February 24, 2003

Early SACS report is good news

By Michael Terrazas mterraz@emory.edu

Emory received a favorable preliminary report from the visiting team of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) during its recent site visit to campus,
Feb. 2–5, as part of the University’s reaccreditation process.

In its review, Emory received three recommendations (to which the University must respond), a dozen suggestions and nine commendations. The oral report, delivered at the site team’s exit interview, is not final, but Assistant Vice Provost Kim Loudermilk said it is unusual for final SACS reports to vary significantly from the preliminary findings.

“I don’t think anything was terribly surprising,” said Loudermilk, adding that some feedback will be clearer in SACS’ final analysis. For example, one of the three recommendations was that Emory “must initiate and maintain a process to review graduate curricula.

“We think we do that,” Loudermilk said, “so we’ll really need to see their written report to understand what they meant by that and whether they are referring to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences or the graduate programs in the professional schools.”
SACS’ two other recommendations stipulate that:

• Emory must describe its association with SACS appropriately in all published materials.

• Emory must maintain “appropriate records” of the credentials of all its faculty members.
Again, to fully understand what SACS considers “appropriate records,” Emory must wait for the final report. “The SACS requirement has to do with record-keeping and is not a comment on the qualifications of our faculty,” Loudermilk said.

Perhaps more intriguing is SACS’ list of 12 suggestions, on which Emory is not obligated to act to secure reaccreditation. These state that the University should:

• develop a comprehensive strategic plan.

• systematically evaluate and measure student outcomes.

• provide opportunities to incorporate undergraduates into faculty research.

• develop opportunities for undergraduates to improve oral communication skills and institute means to evaluate those skills.

• expand its relationship with resources like the Carter Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

• update the faculty Gray Book, as well as school tenure and promotion guidelines, to “state more precisely faculty obligations to perform their duties in a professional, ethical and collegial manner that enhances the purpose of the institution.”

• work to link faculty concerns with those of the administration and the Board of Trustees.

• update its computer use policies.

• consider centralizing or coordinating its information technology operations.

• provide greater collaboration between schools (especially the graduate and professional schools) and Campus Life.

• review and further develop its relationship with alumni.

• escalate its efforts toward a capital campaign by enhancing institutional advancement and developing a strategic plan.

Finally, several areas of University operations received commendations from SACS. The visiting team lauded:

• Oxford for its Advisory Council on Teaching and scholarship of teaching and learning programs.

• the University for its emphasis on interdisciplinarity.

• the graduate school for the TATTO (Teaching Assistant and Training Opportunity) program and Dean’s Teaching Fellowships.

• the General Libraries for both their responsiveness to the needs of the community and their effective use of technological resources.

• the Emory Center for Interactive Teaching for its support of faculty in the use of technology.

• the Information Technology Division for its vision and strategic plans.

• the University for its philosopy and approach to athletics.

• the University for its capital match program and realization of the Campus Master Plan.

In roughly a month, Emory will receive a draft of the SACS report, at which time the University will have the opportunity to dispute what it considers errors of fact, Loudermilk said. SACS then will take Emory’s position into consideration as it prepares the final document. Reaccreditation through SACS is granted at one of two annual meetings (June and December), and Loudermilk said she hopes Emory’s procedure is concluded in time for the University’s reaccreditation to come through in June.






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