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Community College Trustees vote to conduct third party evaluation

Trustees at Middlesex Community College (Lowell and Bedford, MA) voted recently to allow a third party consultant to conduct a 360° evaluation of MCC’s president, James Mabry. The Board authorized the outside review following a recommendation by Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago.

Santiago recommended a third party review because the MCC president recently faced a vote of no confidence and is also approaching the five-year anniversary of Mabry’s hiring. Earlier in 2019, the Board of Trustees completed its own review of Mabry. In that review, the Trustees found that Mabry met all the institution’s goals.

The MCC faculty, however, have a contentious relationship with Mabry. Faculty members conducted a vote of no confidence in Mabry, and James Campbell, the Chair of the MCC Board of Trustees.

To repair the strained relationship between the faculty and the MCC administration, the parties created an Ad Hoc Committee to address some of the issues the faculty raised. One of the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee was a third party 360°review of Mabry. The 360° review will receive feedback from all members of the MCC community. Campbell initially resisted approving the third party review, saying that it would cost MCC more than $100,000.

Just a week prior to presenting the request for funding for the outside review, 75% of the Ad Hoc Committee members resigned, citing a distrust of both Mabry and Campbell. Committee members accused Campbell of artificially inflating the cost of the review in a local newspaper interview and expanding the review to include Mabry and three vice presidents. The Ad Hoc Committee initially proposed a review of Mabry only.

With the Board of Trustees’ recent approval, the outside consulting firm expects to complete the third party review by the end of the school year.

Third party evaluation may clarify faculty concerns

The MCC faculty initially sought a third party review of the College president because they believed that the Trustees – who are responsible for reviewing the president’s performance – were not looking objectively at performance issues the faculty raised.

The Board of Trustees has a responsibility to consider all aspects of a president’s performance during an honest, objective evaluation. Trustees who do not wish to consider faculty concerns or would prefer to glibly pass over issues raised by the community when reviewing an executive’s performance aren’t serving the community that elected them. Instead, they appear to be acting in service of a political agenda. When a Board of Trustees cannot maintain an appropriate perspective on a community college executive, or delivers an assessment that is clearly out of tune with the rest of the campus community, it is time to engage a dispassionate third party to help the Board see the College executive and the needs of the community more clearly.

Photo Credit: US Institute of Peace` , via Flickr