Commission On Higher Ed Aims Sight On Accreditation

I hope ACRLog readers have been following the proceedings of the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education over the last few months. Sometimes we are so focused on our libraries and institutions that we neglect to pay attention to the industry in which we work. I suppose that’s one reason I recently shared my higher education reading list. This morning the major higher education news outlets reported on a big development from the Commission, though I don’t think it was unexpected given its nature and the past work of its chairman.

Previously the Commission, which is focusing on how to create greater accountability for American IHEs, seemed to be concentrating on a national standards test for college students. Today they turn their attention to the regional accreditation process itself. In a issue paper released by the commission, they essentially question what in their view is:

a system that is created, maintained, paid for and governed by institutions is necessarily more likely to look out for institutional interests.

The Commission appears to have a number of problems with the current accreditation system beyond the fact that those being accredited create and support the system (I don’t think I’m stretching things by saying that the Commission is suggesting that because colleges and universities support the system, we go too easy on each other):
* accreditation standards between the regional agencies vary too widely
* specialized program accreditations are completely voluntary
* the quality of the higher education has fallen dramatically despite accreditation
* the current system if more focused on the needs of IHEs than the needs of the public
* the public has difficulty accessing accreditation data and reports

What is the solution to the problems of the existing accreditation system? More federal government oversight and involvement of course. The paper says the solution is:

A new organization could achieve the multiple needs for alignment. The Congress and the President could enact legislation creating The National Accreditation Foundation.

I believe it is Larry Hardesty who is fond of saying, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” in referring to such proposals. Having just went through the self-study process at my own institution, and having recently returned from participating on a re-accreditation review team at another institution, I would agree that the regional accreditation system – a system in which we review ourselves – is going to have some weaknesses and challenges. However, it is a system that in the opinion of many academics works effectively to maintain the quality of higher education. It is true, as the issue paper points out, that very few institutions ever lose their accreditation, but those who have worked within the system know that accreditation teams do observe and identify serious accountability flaws within institutions that are then closely monitored by the accrediting bodies until they are corrected. The thought of the federal government, especially given the ineptitude of the current administration, taking over the responsibility for higher education accreditation certainly sends a chill up my spine.

Teaching Center Blogs

Looking for another way to engage the Center for Teaching on your campus? Try contributing to their blog. Here are a few mentioned in a message from the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (also known simply as “POD”) discussion list:

Is there a teaching center (or writing center) blog on your campus? If so, do you contribute? Let us know.

Yet Another Leadership Development Opportunity

If you’re not already planning to attend the Frye Leadership Institute or the ACRL/Harvard Leadership Institute, you may be interested by the newest entrant in the field, the Peabody College Academic Library Leadership Institute to be held for the first time this summer at Vanderbilt University.

The latest collaboration between Patricia Senn Breivik and E. Gordon Gee, who brought us the landmark Information Literacy: Revolution in the Library almost 20 years ago, the Institute promises to explore “new roles for libraries that may emerge from [the broader context of higher education] to support the goals and priorities of the parent institution. ”

Also interesting is Vanderbilt’s challenge to other leadership development programs:

“The focus on understanding leadership and the external environment, coupled with an in depth understanding of the higher education context of libraries, distinguishes Vanderbilt’s institute from others, which emphasize management skills and the internal library organization.”

Wow – anyone from Harvard or EDUCAUSE want to reply to that one?

Without taking anything away from what will undoubtedly be an excellent program at Vanderbilt, it seems a bit unfair to suggest that some of their competitors in an increasingly busy “summer institute” market aren’t also taking a broad view of the role of the library leader as educational leader.

One thing that did disappoint me in reading the program overview is that, despite the presence of Breivik and one of her colleagues on the National Forum on Information Literacy on the faculty, I didn’t see information literacy noted as a curricular area for discussion. Topics such as strategic planning, human resource development, and fund development are common fare among many library leadership development programs and it would have been nice to see this program stake out some new territory by including a clear focus on the place of the library in the teaching and learning landscape on campus.

Start your engines because applications are due March 1st!

Higher Ed BlogCon

From the Bibliocasting discussion list:

Thomson Peterson’s, PRNewswire, and CASE are pleased to present *HigherEdBlogCon – Transforming Academic Communities with New Tools of the Social Web. * This brand-new, all-online event aims to bring together in a single Web space many of the leading players who are transforming academe with their use of the new tools of the Social Web.

All presentations will be made available on the event Web site at no charge to participants (with the exception of the live, Web/audio CASE Online Speaker Series events).

*HigherEd BlogCon 2006* will focus on the use of blogs, wikis, RSS, podcasts, vblogs, and other digital tools in a range of areas in academe. We invite you to propose presentations for HigherEd BlogCon 2006.

See the full CFP at Information Wants to be Free.