July 25, 2007

Faculty group plans for accreditation review

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A group of faculty members at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has begun the long process of preparing the University for its next accreditation review, tentatively set for 2009.

Kevin J. H. Dettmar, professor of English at SIUC, is heading up the steering committee that includes five subcommittees across campus. During the next few months, the group will collect information aimed at achieving accreditation for the University when its current 10-year certification expires.

Patricia B. Elmore, interim associate provost for academic affairs, will lead the overall process.

College and universities in the United States may seek either educational or institutional accreditation. SIUC is seeking institutional accreditation, which looks at the overall university instead of individual programs.

An institutional accrediting body examines a university from top to bottom, evaluating its mission, goals and achievements as well as standards and criteria. It also considers governance, financial accountability, admissions, student services and internal and external relationships, among other factors.

Accreditation is a crucial status that certifies the University can live up to its educational promises to students, Dettmar said.

"Without accreditation, we really can't do business," Dettmar said. "Accreditation is the guarantee to students that we deliver what we promise in terms of the educational experience we offer our students. We could go on without accreditation, technically, but practically we'd have to close down.

"For SIUC, accreditation is more importantly a chance to get feedback on our operations: how well are we doing what we say we want to do. It's a chance to ask some experienced experts in the field how well we measure up both to the accreditation criteria, but also how well we measure up to our own ideals," he said.

A group of administrative peers from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association will visit the campus in spring 2009.

The association will examine SIUC based on five criteria, including: mission and integrity; preparing for the future; student learning and effective teaching; acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge; and engagement and service.

During its last review in 1999, SIUC received a 10-year accreditation, which is the longest one the commission awards and a signal that the University is operating on solid academic ground, Dettmar said.

The steering committee began the training and planning stage of the process in fall 2006, appointing task forces focused on the five criteria soon after. This fall, it will review committee reports before preparing a draft self-study report during the winter and a final self-study report by December 2008. The group plans open meetings early in 2009 in preparation for the association campus visit in spring 2009.

The group also is planning a Web site dedicated to the accreditation effort, which should be up by the start of fall semester. The Web site will provide information and opportunities for feedback and campus involvement, officials said.

Chairs of the five subcommittees include Fern H. Logan, associate professor in the Department of Cinema & Photography; Susan E. Tulis, associate dean of Library Affairs; Frank G. Houdek, associate dean for academic affairs at the SIU School of Law; James S. Allen, director of University Core Curriculum; and Bruce A. Devantier, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Martha J. Norman, an administrative assistant in the Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor, also is assisting with the effort.