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EGCC Faculty Share Information on Closure

The faculty at Eastern Gateway Community College are speaking out about this week’s announcement by the school’s Board of Trustees that it was putting the school’s operation on pause. While those who are speaking out have complained about the way in which the school has handled the matter, a few things are becoming clear.

First, the “pause” is not really temporary. That was clear to me because the school advised its students not just to enroll somewhere else, but transfer to other institutions. The problem with that suggestion is that EGCC isn’t really near any other community colleges.

Its Youngstown and Steubenville campuses are already 70 miles apart. The nearest community college to EGCC’s Steubenville campus is Belmont College, which is 40 miles away. The nearest community colleges to EGCC’s Youngstown campus are Stark State College (64 miles away) and Tri-C Eastern Campus outside of Cleveland (63 miles). For community college students, transportation is already a struggle. Finding transportation or finding a way to afford to move an hour away is highly unlikely.

In some respects, the EGCC faculty’s complaints about the way the school’s closure is being handled amount to little more than palace intrigue. Youngstown State University has gotten very involved in the closure, I’m sure largely because it has lost one-third of its students in the last decade. Undoubtedly, YSU looks at the situation as a way to recover some lost enrollment. YSU does offer about 10 associate degrees, but for the most part, it is in the business of vending bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The university is apparently also open to cloning some of EGCC’s other associate degree programs as it prepares to pick the bones of EGCC.

EGCC may hold more hidden liabilities

What is both interesting and concerning about the EGCC takeover by the Ohio Department of Education – and it is a takeover – is that during the tenure of the previous two presidents, more than 80 EGCC employees were allegedly terminated in retaliation for opposing the EGCC leadership. One previous president, Jimmie Bruce, was arrested along with another college executive, but those charges were recently dropped. Prosecutors can refile the charges and may do so at a later date. The most recent president – who served as EGCC’s Chief Financial Officer before taking over as its president – recently retired.

Retaliatory terminations – especially 80 of them – have all the makings of a class action lawsuit that the State of Ohio must also mop up. The State Auditor – the same office that signed off on all of EGCC’s annual financial statements – is now collecting information on the circumstances of every single EGCC employee who separated from the college between January 1 2015, and present. EGCC’s interim president John Crooks confirmed the request for all employment records of every person who left employment at EGCC regardless of the circumstances of their departure.

If true, and if litigated, this could cost the State of Ohio millions more dollars on top of EGCC’s other debts, liabilities, and obligations. It’s interesting because it is yet another example of what happens when an institution’s trustees do not perform actual, honest-to-God oversight of the executive(s) they hire.

EGCC’s trustees have all been appointed by the governor. The People bear no responsibility for selecting these “worthy” individuals to oversee EGCC. Unfortunately, the People will be required to pay all of the institution’s bills.

Photo Credit: Sam Beebe , via Flickr