State accreditation agency puts SBCC on warning, citing trustee mistakes

State accreditation agency puts SBCC on warning, citing trustee mistakes

Gabriella Slabiak and Morgan Cullen, News Editor and Editor-in-Chief

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL 16-PAGE ACCREDITATION REPORT

City College has been put on warning by its accrediting agency, mostly because of inappropriate actions by the Board of Trustees.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges issued its report March 26, 2012, demanding the Board of Trustees educate itself on its proper role—and immediately change its behavior.

“I don’t agree with a lot of what they said, but the truth is we’ve been warned by them, and we need to take that warning seriously,” said Trustee Marty Blum, who also served two terms as the mayor of Santa Barbara. Blum was the only trustee willing to speak on the record to The Channels about the report.

The accreditation commission sent a preliminary 16-page report to the college in January, stating that the board was found violating board rules and regulations. The college wrote a long response, and the latest action is the follow-up letter. The college has refused to publicize any of the correspondence, considering it classified, but the final letter was provide to The Channels by a confidential source.

“[The commission] is gonna have to get a little more specific,” Blum said.  “I wasn’t really understanding about, you know, which standards or what did I do wrong.”

Blum was criticized specially in the report for interference.

Other allegations included multiple incidents of  interference with the college governance, micromanaging, and violating open meeting laws.

In the letter addressed to Dr. Jack Friedlander, acting superintendent-president, the investigative team “found evidence in document, emails, comments, observations and board meeting minutes that the board and individual trustees either do not understand the Brown Act or they choose to ignore it. In fact, during an interview, the current board president claimed that following the Brown Act is problematic at times and limits the actions [of] board members.”

The commission also harshly criticized the board for the way it handled the May 2011 dismissal of former Superintendent-President Dr. Andreea Serban.

The commission stated that “the failure to include the President in all discussions about the process—all point to a board unfamiliar and inexperienced with established processes to evaluate the performance of a California Community College President.” The board engaged in “actions also validate allegations the board did not follow its own policies, which violates accreditation standards.“

The college has been given a year to correct the violations and to provide a report showing that the changes have been made.

“I’m fine with what they told us to do. They wanted us to get some training and to rewrite our conflict of interest policies and our ethics policies. And, you know, these were all under the old board.”

The commission made three recommendations:

  • Receive, “topic-specific training from outside experts on the appropriate roles of the Board and the Superintendent/President.”
  • “Revise its code of ethics policy…” “…identify a procedure,” and decide on a “person(s) responsible for enforcement of the policy.”
  • Work more closely to college employees and students, acting “in a collegial manner to support the accomplishment of the college mission and improvement of student learning programs and services.”

“I’m happy to do all three of these things,” Blum said. “We’re already rewriting our ethics policy.

The board has accepted the commission’s final statement and agrees on working toward the recommended changes they’ve been given.

“It’s almost like arguing with your older brother.” “[You’re] arguing with them and you’re not gonna win the argument,” Blum said.

Trustee Marsha Croninger denied to comment on whether she agreed with the commission’s findings. She said the board have “other important matters” to focus on.

“We’re obviously dealing with a number of major issues,” she said.

Croninger said the board will be “moving forward together with more shared governance.”