The following are the options available to the commission in June. My own notes and comments follow the options.
III. Actions on Institutions that are Applicants for Reaffirmation of Accreditation
A. Actions that Reaffirm Accreditation
• Reaffirm accreditation without conditions. The institution substantially meets or exceeds accreditation standards. Recommendations are directed toward strengthening the institution, not correcting situations where the institution fails to meet the standards. The institution is required to submit a Midterm Report in the third year of the six-year accreditation cycle.
• Reaffirm accreditation with a request for a Focused Midterm Report. The institution substantially meets or exceeds accreditation standards, but the Commission wishes to direct the institution's attention to a small number of the recommendations for special emphasis. The Commission will specify the nature, purpose, and scope of the focus of this report. The institution is required to submit the Focused Midterm Report in the third year of the six-year accreditation cycle.
• Reaffirm accreditation with a request for a Focused Midterm Report and a visit. The institution substantially meets or exceeds accreditation standards, but the Commission wishes to direct the institution's attention to a small number of the recommendations
for special emphasis. The Commission will specify the nature, purpose, and scope of the focus of the report and of the visit to be made. The institution is required to submit the Focused Midterm Report in the third year of the six-year accreditation cycle.
• Reaffirm accreditation, with a request for a Progress Report. The institution substantially meets or exceeds accreditation standards, but has recommendations on a small number of issues of some urgency which, if not addressed immediately, may threaten the ability of the institution to continue to meet accreditation standards. The Commission will specify the issues to be addressed and the due date of the report.
Resolution of the issues is expected within a one- to two-year period. The institution is also required to submit a Midterm Report in the third year of the six-year accreditation cycle.
• Reaffirm accreditation, with a Progress Report and a visit. The institution substantially meets or exceeds accreditation standards, but has recommendations on a small number of issues of some urgency which, if not addressed immediately, may threaten the ability of the institution to continue to meet accreditation standards. The Commission will identify the issues to be addressed in the report, the due date of the report to be submitted, and specifics of the visit to be made. Resolution of the issues is expected within a one- to two-year period. The institution is also required to submit a Midterm Report in the third year of the six-year accreditation cycle.
B. Procedural actions:
• Defer a decision on reaffirmation of accreditation. Commission decision on accreditation is postponed pending receipt of specified additional information from the institution or to permit an institution to correct serious weaknesses and report to the Commission within six months or less. The response from the institution may be followed by a visit addressed primarily to the reasons for the decision. The Commission will specify the nature, purpose, and scope of the information to be submitted and of the visit to be made. The accredited status of the institution continues during the period of deferment.
Institutions are advised that the Commission is required by the U.S. Department of Education not to allow deficiencies to exist for more than a total of two years. Consequently, institutions may remain under sanction for a cumulative total of no more than two years. If concerns are not resolved within this period, the Commission will take action to terminate accreditation.
• Issue Warning. When the Commission finds that an institution has pursued a course deviating from the Commission's eligibility criteria, standards, or policies to an extent that gives concern to the Commission, it may issue a warning to the institution to correct its deficiencies, refrain from certain activities, or initiate certain activities. The Commission will specify the time within which the institution must resolve these issues. During the warning period, the institution will be subject to reports and visits at a minimum of every six months. The accredited status of the institution continues during the warning period; if warning is issued as a result of the institution's comprehensive review, reaffirmation is delayed during the period of warning.
• Impose Probation. When an deviates significantly from the Commission's eligibility criteria, standards, or policies but not to such an extent as to warrant a show cause order or the termination of candidacy or accreditation, or fails to respond to conditions imposed upon it by the Commission, including a warning, the institution may be placed on probation. The Commission will specify the time within which the college must resolve deficiencies. During the probation period, the institution will be subject to reports and visits at a minimum of every six months. The accredited status of the institution continues during the probation period; if probation is imposed as a result of
the institution's comprehensive review, reaffirmation is delayed during the period of probation.
• Order Show Cause. When the Commission finds an institution to be in substantial non-
compliance with its eligibility criteria, standards, or policies, or when the institution has not responded to the conditions imposed by the Commission, the Commission may require the institution to show cause why its accreditation should not be withdrawn at the end of a stated period. In such cases, the burden of proof will rest on the institution to demonstrate why its accreditation should be continued. The Commission will specify the time within which the institution must resolve deficiencies. If the loss of accreditation will likely cause an institution to close, during the show cause period, the institution must make preparations for closure according to the Commission's Policy Statement on Considerations when Closing a Postsecondary Educational Institution. While under a show cause order, the institution will be subject to reports and visits at a minimum of every six months. The accredited status of the institution continues during the period of the show cause order; if show cause is ordered as a result of the institution's comprehensive review, reaffirmation is delayed during the show cause order.
D. Actions that terminate accreditation
• Terminate Accreditation. If, in the judgment of the Commission, an institution has not satisfactorily explained or corrected matters of which it has been given notice, or has taken an action that has placed it significantly out of compliance with Commission standards, its accreditation may be terminated. The Commission will give the institution written reasons for its decision. Termination of accreditation is subject to a request for review and appeal under the applicable policies and procedures of the Commission and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The accredited status of the institution continues pending completion of any review and appeal process the institution may request. Otherwise, the institution's accreditation ends on the date when the time period permitting such a request expires. In such a case, the institution must complete again the entire accreditation process to qualify for candidacy.
I would ask that Howard or Spensin correct me if I err, but I came away from the Honolulu meeting in September 2003 with the following understanding. As a pilot institution we would be provided some leeway with regards to meeting the new standards in full. We would not, however, be granted any slack with regard to the older standards and standing recommendations from the 1998 visit and the 2001 midterm visit.
This is why I was particularly concerned when the report noted:
Non-compliance with pre-existing recommendations
- However, the college is not in compliance in the following areas that are part of pre-existing recommendations:
- • A Board of Regents policies manual must be put into writing and disseminated to every member of the six site system. This is a significant issue that must be addressed immediately.
- • The research program must be formalized. Vacant positions are not an excuse for not getting these things done.
- • The technology plan must be expanded and updated.
- • The faculty evaluation instrument in current use is not in compliance with the standards.
These items are pre-existing recommendations, an area in which our pilot status grants us no immunity. While I have no experience with the commission and with visit recommendations, my short experience with the team chair indicated that she is very careful with her word choices. Others were present in the exit meeting and at the assembly and should feel free to correct me, but my notes show the word choice: "not in compliance." Sue should correct me if I err, but to be found "not in compliance" on pre-existing recommendations is, for me, an indication that we may be in for some difficult news in the June/July time frame.
In separate conversations, Jessica, Rich, and others, have noted that we can probably address and resolve these matters in a six month to twelve month time frame. The board of regents will have to assemble their policy manual, the institutional research and planning office will have to team up with various other units and committees to develop a formal research program, TAC will have to reach out to all six sites and build a new technology plan, and personnel will have to help bring closure to the process of adopting the new faculty evaluation form.
Although I know some of these might require twelve months, options such as a procedural action with a deferred decision or a warning and no reaffirmation would effectively give us six months (January 2005) to report and comply.
Equally important, because some of the options for non-compliance include a required visit, the college would be prudent to develop a contingency budget plan for an ACCJC visit spring 2005. Here again Sue might guide me better, but I would guess that we should plan for the possibility of a team of one to two commissioners coming out to evaluate our progress.
Beyond the outstanding areas of non-compliance, the college will receive recommendations to address the "very serious" concerns the team had with improving communication, integrating planning, identifying and assessing of student learning outcomes, and creating continuity, standardization, and an evenness in instruction, learning environments, and student services across our site site system.
Henceforth I am likely to adopt the language of the visit chair and no longer refer to our sites as campuses. We are not six campuses. There is no such thing as a Kosrae state campus, Pohnpei state campus, Chuuk state campus, nor a Yap state campus. We are one campus with six sites. We have a Kosrae site, a Pohnpei site, a Chuuk site, a Yap site, an FMI site, and a site at Palikir. As the chair noted, a chair or director should be able to be located at any site and have authority to handle matters at all other sites. The chair of natural sciences and mathematics need not be at the Palikir site. The chair could operate from any site. Faculty and their courses should be able to be "picked up" and dropped into any other site with no difference in the learning or the resources available for that learning.
Bear in mind that the visit chair cannot and did not tell us what to do, she could not, would not, and did not. She was only trying to help us think in new ways. If half of our students are on the Chuuk site, then half of our administrative capacity really ought to be there too. Each of us, myself too, has been chained to thinking that we are each not only separate and somehow sovereign, but that one site that dubs itself the "national" site can dictate terms unilaterally to the other sites.
The team noted the lack of participation in committees by the other sites, with the exception of the Pohnpei site. Of course we noted the very real cost of travel. The team chair was clear: we decided to create a six site system, not the commission. When we did that we decided to bear the cost. If we cannot afford the cost, then we cannot have a six site system. We either bear the cost of the system we built or we cut back to an affordable system.
Reminds me that one member of Congress has gone on record calling on the college to roll back the tuition increase. We need to communicate and communicate now that we will cost more than other colleges: it is expensive to run a six site system spread across thousands of kilometers of oceans. We are the single most spread out community college on the planet earth. Does anyone really think our system can be operated on the same budget as a community college nestled in a small community in northern California? We will have to go "out on the stump" and start explaining what an accredited six site system on four islands costs.
Internally we have to stop making decisions without more input from all six sites including their surrounding communities. Yes, this will take longer. Lead times on decisions will be increased.
Command and Control
The visit team was clear also on the matter that we cannot have a six site system where academic and student services units report only to the president. The heads of each site must report to and be under the aegis of the vice presidents. Vice presidents and division chairs must have command and control over hiring, wherever that hiring occurs. This is a sea change and will be very difficult to implement - both politically and physically. Communication will have to be completely reworked. The circulating of hard copy documents via air transport is too slow. We need an electronic approval system. Not just email. I know believe we will have to sink money into a decision support system software package that allows documents to be circulated and approvals to be attached and tracked - all via the Internet. So that a part-time hire is not post-hoc approved, or, as happened this term, is post-hoc disapproved. Any full-time hire at one campus should be, must be, good enough for all of the other campuses.
I have spoken to some of the need for a new vision in technology, a new plan to put laptops in the hands of every student sometime in the next five to ten years. To move out of the computer lab business and move toward of goal of one student per computer. With lap tops now sliding under a thousand dollars, five to ten years will see near on disposable laptops. Whatever is eventually decided, TAC needs to start working on a plan now. A plan with vision and legs.
The plan needs to look at ways to move beyond "fire-fighting" mode and provide our IT personnel with the tools and firepower they need to handle the onslaught of viruses, worms, and spam - both at the server and the client.
We also need to enslave technology to knit together our six site system. TAC and IT should articulate a vision as to how we can eventually bring "six sites" into one room for a six way meeting. Yes, video conferencing technology is not yet ready for prime time in the world of low-bandwidth satellite connections. Still, we need to start piloting and trial running technologies that hold some promise of improving committee communication.
The team was clear, "at this time the college must immediately provide adequate facilities for students learning at the Chuuk site." I think this is a six month recommendation: we have six to fix or face a more serious decision from the commission. Mike might not have tackled the issue in the most politically sensitive manner, but the above sentence lends support to his original contention last September that we had until March to "fix" Chuuk. We are being told immediately. Not next August and certainly not next January. My guess is that at the end of six months we must have provided adequate facilities.
Bear in mind that "adequate facilities" are not buildings alone but the whole array of resources that support learning including learning resources, learning environments, student services, recreation, and maintenance.
We must work with Jojo on finding ways forward for his site, ways to meet the needs of the students while working on immediate solutions. We must also build contingency plans: if there is no other option and we head into August with the present facilities, what is the number of students that the facilities (not just the physical classrooms) can support?
Facilities and learning environments may also constrain what can be offered. SC 120 Biology cannot be offered without laboratory facilities. There would be more sense in meeting the general education lab science core requirement with MR 120 Marine Biology and a qualified marine biologist than attempting to do SC 120 Biology or other courses that require a laboratory.
Bear in mind too that a move to a new facility will also require a substantive change document and approval from the substantive change committee.
Other thoughts on other sites
As we work with Chuuk site and look to find ways to provide continuity and evenness across the system along with cost control, let us not overlook the option of specialization. Dr. Joseph and Dr. Josecutty are providing a superb agriculture program and have some exciting new options coming down the line in food sciences. Kosrae remains an agricultural gem despite the citrus canker. Their active farms and meristem tissue culture laboratory impressed even the visiting team chair. Even the Palikir site with all its land cannot match the program that the Kosrae site has built.
I think the Yap site has some exciting opportunities in the health sciences under the new leadership of public health director there. There may be some exciting and production partnership opportunities for us as an institution with respect to the programs Greg Dever is developing over in Palau. It is not only internal communication that we must improve, but we must become better and more adept at communicating, partnering, and forming consortia with other institutions.
The first big caveat is that the exit report is simply an oral report, a recommendation to the commission. The commission will issue their own report in June or July. In all likelihood, however, the commission will support the recommendations of the team. I know we will work on addressing as many of the issues as we can prior to June. I have been informally using the proposed new faculty evaluation form for nigh on a year now. Some of my faculty members have even signed the form. This one should be a slam dunk. Six weeks prior to the commission meeting in June we should send a report on progress made on the pre-existing issues.
Many people have congratulated me this past week. Any congratulations should go to the team who did the hard work of putting together the self study. I am deeply in debt to each and every person on the team. You have done a wonderful job.
I was excited by the recommendations of the team, my greatest fear was that they would find some serious issue that we had failed to identify in the self study. My fear was not realized and I take that as evidence that we did a good job. We were transparent, honest, open, and forthright. I know that this approach has helped us during this visit. That said, the non-compliance with pre-existing recommendations casts a long shadow over the possibility of a clean and clear reaffirmation. The final report will be more detailed and may include other areas of concern. I would have to admit that I would not be surprised if we were not reaffirmed and were put on warning status. Although many have speculated about the possibility of probation, I now tend to think that would only occur after a warning. The exit assembly did not mention any concern as to financial stability or academic level system-wide. The later was only mentioned in the context of it being uneven across the system.
The second caveat is that I would note that all of this is merely my opinion. We all need to work together and reach consensual decisions about how to move forward. I am confident that we can move forward as a six site system. We all will have to work with the political leadership to help them understand the need to work with us and support us. Tell me what you think we should do, give me feedback. I do not have the answers, but we collectively do have the answers.
Please forgive me for my errors, correct me where I am wrong, chastise me if I have misspoken!
Dana Lee Ling