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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau Community College faces daunting issues

The Nassau Community College logo on the school's

The Nassau Community College logo on the school's campus in Garden City is seen on Jan. 22, 2015. Credit: Barry Sloan

There was hope among some on Nassau Community College’s campus that a written assessment of the institution by a visiting accreditation evaluation team would prove to be milder than one that had been leaked a few weeks earlier.

That doesn’t appear to be happening.

According to a letter from interim NCC President Thomas Dolan released last week, the original preliminary assessment by a Middle States Commission on Higher Education site visit team remains the same.

NCC is failing on half of the commission’s 14 standards, which measure colleges on how they are run, and on how well they meet students’ educational needs.

The commission’s written report is slated to be released publicly later this month. NCC will have just 10 days to respond.

While the commission stopped short of issuing a show-cause order — which would have required that NCC make fixes, or face the prospect of immediately losing its accreditation — the college nonetheless has little time to make things right.

This week, the college board is slated to have its first meeting since a commission site visit team, in a verbal report to Dolan, made reference to videos of the board’s December and February meetings.

At the December meeting, the board gave failed Nassau district attorney candidate Kathleen Murray a job for which she had not applied. In February, one board member sought the resignations of others for reasons unspecified.

The NCC board will have other issues to tend to as well.

Board members this week are slated to interview Tyjaun A. Lee, 44, vice president for student services at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland, and Stephen Schoonmaker, 57, former president of the College of the Ouachitas in Malvern, Arkansas.

They are the last ones standing in the finalist pool for NCC president — a post that has remained unfilled for more than three years as a result of a series of failed searches.

The board had recommended that Kenneth Saunders, a former NCC interim president who has worked at the college for more than a decade, get the president’s job. But Saunders pulled himself out of the running last month before the State University of New York board of trustees could consider NCC’s choice, officials said.

All this once again leaves NCC without stable leadership — this time, during an accreditation crisis.

Dolan, as interim president, has been working to fill that gap. He sent out last week’s letter, and also posted a video on the college’s Facebook page reassuring students about NCC’s present and future.

As for Middle States, “We have a lot of work to do,” Dolan said Friday. Some of it will involve better training of trustees, and getting factions of the campus community — including faculty, who also are slated to meet this week — pulling together, rather than pushing against each other.

SUNY has promised to provide some resources, Dolan said, financial and otherwise.

Which is good, because NCC has serious troubles.

No accreditation means no loans for students, which, on a campus such as NCC, means fewer students — which neither NCC nor the region can afford.

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