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New Nic Leader Jumps Into The Fray Interim President Bell Heeds Students, Faculty

Just one month into his short tenure at North Idaho College, interim President Ronald Bell is diving headfirst into NIC’s toughest issues.

He’s investigating faculty complaints about problems on campus. He’s proposing more equitable athletic budgets, more women in decision-making posts and better compliance with federal mandates.

He’s releasing more detailed information about the board of trustees’ business prior to their meetings and wants to make the school’s public records more accessible.

Bell is trying to turn a campus in turmoil into one that’s in transition.

He’ll get his first shot at it tonight at a meeting of the college’s trustees. Bell will present eight separate reports and announce formation of a new committee to study NIC’s “climate and culture.”

“The reports are only the beginning,” Bell said Tuesday. “You just knock over the rocks here and you find all the good ideas.”

The board will hear about the school’s mix of full-time and part-time faculty and the need for better compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In the last three years, the number of disabled students at NIC has increased 400 percent, according to Gary Coffman, director of counseling services. Disability Support Services’ budget has not kept up with the growth in disabled students, making compliance with federal ADA standards difficult, the report said.

NIC’s revised budget will include grants in aid for women and men athletes at $161,928 each. The maintenance and operations expenses for men’s and women’s sports will also be equal - $121,921 each - made possible because of money saved from last year.

“When you have a $1.1 million cash carry-over you can do things that lots of community colleges across the nation struggle to do,” Bell said. “We are putting our money where our mouth is.”

Bell is also expected to announce the inclusion of more women in NIC’s administrative decision-making and a new study of NIC’s climate and culture - action sparked by English faculty member Fran Bahr’s July letter to the trustees.

“They will spend the first month identifying any areas problematic on the campus, including some of the items brought up in Bahr’s letter,” Bell said Tuesday.

Bahr’s July letter called for a series of campus reforms addressing the growing number of part-time faculty, ballooning administrative costs and alleged gender discrimination by supervisors. The committee of faculty, staff, students and administrators will be 55 percent female and 45 percent male to reflect the campus population, Bell said.

A draft report of the committee’s findings will be completed Oct. 15, with a final list of recommendations to be submitted to the board of trustees by Dec. 9.

Bell also moved to ensure public access to public records at NIC. The college is developing a comprehensive list of guidelines to clarify how, what, why and when documents can be released.

In other action, the board plans to vote on the college’s budget, finalize the presidential search schedule, and elect a board representative to the College Foundation.

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