Liaison promises transparency in the college addresses autonomy concerns.
By Kyle R. Cotton
More than 40 faculty members showed up Nov. 4 at a faculty round table to hear this college’s liaison to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Lisa Zottarelli, discuss how this college is addressing recommendations from the accrediting agency.
SACSCOC delayed the accreditation reaffirmation of this college, Northwest Vista College and St. Philip’s College’s in June by requesting additional information on concerns regarding each college’s autonomy in their relationship with the district.
After reviewing 10 standards in a special site visit to each college the week of Sept. 26, the visiting committee outlined seven areas of concern, including how the colleges are representing themselves in documentation, the process of accepting transfer courses from other institutions, grade-point average calculation, and board policy.
Zottarelli said while some of the recommendations could be addressed individually, this college’s ability to respond to recommendations on board policy is limited.
Faculty at the round table were most concerned about recommendations on board policy, particular B.9.1, which requires FanklinCovey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” to be included in the curriculum and D.2.5, which gives the chancellor the authority to transfer employees among the district’s five colleges. Another area faculty wanted addressed was SACSCOC’s questioning of faculty contracts being issued by the district and not the college.
“We will be changing the contract to include the institution,” Zottarelli said.
When asked about transferability, she answered, “We won’t be changing the rest of the contract as far as I know,” she said.
“The board of trustees, for the Alamo Community College District, is our board of trustees and the policies generated at district are our policies,” Zottarelli said. “Some of the things are within our control and we’ve be able to address that and some of the things are more complicated than us just flipping a switch and say that’s what we want to do; and part of that is the fact we are part of a large and complicated district where we have a single board with four accredited institutions and one college seeking accreditation.
“It’s a difficult situation because the board of trustees is our board, and we have an issue with how we present ourselves as an accredited institution … so it is something we have to think through and go over carefully. We are the accredited body, and that part is real critical,” Zottarelli said.
On the concern of B.9.1 Zottarelli said that the concern over FranklinCovey was that approval for “Seven Habits” leadership training has to go through the College Curriculum Committee. She said faculty at this college can determine how and if the “Seven Habits” are implemented.
The example she gave was EDUC 1300, Learning Frameworks, which has student-learning outcomes on leadership, but faculty determines whether to use Covey.
“I’ve told you some of the responses that we are going to make, but I’ve also told you accreditation doesn’t stop and so some of those issues that you are bringing up are issues that we will continue to look at,” Zottarelli said.
“Higher education is a highly regulated environment. We don’t think about that; as faculty I certainly didn’t. As faculty I had academic freedom, I could teach my classes, except, except, except. We have a much more regulated environment than most of us realize and accreditation brings that to light.
“You have our accrediting body, you have the state, you have feds, you have district, we even have individual accreditations we have to deal with within our own disciplines guiding us to what we need and what we have to do.”
Some faculty said they felt left out of the discussion, believing their concerns aren’t forwarded to administrators and suggested the need for a means of forwarding their views.
Zottarelli said those concerns are going up the leadership ladder, but she said she wants to bring transparency into this process.
She said the time frame was short for the college to respond and she did not know whether she would be able to share this college’s response either before and after it was sent to SACSCOC.
The response, which went out Thursday, was summarized in bullet points to College Council Tuesday.
Among the points in this college’s response:
- Concerning transfer credit from outside the district, this college has clarified the gaps in the process with the district’s center for student information to shore up the process of accepting transfer credits.
- New transcripts will illustrate not just a district grade-point average but a institutional GPA, along with a new transcript standards agreement.
- New copies of human resource letters and contracts show consistent branding for the college.
- The college maintains that it is representing itself as a separately accredited institution, noting board policies A.1.1 and B.1.1 and a need to work on language in documents in regard to representation.
- The college is forwarding a letter from the Department of Education stating this college is in compliance with Title IV requirements.