It's time for Independence Community College to celebrate. 

The Reporter recently reviewed the final report, along with a letter, from the Higher Learning Commission which stated, "ICC was put on Notice with nine specific challenges where change was necessary to meet HLC accreditation requirements. These nine requirements impacted almost every part of the institution and required a change in thinking and a change in culture. ICC should be applauded for their work in meeting these requirements. The team saw that ICC was on the right path but recognized there is still work to be done. ICC is encouraged to keep up the excellent work they have undertaken. The team saw significant progress and does not see a need for HLC follow up."

The report did say the HLC team does recommend ICC carefully review the report and consider their recommendations. One recommendation was that the ad hoc Safety Committee becoming a standing committee on campus, "as there is nothing 'ad hoc' about safety," according to the report. The HLC team were concerned the Title IX investigators "all seem to have ties in one way or another to the athletic department and/or housing." They felt the conflict of interest could possibly create a "chilling effect" on reporting and they strongly encouraged ICC to "identify and train a corps of Title IX investigators" who have no formal or informal affiliation with athletics and/or housing. 

The HLC team also suggested support for regular and ongoing training be made available to the Title IX coordinator and investigators. "Significant legal liability exists with Title IX investigations and most legal cases have centered on ill-trained investigators and hearing bodies," stated the recommendation. It was suggested the newly hired compliance officer have an official role with the committee, appointing memberships and, "perhaps, even as the final appeals body, to ensure there are no conflicts of interest during adjudication." 

The report noted the next generation of student complaints would likely "originate on social media" and the Student Satisfaction and Complaints Review Committee should determine if, and how, to monitor social media and incorporate that into their complaint resolution process. "This recommendation is germane to this 'on-notice' visit given the circumstances that led to the head football coach's departure from the college," stated the HLC report. "Complaints regarding the coach's conduct surfaced through social media. Monitoring social media will be challenging but as proven in the case of the ICC football coach situation, a relevant source of complaint data."

The HLC team said they applauded ICC's development and implementation "to develop a technology pan that aligns with strategic objectives and budgetary plans." ICC and the Technology Committee were encouraged by the HLC team to continue their commitment. The team also applauded the progress ICC made on the development of a long-range institutional plan "addressing deferred maintenance of facilities and policies and procedures to assure issues directly connected to impacts on students learning and safety are prioritized." Again, ICC was encouraged to continue this progress in other areas.

The report said the team applauded progress made on the program review process and encouraged the Program Review Committee to continue to "refine and share" their review process. ICC met Core Component 4.B because "they demonstrated the existence of a culture of using data from student learning in curricular and co-curricular programs."

The HLC team did encourage ICC to consider the importance of including funding for improvements which were identified in the Program Review as "an essential part of the next budget cycle." The report stated it is important for ICC to recognize quality programs result from regular program reviews and "an institution without quality programs will not attract new students."

The HLC applauded the work done on appropriate comparison benchmarks and institutional targets for persistence, completion, retention and graduation in all programs and at the overall institutional level — essential elements for analysis to assure the health of ICC. 

It was noted in the report comprehensive planning was occurring on the campus but in order to make planning sustainable, ICC needs to "designate an individual or department to oversee the planning process as a whole to ensure that planning continues as is currently happening and remains integrated." The team said ICC meets Core Component 5.D but has concerns the college is not clear they have sufficient academic personnel; ICC shows no real evidence of a systematic and integrated approach to planning as data doesn't appear to be reviewed for use with decision making; no long-term plan has been set; and the college hasn't demonstrated it consistently and systematically uses appropriate and relevant data to inform short- and long-term planning.

The report said the HLC team was concerned about ICC having enough — financial and human — to sustain the initiatives long-term but is balanced by the fact the team is hopeful the new planning processes will "create opportunity for the College moving forward."

The letter which accompanied the report stated a hearing will be required as based on the team report recommendations and institutional and review team representatives from ICC must appear before an Institutional Actions Council Hearing Committee mid-August. The committee will evaluate review material and conduct a face-to-face meeting and the HLC Board of Trustees will then review the recommendations of the evaluation team and make their final decision on the "accreditation relationship."

ICC President Dan Barwick said the review by the accredits is always comprehensive. "The only way to achieve such an across-the-board positive result is when everyone works together," he said. "From data management to facilities planning, from strategic planning to improving student learning, ICC earned the highest marks in each category, and that simply doesn’t happen by accident. Our students, employees, community members, and board made it happen – it’s a great day to be a Pirate."