Liaison says college and district officials are not worried about effects on accreditation.
By Bleah B. Patterson
A senior vice president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges emailed the president of St. Philip’s College and the organization’s liaison March 7 seeking information on EDUC 1300, Learning Framework, replacing a humanities course in the fall 2014 core curriculum.
SAC/COC is the agency responsible for accreditation, and St. Philip’s is preparing for its 2016 reaccreditation.
Michael Johnson, SAC/COC wrote President Adena Williams Loston and Dr. Karen Sides, dean of interdisciplinary studies, who serves as the college’s liaison with the accrediting agency, saying SAC/COC has received phone calls in response to articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education and InsideHigherEd.com regarding the core change and breaches of process excluding faculty from the decision.
“I had spoken to someone about this a couple of weeks ago, but the articles suggest more to the story than that conversation had suggested,” he wrote.
He asked Loston and Sides to put aside some time to give him background on the process and course.
“My concerns are, first, that EDUC 1300 pretty clearly is not a ‘pure’ humanities course, so the question becomes, what course can students take to satisfy the remaining humanities requirement?
If that other course is English composition, a foreign language, or a speech (public speaking) course, then you will not be in compliance with CR 2.7.3 … this could be especially problematic for (Associate of Applied Science) students.”
Additional questions concern process and faculty approval.
The same day, Loston forwarded the email to Chancellor Bruce Leslie and said, “We did call as requested,” to which Leslie replied, “Let me work with the team to frame a formal response,” according to the email exchange provided to The Ranger.
Sides verified the email’s legitimacy. “Right now, we’re waiting for the chancellor to craft his response,” Sides said via phone Tuesday. “April 15th is the response deadline. We’re all just in research mode right now.”
Sides said anytime an accrediting body approaches a college this way, it raises concerns, but she said Loston and Leslie feel confident that it will be worked out.
Calls to Leslie’s office Wednesday went unanswered.
“The institution places primary
responsibility for content, quality and effectiveness of its curriculum with its faculty,” according to CS. 3.4.10.
CR 2.7.3 in the SACS/COC resource manual specifies subjects in the core curriculum should, “Promote intellectual inquiry, general education courses present a breath of knowledge, not focusing on skills, techniques and procedures specific to the students occupation of profession … General education is based on coherent rationale.”
“Second, the articles speak of the internal approval of the change possibly not following normal approval processes,” Johnson wrote.
Johnson went on to cite CS. 3.4.1, 3.4.5, 3.4.10 and 3.7.5, saying each institution should be able to demonstrate any academic credit awarded to students is approved by the faculty.
“This is not a formal inquiry (we will send a letter if that is needed),” Johnson said, “I’m just seeking a bit more background at this time so I can deal with the calls we are fielding.”
Gregory Hudspeth, president of St. Philip’s Faculty Senate wasn’t sure how much information he was allowed to release to the public. “I will say that (SAC/COC) are asking questions,” he said. “We simply didn’t go through the proper process.”
Hudspeth continued, “The chancellor may have been able to get the (Texas Higher Education) Coordinating Board to go along with this, but the agency might be different story.”