Judge stands behind her ruling to reinstate NIC president

A district judge has ruled, again, that North Idaho President Nick Swayne should stay on the job.

On Wednesday, Cynthia Meyer reaffirmed her March decision to reinstate Swayne, while he pursues a lawsuit to get his job back permanently.

A divided board of trustees voted in December to put Swayne on paid administrative leave — prompting Swayne to file his lawsuit, which remains pending. Trustees said they put Swayne on leave to allow a review of his contract. But as Kaye Thornbrugh of the Coeur d’Alene Press reported Thursday, Meyer dismissed that move as a “sham.”

“(It’s) a pretext for getting Dr. Swayne out of the way,” said Meyer, according to Thornbrugh’s report.

NIC trustees have feuded for months over Swayne’s job status — a power struggle that continued last week. In a divided vote, trustees declared the president’s contract null and void.

This week, Meyer also minced no words about NIC’s ongoing accreditation battle, and defended her decision to intervene.

“What could be more extraordinary than the circumstances surrounding NIC?” Meyer wrote, according to Thornbrugh’s report. “The college is on fire, figuratively speaking. Literally, the college is ‘at risk for viability’ according to (its accrediting body).”

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has said NIC’s accreditation is in jeopardy — partly because of board dysfunction and administrative churn. If the regional body yanks NIC’s accreditation, students could be ineligible for financial aid and unable to transfer their credits.

And if NIC loses its accreditation, the college might not get it back, Swayne said at a community focus group meeting this week. Thornbrugh also reported on this meeting Thursday.

“I can tell you that the NWCCU basically said, ‘If you lose accreditation, the chances of coming back, the phoenix plan, is really not a realistic hope,’” Swayne said, according to Thornbrugh’s report. “We’d have to figure out some other way of restoring education on this campus.”

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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