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EGCC Trustees Deserve Blame for Failure

If you question the impact of trustees on a community college, look no farther than Eastern Gateway Community College. Last fall, the faculty took the not-so-unusual step of conducting a vote of no-confidence in the EGCC administration. In a 2-for-1 action, the EGCCEA also passed a vote of no confidence in the EGCC Trustees.

The no-confidence vote on the Board of Trustees is far less common, but 15 months prior to the vote, a group of EGCC executives – including the current interim president – issued a “notice of no confidence” to the EGCC Board of Trustees. In it, EGCC’s seven vice presidents expressed their grave concerns to the board regarding its elevation of the school’s former Chief Financial Officer, Michael Geoghegan, to the presidency.

The executives named Geoghegan’s lack of academic experience and his lack of understanding of the federal financial aid requirements, as well as Geoghegan’s unwillingness to listen to the executives’ opinions, as areas of deep concerns. The letter also noted that Geoghegan consistently hid or suppressed important information.

In the letter, the VPs stated:

“If dramatic changes are not made, EGCC is at risk of imminently losing its accreditation, ability to accept federal financial aid, and its capacity to exist remains an ongoing concern,” the cabinet members’ letter reads. “We want to be a part of the solution and work with the faculty and staff to restore trust, ensure stability, and move the college forward.”

The letter was also copied to the US Department of Education and the Higher Learning Commission.

By this point, the US Department of Education had already ordered EGCC to shut down the Free College Benefit program. The Higher Learning Commission placed EGCC on probationary status. The EGCC Trustees did nothing.

Trustees failure to act doomed EGCC

In fact, the EGCC Trustees allowed Geoghegan to continue to serve as the school’s president for another year. The worst case, predicted by the school’s VPs 18 months ago, is coming true. The EGCC Trustees could have addressed the concerns about Geoghegan in the fall of 2022, but instead, they chose to ignore the obvious evidence that the jig was up. In doing so, they committed EGCC to an irretrievable collapse.

EGCC’s demise is the fault of its trustees, who failed in their primary duty to provide oversight for the organization. Their willful ignorance of the bright red flags being raised by virtually every other oversight body, and the direct request by the school’s executives for emergency action, speak volumes. The EGCC Trustees somehow determined that ignoring the mounting evidence of severe problems was the best course of action on their part, and that’s exactly what they did.

EGCC will close its doors on May 19th. Aside from the graduation ceremony and a couple of zombie meetings, the school’s calendar is empty and will likely stay that way. The EGCC Trustees could have and should have acted immediately to address the concerns of the US Department of Education and the Higher Learning Commission.

When faced with a crisis that deeply involved the school’s academics and its federal financial aid policies, the trustees selected a president with no academic credentials and no particular experience with federal financial aid. The EGCC Trustees issued a clear message that they had no intention of performing any meaningful oversight.

Regardless of the reason, they alone committed the school to the position it is in today. I hope the EGCC Trustees are on hand on May 19 to witness the results of their inaction.

Photo Credit: River Siren , via Flickr