Garden City Community College has an impressive tradition, due in large part to unwavering support from local residents.
That support and a demand for excellence have paid off in an award-winning college worthy of pride.
But when serious questions arise about leadership and harm to the college’s reputation, the best course is to address those concerns in a swift, transparent way that respects the public’s right to know.
During Tuesday’s GCCC Board of Trustees meeting, the college’s Faculty Senate presented a scathing indictment of President Herb Swender in a report accusing him of contributing to or ignoring a culture on campus that allowed harassment and intimidation of students and faculty.
The statement called for termination of Swender’s contract.
While not all GCCC instructors agreed with the Faculty Senate assessment, a significant number of faculty members and citizens did want the grievances to be aired in the public forum.
But before Faculty Senate Vice President Phil Hoke finished reading the 28-page document, GCCC attorney Randy Grisell stopped him because he saw the content as outside the scope of the agenda item.
That’s debatable. Either way, it’s more important to accommodate the right of a citizen to freely criticize a school’s practices and individuals during public meetings, as uncomfortable as it may be to hear.
It also was no surprise that a lack of transparency was a recurrent theme in the Faculty Senate document, centering on issues such as the college keeping a cheer coach employed after he was accused of sexually harassing cheerleaders.
In its statement, the Faculty Senate also cited concern over future accreditation. The Higher Learning Commission put GCCC on two-year probation in 2017 due to several issues; an HLC on-campus review is scheduled for later this year.
Every effort must be made to maintain accreditation. Losing it could lead to a school’s demise, which is why any troubling allegation — whether made by one frustrated faculty member or 100 — demands sincere attention and evaluation.
The board later pledged to respond to the concerns as quickly as possible, which was encouraging. Its findings and any plan of action must be shared in an open, transparent manner.
Doing otherwise only would prove there’s something to hide.