Sunday, October 02, 2022

Two NIC trustees walk out of presidential interview

Staff Writer | June 14, 2022 1:08 AM

Two North Idaho College trustees abruptly left a presidential candidate interview Monday when tempers again flared regarding the search process for a new college president.

Trustees Todd Banducci and Greg McKenzie walked out while interviewing Dr. Nick Swayne, but McKenzie returned after a brief departure.

"Trustee Banducci is concerned about the process," Board Chair David Wold told The Press after the meeting. "He feels the process might be flawed, so he felt his participation was not necessary. He did not tell us he would leave, but he left."

When asked his thoughts about Banducci storming out of the interview, Wold said he thought that behavior was very immature.

"Certainly, I question whether he is really fulfilling his obligation as a trustee," Wold said. "He’ll have to answer any questions as to why he is doing what he’s doing."

Wold said he's met with Banducci many times and he has discussed with him how it's OK to agree to disagree.

"A difference of opinion is good," Wold said. "We need to have all types."

Swayne, the third finalist interviewed for the job as president, grew up in North Idaho and is a University of Idaho graduate. He is the executive director of 4-Virginia, a collaborative partnership between eight Virginia universities. He was unfazed by the behaviors exhibited by the two trustees early in the meeting.

"He was well aware of some of the things that have been going on," Wold said. "I don't think that it surprised him a lot."

Several questions from Banducci and McKenzie were left with Wold in their absence. From those questions, Wold asked Swayne his ideas for retaining staff and faculty at NIC.

Swayne said, people don’t leave because of money, primarily — they leave because they don’t like working there anymore. He said staff and faculty need to be supported, and their stories and successes need to be shared.

“That goes a long way,” Swayne said. “When’s the last time you saw the board talking about the successes of the faculty, staff and students at North Idaho College?”

He said he watched the NIC board meeting that took place the day of graduation.

“The whole board meeting ended, and the acting president said, ‘Wait a minute, we had graduation today,'" he said. "That, to me, is telling that students and faculty and staff are not first on the agenda. To me, that should have been the opening report: Here’s what we did today at graduation. Telling that good story.”

When McKenzie returned to the interview, he posed more questions to Swayne, although he accused Wold of skipping the questions left by Banducci. McKenzie then proceeded to speak over Wold to ask Swayne a question on Banducci's behalf about Swayne's philosophy on “privacy-invading mandates.”

"My preference always is to inform people, communicate and give them the opportunity to do the right thing,” Swayne answered.

McKenzie read Banducci-submitted statements about equity, diversity and inclusion and seemed to solicit Swayne's thoughts on those concepts.

Swayne responded that he didn't learn about certain things in his civics classes in high school, such as redlining — the use of red marks on maps that loan corporations would use to outline mixed-race or Black neighborhoods — or Massive Resistance, a policy adopted by Virginia government in 1956 to block the desegregation of public schools mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I didn't learn about that in high school, and apparently you didn't learn about that either. Does that make you smarter? No. I don't think so," Swayne said. "Not learning about those things doesn't help us. Are they divisive? Maybe. I don't feel guilty about that at all. I don't feel guilty about not knowing it. I don't feel guilty about what happened. Moving forward, I feel guilty about not paying attention to knowing that it happened.

"Now, we have a responsibility to our students to inform them," he continued. "I want to make sure that our students know the whole history, and there are some ugly things that we did as a white majority. I didn't do it. I don't feel guilty about it. I don't want our students to feel guilty about it, but I do want them to know about it."

McKenzie asked a question about what Swayne would do if he, as NIC president, was targeted for not doing the bidding of others.

Swayne responded he will stay focused on the mission of the college: To take care of the students, faculty and staff.

"I'm going to be laser-focused on those four things," he said. "As a board, I expect you to support me in that area. And I am not going to play politics. I'm going to support students, faculty, staff and the college. And your role is to support me as a president."

The NIC board of trustees has already interviewed finalists Drs. Samuel “Todd” Brand and James Y. Taylor. Dr. Steve Condon withdrew from the search. Dr. Chad Crumbaker will be interviewed at 4 p.m. Thursday.


Screenshot via Zoom

David Wold, chair of the North Idaho College Board of Trustees, is seen here next to seats abruptly vacated by Trustees Todd Banducci and Greg McKenzie during an interview with presidential finalist Dr. Nick Swayne on Monday night. McKenzie eventually returned.

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