RCC considers change to admissions policy

Goal is to refuse applicants who pose ‘articulable, imminent and significant threat’

By Kevin Spradlin

HAMLET — Members of the Richmond Community College Board of Trustees plan to make a change to the school’s “open door” enrollment policy, but with any luck current students and staff won’t ever notice the difference.

Saundra Richardson, vice president of student services, and RCC President Dr. Dale McInnis spoke Tuesday night during the trustees’ regular monthly meeting of the amendment to the admissions policy which aims to ensure campus safety and security by refusing “admission to any applicant who poses an articulable, imminent and significant threat to others.”

The Richmond Community College's 2013 Annual Security Report is posted in many common areas, including the elevator inside the DeWitt Building.

The Richmond Community College’s 2013 Annual Security Report is posted in many common areas, including the elevator inside the DeWitt Building.

RCC’s version of the policy largely reflects the State Board of Community Colleges policy, McInnis said.

“We do not have selective admissions,” McInnis said. “That’s one of the key, defining elements of our mission and who we are as a college.”

But there is a line between open enrollment and campus safety — and accepting a student who might have used words or taken action sufficient to be considered a threat crosses that line.

“We have been very fortunate here … especially when you look at the news and what’s going on at other college campuses,” Richardson said. “We pondered this for the past year. We decided that we wanted to go ahead and add this to our policy. This is a new day and time. It’s not like it was 10, 15 or 20 years ago. We want to make sure that we are protecting our campus. We have very good security here and we want to make sure we keep it that way.”

Richardson and other college officials have reports that can show off a safe college atmosphere. According to RCC’s 2013 Annual Security Report, there was only one violent crime reported on campus in 2013 — aggravated assault — along with a single charge of communicating a threat in 2012 and one charge of non-aggravated assault in 2011.

The policy amendment, as initially considered, read:

“In compliance with 1D SBCCC 400.2(e), Richmond Community College reserves the right to refuse admission to any applicant who poses an articulable, imminent and significant threat to others. Such applicants will be evaluated on a case by case basis by the Vice President for Student Services. The Vice President for Student Services shall report the decision on the applicant to the President, indicating the rationale for denying admission, the time period within which the denial is applicable and any conditions that would allow for the denied applicant to be eligible for admission. An applicant denied admission by the Vice President for Student Services, in accordance with the Student Grievance Policy, may appeal the decision to the President, whose decision will be final.”

Any suspicious words, threats or other concerns by applicants would be brought to Richardson’s attention. If Richardson denied the applicant entry to RCC, the applicant could appeal to McInnis.

“I don’t anticipate having to use it,” McInnis, but referred to it as a tool in the toolbox and available if needed.

Board member John Hutchinson asked for the definition of each of the key words in the proposed amendment — articulable, imminent and significant. McInnis addressed them individually:

* Articulable: “Somebody has said or done something … that would cause a reasonable person to believe that dangerous actions could take place, something that could be or has been expressed. Someone who makes you feel uncomfortable wouldn’t be enough”;

* Imminent: “Not something that someone had done in the past, but presents a current threat.”

McInnis noted that each situation would be evaluated an individual basis.

Fellow board member and attorney Ric Buckner expressed a couple of concerns that led to board members’ decision to table the policy and bring it back in April for further consideration.

“What if the applicant had a criminal history of violence,” Buckner asked.

McInnis noted that the college does not perform background checks on students or student applicants. The revised policy, if approved, wouldn’t come into play “unless they are taking some action or expressing some threat,” McInnis said.

Buckner also brought to board members’ attention a phrase that could be used by a student or college employee who might be injured in an attack. The amendment as presented Tuesday indicated that “such applicants will be evaluated …”

“I would think, if my student got attacked by that person and I found out that person had a criminal record, and I saw a policy that … said we were going to evaluate … and we fail to do that, then I’d want to hold the college responsible for failing to do something they said they were going to do,” Buckner said.

McInnis cautioned against trying to satisfy every possible scenario — and many of them already have been considered.

“We’ve tried to play out some of those,” McInnis said. “This is only going to apply to some of those people … (who) through words or actions, (offer) some expression of danger to our students and employees.”

Buckner said he was attempting to play “devil’s advocate” — though two other board members said they understood Buckner’s point — and remained steadfast. An attorney could take issue with a college policy that says one thing, but RCC officials interpreted another.

It was here when McInnis suggested the policy committee might want to take back the proposed policy revision for further review.


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