President addresses accreditation concerns

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Faculty and administration worry about student panic.

By Kyle R. Cotton

After the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges put this college and two other Alamo Colleges on warning status Tuesday, President Robert Vela addressed accreditation concerns Friday morning in an open meeting before faculty and staff here.

Vela stressed this college is still fully accredited by SACSCOC and that the change in status has no operational impact on either students or faculty.

“We’re as accredited today as we were a year ago or five years ago or 10 years ago,” Kristine Clark, chief of integrated planning and performance excellence, said.

Vela couldn’t go into details since he won’t see the specific recommendations on the six standards SACSCOC discussed with him until he receives the official letter from them in mid-January.

The standards of concern primarily are over how this college, St. Philip’s College and Northwest Vista represent themselves and their individual autonomy in regards to the district.

“The VP of SACSCOC said these changes can’t be cosmetic in nature and we need to show evidence that we are autonomous,” Vela said.

“The beauty of accreditation is it’s all about continuous improvement,” he said.

“This is an organization we choose to be a part of. These are our peers,” he said noting that SACSCOC doesn’t operate like a federal agency that would scrap an entire program if even one item is lacking.

This college, St. Philip’s and Northwest Vista have 12 months to address the recommendations in their mid-January letters from SACSCOC.

Faculty in attendance expressed concern over how “cavalier” district appears to the situation.

Vela addressed it by citing his experience at the most recent Board of Trustees’ committee meeting Tuesday.

“The board was committed to making the changes that need to be made and seem interested hearing reports directly from the college presidents,” Vela said. “I really think this particular decision has everyone’s attention.”

The board will vote on amending one of the policies that was an area of concern, board policy B.9.1 — which requires teachers to teach FranklinCovey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Learning — Tuesday.

The responsibility for determining curriculum is supposed to belong to faculty, according to SACSCOC standards.

English chair Mike Burton expressed concern that the board would push for a quick fix for single district accreditation, but Vela said that single accreditation would present its own challenges.

However despite emails and meetings to reassure this college’s community, faculty in attendance said students remain concerned about what could happen to them in the wake of schools like ITT Tech and Career Point College closing.

One adviser said some feel they should leave within the year.

“I wouldn’t advise that, we’ve been around for 90 years, we’re not going anywhere,” Vela said. “They are panicking, but that’s really an apples and oranges comparison as we don’t have the financial issue they had.”

“If we were a weaker institution I could see how it could be a problem, but we are all going to be working to address it,” Vela said.

Vela closed out the meeting by inviting those who need another meeting like this one to ask. He suggested perhaps doing it again when the letter arrives in mid-January.

Public relations is currently working on an FAQ to address student concerns that will go out to them through their ACES emails.


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