Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone board members approve new self-restricting guidelines

By Matthew Artz, The Argus.

Monday, August 25, 2008—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—When the fall semester begins at Ohlone College next week, the newest campus protocols will target the school's board of trustees rather than students.

In response to a western region accreditation commission's stinging report, Ohlone trustees have recommended several new rules—soon to be codified—that restrict their activities on campus.

Trustees will have to inform the college president when they are visiting campus, even if they are invited by a campus organization. They also will have to inform the president when they wish to visit facilities that will be discussed at upcoming board meetings.

"It's more an etiquette issue than anything else," said Trustee John Weed, who, like other trustees, didn't think the new rules would render the board subservient to newly appointed College President Gari Browning.

"It's a matter of professional courtesy to let the president know if you're coming to campus when it's more than just going to the bookstore to buy a sweater, board President Garrett Yee said.

In July, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges issued a report criticizing the board for, among other things, trying to micromanage the college and failing to unite behind board decisions.

Ohlone must report the board's progress in addressing the issues to the accreditation commission in October. Failure to do so could lead to sanctions and possibly the loss of the school's accreditation.

The board's initial response came in a self-assessment report released earlier this month.

In addition to the new campus protocols, the board agreed to establish new rules for talking to the press. When contacted by the media, trustees are to consider deferring to the college president or board chairman. And, when speaking to a reporter, they are to "be an advocate for the public, keeping in mind the best interest of the college."

Some of the college trustees' recommendations are aimed at school administrators. Ohlone staff members are asked to get key reports to trustees before the meeting, which they sometimes have failed to do, trustees said.

The accreditation commission didn't single out specific trustees for wrongdoing.

"I think they were hard on us," Trustee Bill McMillin said. Some of the board infighting cited by the commission, such as the board's removal of Trustee Bob Brunton as president, occurred more than two years ago, he said.

Brunton, who acknowledged sometimes being "clumsy" in how he raised concerns to school officials, praised the board's self-assessment.

The board's desire to focus more on board policy concerns is a big step in the right direction, he said. "The greatest thing about this is that we have a chance to turn lemons into lemonade."

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