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OUR VIEW — Failure in leadership at Gaston College

FRANK TAYLOR

Managing Editor

The leaders of Gaston College, its top administrators and Board of Trustees, have failed in their obligation to serve the people of Lincoln and Gaston counties. They need to be replaced.

Taxpayers should be outraged that nearly half a million dollars from Gaston College has to be repaid to the federal government after a U.S. Department of Education review found multiple and severe violations.

There must be consequences.

So far, attention has focused on a lawsuit brought by former Financial Aid Director Peggy Oates, who claims she was inappropriately blamed for the problems and dismissed from her post, even though she also insists she repeatedly tried to bring concerns to the attention of school officials and eventually did bring them to the attention of the federal government.

Oates can produce all sorts of documentation to support her claims, including emails between her and her supervisors at the college, and between her and U.S. Department of Education officials. Whether those documents are what she says they are remains a point to be decided by the courts.

But regardless of her case’s outcome, a purge of the top administrators and the Board of Trustees is in order because, either way, they failed in their duties.

If Oates is telling the truth, then some of them may merit even more serious disciplinary action, and potentially criminal scrutiny for what would be serious misconduct in office.

But even if Oates is mostly or fully in the wrong, the abuses cited in the federal report still happened on the watch of these school officials. It was their job to ensure that nothing like this took place. It should not have taken a federal review to uncover what was going on under their noses for years.

The federal review found that simple and adequate steps to monitor students’ academic progress had never been put in place or else weren’t being carried out consistently. It found that the college somehow managed to begin awarding federal financial aid funds to students at one of its campuses without ever notifying the federal government of that campus’ existence. And that’s just the beginning of a shocking list that points to general incompetence, if not outright deception.

Someone failed to exercise appropriate oversight and their mistakes are costing taxpayers while providing a great disservice to the students, faculty and staff of Gaston College.

Whether these were sins of commission or omission is a matter for the courts and perhaps for state and federal authorities, who should be asking further questions. But either way, the public cannot have any confidence in these individuals’ ability to lead Gaston College any longer. A swift and complete housecleaning is in order.

 

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