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Trustee oversight is essential, yet somehow it isn’t

Yesterday, I published a transcript of a section of the June 23 Board Meeting. It offers a revealing look at what passes for trustee oversight at WCC. In the meeting, Brandon Tucker, the Associate VP of Workforce and Community Development, gave a presentation regarding the WCC Police Academy. In it, he provided an overview of the training that prospective police officers receive at WCC.

Given the current environment regarding police brutality, the Trustees had a few questions. They did. David DeVarti asked AVP Tucker to provide more information regarding the police academy curriculum. He also asked about the racial and gender diversity of the current police academy class, and the experience and qualifications of the police academy instructors.

This is the response he got:

Angela Davis: “You don’t need that.”
Brandon Tucker: “There’s 90 – there’s 96 – roughly, give or take – ”
Rose Bellanca: “It seems like a lot to go through ninety people, and write down all the training they have.”
Christina Fleming: “Uh, ok, if I may, um President Bellanca, could we just get like a really super-general thumbnail on like, half of ’em have this experience. 25% of ’em have this experience. Like, just keep it really super general –”

On the other hand, Trustee McKnight-Morton wanted the responsive information from AVP Tucker distributed to the entire Board. Trustee Hatcher wanted to know that the WCC cadets aren’t simply being inducted into the Good Old Boys network.

Trustees Landau and Milliken had absolutely nothing whatsoever to say about the matter.

Trustee oversight exists for a reason

But here’s the thing: police officers in this country seem to be killing people. When someone dies in police custody, people naturally want to know why. And an officer’s training and experience may possibly factor into their actions leading up to a person’s death.

Someone could sue WCC claiming that the police academy curriculum, recruiting or training techniques were somehow deficient or negligent. If so the filer would name the WCC Board of Trustees as defendants in that lawsuit.

It may be unwelcome, but public oversight is the price institutions pay for public funding. The Trustees have a responsibility to know what is going on at WCC because the law holds them legally accountable for what happens there. Exercising oversight sometimes means requesting information.

It is infuriating to see Trustees attempt to exercise the duties of their office, only to see the people they’re supposed to oversee shoot them down. Worse, elected Trustees who have the exact same accountability as every other member of the Board obstruct those performing the oversight duties their office requires.

We need fewer trustees who believe their primary sworn duty is to support College executives, and more trustees who perform the duties of their office.

To put this in perspective, I could issue a Freedom of Information Act request for the exact same information that Trustee DeVarti sought. Unlike Trustee DeVarti, I have absolutely no accountability for the Police Academy. Yet, I would not receive the level of push-back that Trustee DeVarti received at this week’s meeting.

Our trustees should not have to defend their requests for information about the institution they’re accountable for. And although they can, they should not have to issue FOIA requests to get their questions answered.

Photo Credit: JMacPherson , via Flickr