Probation, one year later

Little more than a year ago, on April 16, 2013, Pima Community College received notification that its accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, had placed PCC on probation. That sanction has set into motion a College-wide response involving more than 300 employees, as well as students and members of the community.

The Institutional Self-Study mandated by the HLC as a condition of emerging from probation has forced us to shine a light into every corner of PCC, our policies, procedures and goals. I see probation as an opportunity to reset the College’s collective mindset and establish a culture of continuous self-improvement. We have made progress in many important areas, including but not limited to:

  • Examining 125 areas of College operations. The evidence-based inquiry conducted by the members of the College’s 14 Institutional Self-Study committees revealed that in 19 areas, about 15 percent, PCC was not meeting the HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation, the standards it uses to determine whether an institution merits accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation. For areas that do not meet criteria, PCC has created Fast Action Teams, task forces of subject-matter experts charged with identifying and analyzing gaps in College performance, benchmarking and researching best practices to devise broad-based, comprehensive solutions, and developing measurable indicators of performance to ensure the proposed remedies actually fix the deficiency. The teams’ reports are due for completion May 1.
  • Creating an Office of Dispute Resolution to address complaints and grievances consistently and fairly, and launching training for all PCC employees to identify, effectively respond to and prevent sexual harassment.
  • Removing impediments to PCC becoming an institution accessible to all students, regardless of their academic background
  • Filing a Monitoring Report to the HLC last summer detailing changes to be made to complaint and grievance procedures, and in faculty oversight of curriculum. The HLC endorsed what it called the report’s “sound plans” to improve those areas.
  • Updating and redesigning the Governing Board’s bylaws, and exploring new models of governance for the College to enhance meaningful opportunities for employee input into decision-making. The new Governance Council, for example, includes representation from adjunct faculty and temporary employees, groups that previously had no consistent, formal means of sharing their perspectives with the Chancellor.
  • Revitalizing leadership. I became Chancellor on July 1, 2013. Since then, I have made clear to the College my expectations for, and have made changes in Administration personnel when I felt it was in the best interests of the College, our students and the community. PCC is in the midst of a nationwide search for three new campus presidents, as well as a new Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Services, and we hope to have the new personnel for these positions at work no later than July 1.

As important as these accomplishments are, the impulse behind them – the true impetus for change at PCC — is equally important. PCC must refocus on becoming a student-centered learning organization. Students must once again be the reason for our existence.

Clearly, successfully emerging from probation is a necessary condition for PCC to function in the future. But while I look forward to sharing our progress with an HLC evaluation team in September, regaining the full confidence of the HLC is but one part of the picture. Every day, the College must follow through and fulfill our goal of meeting our students’ educational needs – what author and organizational behavior expert Simon Sinek calls “living your why.” It is essential for the College to articulate our “why,” especially to current and prospective students. They are why we are here, and they are why, even after we emerge from probation, we will keep striving to improve.

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