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OPINION: KCTFHR board of directors responds to Regan column

Authoritarian leaders throughout history have demonstrated time and time again, that the easiest way to control the masses is to keep them ignorant. The easiest way to keep the masses ignorant is to control knowledge. And the easiest way to control knowledge is to get the masses to fear it.

This is the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations Board of Directors’ response to the Brent Regan column “Canceling NIC” that appeared in the Coeur d’Alene Press on March 10, 2023. His column contained misinformation, inaccuracies and omissions.

He conveniently failed to recognize that the March 12 and Nov. 1, 2021, official complaints to the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) involved a list of serious violations of the commission’s standards/eligibility requirements for accreditation by the new far right majority on the NIC Board following the November 2020 election. Those complaints were filed by the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force, the Boundary County Human Rights Task Force, the Spokane County Human Rights Task Force and the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.

Mr. Brent Regan has spent much time trying to make NIC’s faculty, administration and staff the villains in the eyes of the community.

Mr. Regan would like us to believe that NIC’s woes began with the complaint letters from our four human rights task forces to the NWCCU. However, the complaint letters were written in response to actions taken by Brent’s three far right board members elected in November 2020. They began taking extreme actions that clearly violated several of the NWCCU standards including the governance structure; at their second meeting they repealed the board conduct code; created a toxic work environment; bullying, intimidation and even verbal/physical assault on a female employee by one of the NIC board members; and a serious threat to free speech and academic freedom as confirmed by our freedom of information request. On Jan. 12, 2021, in an email to an NIC student Trustee Todd Banducci stated: “I’m battling the NIC ‘deep state’ on an almost daily basis. The liberal progressives are quite deeply entrenched. We are registering victories and will register more wins, but it takes time…”; and later the three board members fired NIC President Rick MacLennan for no cause.

Yes, local human rights organizations became concerned about the destructive direction that NIC was heading. Since efforts to deal directly with the NIC Board proved fruitless, the next logical procedural step was to the NWCCU.

Mr. Regan would further like you to forget that one of his recruited board members, after some months on the board, moved out of Idaho but continued to serve via Zoom. Therefore, all decisions passed by a vote of 3 to 2 were essentially illegal.

It is not the human rights task forces members that are “standing around yelling at the firemen” in Brent’s hypothetical fire. It is Brent and his handpicked board members who not only are throwing buckets of gasoline on this fire. They started the fire.

These abuses have come in many forms such as, at one point having three college presidents on the payroll, one of which has since won his case against the college resulting in a large monetary payout from NIC. We taxpayers are also now paying over a quarter of a million dollars to a recent interim president, Dr. Greg South, giving him a golden parachute. The legitimate NIC President Nick Swayne has fortunately been reinstated by a court order.

Mr. Regan might want to use one of his columns to define fiscal responsibility. So far, the actions of his three anointed NIC Board members have been very costly to NIC’s taxpayers. Not only is NIC facing several lawsuits, but also the institution is at risk of losing its accreditation after decades of the highest ranking by NWCCU. Additionally, NIC has lost its long-held insurance carrier resulting in a huge jump in premiums by a new company. Finally, NIC has been downgraded twice by Moody Bond rating. These are the facts.

We challenge Regan’s misrepresentations of our human rights groups’ commitment to the promotion of human rights and inclusion for all and the elimination of prejudice and bigotry. We will stand up and act whenever we see efforts to breed division, discrimination, hate and ultimately the destruction of our community values.

And that, Mr. Regan, is just common sense.

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The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations Board of Directors includes Christie Wood, president; Jody Hiltenbrand, vice president; Scott Kennedy, treasurer; and Tony Stewart, secretary.