Editorial: Officials spin grim facts of colleges future

DVC President Judy Walters announced Feb. 5 that DVC had officially been issued a “show cause” sanction by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

To her credit, Walters quickly made key reports from the commission’s evaluation team available from the front page of DVC’s website, including a critical letter from the commission, a special team’s report on the college’s actions to prevent future grade-sale scandals, the college’s 2008 self-study and Frequently Asked Questions.

This move was a big step towards the commission’s recommendation for increased transparency and a welcome change from the shroud of secrecy draped by the administration around the college’s infamous grade-sale scandal

But within a few hours of Walter’s announcement, the college’s public relations office began spinning the commission’s very serious sanction.

Chrisanne Knox, director of marketing and communications, sent an e-mail to all DVC employees with a list of “talking points” to use when conversing about DVC’s accreditation status with students, parents and DVC community. Included were suggested responses to questions, but “only if asked.”

“This is an opportunity to share a positive message about our confidence in DVC’s ability to pull together and work hard to accomplish something as important as our college’s accreditation status,” Knox wrote.

This flies directly in the face of Walter’s promise of openness.

Yet, the DVC president stuck to the same Pollyanna-esque message, telling Matt Krupnick of the Contra Costa Times, “People shouldn’t be worried about our accreditation. Nothing is standing in the way of getting these things done.”

While the Inquirer doesn’t fault Walters for her can-do attitude, the fact is, this is the same approach that landed DVC into “show cause” hot water.

In the 2008 self study presented to the commission’s evaluations team, DVC consistently gave itself high marks for its accomplishments, except it offered little in the way of proof.

As a result, the team wrote in its report that “things were stated as having been in compliance but the visiting team on many occasions could not find evidence that supported these assertions”

“We have lost all credibility,” said Faculty Senate President Laurie Lema at a meeting last month of department chairs, deans and managers. “They took what we said at face value.”

With DVC’s integrity now in question, perhaps the first step should be a resolution to stop the spin and admit some culpability.

In 2007, when the grades-for-sale scandal rocked the college, the administration’s reflex was to clamp down and deflect blame. Three years later, it’s widely acknowledged this response of denial and spin only exacerbated the situation.

Admittedly, most of the guilt for that lies with the previous administrations. However, it is distressing to see that more was not learned from past blunders.