The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) has outlined the next steps in its investigation into North Idaho College’s eligibility for regional accreditation.
In a letter earlier this week, NWCCU President Sonny Ramaswamy said the commission has asked North Idaho College to submit an ad hoc report as an attachment with the college’s 2022 annual report due by Aug. 1, 2022, for evaluation and possible follow-up.
The investigation arose from a complaint filed in March by the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations and the human rights task forces for Spokane, Bonner and Boundary counties. Citing concerns with the conduct of the college Board of Trustees (specifically the majority formed by Board Chair Todd Banducci, Vice Chair Greg McKenzie and Trustee Michael Barnes), the complaint challenged NIC’s accreditation eligibility based on NWCCU criteria.
North Idaho College holds regional accreditation status from the NWCCU. The college responded to the complaint in June.
The commission has asked for North Idaho College’s ad hoc report to focus on a particular NWCCU criteria concerning the makeup, function, authority and responsibility of an accredited institution’s governing board.
The commission is particularly interested in the commitment and actions college administrators and board members have promised to take per a Board of Trustees statement from May, in which members agreed to readdress their leadership roles in relation to the college administration.
“The requested Ad Hoc report will be critical to ensure the College remains compliant with NWCCU’s Eligibility Requirements, Standards of Accreditation, and Policies,” Ramaswamy wrote, “and as such, will strengthen your efforts to continue to fulfill the institutional mission to serve students.”
Banducci has faced calls to step down as chair amid complaints of aggressive, threatening and unprofessional behavior toward the college president, employees, trustees and students.
Amid these concerns, the North Idaho College Board of Trustees underwent training last month with consultants from the Association of Community College Trustees.
Laura Rumpler, the college’s chief communications and government relations officer, said it’s possible the board could discuss plans to address the NWCCU eligibility requirement as early as next month at the group’s next meeting.
North Idaho College President Rick MacLennan, who could not be reached for comment, released a statement on the college’s NWCCU investigation webpage.
“I will be working with the Board to build on its stated commitment, as well as the outcomes it generated from the Association of Community College Trustees guided board development retreat held in June,” MacLennan wrote. “I am confident that we will be able to document progress on the referenced Board commitment and actions necessary to meet this eligibility requirement.”
Officers with the human rights task forces said they interpret NWCCU’s response as “a serious requirement or mandate to address what we contend has been serious violations of the civil rights and civil liberties of some NIC employees and students.”
“Our sole purposes as a complainant is to assure that all NIC employees and students are guaranteed their individual civil rights and civil liberties and treated with dignity,” the statement reads.
The statement, provided to The Spokesman-Review, was signed by Spokane County Human Rights Task Force President Dean Lynch, Bonner County Human Rights Task Force President Brenda Hammond, Boundary County Human Rights Task Force President Craig Kelson and Tony Stewart, secretary of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.
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