WKU begins prepping for accredidation process

Natalie Hayden

In 2015, WKU will be up for its reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Although it’s still three years away, preparations are beginning now, said Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

According to the SACS website, while accreditation is “a set of rigorous protocols and research-based processes for evaluating an institution’s organizational effectiveness,” it’s also more than that.

“Today, accreditation examines the whole institution — the programs, the cultural context, the community of stakeholders — to determine how well the parts work together to meet the needs of students,” according to the SACS website.

SACS will make sure WKU complies with its standards. This applies to the university as a whole, said Richard Miller, vice provost and chief diversity officer.

“It’s not just an academic affairs accreditation or non-academic,” he said. “It’s the entire institution that is accredited. So it affects everyone from faculty, to staff, to students, to employees of the institution. It’s that important.”

Accreditation standards look at many different things, Miller said. It applies to items such as academic programs, faculty credentials, the institution’s mission and how the university handles student complaints.

Miller described the different principles of accreditation as “goals and objectives.”

A leadership team with different committees will be created to address each goal set by SACS and will make sure the university is adhering to each one.

The leadership committee will compile its findings into an institutional document, which Miller said is a “self-study.”

“We prepare that document in response to all of the principles that we have to address,” he said.

The committee will send it to SACS’s off-sight committee, which is made up of other member institutions, to be reviewed and sent back.

“We will revise the document based on the input that we get from the off-sight review committee, and then we will resubmit the document for another committee, which is the on-site review committee,” Miller said. “That’s the committee that actually comes to the institution.”

Emslie said the on-site committee will look for student involvement in accreditation, among other things. They may stop students walking by and ask if they know what SACS is or if they know anything about accreditation.

Because of this, Miller said WKU will work to engage students.

“We’ll have forums on campus. We’ll go through (Student Government Association) for students to come listen and participate and ask questions,” he said. “We may even send representatives to the residence halls or set up a table in DUC.”

While Miller said it’s rare for a school not to make it through accreditation, it would be a big deal. Students wouldn’t be able to get loans or Pell grants, and the institution would lose its integrity.

However, Miller is confident that WKU will do well. He said the university did very well last year in its 5-year review.

Miller said he’s excited about the process, because it not only lets the university see what it’s doing well but also what it needs to fix, too.

“And that’s the whole idea behind accreditation: that we want to make sure that the institutions are sound, that they’re offering quality programs, that they’re hiring faculty and staff that are well educated and prepared in their professions,” he said. “It’s a good exercise. I, for one, am looking forward to it.”