Unrest Persists at Prairie State

Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)— Concerned citizens and Prairie State College faculty took turns defending President Paul McCarthy’s track record in hopes that the board will rethink its decision to renew the popular president’s contract. Community resident Doris Pierce said she has the expectation that the Board will act responsibly in their hiring practices. “If members of the board use their position to influence the hiring of friends and supporters, the employee will understand that doing a good job is not of primary importance. Instead his primary motive will be to please his sponsor and work for him during elections,” she said.

Meanwhile, Beverly Sokol, a resident of Olympia Fields, expressed disappointment over the Board’s decision to not renew McCarthy’s contract. She identified Mark Fazzini, Chair, Jacqueline Agee, Board Secretary, and Trustee Phil Faso, as being “dedicated to removing nationally recognized Paul McCarthy from his presidency. Dr. McCarthy is an award-wining, nationally recognized leader and educator. He has gained the respect of faculty administration, staff, and students of PSC,” she said.

Sokol read from a September 23 Star Newspaper article where John Flannigan, professor of English and President of Prairie State College Federation of Teachers, said, “Recent board meeting agendas have placed sensitive items, such as President McCarthy’s contract, at the very end of the meeting after the conclusion of executive session. The problem with this is that most members of the public and the press leave at the beginning of executive session and are not present when important actions are taken.”

These board members, however, continue to defend their leadership, saying that they observe the facts before making decisions. Some observers, however, indicated they believe the Board continues to have trouble functioning. John Flannigan, professor of English and President of Prairie State College Federation of Teachers, addressed the board on this very issue, “The board and these meetings function least effectively in an atmosphere lacking mutual respect, trust and courtesy.”

Another issue discussed at the November board meeting was the safety of Prairie State College and the intergovernmental agreement that would officially establish a police department improving campus security at PSC. This agreement would require that the college work with the Chicago Heights Police Department. PSC security officers would have to complete an extensive training program before they can be officially activated to patrol.

The length of time it takes to train officers did not appeal to Board of Trustees member Peg Donahue. Donohue, citing recent security issues occurring on college campuses across the country, expressed her displeasure with the delay in implementing the plan to establish a police force on campus.

“I am still concerned that there is another delay. We signed this agreement last February, approved it and still we are being held up. We have the money to do it. Why are our officers not being trained so that they are ready to go. It is not required that we need a referendum in place to train our officers so that we can become a police department.”

Norman Martin, Director of Campus and Public Safety responded to the board, “The [Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board] does not require the agreement to be in place. It’s not required to begin the training.”

Fazzini attempted to clarify the issue saying, “We do not need the agreement in place to create a police department. We are asking the Chicago Heights Police for services to become a police department, and we cannot create a police department until everything is in place for us to do that."

Singling out Donahue, Fazzini stated she has been informed several times by the board that in order for things to begin to move, PSC needs to have the agreement finalized. “We cannot gain access to the facilities of the police department until the agreement is officially signed," Fazzini explained. "That agreement would include access to equipment, lock up facilities and other technology used by professional police departments." Fazzini is also Chief of Police for the College of Dupage’s Public Safety Police Law Enforcement Department.

Donahue said action needs to be taken now and that it is crucial that the establishment of an official police department on campus is necessary to ensure that safety is maintained and upgraded to prevent serious crime from occurring at PSC. “I don’t want something to happen to one of our students or one of our people on campus. This is way too critical.” Donahue said she believes the Chicago Heights Police Department has so much on their plate at this time. "They have no time to help facilitate the plan of implementing a police force on campus."

The Chicago Heights Police did not respond to a request for comment on this matter.