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OPINION: Canceling NIC

by BRENT REGAN/Common Sense
| March 10, 2023 1:00 AM

As you watch and listen to the public comments at the recent North Idaho College (NIC) Board of Trustee meetings you may be struck at how the demands of those testifying don’t match their actions. Faculty, students, staff and citizens would come to the microphone and for two minutes demand that the trustees fix the accreditation problem, or berate the trustees, or demand the trustees resign, or accuse the trustees of committing illegal acts, or threaten to recall the trustees, or on and on and on they go.

It is as if the college was on fire and instead of offering assistance or a pail of water, people were standing around yelling at the firemen that they are incompetent and should resign. Even if that were true, those actions do not help solve the immediate problem.

Only the occasional speaker offered any words of encouragement or support and only one asked the critical question: “What can I do to help?”

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) is the accreditation agency and in their communications they stated that they wanted to see community support and stability of the board and college management. However, the community members who claimed they wanted to preserve accreditation were acting as if they wanted it removed by failing to show support while demanding change and the instability that follows.

NIC has a duly elected board of trustees who have three basic responsibilities; setting policy, supervision of the budget and hiring the president. That’s it. The day to day operational matters that affect accreditation are the responsibility of the president.

The now former Interim President South had assembled a team that was making good progress, according to NWCCU, in responding to the Show Cause letter. President Swain has now thrown that progress out and is starting over. The accreditation responsibility he fought for in court now rests solely in his hands.

How did we get here? What was the original sin that started the accreditation issue? Who complained and why?

The “who” part is easy. According to documents on the NIC website, the original accreditation complaint was filed by the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. The “why” is in the complaint itself and if you cut through the hyperbolic rhetoric you find the following reasons why KCTFHR believes accreditation should be put at risk:

Trustee Banducci said mean things to Trustee Wood.

At a town hall, local legislators criticized the college for supporting BLM.

Trustee Banducci insisted that the Pledge of Allegiance not be bastardized.

The local Republican Party (KCRCC) passed a resolution in support of equality of opportunity in education.

The NIC board objected to a COVID-19 mask mandate.

The NIC board supported academic freedom, including Pro Life viewpoints.

Most people look at this and ask “Where’s the beef!” These complaints are trivial. Academic standards are not mentioned. Student test scores are not the issue. The college is well funded. Attendance has been declining but not at alarming levels. Where are the serious violations that would justify losing accreditation?

There aren’t any, which may be why the KCTFHR, Christy Wood and her allies needed time to whip up a frenzy against the trustees who were simply trying to bring NIC policies in line with the majority views of the voters of Kootenai county.

With the help of the media they were successful and in December of 2021 the KCTFHR sent a second letter of complaint alleging a failure of leadership of the board. In short the charges were that the majority members of the board were not acquiescing to the demands of the minority members, who coincidentally supported KCHRTF policies of cultural sensitivity and global awareness.

The complaint has a prediction about “signs that diversity, cultural sensitivity and global awareness will be under attack” and then offers a veiled threat saying:

“If NIC is allowed to continue to defy and ignore the NWCCU essential criteria that welcomes, encourages, protects and promotes an inclusive academic institution for the students, employees and the community, this will establish a dangerous precedent and challenge to the NWCCU for its future work with institutions it oversees as to accreditation.”

The KCTFHR message is clear; go woke or we will destroy you, and they may yet succeed.

The stated mission of the KCTFHR is the “elimination of prejudice and bigotry” but their actions reveal their deep hatred and contempt for people with conservative values. Rather than use their skills in community organizing and political activism to assist NIC, they and their allies have chosen to pour gasoline on the fire.

Time will tell just how much damage they will do.

It’s just common sense.

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Brent Regan is chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.