Wednesday, May 18, 2022

NIC 'leaders' speeding in wrong direction

| May 1, 2022 1:00 AM

Either they don’t get it or they just don’t care.

The not-so-discreet order to keep North Idaho College staff and faculty spokespeople silent during Wednesday’s board meeting speaks volumes about the ignorance or belligerence of those in power. Acting President Mike Sebaaly issued the gag order, but it takes very little imagination to connect his command to Todd Banducci, NIC board chair and puppet master. Banducci apparently has heard enough criticism, so turning off that tap is his proposed solution.

Here’s the problem. North Idaho College’s well-documented accreditation peril exists in large part because under Banducci’s alleged leadership, freedom of expression on campus has been curtailed. The accrediting agency has specifically warned that the environment must improve for stakeholders to freely exchange ideas and do their jobs without fear of reprisal over ideological differences with top administrators or trustees.

Yet now, with every board move under intense scrutiny, freedom of expression gets the guillotine on the college’s largest public stage. Did Sebaaly and Banducci think nobody was looking? Or did that simply not matter?

As evidence mounts that massive change is needed at the top, Banducci and his lieutenant on the board, Greg McKenzie, seem hellbent on adding to that pile. Case in point: Their failed lawsuit against the State Board of Education, which is poised to fill the majority of seats on the Board of Trustees according to Idaho law.

If you’re the college’s accrediting agency and you’re looking for proof that Banducci and McKenzie are heeding their many warnings or risk untold damage to the institution, how do you interpret their suing the state body charged with oversight of public education in Idaho? Probably with a whole new level of alarm.

In the days ahead, several things need to happen.

The State Board of Education should appoint three trustees — the new board majority — with proven track records of community service and leadership. The trustees must soon select a college president, perhaps the most important action a board can take.

The new majority should immediately replace Sebaaly, the college’s wrestling coach before Banducci, McKenzie and former trustee Michael Barnes gave him the promotion of his life. Until the permanent president is selected and seated, several outstanding and experienced college administrators are available and willing to serve.

Banducci should immediately be replaced as trustee chair by one of the new appointees.

Banducci should remain as a member of the 27-person presidential search committee, but not as a co-chair. In fairness, co-chair Ken Howard should also be relegated to a non-leadership position and one new chair should be chosen.

These are critical steps to help get NIC back on track. The farther away from the nuke button Banducci can be placed, the better the chances that our beloved community college can once again thrive.