Officials and board members of the Northern Marianas College were alarmed to learn that a bill is now pending in the Senate that if enacted, may jeopardize the institution’s accreditation status.
Frankie Elliptico, NMC director for external affairs, disclosed during Friday’s board meeting that the college has opposed the idea presented by Senate Bill 18-17, which recommends the appointment of a student representative as an additional member of the NMC board, with equal rights and privileges.
The Board of Regents had just adopted a policy that removed all honorary regents in response to concerns raised by the accreditation commission, which said that honorary regents are not according to standards and violate policies when they participate in policymaking issues.
Before this, the college had honorary regents that included the presidents of the Associated Students of NMC, Faculty Senate, and Staff Senate.
Elliptico said that NMC is concerned because if SB 18-17 is enacted into law, it might potentially impact the accrediting commission’s decision on the status of the college.
NMC is currently under a severe sanction of show cause and may lose its accreditation if deficiencies identified by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges are not resolved. A decision on NMC’s fate is expected after the commission’s January 2014 assembly.
Saipan Tribune learned that SB 18-17, remains at the committee level for review.
NMC president Dr. Sharon Y. Hart is hopeful that the bill will go no further. She told the board that lawmakers “heard us loud and clear [on that issue].” She also cited a letter sent by ASNMC president Alex Shen to the Legislature, reiterating opposition to the bill.
The decision to remove the honorary regents was at the recommendation of the ACCJC after the commission aired concerns about these honorary members’ participation and involvement in the discussion of policy issues. The removal of these honorary members was meant to preserve the board’s independence. They emphasized that this decision is a right step toward the desired reaffirmation for the college.
Team Recommendation No. 8 from the accreditation commission states: “The team urges the college board to reconsider its policy of having honorary regents who are elected to represent some college constituent groups, participate in direct discussion of policy issues during board meetings.” The team indicated in the report that the existence of honorary members is a violation of accreditation standards.