UA Board of Regents Ceases Consideration of Single Accreditation
Board also suspends system-wide academic program reviews
UA Board of Regents meet at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for an emergency meeting on October 7.
In an emergency meeting, the University of Alaska Board of Regents voted to modify two previous decisions made when it was facing a state funding crisis. The first, by a vote of 9-2, was to cease consideration of a single accreditation until after the University of Alaska Fairbanks secures its institutional accreditation in 2021. If the board chooses to actively consider single accreditation in the future, it will direct the president to conduct an independent cost benefit analysis and clearly examine accreditation issues. In the second action, by a vote of 9-1, the board suspended the system wide expedited academic program review process until the board has the time to consult with chancellors and the president on how to move forward.
The emergency meeting began with a discussion that included Sonny Ramaswamy, president of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and Mac Powell, NWCCU Senior Vice President, regarding issues raised in the commission’s September 26 letter to the university. The university has until October 31 to provide a written response.
“We sent the letter… to make sure that the board heard the concerns we are hearing,” Ramaswamy said. “We want you to hold a mirror up, to see for yourself what is going on.”
The standards that the NWCCU raised include clarity of roles and responsibilities of university leaders. Ramaswamy clarified that NWCCU does not consider the situation to be at a critical tipping point regarding maintaining accreditation. Rather, he said, there are concerns to be addressed.
“At the end of the day, you are vested with the responsibility to make decisions, as fiduciary owners of the university,” Ramaswamy told the board. “It’s not up to us to tell you how to do that.”
Students, faculty, and staff have raised questions, wrote to the NWCCU and the Board of Regents, passed resolutions, and voiced concerns about the restructuring process. Students testified that they feel left out of the decision-making process. Faculty representatives shared their concerns with the process, timeline, and the authority of the chancellors as CEOs of their universities. With the meeting’s motions, the regents signaled that they are willing to pause and review processes and policies and to incorporate and communicate inclusive decision-making processes in order to meet accreditation standards.
“I don’t see it as being reactionary,” said Regent Lisa Parker, “but as being responsive to the constituents we are supposed to serve.”
The board also agreed to meet again in the final week of October to review the response to NWCCU, and to hold a strategy session at a future date to further address issues raised by NWCCU.
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