REBECCA BAINER — General Assignments Reporter
Southern is currently in the midst of the reaccreditation process that takes place every 10 years by the commission on institutions of higher education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
A town hall meeting was held on Sept. 23 to discuss the preparation for accreditation.
Interim Provost, Marianne Kennedy, ran the meeting, the on the topic, presenting a slide show to the 32 people in attendance.
“Just to remind you—refresh you—about why we’re doing this, what is the purpose of accreditation? It’s a way of institutions telling the public,” said Kennedy, “and itself that they have appropriate purposes, that they have resources to accomplish what they say there purpose is, to demonstrate that they are in fact accomplishing those and that they will continue to do so.”
According to the NEASC website, there are 11 standards for accreditation and NEASC provides accreditation services for over 2,000 public and private institutions.
One component of the reaccreditation is a self-study report which Kennedy said has a 101 page narrative of each of the 11 standards and it was recently completed and is available online.
“In the self-study we had to address how the standards apply to our academic programs as well as the rest of the institution,” said Kennedy, “but [also] how everything applies to all students so we have to consider undergraduate students, graduate students, commuters, residents as well as students in our distance programs.”
Kennedy said a report is submitted every five years but the 10-year reaccreditation is “the real big one” and sometime around April the association will make their decision and then by the end of the semester the university will receive the letter of accreditation.
“Our self-study is good, they’re not going to say we’re not accredited,” said Kennedy. “They may find areas of weakness and they may say OK we think you’re not quite meeting the standards in area x and so we want you to do something about it.”
Kennedy said if this were to happen, the committee may ask the university to send another report in two years or specifically address the problems in the five-year review.
During the meeting, Kennedy prepared faculty for an upcoming site visit that will take place in October, in which the Southern community will be observed by a team of leaders from other institutions, to which Interim President, Stanley F. Battle said, “Bring it on.”
“They will actually prepare a preliminary report before they leave,” said Kennedy. “The team makes a confidential recommendation to accreditation.”
Although there were no students in attendance at this town hall meeting, Kennedy said students have attended in the past and professors have made attempts at getting their students involved with the reaccreditation process from inside the classroom.
“We actually went out to students because we knew that they wouldn’t necessarily come,” said Kennedy. “A lot of the faculty on the steering committee met with their classes, they would take 15-20 minutes of their class time to talk about the re-accreditation process and to get students feedback about certain issues. “
DonnaJean Fredeen, Dean of Arts & Sciences said this is her third NEASC review at Southern and she thinks this was the smoothest process of all of them.
“It almost seems as if the work of the university 10 years ago stopped and the only thing we did was NEASC and it was just this huge time consuming task that cost us a lot of money,” said Fredeen. “[This time] we were able to continue to do the work of the university without this seemingly panic that we had to get this report done.”
Kennedy said she feels she has grown and learned a lot since the last review, which has made this time easier, and although it was still stressful at times she said she has a great team to thank.
“I want to thank the faculty that participated,” said Kennedy, “We did a good job, we had a good team and I think the report is good.”