The Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges has cleared Utah Valley Community College of charges that professors were improperly laid off last year as a result of program cuts.

The exoneration follows a U.S. Department of Education ruling in April that UVCC did not discriminate against women or American Indians when it discontinued its dental assisting and heavy-machine operator programs. The investigations resulted from complaints by several instructors who lost their jobs when the programs were cut.Acting UVCC President Lucille Stoddard had expressed confidence after the complaints were filed that the college would be vindicated.

"I was always confident the college would be completely exonerated," she said. "That's exactly what we expected. The Faculty Senate leadership and the office of vice president for academic affairs were careful in making certain that proper procedure was used."

Suits filed by the laid-off instructors in state and federal court are still pending.

Program cuts came after Gov. Norm Bangerter asked colleges to reduce budgets by 6 percent. The budget cut wasn't actually instituted, but the programs were still cut, as institutions were ordered to make the best possible use of funds that the 6 percent represented.

"Although we are not insensitive to the complaint that the mandated reallocation undermines faculty security and threatens academic freedom, we do not believe that the complaint was substantiated," James F. Bemis, executive director of the Commission of Colleges of the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, said in a letter dated May 6.

The letter was written to former UVCC Professor Richard Despain in response to his complaints last fall in a letter to the NASC. Despain was laid off as a result of the program cuts.

The NASC based its ruling on information provided by the college about the allegations.

"We have reviewed with care the letter of complaint with exhibits, and compared those with the response and exhibits of the college," Bemis said in his letter. "Our review indicates that the college had in place necessary personnel policies and procedures, that it apparently did follow these policies and procedures, and that faculty members of the college were represented throughout the process."

Bemis said it would have been beneficial for all concerned had UVCC had more time to carry out the governor's mandate.