Despite having only two days to review and look into allegations raised by some faculty members against Northern Marianas College president Sharon Hart, Ph.D., the Board of Regents insists that the process was properly executed and was performed to the best of their abilities, with the welfare of the community and students in mind.
Five regents-Juan Lizama, Elaine Orilla, Malua Peter, Andrew Orsini, and William Torres-emphasized this in their individual remarks during Monday's special meeting prior to issuing their decision on the concerns raised by some faculty members against Hart.
From the initial determination that the no-confidence vote issued against Hart on Dec. 14 was invalid, the regents on Monday ruled anew that most allegations-including fiscal mismanagement and abuse of power-were baseless and unsubstantiated.
“I want to make it clear that this was not an expeditious action. We spent two full days [on Thursday and Friday] and we have acted pretty much diligently,” said board chair Lizama, who admitted that the no-confidence vote placed the board in a quandary in the last few weeks.
The college president is the sole employee of the Board of Regents.
The board's decision disappointed many faculty members who claim that the action was railroaded to favor the president.
Lizama disputed this, saying, “It would not be fair for anyone to say that the board did not act or work on this matter.because this is not an easy task. We are pretty certain that we've done it correctly.”
Regents Peter and Orilla backed Lizama, reiterating that the decision was made in the best interest of NMC students. Both recommended the establishment of an effective collaboration between Hart and the faculty for the sake of the institution.
“I think we did our part as board members. I hope the president and the faculty clear things out because we rely heavily on the faculty and the president to lead this institution,” said Orilla.
For regent Orsini, faculty concerns should be brought to the proper channels prior to reaching the board level. He emphasized the organizational structure of the college that must always be considered by everyone.
The no-confidence vote and the decision rendered by the board, according to regent Torres, will serve as a learning experience for him and his colleagues.
For her part, Hart commended the regents for taking the time to address the issue and echoed the regents' views about the importance of “team effort” and “working together” for the college. She vowed to continue practicing transparency and an open-door policy for everyone.
She encouraged employees-both faculty and staff-to resolve similar concerns internally the next time to prevent an “unhealthy situation” from arising at the college. She promised to “sit down, listen, and address” whatever concerns are brought to her table.
“When you do have issues and concerns, bring them forward in a manner that is respectful and honest. Believe me, I am willing to sit down and listen,” Hart told the crowd composed mostly of faculty members.
Hart and Lizama are scheduled to fly next week to San Francisco to attend the accreditation commission meeting where NMC's accreditation status will be decided.
NMC's accreditation with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges is currently on continued probation status.