By Kyle R. Cotton
After months of concern over the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges’ special committee site-visit to evaluate in more detail questions in regard to autonomy, Dr. Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor of planning, performance, accreditation and information systems said the visits to the three colleges — St. Philip’s, Northwest Vista and here — a success.
“These are housekeeping types of issues,” Cleary said.
The three colleges each had the same five standards come back as recommendations to address and St. Philip’s having an additional one to address that Cleary could not identify at the time of the interview Tuesday evening.
“All the things that need to be addressed are things such as headers on transcripts and how we calculate GPA, all of which are quite simple to address to come under compliance,” Cleary said.
Cleary said SACSCOC special committee will send a draft letter to each of the colleges sometime this week with its finds so that the colleges can check for any factual errors before getting the official letter. At that time, they will have to respond in advance of SACSCOC’s December meeting.
“There is virtually no chance that these colleges won’t be reaffirmed,” Cleary said. “I would be stunned if it didn’t happen.”
Here at this college, visits were canceled on short notice and recommendations were made with no reasoning or details given, said Dr. Lisa Zottarelli, this college’s SACSCOC liaison and sociology professor.
Among those the committee canceled was a meeting with faculty.
An event scheduled for faculty to hear about concerns related to the site visit turned into a one-on-one interview with The Ranger as no one showed.
Zottarelli said SACSCOC doesn’t have to provide reasons for noting a standard needs to be addressed.
“When SACSCOC comes in, when they are doing a site-visit, we host them. We are making sure they are comfortable, but they make all decisions about who they want to talk to,” Zottarelli said. “They get to make those decisions, and we don’t get to ask why.”
Zottarelli said the visit to this college was a four-hour period Tuesday morning and typical visits last multiple days.
Zottarelli said the recommendations were given to President Robert Vela with very little input.
“What we will get in a month is a letter like the one from July, with, hopefully, details, so that we can look at what exactly is specified,” Zottarelli said.
On whether this process holds up this college from improving, Zottarelli said this college is always improving.
“Accreditation reminds us to look critically at what we are doing … but we will continue to look at what we can improve,” Zottarelli said.
“This is really about continuous improvement,” Zottarelli said. “Academics moves a little slower, but thoughtful, deliberative moving forward in directions we need to move forward in are really important things. However, this process gives us time to think and reflect as a college.
“This process is about student success … so I would rather do it right and be slower about it than anything else, because that’s where we benefit the students,” Zottarelli said.