University Prepares for review

By Benjamin Holda, [email protected]

The University of Akron has begun preparation for a comprehensive review done on it by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which is the regional body that grants federal accreditation to higher learning institutions. This visit is routine, typically held once every two years.

This visit, scheduled for Feb. 12-15, will judge the University across five categories.

  • Mission: The University’s mission must be clear and publicly declared, and the institution must act in a way aligned with that mission.
  • Ethical and Responsible Conduct: Integrity and accountability must be present in all levels of the University’s infrastructure.
  • Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support: The education and educational resources available to the student body are of a high quality.
  • Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement: The learning environment provided by the University is suitable and responsible, and the University makes continued strides towards improvement.
  • Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness: This concerns the plans the University has towards improving its institutional structure, and its resource management.

HLC has accredited the University since 1914; however, last year’s visit, during former president Scott Scarborough’s tenure, cited a handful of concerns in the areas of shared governance and transparency, stating that though the administration communicated with the faculty in several ways, “there [was] still a strong sense of a need for additional improvements in consultation, transparency, and in particular, in explaining decisions.”

Of the University trustees at that time, the report says, “Trustees’ orientation appears to concentrate more on matters peripheral to the [U]niversity (i.e., relationships with donors and fundraising) than on issues that are integral to the University’s structure and operations (e.g., shared governance).”

Shortly afterward, the Akron chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) sent a complaint to HLC saying that, since its visit, the administration had made several large moves without the consultation or consent of the faculty.

But the cause for those complaints is changing.

“We’ve worked really hard and put a lot of energy into those [areas]. Obviously the leadership has changed,” said UA Senior Vice Provost Rex Ramsier. “Our new President has a very different approach and a different style, [and is] very open and transparent.”

Regarding other changes made last year, like the attempted rebranding to Ohio’s Polytechnic University, Ramsier said: “The board has taken it upon itself to listen to these concerns and to make a lot of these changes. Accreditation is about improvement.”

He added that UA’s University Council, Undergraduate Student Government, and Faculty Senate now have an increased role in transparency on campus.

“[We’re] never done,” he says, “but I think we’re in a lot better shape than when we were when that complaint was filed.”

More information about HLC’s 2015 campus visit can be found here:

UA is currently calling for community responses to help develop a representative and robust picture of the state of things. A form to submit a response can be found at that link.