ICCI president facing student backlash

52 students have left since new president took over

There will be no compromise on reforms at the International College of the Cayman Islands despite protests from students, says the school’s president, David Marshall. 

Dr. Marshall said students were “on the warpath” over recent changes, including a dress code and strict new attendance and homework requirements. 

But he said the changes are about “academic integrity” and insists there is no room for flexibility on many of the new rules. 

“The message we are trying to send is that education is very serious. It is a sacrifice, not an entitlement. You don’t just show up and get a degree,” he said. 

Dr. Marshall said 52 students have left the college since he took over in March, either because they did not like him personally or they were unwilling or unable to comply with various new policies, including attendance expectations, learning contracts and mandatory tutoring requirements for scholarship students failing to make the grade. The departures have been partially offset by new arrivals. The school currently has 271 students, 22 fewer than at the same time last year. 

“There is going to be some further attrition of existing students. I expect that to be the case,” said Dr. Marshall. “But either we are going to do the right thing or there is no need for us to be open.” 

Several students are reportedly upset, particularly about the dress code and community service requirements. 

There is also concern about a lack of flexibility on attendance and homework for a college that has traditionally helped provide a route to career advancement for busy working people. 

The student body held a meeting on campus last week and are preparing a letter to send to the ICCI board with their comments.  

A feedback blog set up by Dr. Marshall contains a mix of positive comments alongside some voices of complaint, though the president says the response on campus has been much more forceful against the changes. 

One student on the blog writes, “Really, uniform? Am I correctly interpreting this email? Are we in high school?! We are working class individuals.” 

The student goes on to suggest that the community service requirement is impractical and questions the wisdom of making a module in Caymanian history a requirement for graduation. 

“We are trying to move forward, not backward, life is already hard as it is, why are you making it harder?”  

Another student calls for more leniency on attendance, pointing out that many of the students work six or even seven days a week. 

“A policy allowing me to only have three absences or risk a failure is, I believe, very inconsiderate as there are students who attend school, are parents, and possess a full time job.” 

Dr. Marshall said he understood the resistance to what he described as a “tornado of change” at the college. But he said many of the changes are about compliance with the international accrediting body. 

He said students would be assigned two hours homework for every hour in class and would be tested to ensure they had completed the necessary work. Family or work commitments will no longer be considered a legitimate excuse, he said. 

“If students are unable or unwilling to meet those homework standards, we are going to dismiss them from the college,” he said. “If you are working 40 hours every week, you have a family, you are coming to class, when are you going to get the time to do the work?  

“We can’t compromise on that out of sympathy. It is an academic integrity issue.” 

He said students who don’t have room in their schedules would have to either cut down the number of classes they were taking or quit the school and come back when they do have time. 

“We have got to be unapologetic about standards. On an island where the business community is complaining about the inability of people to meet standards in the workplace, we have to do our part. If we go down to 20 of the best students – that is what it is,” Dr. Marshall said. 

The college had previously been given 22 “citations” from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools for failing to ensure compliance with a range of requirements, he said. The new policies dealt with the concerns of the accrediting body and ensured the college was granted accreditation for the next four years, he added. 

Dr. Marshall said there could be room for some compromise on the dress code but the broad requirement will stay, despite opposition from students. He said visiting business professionals were often surprised that the presentation of the students did not sync with their idea of a school that specializes in business. 

“I tell the students, you are here for career preparation and career advancement,” he said. “On any given day, an employer should be able to walk into the class and a student should be ready to do an interview. 

“You don’t come to school wearing flip-flops, pajamas and halter tops and baseball caps – this is a business environment. 

“We are enforcing the highest possible academic standards; we want students looking and behaving like they are ready to set foot in the business world.” 

Dr. Marshall said the newer students were largely on board with the changes. He said resistance was coming from existing students who felt the goalposts had been moved. 

“I think some people feel like they were playing by one set of rules on Monday and they came in Wednesday and the rules are different.” 

He added that there was a broader issue of “entitlement,” with some students feeling they should get a degree simply for showing up.  

“The rigor of the course has increased so significantly that you are going to fail if you don’t put the hours in. 

“One thing we are being firm about is we are not doing charity. Every grade has to be earned. We can’t pander or cater to or fall prey to entitlement. It is the wrong way to go.” 

  • 85 percent attendance requirement 
  • Two hours homework requirement for every hour in class 
  • Smart-casual dress code for students 
  • All students to complete 20 hours of community service before graduation 
  • All students to take Cayman history and culture workshop and pass exam 
  • Students to maintain minimum GPA of 2.5 or face probation/intervention 
David-Marshall

Dr. Marshall

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Dr. Marshall is in a bind, if the accrediting body is demanding these changes. Has the Compass been permitted to read the report? Do we know, if these specific changes were called for, or did ICCI interpret outside recommendations?
    I think Dr. Marshall needs to highlight when the dress code will be enforced, i.e. Monday to Friday or Monday-Sunday. I met Dr. Marshall, when I came to provide weekend tutoring on a Sunday. He was wearing NIKE flip flops and athletic shorts, both items he claims are off limits and during a time, when the college was operating its business and professional obligations. Secondly, as an educator, I can attest that there are numerous professional journals and scientific studies documenting the lack of correlation, between mandatory attendance and increased academic or professional performance. My personal experience is that students are often sullen, resentful and disengaged from the learning process, when they feel as though they are being victimized by bureaucracy.
    As a fair and balanced media outlet, I look forward to a corresponding piece where you interview the protesters and allow them to articulate their position. We should not assume that a few random blog posts accurately represent the entire student body. Nor should we trust the administration’s assertions regarding which students are complaining versus accepting about the changes. Let the students speak for themselves, in a proper interview, on the record.

    ***Editor’s Note: The Compass contacted a student representative, Diane Ricketts, to request an interview following last week’s meeting and was supplied with a one-line statement on behalf of the student body confirming that a meeting had taken place and a letter was being prepared to be sent to the board. We contacted Ms Ricketts on two further occasions to make it clear that a story was running in the paper and we wished to do a full interview. We received no further response.***

  2. I agree totally on attendance, and I think 85% attendance requirement is the minimum that should be set. There is a high correlation between attendance and mastery, obviously, and I hope that ICCI is backing its policy with the necessary administrative tracking. And the GPA could simply not go any lower.

    The lack of strong competition for places in tertiary level institutions has made students complacent and we cannot continue to collude with them by giving them a pass on the academic front on the basis of excuses such as working full time. If students want it all, then they must deal with the consequences.

    I tend to agree, however, that there may be room for compromise on the dress code, but ICCI’s strength is it business preparation, and the college does have a point when it says that this is a part of its preparation of students. When we look at workplace dress we see a need for this type of orientation. Apparently some employers are not aware that how they present themselves to customers is critical. Dress for some employers is important to their business success.

    I say this is moving in the right direction overall and wish Dr. Cummings every success.

  3. Just an added thought: on the matter of community service, I do see method to their madness, in a manner of speaking:

    It is so important for business to be committed to helping to meet community needs, to help to strengthen our society and to lighten the burden on government, especially in our tax-free jurisdiction. And the business sector does bear that burden admirably.

    When you give business students an opportunity to 1. Be conscious of community needs, and, 2, experience the satisfaction that comes with helping others, that fosters a positive attitude that graduates will hopefully take into the business world.

    I therefore encourage students to see this as a benefit and not as a burden. And, by the way, this can be highlighted on your resume — and helps to convey a more well rounded employee — something that employers are looking for.

  4. Ever seen a professional sports team take to the field, there is an Attitude, a Swagger – they are a team, united in a common task – individual ego’s are set aside – In their minds the game is already over and they are victorious. Their team uniform binds them together, in short, they mean business!

    Do you think they would be anywhere near as impressive or have that same impact if everyone turned up in a haphazard assortment of random garments?

    Business is no different, put on a business suit and tie and you can actually feel your attitude changing, you’re part of the team and mediocrity is not an option.

    Smart casual is one thing, but getting the ‘suit’ mindset is a skill too.

  5. There are numerpus studies that show strong positive correlation between attendance and grade performance. Readers can do a quick search online and will find them.

    I noticed one poster referring to mandatory attendance, which is a different construct to correlation of attendance and grades.

    True, universities don’t normally mandate attendance, but neither do they normally meet the type of lax attendance we see here in Cayman and the appallingly poor overall grade performance.

    My view is that if the university has to mandate attendance to guard its own reputation, then it should do so. Students who attend poorly are bringing this down on their heads.

    I do actually know of at least one university in the US (my knowledge of how widely this is practised is limited) that mandates attendance for their students, with a focus on first and second year students. So it is done.

    Here in Cayman, Desperate situations require desperate actions. I say that if this is the only way to skin the cat — grab the tools and get going.

  6. The way I see it, if students can’t deal with these regulations they will not be able to deal with the rigors of competing in the real world for the top jobs, so they aren’t the type of candidates businesses will be interested in anyway. Simply put if you want to get ahead you have to go above and beyond. If you can’t go the extra mile for your education you won’t do it for your job.

    These will be the same students complaining that they are getting passed over for jobs. Just because you show up at school doesn’t mean you get a degree and just because you get a degree doesn’t mean you get the job.

    These regulations seem to have been put in place to separate the dead weight from those willing to do what it takes to get ahead. If they can’t deal with it now they won’t be able to deal with it then. So good luck finding a great job that will let you come and go as you please, wear what you want to work and still pay you a great salary.

  7. Dr. Marshall, it is very evident that you get pleasure out of washing your dirty laundry in public; so please answer Mr.Hugh Jackson’s question does that mean previous degrees earned or given in the past are not worth the paper it’s typed on? . I am sure the graduates of ICCI would love to know the answer to this question.