President upset with request for report on autonomy

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President Robert Vela expresses his anger over the letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges asking for a follow-up report over 10 standards questioning this college's autonomy at College Council July 12 in Room 120 of the visual arts center. Vela said he was upset because none of these concerns came up in their exit interview in September. Now this college has to divert resources to prepare the follow-up report. Photo by Kyle R. Cotton

President Robert Vela expresses his anger over the letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges asking for a follow-up report over 10 standards questioning this college’s autonomy at College Council July 12 in Room 120 of the visual arts center. Vela said he was upset because none of these concerns came up in their exit interview in September. Now this college has to divert resources to prepare the follow-up report. Photo by Kyle R. Cotton

Schedule for convocation week Aug. 15-19 is released.

By Kyle R. Cotton

kcotton11@student.alamo.edu

President Robert Vela expressed his anger over a letter he received from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges over recent questions about this college’s autonomy during College Council July 12.

The letter, which Vela received that morning, requires this college to submit a monitoring report by Sept. 6 to the SACSCOC regarding 10 standards related to the college’s autonomy and the college’s relationship with the other Alamo Colleges and the district’s board.

St. Philip’s and Northwest Vista colleges must also submit monitoring reports regarding the same 10 standards, one of which is a core standard for which the college could be sanctioned.

The standards will be judged at a special committee visit to this campus four weeks after the Sept. 6 deadline.

The special committee would then make recommendation to SACSCOC for approval during its December meeting.

“This is upsetting,” Vela said. “Our own peers, from across the southern colleges, said we turned in an excellent report. … even in our exit interview this didn’t come up.

“Everyone involved did an excellent job. I’m just upset that none of this was brought up as a concern during our visit.”

A team of peers from other colleges in SACSCOC visited this college in September, and St. Philip’s and Northwest Vista were also visited last year

“Now we have to allocate resources that we could otherwise put toward our mission of student success and possibly delay some of the plans we have. To me, that is upsetting,” Vela said.

Dr. Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor of planning, performance, accreditation and information systems, said in an interview the evening of July 12 that these standards as potential hold-ups in the re-accreditation process didn’t come up in any of the three colleges’ exit interviews.

“This is unusual. We don’t know why they didn’t bring this up. We have to ask them,” Cleary said. “Someone brought this up and now we have to address them.”

Vela said believes this is because of the structure the Alamo Colleges has adopted in recent years that has allowed students to take classes at any of the campuses without requiring them to reapply.

“We have evolved over the last 10 years to better our presence in the community,” Vela said. “They aren’t used to this structure other than with Dallas (Community College District).”

Since the arrival of Dr. Bruce Leslie in November 2006 as chancellor, the district has moved to consolidate areas of operation, sometimes raising questions of autonomy for the colleges.

Examples of district involvement in college matters include replacing each college’s seal without input from faculty or administration, eliminating majors at Palo Alto because the other colleges had problems clearly defining majors to SACSCOC while Palo Alto had no such issues, accreditation issues with Northeast Lakeview College because it could not show financial autonomy, and the chancellor’s attempts to replace a required humanities course with EDUC 1300, Learning Frameworks.

Vela said the teams working on the report would meet with the other two colleges to determine how to articulate the differences among the colleges and areas where they might have used similar language.

Vela also noted the positive opportunity to improve the previous report as SACSCOC also asked for a separate report updating this college’s responses to SACSCOC’s recommendations.

“This is a great opportunity to address areas you might not have been able to get to due to time constraints,” he said.

The College Council also approved a three-year strategic plan for 2016-2019 as opposed to the year-to-year plans that had been passed in previous years.

Priorities include developing clear pathways from pre-entry to graduation and credentialing; strengthening the college’s infrastructure; evaluating and addressing internal and external challenges; fostering excellence by encouraging improvement in student and employee performance; and establish strategies to better understand students, increase community outreach and developing opportunities for employees to reach their full potential.

Vela said the strategic plan isn’t going to be put on a shelf for three years and then revisited but rather evolve over time as the Strategic Quality Enhancement Committee sees ways to improve the plan.

Dr. Jothany Blackwood, vice president of academic success, announced that at convocation, blocks of time have been set aside for departments and chairs to meet.

Blackwood said there would also be fewer workshops and alternative exercises during convocation week Aug.15-19. Instead, those exercises and workshops will be spread across Friday development days throughout semester.

She said these exercises wouldn’t interfere with faculty’s usual Friday tasks.

This college’s convocation starts at 9 a.m. Aug.16 in the auditorium of McAllister Fine Arts Center.

Faculty and staff department meetings are blocked for 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Aug. 19.

View the convocation PDF: 2016 CONVOCATION WEEK CALENDAR

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1 Comment

  1. Gonna keep my job on

    Why is anyone surprised by this. When administrators are making curricula demands (EDUC1300 & Institutes for example) and regularly interfere with the curriculum; thumb their noses at the notion of shared governance and force horrible hiring choices you get this type of scrutiny by SACS. I welcome our college’s second look and hope it points out a too-heavy handed administration.

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