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Higher Learning Commission rep meets with Trustees

Four elected board members hold up their hands to be sworn in by Dr. Greg Joyce.
Published: Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

Butler Trustees reminded of expectations of their elected positions.

Butler Community College Trustees held a special meeting June 25 for two purposes. The first was to meet in executive session for legal advice pursuant to attorney-client privilege with no action following. The second was to hear, in a public meeting, from Dr. Tom Bordenkircher, vice president of Accreditation Relations for the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).  

The HLC identifies institutional CEO’s as being responsible for maintaining all accreditation standards.  Accreditation criterion require information shared in executive sessions to be kept confidential. Bordenkircher was invited to visit with the Trustees by Dr. Kim Krull, Butler Community College President, following the release of confidential information after an executive session held in late May.

The Higher Learning Commission is Butler’s accrediting body. Butler Community College has been continuously accredited with the HLC since 1970. Membership with the Higher Learning Commission, the accrediting body for approximately 1,000 higher education institutions, allows the college to access Federal Financial Aid.  

Bordenkircher addressed the board in a public meeting rather than executive session. The meeting could have legally been part of the executive session which was the original plan according to a notice dated Monday, June 22. Upon further consideration, it was decided the information should be shared openly so all college employees as well as interested public citizens could be informed.

Bordenkircher educated board members on HLC’s expectations for adherence to accreditation standards and how, as board members, they must work within not only their own board policies but also within the policies outlined by the membership with the HLC.  

His role, he explained, would be one of either a coach for guidance and support, or, if complaints lead to it, as a regulator for the HLC. When institutions are found to be non-compliant it can lead to accreditation issues. There are five criterion that the HLC uses as measurements for an institution’s accreditation that center around mission, board interactions and promotion of fair and equitable practices, quality instruction of faculty, student performance, and finances.  

“Whatever it is that's happening, we got to work it out. But, we can't go against our policies, we can't go against the HLC expectations. . .we don't want even the slightest indication that we can't do that together.”

Bordenkircher spent most of his time talking about integrity, ethical and responsible conduct expected of trustees. He discussed how important it is that Trustees learn to work together, communicate clearly with each other and others in their community, and how important it is to build trust among each other for the betterment of the college and its service to students.

“We expect you as a board to behave in an ethical manner. We expect the board to do processes that ensure fair and ethical behavior on the part of not only yourself, but you also hold your administrators your staff and your faculty to the same standards by which you operate yourself. One of the things that we look for under here is that obviously, like I said before, you're holding to your mission.”

He reminded them that as trustees, they are independent in their own right and information they gain or have access to, if deemed confidential, should not be shared with anyone, whether a spouse or another elected official, other than a fellow trustee. One of the examples given by Bordenkircher was that financial records should not be shared.  This comment was in error because, as a public institution in Kansas, financial documents are public.  Other types such as personnel records, are not public documents.   

“One of the other things I want to make sure is that you understand we expect governing boards to be independent and you preserve the right to have undue influence on the part of donors and elected officials. And that you delegate day-to-day management of the institution to the administration that you hired to do the work so that's extremely important as well because that all falls under the understanding that you are behaving in an ethical manner following your own board policies and procedures.”

Trustees were informed of steps, timelines and costs to the college when an investigation must be pursued.

“The governing board's deliberations reflect priorities to preserve and enhance the institution, so we'll hold you accountable when we come in or any other time in which we find out that there's a reason for me to ask questions and to investigate when we find out that the governing board is doing something or engaging in deliberations that does not enhance the institution, right because that doesn't help students. We want to make sure that you are doing those things that truly do enhance the institution,” he said.

“Which I can’t in my wildest dreams see an institution of this quality and caliber and reputation ever even think of going there. The problem and the reason I'm really interested in meeting with you tonight is I don't even want to get you to level one. I don't even want to get there.
“It continues to be our expectation that we honor and stay in compliance.”

Trustees were encouraged to utilize Dr. Phil Speary, the college’s HLC coordinator for accreditation reviews. Because of his years of experience, he interacts with the HLC on a higher level, than most, participating on college reviews himself throughout the country.

The full meeting can be viewed on YouTube through the college’s BCTV Channel 20.