SHAWNEE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Report for a Focused Visit
The Higher Learning Commission
November 15-16, 2021
Submitted September 20, 2021
Chapter 1. INSTITUTION’S HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Several significant events of the past three years and their sequence furnish important context from Shawnee Community College’s viewpoint for its 2021 Focused Visit Report.
2018 HLC Mid-Cycle Review
The most recent comprehensive evaluation (Mid-Cycle Review) of Shawnee Community College by The Higher Learning Commission was conducted in Fall 2018. Core Component 5B (The institution’s governance and administrative structures promote effective leadership and support collaborative processes that enable the institution to fulfill its mission) was evaluated by the peer review team “as met with concern primarily because of the current climate at SCC and the questions raised by both faculty and administration about effectively following policy and procedure.”
Further noted by the peer review team in its report, “the relationship between college administration (especially the president) and college employees (especially faculty) is strained. The team found no evidence that the internal disputes are affecting students, although students were certainly aware of the issues between faculty and administration. The fact that the work environment is likely not comfortable for faculty, staff, or administration was evident, and this climate of distrust also hampers the College’s effectiveness in fully meeting Core Component 5B.”
Thus, the reviewers requested interim monitoring in the form of a focused visit by late 2019 whereby the College “can document and provide evidence of the processes used to improve policies, procedures, communication, and trust in the governance of SCC.” Specifically, the College needs to provide evidence related to three areas:
- Administration and faculty have jointly reviewed policies and procedures to ensure that both parties understand the intent and adhere to the purpose of each.
- Faculty union leadership and the college president (and cabinet if appropriate) will identify no less than one meeting per month to discuss issues and focus on resolutions and reported through meeting minutes shared monthly with the Board of Trustees.
- Faculty will share with administration in Academic Affairs all results from student learning outcomes assessment activities so as to inform strategic planning decisions and made available in a transparent manner to the college population as a whole.
Concurrently, the reviewers evaluated Core Component 4B (The institution demonstrates a commitment to educational achievement and improvement) as met with concern and stipulated a focused visit to occur by late 2019 on the “institution’s processes and methodologies to assess student learning, especially the involvement of faculty and administration in the process.”
2019 SCC Leadership Change
In early Spring 2019, SCC’s Board and the College President released joint statements regarding the then-President’s proposal to shift her leadership focus to building external partnerships during the remainder of her contractual obligation. Thus, day-to-day operation of SCC was turned over “on June 15, 2019 to an interim team that will rely on the capable administrative staff currently in place at Shawnee.” On May 20, 2019, the Board of Trustees communicated by letter to SCC internal constituents more details of its plans for temporary leadership of the College, naming the Vice President of Academic Affairs, Vice President of Student Success and Services, and Acting Vice President of Campus Operations and Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer as the interim team. Also, the Board outlined the next steps to be taken to further address the College’s leadership: 1) having an Interim President selected by July, 2019 after considering both internal and external candidates for that role; and 2) establishing a joint/collaborative Presidential Search effort to select the next SCC President.
In July 2019, the Board appointed the then-Vice President of Academic Affairs as Interim President, who served in that capacity until the Presidential Search was completed in Fall 2020. Importantly, in early 2020, the Interim President convened an ad hoc SCC Shared Governance Committee. This action recognized the lack of opportunity for faculty and staff at SCC to come together through a designated process to discuss topics of concern openly and freely, in a spirit of collegiality, with administration.
2019 HLC Focused Visit
In accordance with the outcomes of the 2018 HLC Mid-Cycle Review of SCC, HLC conducted interim monitoring through a focused visit centered on Criterion 5B (governance processes) and Criterion 4B (assessment of student learning practices) in November 2019. The peer review team reported that faculty, staff, administration, and the Board of Trustees noted “an improved campus climate as well as improved communication from the administration to faculty and staff” and a cautious optimism as the consensus of the feedback received during the visit.
With regard to Criterion 5B requirements, the team found that progress had been made in the working relationship and communication between faculty, staff, and administration; specifically,
- A joint faculty/administration review of policies governing students occurred and further policy areas are under review or planned for review in the near future.
- Monthly meetings of administration and faculty union leadership occur where issues and resolutions are discussed.
- The college implemented WEAVE, a learning outcomes assessment software, where all results of student learning outcomes assessment are posted and all college faculty, staff, and administration have access to view results.
On the other hand, “feedback [received by the team] during the visit indicates a lingering distrust of the Board of Trustees by some members of the college’s internal community.” . . . and “concern was raised about the lack of communication from the Board to the college regarding the Presidential search.” The latter came to light when many members of the internal community reported being unaware that the process had already begun, that a search committee had been formed, and that the first meeting of the search committee was scheduled to occur during the same week as the focused visit, in fact.
Furthermore, feedback received during the visit raised additional concern “that Board members may not be adhering to their own policy: ‘The Board will select the President who will be the chief executive officer of the College and be directly responsible to the Board for its total administration’, in that Board members were reported to have been involved in day-to-day operations of the college through direct meetings and conversations related to the operations of the college with personnel other than the President.”
Therefore, the team called for “a focused visit by November 30, 2021 regarding progress towards improvements related to the extent . . . the Board, Administration, Faculty, and Staff engage in shared governance directed at improving policies, processes, and communication that ultimately rebuilds trust in the governance of the college and improves the campus climate.” (Criterion 5.B.—The institution’s governance and administrative structures promote effective leadership and support collaborative processes that enable the institution to fulfill its mission.) Additionally, the team added the concern regarding the Board not following its own policy about selecting the President and that position being responsible for the College’s total administration as the second area of focus for the visit. (Criterion 2.C.—The governing board of the institution is sufficiently autonomous to make decisions in the best interest of the institution and to assure its integrity.)
Also, based on findings during the visit, the team requested a separate interim monitoring report with the same due date as the focused visit regarding the progress on various assessment of student learning process topics. (Criterion 4.B – The institution engages in ongoing assessment of student learning as part of its commitment to the educational outcomes of its students.)
2020 Appointment of a New SCC President
The Board of Trustees hired an independent consultant in November 2019 to assist with the presidential search and hiring process; the consultant had served the College during previous similar processes. The Board also formed an ad hoc Presidential Search Committee in November 2019 representative of constituent groups based on a call for volunteers. The Board-appointed Committee consisted of twenty members including representatives from the SCC administration, faculty, and staff as well as the community college district’s school superintendents and the community at large; the consultant and Board counsel served the Search Committee in an advisory role.
The Presidential Search Committee was responsible for screening the credentials of all applicants and meeting several times for discussion starting in December 2019 and concluding in May 2020. The committee was chaired by Board Member Steve Heisner who periodically communicated to SCC faculty and staff via the College e-mail system during the entire process. From a field of sixty-six applicants, the Committee presented a list of nine candidates to the Board in June 2020 to ratify and announce as the finalists.
The initial timeline adopted by the Board at its December 2019 meeting set a target date for announcing the new President in May 2020; however, due to Covid-19 restrictions and conditions, the timeline had to be revised postponing the announcement date to September. Thus, on- campus interviews with the candidates were scheduled over the summer months of 2020 with Zoom technology facilitating much of the process. While the Board was clear in reaffirming its sole responsibility for selecting the President and the advisory nature of the Presidential Search Committee, additional opportunities for faculty, staff, and administration input were available during the interview process, including several hour-long forums via Zoom during which groups representative of SCC could ask questions of each candidate.
Dr. Timothy Taylor was selected as the new President of SCC, and his appointment was effective through Board action taken at the September 8, 2020, meeting.
2020 HLC Criteria Revision
On September 1, 2020, revised HLC Criteria for Accreditation became effective, and Shawnee College began following them at that time as the expectations to be fulfilled. Since the “new” criteria include statement revisions and renumbering pertinent to the Criterion 5 focus area compared to the team reports of 2018 and 2019, the remainder of this report uses the 2020 updated Criterion/Core Component statements and numbers as outlined in the HLC crosswalk.
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With these factors as the context and the institution’s perspective on accreditation-related events from 2018 to 2020, the following chapters of this report provide SCC’s response to the areas of focus for the 2021 HLC visit. The narrative and accompanying evidence together are intended to demonstrate the College’s ongoing accomplishments and progress in regard to fulfilling the requirements of HLC Criterion 5A (formerly 5B) and Criterion 2C.
Chapter 2. FOCUS VISIT TOPIC #1
Criterion 5A: Through its administrative structures and collaborative processes, the institution’s leadership demonstrates that it is effective and enables the institution to fulfill its mission. (Formerly Criterion 5B – The institution’s governance and administrative structures promote effective leadership and support collaborative processes that enable the institution to fulfill its mission.)
The HLC mid-cycle review of Shawnee Community College in late 2018 was a catalyst for several changes and improvements regarding collaborative processes at the College which had been at a stalemate for more than a year. Initially, in Spring/Summer 2019, dialog between the College leadership and faculty was re-established through communication strategies such as jointly reviewing student-related policies and procedures; discussing issues brought by faculty union leadership to monthly meetings with the college administration and conveyed to the Board of Trustees thru meeting minutes; and sharing of student learning assessment outcomes by faculty with academic administration. These actions demonstrated adequate progress toward the expectations defined for the Fall 2019 focused visit by HLC, albeit the presidential leadership of the College was in flux.
In Spring 2020, SCC’s Interim President advanced the collaboration initiative by establishing an ad hoc Shared Governance Committee to maintain the practices acknowledged by the 2019 HLC focused visit team to rebuild trust in the governance of the college and to improve the campus climate. The original membership of SCC’s ad hoc Shared Governance Committee (SGC), with the Interim President serving as the convener, was comprised of ten members – four administrators and six faculty members (including two faculty union leaders, the Assessment Chair, and three division chairs). The committee agendas generally consisted of the following topics: Assessment of Student Learning, Review of Student-Related Policies, and Operational Matters.
The appointment of SCC’s new President in September 2020 signaled an intentional dedication to shared governance in concept and practice. Month by month, Dr. Taylor has provided clarity and guidance regarding transparency and open communication as the foundation for meaningful shared governance. As such, the following advancements have occurred and been welcomed by Board members and personnel alike.
- Clarity Regarding the Nature of Shared Governance. Upon taking office and over the course of several weeks, the President provided the Board and College personnel with opportunities to develop their understanding, through frank discussions, of the characteristics and operational features of shared governance. Misunderstandings and myths surrounding the paradigm were dispelled.
- Objectives of Transparency and Open Communication. The President consistently endorses these two foundations as essentials for successfully and completely accomplishing the College’s mission. This belief is especially evident in the current process for updating, implementing, and communicating the Shawnee Community College 2021-2025 Strategic Plan.
- Development of Shared Governance Infrastructure. Two equally important, evolving dimensions are central to the College’s commitment of advancing the practice of shared governance.
o The ad hoc Shared Governance Committee established by the Interim President in Spring 2020 remains in place, and it is maturing under the new President’s leadership. Membership on the committee has expanded to assure representation across all operational aspects of the College.
o The Board of Trustees is transitioning to a policy governance (quasi-Carver) model and thus remapping its policies accordingly, as discussed later in Chapter 3 of this report, to support the model’s basic concept of separating issues of organizational purpose (ends) from all other organizational issues (means), placing primary emphasis on the ends.
The remainder of this chapter is devoted to the Shared Governance Committee operational process and accomplishments to date as well as future plans in terms of fulfilling the expectations of Criterion 5A. The following chapter furnishes details about the Board’s development initiatives related to fulfilling the expectations of Criterion 2C and its role in the shared governance structure.
Shared Governance Committee Work, 2020-2021 Academic Year
Shawnee College’s ad hoc Shared Governance Committee convenes monthly with the President serving as facilitator. The composition of the committee currently includes the President; two Vice Presidents; one Dean; four faculty members, two of whom hold union leadership positions in the Shawnee College Education Association and one who is Student Academic Assessment Committee chair; and a staff representative added as of January 2021.
The Committee’s meeting agendas generally include items ranging from operational matters to assessment of student learning progress to policy review to strategic planning. Importantly and not surprisingly, shared governance infrastructure development has become a growing part of the committee’s work in 2021.
Shared Governance Infrastructure
Shared Governance Working Definition. At the November 2020 meeting, the Shared Governance Committee suggested that President Taylor develop a working definition of “shared governance” and began consensus-building conversation with the committee members. After opportunities to study and discuss typical features associated with shared governance and distribution of the working definition for administrative review, the Committee adopted a Shared Governance Working Definition at its December 2020 meeting.
Communication of the working definition to the larger internal college community was discussed and formally introduced at the Spring 2021 Convocation and the May 2021 Community Assembly.
- In the meantime and presently overall, the Shared Governance Committee members are responsible for communication of the group’s work/outcomes with their departments and are likewise responsible for eliciting from them any items for future shared governance committee agendas.
- President Taylor and the recently-added staff representative on the committee are seeking to expand staff interest and participation in the shared governance process.
Communication challenges were quickly identified in that the current process posed a timing “bottleneck” that needed attention. Therefore, a shared drive was created with “read only access” and stated deadlines for review/response to shared governance matters posted there. This resource for the college community’s input enables their feedback to systematically be organized for developing recommendations to the Board of Trustees.
Standing Committee Structure. Closely related to the adoption of the Shared Governance Working Definition, a review of the College’s standing committee structure commenced. At the May 2021 meeting of the ad hoc Shared Governance Committee, a proposed Committee Charge template was presented for discussion along with a completed example. President Taylor explained that an organizational diagram could be used to show how the various committees work together and complement each other’s efforts.
- Members sought clarification about what follow-through on committee functions would take place, how/if/when committee progress would be tracked, and whether the current roster of committees would be retained.
- Dr. Taylor spoke to the issue of accountability and alignment with monitoring elements identified in the updated Board policies (explained in Chapter 3) and making committee agendas/meeting minutes more informative as the shared governance structure moves forward.
- Over the summer months, committee members were asked to gather input from their colleagues so that each committee’s structure and scope is captured and is comprehensive in order to be reflected in the future structure.
The emerging, proposed committee structure is one that intentionally aligns well with the College’s organizational format and administrative responsibilities. At the July 2021Shared Governance Committee meeting, the structure design draft was presented by President Taylor for committee consensus.
- The Governance Committee structure design includes a flowchart topped with a Shared Governance Executive Council. The present ad hoc Shared Governance Committee will transform into that Council providing overall coordination and guidance of the College’s shared governance practices and being the conduit for recommendations to the Board of Trustees. In the new structure, the Executive Council will replace the College Council that has served an internal communication role in the College’s standing committee structure.
- The next tier consists of four councils—namely, Academic Affairs; Student Affairs; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and Administration Services—that will communicate input on policy, procedure, and guidelines to the Executive Council. Each of the four councils will be comprised of faculty and staff serving on specific, assigned committees (standing and ad hoc) associated with the respective administrative domain; each council will be overseen by a key administrator of the College.
- Another component of the shared governance structure design is an Operational Committee flow chart depicting three Operational Leadership Teams—Academic, Student Affairs, Administrative Services—each overseen by the respective Vice President. The teams consist of hybrid teams whose purpose is to provide information on specific operational matters for attention at the weekly President’s Cabinet meetings and/or Vice President staff-team meetings.
- General Guidelines for the Shared Governance Councils and Operational Teams have been drafted to define aspects such as member responsibilities, decision-making process, evaluation/assessment, and minutes protocols as well as several other procedural elements. The nomenclature of councils and teams is intentional to distinguish between councils having policy and planning authority and teams having operational activity and planning implementation authority.
Additional Developments. At the May 2021 Shared Governance Committee meeting, the idea of creating a Shared Governance Manual and how the Committee Charge template would fit into the structure was described. The possibilities for the Manual continued to be a subject of discussion at the monthly meetings during the 2021 summer months; at the July 2021 Shared Governance Committee meeting, for instance, points of discussion were the Councils’ responsibility for maintaining the manual and the Executive Council’s role in determining flow of items to be presented to the Board of Trustees.
At the September 2021 Board of Trustees meeting, the first partial draft of the Shared Governance Manual was an agenda item for the Board’s review. Drafting the remaining sections is being guided jointly by the respective vice presidents and the ad hoc shared governance committee members; the projected completion date for the Manual is the end of October 2021.
Of course, efficacy of communication remains a priority as does increasing engagement across the institution in the new structure. One option identified by the Committee at the July 2021 meeting is establishment of a Shared Governance webpage on MYSCC with a link for Councils to share information from their Council meetings.
Policy Development and Review
Review by faculty and staff of student-related policies actually commenced prior to the formation of the ad hoc Shared Governance Committee. Shortly following the 2018 HLC comprehensive evaluation that found Criterion 5.B was met with concern, faculty and staff engaged in such review meant to open and strengthen a dialog between them and the administration. The HLC 2019 interim monitoring through a focused visit validated the joint review of policies governing students by SCC administration and faculty/staff for clarity of purpose and application.
Once the ad hoc Shared Governance Committee (SGC) was formed in 2020, the policy review process continued and, through President Taylor’s leadership, was extended to include Board and Administrative policies. The expansion started with the President introducing a draft of a refined Policy Template and a Procedures Template at the January 2021 Shared Governance Committee meeting, providing opportunities for the members’ and the college community’s input. At the same meeting, draft versions of two policies (Non-Discrimination & Harassment, Financial Aid) authored by SGC committee members were presented seeking input for improvement from faculty and staff by mid-February.
In March 2021, the expanding policy review process at the College was fortified by important additions and clarifications:
- A shared drive was created to allow all College personnel the opportunity to easily review and comment on any policy or procedure being reviewed or proposed.
- Definitions of basic terms central to shared governance – Board Policy, Board Bylaws, Administrative Policy, Administrative Rules, Procedures, and Guidelines – were circulated and meant to further illuminate how shared governance works and to complement the College’s working definition of it.
- Primary review of proposed policies, procedures, and guidelines will be the responsibility of the administrative area in which they originate or have the most impact, although all groups will have an opportunity for input. The primary review group will then be responsible for assessing comments to determine appropriate revisions.
The seventy-two Board policies recently developed in preparation for the Board’s conversion to the policy governance model (see Chapter 3) were reviewed according to the shared governance process.
Strategic Plan Development
Due to the flux and transition in the College’s leadership during 2019-2020, the Shawnee Community College 2019-2023 Strategic Plan was still in need of development when the new President was appointed in September 2020. Finalization of the plan draft was logically the President’s responsibility and began with his College Status Report in June 2021 to the Board and previously to the internal college community. Leading up to that and in the course of the President drafting the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, input was elicited from four internal groups—Faculty; Student Services; Administration, Directors, Business Office; and Administration, Information Technology, Maintenance—in four separate forums.
Also, the President introduced the culminating dimension of the process, a reporting tool on college effectiveness, “Shawnee Community College Effectiveness System” (SCCES, pronounced Success) and subtitled “Key Performance Indicators – Transparency for the Community.” Its format is aligned with the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan and examines the input, process, outcome/output measures in nineteen areas of College operations. The report will be updated with performance data on an annual basis and shared via the College website for internal and external constituents’ review/analysis to identify improvement plans.
Furthermore, being fully transparent, President Taylor has re-iterated to the College community on two occasions (Community Assembly, Spring 2021; Convocation, Fall 2021) the need to examine SCC’s organizational structure for operational alignment with the performance indicators. Any necessary future re-configuration of positions and/or reporting lines will respond to the goal of the College achieving maximum performance effectiveness.
Assessment of Shared Governance Outcomes
Determining the acceptance and perception of SCC’s shared governance efforts and practices by the College community at large is thought to be somewhat premature at the present time, given that trust-building generally evolves over a greater span of time than SCC has so far devoted to making this significant cultural shift. Hence, conducting a Shared Governance Survey of the Board, Administration, Faculty, and Staff is foreseen to take place after a full year of the Board’s transition to the Policy Governance model, the implementation of the Shared Governance Committee structure, and the College carrying out Year 1 of the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan and reporting on Key Performance Indicators.
In the meantime, however, as the ad hoc Shared Governance Committee continues its work while changeover to the new structure materializes, the Committee seeks to gauge the internal constituents’ reactions. The following separate statements from SCC’s faculty and staff constituencies presently furnish the Committee a barometer for informally measuring the progress that has been made thus far:
Shawnee College Education Association
The Executive Committee for Shawnee College Education Association (SCEA) conveys the following information on behalf of the faculty group. After reviewing the history of our past few years, SCEA has been described as proactive at raising the alarm and calling into question administrative protocol. SCEA noticed critical issues and given the protections of tenure was a voice for its membership and other personnel who also work or worked at the institution at the time.
Since those difficult times, the administration has changed dramatically. SCEA recognized a major shift toward productive and honest communication when Dr. Kathleen Curphy was appointed interim president. Meaningful communication occurred during shared governance meetings, and faculty suggestions were considered. Reflecting upon other improvements that were realized at that time, the following list is not all-inclusive; however, it illuminates several significant positive changes.
1) Hiring practices
- Increased faculty involvement with interview committees
- Increased faculty consideration with hiring decisions
- Clarity increased toward identifying needs, designing solutions, and reaching goals
- Shared governance agenda items were solicited and met with sincere appreciation for concerns
- Procedural changes in how scholarships were awarded
Shared governance was a new concept and has continued to evolve from its early stages. Initially, faculty met with administration and staff personnel, and it appeared that, in general, “shared governance” was occurring. After several months of meetings, SCEA’s executive committee made recommendations that additional staff members join the shared governance meetings. While the suggestion of finding additional staff to include in the meetings was considered, ultimately, COVID emerged which confounded planning.
More recently with the hiring of our current President, Dr. Timothy Taylor, and the leadership acumen that he has brought to the institution, faculty have increased confidence that the institution is on a successful track. Shared governance has been clearly defined, and faculty, increasingly, understand that while sharing input helps with decision-making, it is not shared-decision making. Similarly, additional staff have been brought in to participate with shared governance.
~ July 2021
Shawnee College Full-Time Staff
From the perspective of full-time staff, real progress has been made since the 2019 HLC Focused Visit in improving the campus climate at Shawnee Community College. This progress began with the hiring of Dr. Timothy Taylor is September 2020. Since that time, Dr. Taylor’s leadership has increased communication and transparency throughout the institution. Staff now have multiple opportunities to not only receive valuable information, but also to share their ideas and concerns. These opportunities include:
- Staff representation on the ad hoc Shared Governance Committee (beginning January 2021)
- One-on-one meetings with the President
- Email communications from the President
- Videos from the President
- Staff Meetings with the President (Campus Opening, Strategic Planning Discussion)
- Community Assembly (college-wide)
- Shared network drives (Board Policy and Procedures, Strategic Plan, Institutional Effectiveness)
~ August, 2021
Chapter 3. FOCUS VISIT TOPIC #2
Criterion 2C: The governing board of the institution is autonomous to make decisions in the best interest of the institution in compliance with Board policies and to assure its integrity.
The Shawnee Community College Board of Trustees, comprised of eight voting members (seven publicly-elected members and one student member), operates with powers specified in 110 ILCS 805 / the Illinois Community College Act and operationalized by protocols communicated through the Board Policy Manual which includes Board Bylaws. Minutes of regular monthly and special meetings are published on the Board of Trustees’ page of the College website, www.shawneecc.edu/about/board-of-trustees . The Board’s by-laws and current policies have traditionally been codified in the Shawnee Community College Full-Time Employee Policy Manual which is posted at the same site.
The November 2019 focused visit was the first HLC evaluation in the recent decade—if ever, during SCC’s accreditation history—that the integrity or autonomy of the College’s Board of Trustees had been deemed a concern. Nonetheless, the 2019 HLC evaluation findings of 1) distrust of the Board by faculty and staff, 2) lack of Board communication to faculty and staff, particularly about the 2019-2020 impending presidential search, and 3) possibly the Board not adhering to its own policy by circumventing the leadership of the College’s president as reported by the evaluation team were looked upon by the Board as an opportunity for self-reflection, self-evaluation, and improvement.
At the same time, the most immediate task requiring the Board’s attention in 2019 was initiating the search for a new SCC President. Perceptions by faculty and staff reported during the 2019 focused visit were that the presidential search had begun without any communication from the Board. In fact, the Board had taken only some initial steps in the process—engaging the services of a consultant to assist with the search and hiring process; devising a timetable for the process; and identifying some Board and other constituency members to serve on an ad hoc Presidential Search Committee.
- Upon learning of the faculty and staff’s perception, the Search Committee Chair, Board Member Steve Heisner, sent a clarifying statement to faculty and staff about the process plans with an invitation seeking volunteers to serve on the committee which had neither yet been formalized nor commenced its work. Consequently, the eventually-appointed, twenty-member Presidential Search Committee consisted of SCC Board Trustees (2), SCC Executive Administration (1), SCC Professional Staff (2), SCC Extension Center Leadership (1), SCC Grant Staff (1), SCC Classified/Support Staff (2), SCC Faculty (2), In-District Public School Superintendents (4), and Community Members (5) broadly represented the College constituent groups; the consultant and Board counsel served the Search Committee in an advisory role.
- Periodically, as the Search Committee carried out its work in 2020, Committee Chair Heisner updated the internal college community via the College e-mail system about the search process, progress made, and timeline revision. Additionally, faculty and staff input gathered from their observations of interviews with presidential candidates was duly taken into account by the Board in its final selection.
- Ultimately, with ample input from the College’s constituencies, the Board’s choice of Dr. Timothy Taylor as SCC President heralded the value the Board placed on higher education governance expertise and experience to strengthen all aspects of accomplishing Shawnee College’s mission.
The remainder of this chapter presents the chronology of various activities the SCC Board has undertaken to advance its effectiveness on the College’s and its own behalf once the institution’s leadership and administrative oversight were finalized with the selection of the new President in September 2020 and up to the present time.
Board of Trustees’ Advancement Activities, 2020-2021
At the December 2019 Board meeting, the Interim President’s Report outlined for the Board’s information the questions the HLC evaluation team had posed in various meetings with SCC administration, faculty, and staff during the November 2019 HLC Focused Visit to elicit feedback about the status of institutional governance and assessment of student learning, both concerns that dated back to the HLC’s 2018 comprehensive evaluation of the College. From the input received, the 2019 HLC focused evaluation team thus determined the concerns related to HLC Criterion 2 regarding Board autonomy and integrity that are responded to in this chapter.
Within a short time of Dr. Taylor assuming the College’s presidency in September 2020, he held discussions with the Board and with SCC’s administrative team, faculty, and staff about enhancing communication channels, accountability, and transparency relative to institutional governance and college effectiveness. By the end of 2020, with attention to those goals:
- The Board determined that converting to a policy governance model would better define its authority role in contrast to that of the administration and management of the college.
Therefore, both the Board by-laws and Board policies have since been the subject of review due to the Board’s intentions of enhancing its effectiveness.
- The College’s ad hoc Shared Governance Committee had approved a working definition of “shared governance” and has continued its increasingly collaborative work with faculty, staff, and administration.
- President Taylor clarified for both entities that the shared governance effort “is not meant to usurp Board discussion and training on policy governance; rather, that it is aimed at accelerating the College’s administrative efforts to build on what the Board eventually decides.”
Policy Governance Training
Timing of the Board’s policy governance training was decided based on the reality that the Spring 2021 Board election would alter the Board’s membership up to four public members’ seats as well as a new student trustee. The election results were affirmed at the May 2021 Board meeting, the Board reorganization took place, and Board officers were elected at that time with Board member and chair of the Presidential Search Committee Steve Heisner selected as Board Chair. In the meantime, the service of a governance specialist from the Illinois Community College Trustees Association was engaged to conduct policy governance training with the Board on June 2, 2021, after the Board reorganization.
The day-long June 2 Board retreat for policy governance training had a three-topic agenda; each topic is summarized below:
- Follow-up Discussion of the 2021 Board Self-Evaluation,
- Policy Governance, and
- Trustee Best Practices.
Follow-up Discussion on 2021 Board Self-Evaluation. The purpose of the Board self-assessment was to provide an opportunity for analysis of how the board is structured, how it performs, and to then identify areas in need of improvement to meet institutional goals. The SCC Board conducted its self-evaluation in May 2021 and the summarized results were highlighted in terms of strengths and opportunities/areas for discussion at the Board retreat.
The strengths identified by the Board members generally acknowledged their understanding and support of the College mission; a positive working relationship with the President; and their preparation for/participation in Board meetings and committee work as well as their respect for confidentiality, objectivity, collegiality, and collective vs. individual authority. There was expressed sensitivity about communication and avoiding conflicts of interest.
The areas for discussion (improvement) primarily centered on the Board’s role as a more effective link with the community, both as a bridge to and buffer for the College. Therein, goals for community relations and parameters related to conflict of interest were examined.
Policy Governance Model. A major part of the retreat agenda was devoted to this main topic. The training was specific and detailed in terms of the policy governance model’s distinctive characteristics, central principles, and the numerous advantages to be realized through its implementation.
The model’s premise that separates and prioritizes organizational purposes from all other organizational issues and the categories of Board policies outlined in the training lent clarity to the Board’s understanding of the revisions in policy structure and related Board practices that most certainly would be needed to successfully implement the model. Consequently, the Board decided it would undertake the initial task through its Policy Committee which had been reviewing its existing policies presently contained in the Shawnee Community College Full-Time Employee Policy Manual.
The outlined advantages of the policy governance model especially appealed to the Board because of their direct relationship and contribution to effectiveness; the Board views the following as most important for SCC:
- Allows the Board to refocus on its key purpose,
- Makes a clear distinction between governance and management,
- Encourages better communication with internal and external stakeholders, thereby improving accountability, and
- Enables the college to be more proactive than reactive and to look forward strategically.
Trustee Best Practices. The central theme of this topic was the accreditor-trustee shared interest in effective college governance. The dimensions of academic leadership, financial leadership, and shared governance were explored from the vantage point of each—the accreditor and the Board—in terms of respective purpose and role.
A discussion of what good governance looks like in practice highlighted these characteristics of Board accountability. The Board is . . .
- well organized and transparent with by-laws and documented procedures.
- steadfast about core values of academic freedom, free speech, and institutional autonomy.
- committed to shared governance by engaging input from all major stakeholders (faculty, staff, students) in the decision-making processes of the college.
- dedicated to its fiduciary responsibility.
The topic wrap-up was a case study using the 2019 Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award winner, a public community college, for the best practices it employs regarding shared governance. It synthesized how all of the factors important to policy governance bear in a positive manner on institutional effectiveness. Special attention was given to inclusiveness in the strategic planning process and using key indicators to assess institutional performance.
Policy Governance Implementation Process
Policy Refinement. The SCC Board of Trustees is undertaking the conversion to policy governance practice by first restructuring its policies in accordance with the model’s recommended policy categories. In the updated Board Policy Manual, the revised Board Policies are organized in four titled sections which focus on ends and complementarily on delegation of responsibility, accountability, and transparency in a shared governance environment:
- Strategic Outcomes 3. Executive Limitations
- Delegation 4. Bylaws
- The Board Policy Committee began work on the Strategic Outcomes category of policies in June 2021 and drafted each policy using a template that identifies it, at minimum, by title; type (board category); responsible position for its administration; and related policies. Other identifiers include related laws, related standards, and HLC Criterion. Significantly, the construct for each policy statement in the category succinctly addresses two dimensions: 1) value of the policy’s intent and outcome to the college and/or constituents, and 2) key monitoring activities. Drafts of all thirteen of the anticipated policies in the category have been completed.
- Proceeding on with policy refinement according to the four categories recommended by the policy governance model, the Board Policy Committee completed all six anticipated policies in Section 2 – Delegation and all 14 policies for Section 3 – Executive Limitations during July 2021.
- By the end of August, the Bylaws – Section 4, containing four Articles (Governance; Trustee Expectations; Board Leadership and Organization; and Meetings) was completed. Of note, Article I – Section 1 (Governance Commitment) and Section 2 (Governing Principles) clearly outline the Board’s pursuit of a policy governance framework.
In the course of the policy refinement process, special attention was given to the scope of expectations defined in HLC Criterion 2C and 5A regarding governance practices. Particularly, the Board’s revised Code of Ethics (Bylaws, Article II – Section 12) is a comprehensive overhaul of the existing policy regarding autonomy and the Board’s independence from undue influences. Likewise, two policies—Delegation to the President and Participation in Local Decision-Making (Shared Governance) contained in the Delegation of Authority section of the Board policies address specific subcomponents of the said criteria.
Policy Adoption. The proposed Board Policy Manual was a First Read agenda item of the September 2021 Board meeting. As such, the Board scheduled two retreats/special meeting (September 30 and October 14, 2021) for the purpose of the Board Policy Committee (consisting of three trustees) to share their thinking with the remaining five Board members. In addition, the Policy Governance Model will be reviewed using proposed policies as a tool for developing an in-depth understanding of the model. Further, some policy language will likely be modified after the full Board has provided input. Ultimately, these two special meetings will prepare the Board to adopt all the new policies at the November 2021 regular Board meeting.
Following the adoption of the new Board policies, the Board will dispose of the existing policies in one of two ways according to a disposition table. Policies that are no longer relevant will be deleted, and policies that are administrative in nature will be assigned to the President who, in turn, will engage the shared governance structure to manage and improve them.
Supplementary Changes. The Board has also taken other steps consistent with the goals of transparency and accountability:
- It has developed an Annual Board Calendar of substantive agenda items to be addressed at its meeting in given months. (This item is the subject of a policy statement in Section 4 – Bylaws, Article IV-10).
- Starting in 2021, the Board Book that trustees receive in preparation for each monthly meeting is available for public access, along with the meeting agenda, on the Board’s page of the College website.
- As of March 2021, the College issues a press release following each monthly meeting that summarizes the Board actions; it, too, is posted at www.shawneecc.edu/about/board-of-trustees.
Board Meeting Modifications. The adoption of the policy governance model most certainly will influence the Board meeting agendas in the future, and the Board is readying for those changes.
- In August 2021, the Board members explored the likely meeting transitions with an open discussion among themselves to be followed by Board retreats in September and October 2021. The retreat focal points were outlined as: 1) review of the refined, proposed policies, and 2) demonstration of a mock meeting following policy governance conventions.
- The Board has identified the need for a committee to focus specifically on its fiduciary role and has established a Finance Committee made up of three of its members.
- The September 2021 Board meeting included a preview on how data reporting of key monitoring activities specified in the Strategic Outcomes policies will inform the Board. As such, the Student Academic Assessment Committee Monitoring Report example presented at the meeting links each data set to a specific Strategic Plan Objective / Key Performance Indicator.
- The November 2021 Board agenda will include the second reading of the Board policies and action to approve them. In the following months through June 2022, the Board meeting agendas will shift accordingly to the essence of policy governance, the strategic outcomes of the institution.
Chapter 4. SUMMATION OF SCC PROGRESS ON FOCUS AREAS
Over the past three years, the Shawnee Community College Board, administration, faculty, and staff have devoted continuous effort toward improving the collaborative climate at the College. While this report targets the numerous, discrete advancements SCC has accomplished since the 2019 focused visit that identified the need for further monitoring of SCC’s fulfillment of Criterion 5B (now 5A in the 2020 revised criteria) and Criterion 2C through a focused visit and Criterion 4B separately through an interim report, it is important to note that singly and collectively the advancements have overarching consequence for SCC fulfilling its mission and all the HLC Criteria for Accreditation.
In reflecting on the body of work to date in regard to the focus visit areas; the Board, administration, and faculty/staff have demonstrated commitment to positive change. While the change in leadership during the period 2019 to the present contributed significantly to the progress SCC has made, the increased collegial engagement of Board members, administrators, faculty and staff at all levels cannot be overstated and has been a critical component in the advancement and formalization of a shared governance culture. The culture shift represents institutional learning and resolve on both the Board’s and college community’s part.
The various activities, discussed in Chapter 2 and 3 of this report as SCC’s response to the areas of concern for the focused visit, are evolving processes integral to the College’s shared governance responsibility. Foundational elements, implementation steps, and communication resources have all been developed to assure systematic and continuous attention to sustaining fulfillment of the College’s articulated institutional goals of collaboration, accountability, transparency, and integrity.
- Thus, the College maintains that it now fulfills the expectations of Criterion 5A (formerly 5B) and 2C as demonstrated by its accomplishments since 2019 to the present.
- Furthermore, Shawnee College looks forward to the opportunity it will have through its assurance argument and HLC comprehensive evaluation visit in 2024-2025 for reaffirmation of accreditation to demonstrate the meaningful impact the ongoing shared governance initiatives have made overall in regard to institutional effectiveness and the five HLC Criteria for Accreditation.