MESA, AZ — Officials at Mesa (AZ) Community College say the removal of 15 adjunct faculty members from teaching in the school's fitness centers had to do with their failure to meet new certification requirements and was not an issue of age discrimination.

Before the school year, the contracts of the 15 faculty members, including a former president of the college, were not renewed. The 15 members had received certification by the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), but that organization is not recognized by the Mesa Community College exercise science department, according to department chair Ann Stine. Instead, the community college requires adjunct faculty to be certified by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) or the National Academy of Sports Medicine. All of these certifications are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. In addition, the ACSM and NSCA, which Stine prefers, require a college degree.

“As an educational institution, we're promoting academic excellence,” Stine says. “We're limiting all liability risks. How you do that is with education, degrees and certification. I felt very compelled to require that of our own staff.”

Stine adds that she wants to be confident that when students do internships at the fitness centers, they are supervised by qualified instructors. Because the community college has a diverse population with different age groups and related health issues, all rec center staff must have the same standard knowledge base, she says.

Theo Heap, who is 80, is one of the faculty members who was not renewed. He plans to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.