Reaccreditation delays Diversity Initiative

October 7, 2010

Every ten years, Georgetown needs to be reaccredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Although the University must meet all of Middle States’ 14 “characteristics of excellence,” Georgetown is never really in danger of losing its accreditation. With that in mind, this time, Georgetown’s Middle States Steering Committee has chosen to focus on four of the criteria, not all 14.

“This selective topics option, which is increasingly chosen by institutions like Georgetown, gives you an opportunity to say, look, we know for the most part, we don’t have to defend stuff we’re doing well,” Professor Randall Bass, co-chair of the Steering Committee, said. “We’re going to take a couple of things we think the time is right for the institution to particularly focus on.”

Although the Middle States Commission will not issue its verdict on any of Georgetown’s proposals until late 2012, the reaccreditation process will have a concrete impact on the University’s Diversity and Inclusiveness Initiative.

The work of the Academic Working Group, which proposed requiring all Georgetown students to take two classes related to diversity, will likely be delayed and integrated into the larger reaccreditation process. Concrete changes, such as the establishment of a diversity requirement, will most likely not occur until after the University is reaccredited, according to Marjory Blumenthal, associate provost for academic affairs and the other co-chair of the Steering Committee.

This may frustrate student leaders who were already annoyed by a Sept. 21 email from the Office of the President which suggested that the school has made very little progress on the Diversity Initiative.

“There have been steps in the right direction, but the University response is not adequate,” Samara Jinks, president of the Black Students Association, said. “I’ve seen a lot of this before. I’m not gonna get my hopes up.”

Cristina Gil, the head of public relations for MEChA, agreed.

“It comes to the point, as a student, you want to see action,” Gil said.

That very well could change as part of the Steering Committee’s ongoing self-study, but not until those final plans are approved in fall 2012.

“We don’t want to introduce something new and have a new framework emerge and be lost,” Blumenthal said. “We want the new framework, which is the larger set of concerns, to incorporate this.”

In 2002, when Georgetown sought to defend each of the 14 categories, Bass said the University did not have the opportunity to engage in a deeper self-examination.

Georgetown’s Steering Committee held a town hall meeting on Monday to discuss the University’s approach to the process.

At the meeting, the committee announced that the self-study will focus on general education, an assessment of student learning, how the University engages in strategic planning and an assessment of the school’s overall performance through five different working groups.

“I don’t think there’s any question that we would never get accredited because of this analysis,” said Artemis Kirk, University Librarian. “We’re merely here to say we’re doing this, we think we’re doing it really well and we want to do it better so that we’re  a better institution and thinking forward.”

The committee has already constructed a proposal, and will continue to hold town hall meetings throughout the year in preparation for the Middle States visit in spring 2012.

Bass said that the committee will “build momentum during the year” by launching a website and sending out an email survey asking for student input. He said students should expect an email about general education and curriculum pedagogy in about a month.

Blumenthal said that the committee will be paying special attention to general education because Georgetown lacks an explanation for why students in each of the four undergraduate schools must take the core requirements, even if the individual schools relate the classes to their respective missions.

“We haven’t really ever had a campus-wide look that’s greater than just the smaller parts,” Bass said. “Liberal arts education for the sake of it doesn’t fly.”

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simply a ploy by the provost’s office to delay the initiative and hope it goes away. what are the chances we don’t get accredited? how involved do the top players need to be? its simply a question of priorities, and simply put, the diversity initiative is not a priority of the provost’s office.