Nassau Community College students start each fall semester with high hopes and the promise of a fresh start. Unfortunately, the school itself remains on probation until it can show further improvement. Key to achieving that goal is better governance. There are two vacancies on the board of 10 trustees, and one holdover whose term has expired.
Meanwhile, Suffolk County Community College is not riddled with the internal strife of its neighbor, but also is stymied by three board vacancies. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has been given the names of some excellent candidates, and he should fill all these slots as quickly as possible.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education took the drastic action of placing NCC on probation in 2016 after the college failed to meet seven of 14 standards, many a consequence of poor governance by its board. The most prominent concern was political infighting among college trustees, who couldn’t agree on a new president for four years. Finally, State University of New York officials had to intervene, and tapped retired Farmingdale State College president W. Hubert Keen last year to take over the one of the largest two-year colleges in the state system.
Keen has made very good progress, and his goal is to get NCC off probation by December — six months ahead of schedule. He required trustees to take ethics training and has squeezed out some of the politics, but not all of the patronage. The resignation of board member Anthony Cornachio, who faces criminal charges, ended some of the turbulence.
But Keen now will need the help of deeply engaged, smart and experienced trustees who will put the interests of the school ahead of their own. Their next challenge is to ensure that the oversized influence the NCC faculty and the trustees had for too long doesn’t return. While the faculty should influence educational issues and the trustees should be interested in the day-to-day operation, the college must be run by the president and his staff.
The next meeting of the trustees is Sept. 12. NCC needs to have a full board by then so it, too, can have a fresh start.