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Report Cites OCC ‘Turmoil and Distrust’ : Accreditation Team Warns of Dangers in Political Infighting

Times Staff Writer

Infighting among faculty and administration at Orange Coast College, the largest community college in California, has created “a state of turmoil and distrust” on the 25,000-student campus, the preliminary report of a college accreditation team says.

The report alluded to recent political battles, both on and off the Costa Mesa campus, stemming from the 1983 election of a new, teacher-union-backed majority on the college district board of trustees. Numerous administrative changes in the college have taken place since then.

The initial report of a 10-member accreditation team appointed by the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges said Orange Coast is still doing a good job of educating students. But the report, by accreditation team chairman Max Tadlock, warns: “We find the lack of trust here pervasive and dangerous--dangerous because the present climate will be difficult to change.” Tadlock is president of Monterey Peninsula College.

Art Martinez, acting president of Orange Coast, defended the college’s performance in an interview Thursday, noting that almost 80% of its graduates this year will transfer to four-year universities in the fall. “I’m not at all worried about our receiving accreditation again,” he said.

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Nonetheless, he added, “I concur with many of the remarks in Dr. Tadlock’s report.” Martinez said he agrees that “there’s been too much of an ‘us against them’ feeling between administration and faculty” in the past few years.

The accreditation team’s recommendations are made to the academic organization, the Western Assn., which certifies colleges and universities in the western states. Orange Coast is expected to learn whether it has been reaccredited sometime in early fall.

The report said the accreditation team found an “administration with no confidence in the faculty, and faculty with no confidence in the administration; nobody with any confidence in the classified (non-teaching, support) staff, and the classified staff wondering what the hell that’s all about. You’ve got to have something better than that.”

Report Given Orally

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Tadlock’s team of accrediting officials from other community colleges in Hawaii and California visited Orange Coast March 26-28. The team’s so-called “exit interview,” giving its preliminary findings, was made orally by Tadlock and transcribed by the college. The Times recently obtained a copy of that preliminary report.

College accreditation is certification by neutral academic observers that the institution meets standards for higher learning. Loss of accreditation--a relatively rare occurrence--can cause severe drops in student enrollment.

Nothing in the preliminary report on Orange Coast College indicated that the observers were threatening loss of accreditation. Instead, the report seemed to be more of a warning about faculty-administration difficulties.

The report alludes to, but does not specifically mention, the tumultuous events at Orange Coast that led to the election of a new board of trustees majority in November, 1983. Prior to that election, the old board majority, citing budget shortages, laid off about 100 district teachers, most of them from Orange Coast.

Outraged teacher-union activists responded with a recall move against the old board of trustees. An effort to force a special election failed for lack of voter signatures, but in the regular election later in the year the opponents of the old board were able to elect a new majority.

Changes Seen as Unsettling

After the new board took over, many administrative changes were made in the three colleges--Golden West, Coastline Community and Orange Coast--supervised by the district.

The accreditation team indicated that the administrative changes have been highly unsettling.

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“You’ve been in a state of turmoil and distrust in which political decision-making--who’s got the votes--has superseded most orderly information-based procedures you once must have had in place,” the report said. “Some of you may find the manipulations and power struggles too exciting to give up. That has happened elsewhere and could happen here.

“One very evident result of your internal political focus is that many individuals may be harmed by it; some already have been. Another is that you seem to be in a holding pattern as an institution, waiting for something to change.”

Martinez said the team headed by Tadlock studied Orange Coast to see whether the college should be recommended for a 10-year reaccreditation. The team has made its report to the commission, Martinez said, and the commission will publicly announce its finding--for or against reaccreditation--in about four months.


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