Give peace a chance

The work of rebuilding begins only after a cease-fire.

On the battlefield, those who do not follow orders often make situations worse, and a lack of supervision can increase the probability of such events.

At Laramie County Community College, a lack of previous guidance from leaders has caused some ugly conflicts and led to more bloodshed than was necessary.

In previous years, the LCCC Board of Trustees was not involved enough in key decisions at the college and trusted the president's leadership too much; as a result, the college became something of a battlefield.

Because of the trustees' lack of involvement, LCCC's then president, Dr. Darrel Hammon, waged war on some faculty and staff, local media and college policies.

These actions caused the college to be involved in several lawsuits such the one filed by James Gollyhorn, the construction trades instructor who lost his job to Hammon's elimination of his program when the trustees declared a financial emergency in 2009 at Hammon's request. At the time, the governor called the president a "drama queen" for his over-the-top reaction to a possible reduction in state funding.

Policy governance to blame for disconnect

Because of Hammon's actions, the college also settled for $200,000 with Dr. James Cook, a former vice president of student services, who won a wrongful termination suit in 2010.

In December 2010, Hammon resigned, but like after most wars, the real work begins when the firing stops. Just as cities must be rebuilt and spirits must be restored after war, LCCC must restructure and develop new relationships among the board, administration and other employees.

The board has worked to identify factors contributing to the conflicts that erupted in previous years, and Wingspan believes the board's policy governance system was largely responsible because it caused a disconnection between the board and administration.

On Jan. 25, the trustees decided to move toward a traditional governance system rather than the current policy governance. Wingspan agrees with this decision because the trustees must abandon the college's old governance system and adopt a more involved one to keep the peace at LCCC.

Trustee says policy governance separates board from day-to-day college activities

According to trustee Brenda Lyttle, former board chair, in a policy governance system, the board presides over the college through policies that direct the president. The president then reports back to the board, verifying whether he has implemented the policies.

Lyttle said broad policies in policy governance control the board. This type of governance is designed to separate the board from day-to-day activities at the college.

Wingspan believes this separation made the system ineffective and allowed the president to make reckless decisions without the board knowing immediately.

In fact, the trustees were so disconnected from the administration and other college employees that at Hammon's monitoring reports during board meetings he was able to portray the state of the college in a much more positive way than was accurate.

Projects advance without board consultation

At times, Hammon's reports resembled the "5-o'clock follies" during the Vietnam War, at which military generals gave the press information suggesting the U.S. was winning the war when it was not. Despite a barrage of unrest from faculty, staff and the community, Hammon would use suppressive fire and report to the board that the college was doing very well and everything was just fine.

This was made possible by the trustees' lack of awareness and oversight of the administration and ensured the community was not being fully represented because its elected leaders were not as involved as they should have been.

Unfortunately, this led to a mind-set developing in some administrators in which it was acceptable to leave the board uninformed. Even as recently as the fall 2011 semester, some administrators decided to move forward with projects without consulting the board.

For example, at a Sept. 7, 2011, study session the vice president of administration and finance, Carol Hoglund, said the bidding process had begun on a new parking lot south of the Center for Conferences and Institutes.

New president proposes College Council restructure

However, then vice chair of the Board of Trustees, Greg Thomas, said the board had heard nothing of the proposed lot and didn't think its location was correct. This took place in the midst of the trustees approving a new campus master plan. Where was that parking lot on the master plan?

When administrators make big decisions without consulting the board, the entire campus and community are not represented as they should be. The board must be aware of all major issues and must drive all major decisions at LCCC such as those involved with the campus master plan, organizational audit and funding sources.

It is impossible for everyone on campus to have input on every decision, but the trustees can also seek input from representative groups. In fact, suggested changes to College Council would make it a more valuable asset.

LCCC's new president, Dr. Joe Schaffer, has proposed to restructure College Council to change it from a recommending body to a decision-making one. The president's role in the restructured council still remains undetermined. Currently, the council is seeking feedback on the issue and ideas on additional representation for each constituent group.

Trustee: Board wants to be more involved

We believe the proposed restructure would help the college move toward a clearer form of shared governance, which Schaffer has said he advocates. College Council is the most widely representative group on campus, and giving it the ability to be directly involved in decision making would involve the various groups on campus more and increase communication.

Because of incidents concerning past presidents, Lyttle said some of the board members felt as if they were out of the loop of what was going on at the campus. Although the college may have not been implementing a pure and complete policy governance system, the board decided the current governance is not a fit for LCCC, she said.

The board wants to be more involved in the decisions of the college and has become uncomfortable receiving only reports back from the president, Lyttle said.

By implementing traditional governance, Lyttle said the board will be much more involved with the decisions made, and it will open up communication for information.

Wingspan agrees with Lyttle and believes the board must be heavily involved with college decisions and must communicate frequently.

Lyttle said the board has struggled with policy governance because it hasn't been a good fit for a small-town college like LCCC. She said she believed policy governance could be a great fit in a bigger forum at a larger school, but when the community expects the board to have knowledge of what is going on at the college, a traditional governance system is key.

Although Lyttle said she didn't know the specifics of the governance systems, she, President Schaffer and trustee John Kaiser plan to attend a conference in New York in late March to learn more about it.

Policy governance adopted in 2004

She also said she hoped to learn what governance systems other colleges are using. She said she was unsure what governance other community colleges are using but didn't think LCCC is the only one in this situation.

Dr. Kevin Kilty, secretary of the Board of Trustees and former LCCC instructor, said he didn't believe the size of the college necessarily has any effect on the progressiveness of policy governance. He said he simply believed the college needs to implement governance that will allow the board to be more involved, to set standards and expectations and to regulate what is going on at the college.

He said the board does not want to micromanage the college, but trustees want to be able to do what they should have been doing all along, which is govern the college.

When the board is disconnected from the college, Kilty said that is what leads to ineffective governance, and policy governance was ineffective.

He said the college adopted a policy governance system in 2004, and prior to that, it was run based on a policy and procedure type of process.

Kilty said he believed policy governance leaves room for abuse, and when there is openness for abuse, eventually someone will do exactly that.

New governance system can prevent future conflicts

According to Kilty, the board is looking toward a traditional governance system, but he said he will be happy with any type of governance that will allow the board to do its job governing the college and being the final authority in most instances.

Kilty said the board will probably implement a new governance system within a year, and the process should be seamless for students.

Wingspan has been in the trenches with the board at meetings and knows the issues that have assaulted LCCC in the past. To prevent the abuse of policy governance, we believe the board should adopt a more involved governance system. Supervision does not equate to distrust but allows the trustees to give the administration guidance and ensures the decisions that are best for LCCC are made.

By providing a greater amount of supervision, the trustees can prevent some college leaders from sneaking across the trenches and causing greater conflicts. Even as the most skilled generals have a supervisor in the commander-in-chief, so must the college administration in the Board of Trustees.

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