BY SUZANNE JACOBS
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 15, 2010
In a series of meetings yesterday, members of the Higher Learning Commission — the organization responsible for conducting the University’s reaccreditation assessment — heard feedback from members of the campus community as part of the process.
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Students, faculty and staff at the University spoke yesterday with members of the HLC in open-forum style meetings to discuss their experience at the University.
The reaccreditation process, which happens every 10 years, requires the University to file an internal report and for members of the HLC to visit campus. The assessment evaluates the University on five criteria: mission and integrity, preparedness for the future, student learning and effective teaching, application of knowledge and engagement outside of the classroom. The HLC’s visit began yesterday and will end tomorrow.
Though the meetings were open to the public, members of the press were not permitted to attend the forums.
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham told the Daily that the meetings were closed to members of the press because the forums were designed to provide a private, confidential atmosphere for faculty, staff and students to raise concerns.
Cunningham added that representatives of the University would also not be sitting in on the meetings in an official capacity, as a way to ensure people would feel comfortable voicing their concerns.
“It’s private,” she said. “It’s a confidential conversation.”
Immediately before entering the open meeting for University faculty, Celestino Fernández, chair of the HLC team, also said the purpose of the meetings was to provide faculty, staff and students the chance to speak openly to the HLC about any comments or concerns they have about the University.
Fernandez said the job of the HLC is to both assess the University and offer suggestions for improvement.
“We wear two hats – consultants and evaluators,” Fernández said.
Theresa Reid, executive director of Arts on Earth, which is a collaboration between the School of Art and Design, the Taubmen College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the College of Engineering, attended the open meeting for University staff.
Reid said the members of the HLC asked those in attendance how they impacted the student learning experience and if they felt valued by the University.
Reid said the members of the HLC were “flabbergasted” by the optimism they saw in spite of Michigan’s economic woes.
Jon Cameron, an equipment coordinator for LSA instructional support services, also attended the staff forum and said everyone in attendance gushed about how great it is to work at the University.
Prof. Shaké Ketefian, who teaches in the School of Nursing and was at the faculty meeting, said much of the conversation in the faculty forum was centered around budgetary concerns and internationalization programs.
Many of the faculty members in the meeting complimented the way the University involved faculty members in budgetary decisions, according to Ketefian, but many said they were concerned about the uncertainty of the future of the University’s budget.
Ketefian also said some of the faculty felt there was a need for greater budgetary commitment to international programs. There was discussion, she said, of a new program in which University President Mary Sue Coleman’s office promises to match any donation made to international programs.
Every time the University gets reaccredited, University officials choose a specific topic for in-depth attention in pursuit of improvement. This time around, the University is focusing its special emphasis study on internationalization.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily in January, University Provost Teresa Sullivan said University officials chose internalization because they are considering reevaluating University study abroad programs.
“We’re thinking about different models,” Sullivan told the Daily at the time. “I think the old model of spending one semester of my junior year in Florence isn’t what people want to do for study abroad anymore.”
“I think that they’ve got different ideas in mind. Maybe it would be three weeks in Beijing and three weeks in Nairobi and comparing and contrasting what you saw in terms of water treatment systems in those two places,” she said in January. “There’s a lot more ways to make it relevant to your program and more than tourism.”
An open meeting for students was also held yesterday.
-Daily News Editor Kyle Swanson contributed to this report.