East Central College Board of Trustees members were split Monday evening on whether there’s a necessity to seek candidates for an director of institutional effectiveness.

The job was recommended by ECC President Dr. Jon Bauer and a committee that has been tasked with responding to the Higher Learning Commission’s recent recommendation that the college’s accreditation be put on probation.

The new director would head up the college’s proposed office of institutional effectiveness, which would oversee assessments, data gathering and analysis that helps with big-picture decisions made at the college. These are some of the trouble areas for the college.

Trustees Don Kappelmann and Eric Park said they are not convinced there’s a need for the new position. Park wondered why there hadn’t been a need in the past and during past accreditations.

“Here we are on nearly the 50th anniversary of this place and we’ve maintained accreditation this whole time without this person,” Park said. “How did we not fail and fall by the wayside without this person?”

Vice President Tia Robinson said while some of the data had been collected in the past, most of the work being done was uncoordinated and led to nothing. She added that historically some of the work such a director would be doing wasn’t done at all.

“This role, which is common at other institutions that focus on assessment and strategic planning, is what will allow us to do that (coordinate data collection and analysis),” she said. “Otherwise we won’t have the resources to meet that requirement.”

Facing Probation

ECC did not meet criterion five during the HLC visit, which covers resources, institutional effectiveness and planning. In total, the college met two of the five criteria, mission and integrity; and met with concerns two criterions; teaching and learning.

Due to the failure to fully meet the criteria that is used to judge a college’s accreditation status, the HLC team that visited the college recommended it be put on probation.

The director would be tasked with fixing areas in criterion five.

Board President Ann Hartley said, after sitting in on many of the committee meetings, she’s sure that there is no way for the job to be done without one specific person organizing the effort and the best path to fixing the problem is seeking a director.

“I honestly don’t see how we could possibly put all of this together and make a reasonable road map for people to follow and have all the data to make decisions without a person whose responsibility that is,” Hartley said.

Bauer noted that the requirements for accreditation have changed over time and the college would need to be realistic about those changes moving forward.

Trustee Cookie Hays said, while she too was unsure about the director position at first, through her work with the several committees she is working with believes seeking candidates is a must.

“I initially came from the same place as you, thinking ‘What is this position really about?’ ” she said. “We used to be able to kind of go with our gut with things and be relatively successful, but it’s more complicated than that now. You’ve got to have someone who knows how to look at the big picture and tie it all together.”

Kappelmann said he believes people inside the college could fix the problems ECC is currently facing. He said if they aren’t already in-house, the problem may be more dire than it seems.

“If we hire this one person now, this is going to solve all the other problems? If we don’t have that person now, I don’t know if we can solve it. That’s my opinion,” Kappelmann said. “I don’t think we have to hire another person to do this.”

The board approved a motion for Bauer and his team to develop the job and job description and agreed to discuss the position further at a future board meeting.

Bauer said he feels strongly that the board should approve this position and the right candidate could play a key part in the college’s future. 

“I feel very strongly that this is an important component of our response and for us institutionally,” he said. “Outside of the HLC response,  a strong case has been made to me that this is an important part of where we need to be in the future.”