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EDITORIAL: Can NIC's leopards change their spots?

| March 10, 2024 1:00 AM

Turn up the lights.

For North Idaho College, it’s Show Time.

Or, technically speaking, Show-Cause Time.

The latest communication from NIC's accrediting organization, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, essentially put NIC trustees on a half-year timer. Six months is roughly how long the board has to save the college before NWCCU comes to town in October, when NIC’s “show-cause” efforts to right ongoing governance wrongs will be judged. 

Almost two years ago NIC was formally sanctioned, a warning that its trustees were putting the college’s future in peril. And just over a year ago, trustees received an official “show-cause” sanction — the last step before accreditation is lost.

Based on the lack of progress over the past two years, the next six-month outlook isn’t good. Here are governance areas NWCCU has told NIC’s trustees repeatedly that they must shore up:

• Function as a professional governing board

• Strengthen their relationship with the college president

• Develop processes to provide students, faculty and staff ways to weigh in on matters where they have “a direct and reasonable interest”

• Reduce institutional risks

• Reduce “the exodus of faculty, staff and senior administrators”

• Resolve ongoing litigation

The board’s majority, Todd Banducci, Greg McKenzie and Mike Waggoner, have consistently demonstrated an inability or outright unwillingness to function professionally. Banducci and McKenzie in particular have shown blatant disrespect toward students, staff and faculty — and received consistent votes of “no confidence” in return.

After firing without cause President Rick MacLennan and repeatedly trying and failing to evict President Nick Swayne, it’s hard to imagine a path forward where a strong relationship between the board majority and the president is possible. 

Skyrocketing insurance rates, massive legal bills and ongoing lawsuits show no signs of abating.

Efforts by trustees Brad Corkill and Tarie Zimmerman to steer the board in the right direction have not just been ignored by the majority; Banducci and McKenzie have done their utmost to marginalize their colleagues while Waggoner has failed to provide the constructive support that would tilt the majority toward saving accreditation.

By canceling a previously planned site visit next month, NWCCU officials have made the October sojourn to NIC all-important. And the timing — just before the Nov. 5 election — can't be accidental.

Banducci, McKenzie and Waggoner are all up for re-election. If NIC hasn’t aced the accreditation test by then, voters will represent our college's last, best hope for survival.