RVC presidential candidates to visit

Three candidates for the presidency of Rock Valley College (RVC) will visit the campus this week, Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. They are interviewing for the position that was vacated after former President Roland Chapdelaine was fired in a unanimous vote last January. He received overwhelming no-confidence votes from all three employee groups, and he presided over years of financial deficits, construction cost overruns, and questionable use of college funds.

Candidate one

Blaine Nisson is vice president of student development at Clark College in Vancouver, Wash. According to The Columbian, a newspaper in that area, Nisson is “one of the key proponents” that has unsuccessfully tried to persuade Clark College’s Board of Trustees to build “a major performing arts center” that may cost as much as $51.5 million. The Columbian reported Aug. 20 that trustees appear to be in no hurry to commit to the project.

Chapdelaine planned to build a similar performing arts venue at a cost of $32,528,600 before he was fired.

Chapdelaine said most of the construction in recent years on RVC’s main campus was to make room for the 120,000-square-foot building called the Arts Instruction Center (AIC). The AIC is supposed to feature a music performance hall, art gallery, thrust-stage theater, and space for instruction of music, visual arts and performing arts.

The state was to pay for 75 percent of construction costs, or $24,396,450. RVC was supposed to have paid the 25 percent remainder, or $8,132,150.

However, RVC did not receive any state funding for the AIC the last two fiscal years. In 2002, RVC expected all $24.4 million from the state for the AIC, but received just $8,696,050.

Chapdelaine said in August 2002, he expected construction of the AIC to begin by the end of that year. Construction never occurred.

The Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) warned earlier this year “Due to these [construction] cost overruns, the college may encounter difficulty meeting its local match requirements on future state-funded projects [AIC and proposed $15.6 million Classroom Building III].”

Many faculty argued if climbing enrollment was the justification for construction, Classroom Building III should have been built before all other construction projects.

Trustee Chris Johnson said in January RVC’s foundation, the private money-generating arm of the college, has accepted responsibility for raising funds for the AIC.

Clark College’s student newspaper, The Independent, reported last November that if there performing arts venue were built, “the center would bring in business to an area currently suffering record-high unemployment rates.” Rockford also has perennially high unemployment rates.

The Columbian also reported “most of the issues that were raised by the trustees revolved around financial and bottom-line responsibility, as well as the effect such a center would have on the resources of the rest of campus.”

Many at RVC have similar concerns if the AIC is constructed as planned.

Nisson did not return calls for comment.

He was scheduled to be on campus Aug. 31.

Candidate two

Judith Hansen is president of Independence Community College in Independence, Kan. she has Illinois roots and relatives in the state.

Hansen hopes to mesh the goals of the board, faculty, staff and students into her own “leadership style.”

During an interview Aug. 28, she described her leadership as primarily collaborative, participatory and integrative. She said she was also aware of RVC’s recent problems, but looked forward to rebuilding confidence and trust in the institution.

Prior to her present position, Hansen was executive vice president at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Ill., near Aurora, and president from 1991 to 1995 of downstate Olney Central College.

Hansen will be on campus Sept. 1.

Candidate three

Jack Becherer, is another candidate with Illinois origins who is currently president at Wenatchee Valley College in Wenatchee, Wash.

Becherer said it was “premature” to discuss goals until he met with people to listen to their ideas. He described his primary management style as trying to engage people to develop solutions to problems. Becherer said he, too, was aware of the recent turmoil the college had endured, but said mutual respect is necessary to serve everyone.

During an interview in 2001, Becherer was quoted by the Traverse City Record-Eagle as saying “If there’s one thing I’m intolerant of it’s intolerance.” According to the newspaper, he made the remark in response to a question about “customer service.”

When Becherer was vice president of Student Development in 1998 at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills—a suburb southwest of Chicago—he banned a student protestor/activist from all classes, activities and campus.

According to an April 1998 article in Chicago Ink, Becherer wrote in a letter to student Jennifer Beatty: “In order to avoid the possibility of additional disruption or interference with normal operation of the college, as well as the possibility of someone being injured…you will be denied access to the campus (including classes) and to all other activities.”

Beatty staged several protests against the McDonald’s on campus by locking herself to the restaurant’s chain-mesh curtain, for which she was arrested.

When asked Aug. 28 how his response to Beatty’s demonstrations corresponded with his management style, Becherer said he discussed protest options with Beatty, but she insisted on being arrested. “I had to ban her from campus. Her opinion was getting in the way of the functioning of the college,” Becherer said.

He will be at RVC Sept. 2.

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