For the next month, the Higher Learning Commission will be accepting public comments about Garden City Community College ahead of a November site visit to assess the college’s accreditation status, providing the commission’s team with background material to assist in the accreditation review process.

The comments are due Oct. 8 and ultimately will be shared with the HLC peer review team made up of employees at other community colleges that will conduct a Comprehensive Evaluation for Removal of Sanction visit at GCCC from Nov. 5 to 7, and with the college’s CEO and HLC liaison at a later date, said Steve Kauffman, public information officer at the HLC.

According to a Facebook post from the college’s Department of Public Safety, the comments must address “substantive matters related to the quality of the institution or its academic programs.”

GCCC Dean of Instructional Effectiveness Jacquelyn Messinger, who has led much of the college’s HLC preparation, said GCCC welcomed and encouraged public comments and published the submission processes early to give those interested plenty of time to submit responses.

“We want public feedback. We want to be able to take suggestions and improve on things and make sure we are serving our community,” Messinger said.

The routine call for comments comes after a summer of public criticism of the college, mostly regarding alleged misconduct of former GCCC President Herbert Swender, former Athletic Director John Green and former cheer coach Brice Knapp, and college administrators and trustees’ response to concerns regarding all three. Some of the concerns were resolved with recent staff shake-ups, including a mutual agreement to terminate Swender’s contract and Green’s resignation.

Messinger reiterated the commission’s assertion that comments should be substantive and specifically address areas in which the college could improve, rather than focus solely on negativity. She said she hoped comments offered constructive criticism.

“I think some of the issues have been addressed and we’re moving forward in a positive way. And that’s what we’re trying to do, is move forward and start healing,” Messinger said.

The HLC, through which GCCC has been accredited since 1975, placed the community college on probation in June 2017 after the college failed to meet the institution's criteria for accreditation regarding its degree programs, quality of its education programs, student and program assessments and attention to program retention and completion rates, and was found lacking in its engagement with systemic and integrated planning and systematic efforts to improve the college’s performance, according to a public disclosure from the HLC.

The November site visit is one of several steps in the two-year probation period, after which the HLC will decide whether the college has met criteria to a point that the probation will be lifted.

There is work to be done before the visit, Messinger said. She must submit extensive reports detailing what the college had done to meet HLC requirements to the commission by Monday and will spend the coming weeks preparing faculty, staff, administrators and trustees for the visit ahead.

Part of the preparation will include mock interviews, where employees can practice explaining changes they’ve helped execute at the college over the probation period, Messinger said. She said the HLC site visit team is interested in meeting with anyone willing to come forward, including members of the public.

“We’re here to serve the community, so that’s what we want to do,” Messinger said about the college.

Community members can submit comments to the HLC at hlcommission.org/comment or mail them to the commission directly at 230 S. LaSalle St., Suite 7-500, Chicago, Ill. 60604-1411.

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.