Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone College tightens oversight of ethics rules

Goal is to have policy in place by fall semester

By Angela Woodall, Staff Writer.

Friday, January 5, 2007—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—Ohlone College is treading on fresh terrain in its attempt to give its ethics policy some teeth.

Although California colleges and universities are required to have a mechanism to enforce their ethics policy for the board of trustees, few do so far, President Doug Treadway said.

That will change because the commission that gives colleges and universities their critical stamp of approval—the Western Association of Schools and Colleges—requires them to have a plan to deal with ethics violations.

Ohlone board members are reviewing their code of ethics policy "from start to finish," Trustee Nick Nardolillo said. "It's something that should be clear-cut so people have guidelines."

The goal is to have a policy in place by the time Ohlone begins the first leg of its accreditation review—a self-study of all its standards—due this fall. A visit by a review committee will follow in spring 2008.

Trustees are likely to discuss the policy at Wednesday night's board meeting.

Although voluntary, accreditation is "very, very important" for students and the college, said Jim Wright, Ohlone's point man for the process that the vast majority of U.S. colleges and universities go through every six years.

"It's a quality assurance matter," he added.

Without the commission's OK, Ohlone students would be cut off from financial aid and have trouble transferring academic credits to another college, Wright said.

Their degrees would have little merit if not given by an accredited college, a detail many employers look at, Wright noted.

"It's voluntary, but pretty much a mandatory process," he added.

If board members have not finished the policy by the end of phase one, the college will have to submit its self-study report with the provision that there is no enforcement plan, but that the college is working on developing one, Wright said.

Although the enforcement requirement is getting national attention, Ohlone board members found only one college district among the 73 they surveyed that had a policy, West Valley-Mission Community College District in Saratoga, Treadway said.

Under an early draft based on Ohlone procedures and West Valley's policy, trustees would be authorized to seek legal advice it they are aware of "actual or perceived" violations of the code of ethics and other pertinent laws and regulations. Violations could be referred to the district attorney.

The board president and vice president would try to resolve the potential violation with the accused trustee. The president would appoint a committee to look into allegations if necessary. Board officers would be in charge of sanctions and could include a recommendation to the full board to censure the trustee.

Trustees are "getting very close" to wrapping up work on a final version, Nardolillo said, adding that there have been several revisions to the draft. "It's down to short strokes at this point."

Staff writer Angela Woodall can be reached at (510) 353-7004 or at awoodall@angnewspapers.com.

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