One may safely say that 2013 was a dramatic year for the Northern Marianas College, marred not only by challenges but also controversies that continue to threaten the institution’s stability.
The very first week of January 2013 saw the Board of Regents making a determination that the faculty’s no-confidence vote against NMC president Dr. Sharon Y. Hart in December 2012 was “invalid.” The board also described the evidence report turned in for board review and assessment as “unsubstantiated.” Among the allegations raised against Hart were abuse of power; excessive travels; unwarranted personal reimbursements; plagiarism; and micromanagement—all found unsupported by factual details.
Also in February this year, the college was placed under severe sanction by its accrediting commission, which slapped the institution with a show-cause status on its accreditation—the fourth issued to NMC after 2008, 2010, and 2011. This came about after the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges determined that the college has been non-compliant with accreditation standards and eligibility requirements. The college has already submitted two reports to the ACCJC outlining the changes that have been implemented in response to commission concerns.
A visiting team from the commission was on island in October to verify the reports. A recommendation to the full commission is due in time for the January assembly of the ACCJC. The fate of NMC’s accreditation is expected to be known in early February, according to officials.
The Board of Regents voted in May to renew Hart’s contract for another two years with the same terms and conditions, plus a $20,000 bonus. The contract was formally signed last week by board chair Frank Rabauliman and Hart.
Besides its accreditation, NMC was also shaken this year when the U.S. Department of Education ruled to stop providing the institution Title IV grants after finding out that the college is accredited by two commission bodies, which is against USDOE regulations.
Through Gov. Eloy S. Inos’ appeal, along with the Legislature and the college itself, the USDOE was convinced in August to extend the funding assistance for another 18 months until NMC remedies the situation and is placed under only one accreditation body.
USDOE also ruled that NMC need not return the federal grants used for the college’s baccalaureate program. Title IV funds utilized by NMC’s School of Education for 13 years total $7.097 million.
Also this year, some faculty members were issued non-renewal notice of their employment contracts while some were terminated from their jobs—mostly as result of the new minimum qualification policy set for faculty members. Those who were not renewed included Larry Lee, Kyle Podsweiski, Romeo Cuelar, and Wil Maui. Despite appeals, the board has affirmed the management’s decision.