UA Board of Regents ceases consideration of single accreditation and suspends system-wide academic program reviews
In an emergency meeting today, the University of Alaska Board of Regents voted to
modify two previous decisions made when it was facing a state funding crisis. The
first, by a vote of 9-2, was to cease consideration of a single accreditation until
after the University of Alaska Fairbanks secures its institutional accreditation in
2021. If the board chooses to actively consider single accreditation in the future,
it will direct the president to conduct an independent cost benefit analysis and clearly
examine accreditation issues. In the second action, by a vote of 9-1, the board suspended
the systemwide expedited academic program review process until the Board has the time
to consult with chancellors and the president on a path forward.
Today’s emergency meeting began with a discussion that included Sonny Ramaswamy, president
of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and Mac Powell, NWCCU
Senior Vice President, regarding issues raised in the commission’s Sept. 26 letter
to the university. The university has until October 31 to provide a written response.
“We sent the letter… to make sure that the board heard the concerns we are hearing,” Ramaswamy said. “We want you to hold a mirror up, to see for yourself what is going on.”
The standards that the NWCCU raised include clarity of roles and responsibilities of university leaders. Ramaswamy clarified that NWCCU does not consider the situation to be at a critical tipping point regarding maintaining accreditation. Rather, he said, there are concerns to be addressed.
“At the end of the day, you are vested with the responsibility to make decisions, as fiduciary owners of the university,” Ramaswamy told the board. “It’s not up to us to tell you how to do that.”
Students, faculty and staff have raised questions, wrote to the NWCCU and the Board of Regents, passed resolutions, and voiced concerns about the restructuring process. Students testified that they feel left out of the decision-making process. Faculty representatives shared their concerns with the process, timeline and the authority of the chancellors as CEOs of their universities. With today’s motions, the regents signaled that they are willing to pause and review processes and policies and to incorporate and communicate inclusive decision-making processes in order to meet accreditation standards.
“I don’t see it as being reactionary,” said Regent Lisa Parker, “but as being responsive to the constituents we are supposed to serve.”
The Board also agreed to meet again in the final week of October to review the response to NWCCU, and to hold a strategy session at a future date to further address issues raised by NWCCU.