In a briefing for the University’s executive officers and deans yesterday morning, the chair of the Higher Learning Commission delegation that evaluated the University announced that his committee would recommend the University be reaccredited.
The Michigan Daily was given exclusive access to the meeting, where Celestino Fernández, who was chairing the HLC’s delegation to University, said the committee will suggest the University be reaccredited, adding that the final decision will be made by the HLC’s Board of Trustees later this year.
Though Fernández told the approximately 30 University officials and fellow HLC committee members at the briefing that the HLC site visit committee had found a great deal of evidence that the University is meeting or exceeding standards set forth by the HLC, he said the University should examine its commitment to diversity.
During the process of reaccreditation review, the University is evaluated by the HLC on five key criteria areas — how the University fulfills its mission, the University’s plan for the future, the quality of the classroom educational experience, campus community engagement outside the classroom and the way in which the University serves and interacts with members of the campus community.
Fernández said, if anything, the University officials “understated” the University’s performance in their self study report — a document that compiles information from across campus on the University’s operations to help both University officials and HLC representatives better understand if and how the University is meeting standards.
However, Fernández did say the HLC committee felt the University should focus additional attention to one area within the first criterion, which calls for the University to operate “with integrity to ensure the fulfillment of its mission through structures and processes that involve the board, administration, faculty, staff and students.”
Without going into extensive detail during the meeting, Fernández said the University should ensure this pledge is held and continues to be upheld by taking a look at its commitment to diversity.
However, Fernández reported the concern was minor enough that the HLC delegation would not propose outside intervention, instead telling University officials they should look into the matter.
At the meeting, University President Mary Sue Coleman said she was happy with the process and was appreciative of the hard work both members of the HLC delegation and officials at the University had put into the process.
In an interview following the meeting, Coleman declined to comment on the concern regarding diversity raised by the HLC delegation, saying it was too early to discuss the matter since the University had not yet received the delegation’s report. However, Coleman said she appreciated the delegation’s input and advice, adding that the committee was trying to help the University advance its work.
HLC delegates will now return to their respective universities and will work on drafting the committee’s report to the HLC. The committee has four to six weeks to draft the report, but Fernández said in an interview Monday that he expects the report to be compiled earlier.
Once the report is written, a draft will be sent to University officials to review for factual accuracy over a two-week period. In the interview, Fernández stressed that University officials would only be allowed to offer factual corrections — like if a name or date was mixed up.
After the committee reviews the draft with suggested corrections, it will finalize its report and will submit it to the HLC Board of Trustees who will make the official decision about whether or not to reaccredit the University.
It is possible that if the University does not agree with the assessment offered by the HLC delegation in its report, it could appeal the findings. However, Coleman did not make any indication yesterday that she planned to do so based on what she knows about the HLC’s findings at this point.
The University undergoes a reaccreditation review every 10 years. During the last review in 2000, the HLC did not raise concerns about diversity in its report.
“With strong leadership from the president, provost and executive officer, the University of Michigan is a national leader in its passionate commitment to diversity and affirmative action,” the 2000 reaccreditation delegation from the HLC wrote in its report.
It is not yet known what the HLC delegation will include in it’s report to the HLC Board of Trustee’s and what statement, if any, will be included about their comments on diversity.
The HLC delegation arrived on campus Sunday to start a two-day series of interviews that ran on Monday and Tuesday before leaving after yesterday morning’s executive briefing.
However, HLC representatives have been working on reviewing University documentation for quite some time prior to their visit. University officials have been preparing the documentation and coordinating the site visit for the past three years.