RCCC issued ‘warning’
AHOSKIE – For the second time in seven months, Roanoke-Chowan Community College faces criticism for alleged non-compliance of its accreditation standards.
This time around the local community college was formally sanctioned, but the college’s president said he feels hopeful that the issues raised will be fully resolved.
The most recent allegations were included in a disclosure statement issued last month by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). That organization is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in 11 Southern states.
Without providing specific details, the SACSCOC’s disclosure statement regarding the status of RCCC referenced non-compliance in four areas of its Principles of Accreditation and issued a warning to the college for the following:
Failing to demonstrate compliance with Core Requirement 4.1 (Governing board characteristics), which states the institution has a governing board of at least five members that: (a) is the legal body with specific authority over the institution; (b) exercises fiduciary oversight of the institution; (c) ensures that both the presiding officer of the board and a majority of other voting members of the board are free of any contractual, employment, personal, or familial financial interest in the institution; (d) is not controlled by a minority of board members or by organizations or institutions separate from it; and (e) is not presided over by the chief executive officer of the
Standard 4.2.b (Board/administrative distinction): The governing board ensures a clear and appropriate distinction between the policymaking function of the board and the responsibility of the administration and faculty to administer and implement policy.
Standard 5.2.a (CEO control): The chief executive officer has ultimate responsibility for the institution’s educational, administrative, and fiscal programs and services.
Standard 5.5 (Personnel appointment and evaluation): The institution publishes and implements policies regarding the appointment, employment, and regular evaluation of non-faculty personnel.
Per a decision reached by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees at their meeting in December, RCCC was placed on “Warning” for six months stemming from a review of the institution’s response to unsolicited information alleging non-compliance of the aforementioned four items.
The disclosure statement, a copy of which was obtained by this newspaper, described a warning as a public sanction imposed by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees following determination of significant non-compliance with the Core Requirements or Standards; failure to make timely and significant progress toward correcting the deficiencies that led to the finding of non-compliance; or failure to comply with SACSCOC’s policies and procedures.
The statement further stated that prior to RCCC’s next review by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees in June of this year, a Special Committee will conduct an on-site evaluation of the institution’s compliance with the Principles of Accreditation.
RCCC President Dr. Stanley Elliott responded to questions posed by this newspaper in regards to the SACSCOC findings and the resulting warning. He said although the warning was forecast in December, the official notification letter from SACSCOC was received on Thursday of this week.
“As a result, the Board of Trustees of Roanoke Chowan Community College has not yet had an opportunity to assess and respond to the issues raised in the SACSCOC warning letter,” Dr. Elliott said in his response. “Roanoke Chowan acknowledges the decision of SACSCOC in sending this warning. The Board of Trustees, administration, faculty and staff are committed to fully addressing and responding to all SACSCOC concerns. It is important to note that none of the issues raised by SACSCOC relate to the academic programs or financial status of the college.”
Dr. Elliott stated the RCCC Board of Trustees will form a special committee to develop responses and proposed changes for review by the full Board. He added the college will submit a report to SACSCOC in March.
“Roanoke Chowan’s Board of Trustees and administration look forward to working with SACSCOC and to the visit of the special committee from SACSCOC in responding to all concerns raised in the warning letter. We are confident that all issues raised in the warning have been or will be fully resolved to the satisfaction of SACSCOC,” Dr. Elliott concluded.
In May of last year, RCCC was scolded by the North Carolina Office of the State Auditor (OSA) in regards to alleged accreditation and financial missteps. That probe by the State Auditor also included the high turnover in the president’s position and that some members of the R-CCC’s Board of Trustees were acting beyond their appointed duties.
The OSA’s findings alleged that RCCC was violating the SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation, and cited a failure by the college to perform timely billings of student sponsorship accounts receivable. As to the accreditation allegation, that was based on a finding that the brother of the chairman of the RCCC Board of Trustees was employed by the college as its Plant Operations Foreman as well as the acting Director of Facilities and Maintenance.
In his response to the OSA, Dr. Elliott stressed that none of the Trustees have any contractual, employment or personal interest in the institution. He added that upon the occasions where the Trustees conducted deliberations about the Chairman’s brother, he recused himself from those discussions.
“The Chairman’s brother no longer serves as the Interim Director of Facilities and Maintenance, and is currently employed as the Plant Operations Foreman,” Dr. Elliott wrote in a March 28 letter to the OSA.
The OSA said R-CCC’s Business Office failed to issue a portion of invoices to sponsors from fall 2016 through fall 2017. A report from the college containing sponsorship accounts receivable balances reflected approximately $62,000 of unbilled sponsorship receivables.
At that time, Dr. Elliott said corrective actions are in place regarding the matter.
The OSA audit probed deeper. It noted that R-CCC has experienced a high rate of turnover in the president’s position between September 2012 and November 2017. During that period the college contracted with four separate presidents (Dr. Ralph Soney, Dr. Michael Elam, Dr. Jimmy Tate, and Dr. Elliott).
The audit said former presidents along with current and former employees attributed that high turnover rate to the excessive involvement in day-to-day operations of the college by its Board of Trustees.
“The results of our investigation could neither prove nor disprove that the Board’s involvement in the college’s daily operations was excessive,” the OSA audit revealed. “To determine whether or not the Board is taking on the roles and responsibilities of the president, the State Board of Community Colleges and the System Office should consider on-site monitoring of the (R-CCC) board’s role in the college’s daily operations.”
While the OSA said its investigation could not substantiate the allegation that the R-CCC Trustees involvement in the college’s daily operations was excessive and over-reaching, “it should be reiterated that the allegation was not proven to be untrue.”
Furthermore, the OSA scolded the Trustees for what they deemed as a failure of the board to realize the seriousness of the matters at hand.
“On November 14, 2017, OSA investigators conducted an exit conference with the Board Chair and President of the college. At the President’s request, OSA investigators conducted an additional exit conference with the Board on November 28, 2017. During this exit conference, select board members failed to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and at times were uncooperative, belligerent, and argumentative,” as stated in the report.
Dr. Elliott, in his letter of response, questioned why the OSA released a written report of its findings. He said that during the Nov. 14 meeting the OSA investigations stated, “there were no findings that warranted a written report.”
He added the same statement was made by the OSA investigators at the Nov. 28 meeting.
In its response to Elliott, the OSA said at the time of the exit conference on Nov. 28, it planned to issue a letter to the State Board of Community Colleges outlining the findings of the audit.
“However, due to the college’s Board of Trustees dismissive demeanor concerning the findings presented during the exit conference, OSA decided to issue a report to inform the Governor, the General Assembly, and the State Board of Community Colleges of the findings and the board’s unprofessional and dismissive behavior,” the OSA stated.
The OSA informed SACSCOC of possible violations on Dec. 15, 2017.