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New leadership makes waves

Staff Writer | December 17, 2020 1:07 AM

Athletics and conduct were a hot topic during the North Idaho College trustees meeting Wednesday night after board members asserted two related policies were unnecessary, restrictive, and in need of change.

Following Northwest Athletic Conference guidelines, NIC President Rick MacLennan instructed athletic coaches earlier this year to halt several sports teams' practice and performance. Wrestling, which falls under the National Junior College Athletic Association, unlike NIC's NWAC sports like basketball and volleyball, is subject to stricter, season-ending COVID-19 provisions.

Initially added as an informational item, the conversation quickly became heated as board chair Todd Banducci pushed for NIC's wrestling team to compete in the spring season. He noted that other high schools and colleges throughout the inland Northwest are planning on participating in upcoming tournaments. Stopping the NIC team from contributing, Banducci believed would be a mistake.

"We strive to provide accessibility, to be innovative, and to be a center for the community. Now there is a clause that drops that responsibility because of a pandemic," Banducci said. "I think that by refusing to provide these athletic opportunities, we're hindering the student's success and our potential engagement and stewardship for the community."

By recommendation of vice-chair Greg McKenzie, the college will communicate with the NIC Student-Athlete Leadership Council about their interest in competing and COVID-19 provisions.

As part of the trustee policy passed earlier this year, regulations on board conduct intend to insulate NIC from potential lawsuits if a member acts outside the scope of their duties. Banducci, who has perpetually opposed the policy, motioned to retract the rule because of its limitation on the college's elected officials and constituents.

"I think it kills communication and conversation," he said. "There is language in there that denies the ability for people involved with the college, whether they be faculty, staff, or students to have communication with or talk to the trustees."

On paper, Policy 2.01.10 imparts expectations of "ethical" and "businesslike" actions by board members, including making tactful public statements, maintaining integrity, confidentiality, trustees' position during external communications, and abstaining from private, unofficial meetings about college affairs.

Christie Wood agreed the policy could be reworded, but its initial intention was not to control communication but individual trustee practices.

"When you're a leader, you're expected to embrace good conduct," she said. "I would certainly be open to retooling it, looking at the areas we can all agree on and what we can't agree on, but to just abandon it to me seems like we're abdicating our leadership role."

With the support of newly elected trustees, Banducci, McKenzie, and Michael Barnes successfully rescinded the policy. Wood opposed the policy's repeal, and Ken Howard was absent. Moving forward, members of the board expressed interest in revisiting and revising the policy language to better suit group concurrence.

The board also unanimously:

Passed the Head Start Policy Council Bylaws and Self-Assessment Process

Approved the estimated $8 million Meyer Health and Sciences Building Expansion, the concept design will go out to developer bid next year and tentatively break ground in the spring of 2021.

Appointed Vice-Chair Greg McKenzie to the NIC Foundation Board, which promotes public awareness, community pride, scholarships, and other college assets.

The next NIC board of trustees meeting will meet on Jan. 25.