also.
The management of NMC needs to be basically what the people at the movie theaters do. Take the tickets(entrance to room). Refreshements (book ordering and local material to be used by the on-line instructors), Projection (well, projection, teleconference), and cleaning up the popcorn (making sure they have air-con and and clean place to sit). This is what NMC needs to become and leave the teaching to off-island folks.

Anonymous said...

CNMI is f*** anything they manage, why not people (voters) stop this now before its too late!
Guam with many naturalized outsider (including mainland/Canada/Australia) are better off). Think before every outsider(brain)leave. Isn't it that is the reason why you accept foreigners because you can't do the job they do? why send them home?

Anonymous said...

What a joke. Stop calling it a college, stop calling them professors, admit that it's at the level of junior high anywhere else in the first world.

Anonymous said...

NMC is nothing close to a college. At best it is a glorified junior high school run by incompetents and/or appointees who know nothing about education, administration or work ethic.

Anonymous said...

We should hope that the Chair's record of success as a lawyer is not predictive of ability managing a community college.

Anonymous said...

This measure doesn't seem correct. The Regents were correcting a political situation, not succumbing to one. They removed a President who was too political, hiring and firing based on politics. McPhetres being one. Malua and Charles are the political regents, not Janet. This was a step in the right direction and should have been rewarded, not penalized. Fernandez was tearing NMC apart, and the fear was fear of her and no one else.

Anonymous said...

NMC costs about 1/7th the semester cost of Univ. of Phoenix.

Anonymous said...

July 9, 2010 8:57 PM anon!

I AGREE WITH YOU!!! Look at Guam & Hawaii!

Anonymous said...

We should hope that the Chair's record of success as a lawyer is not predictive of ability managing a community college.

July 10, 2010 10:45 AM

Sounds like you are only interested in bad mouthing Janet King. Is she representing someone suing you? And you taking it personnally?

Anonymous said...

Janet King is the Regent for Tinian. Governor Fitial didn't appoint her it was the Tinian Mayor.

Anonymous said...

Malua peter and charles cepeda are not political? Give me a break. The report is slanted.

Anonymous said...

You're probably not paying child support and Janet King slammed you. She's not very kind on deadbeat dads who don't pay her clients. You're sentiments are noted sir.