Last week I posted an item about a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) that considered whether the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) — which accredits two-year institutions in California, Hawaii, and the Pacific islands, 95% of which are in California — meets federal regulations for a regional accrediting agency. Attending this meeting, I was struck by a remarkable fact: The committee consists of 18 members, but not a single member is currently teaching at a college or university! In other words, although most people consider educational effectiveness to be a critical criterion for accreditation, actual teachers, members of the faculty, play no role at all in certifying accrediting agencies!
Currently NACIQI includes 11 current and former administrators (mostly presidents, provosts, and chancellors), 5 outside independent consultants, 1 trustee, and 1 student (a student member is required under the Higher Education Act). [Interestingly, it also appears that not a single member of the committee has any experience at a community college, which sheds a certain light on its ability to provide meaningful advice about ACCJC.]
According to the NACIQI website,
The Committee advises the Secretary of Education on matters related to postsecondary (or higher education) accreditation and the eligibility and certification process for higher education institutions to participate in the Federal student aid programs. Its primary function is to provide recommendations to the Secretary concerning whether accrediting entities’ standards are sufficiently rigorous and effective in their application to ensure that the entity is a reliable authority regarding the quality of the education or training provided by the institutions or programs it accredits.
NACIQI is composed of 18 members with six-year membership terms. According to statute,
individuals are appointed as NACIQI members –
- On the basis of the individuals’ experience, integrity, impartiality, and good judgment;
- From among individuals who are representatives of, or knowledgeable concerning, education and training beyond secondary education, representing all sectors and types of institutions of higher education (as defined in section 201 of the HEA), as well as a student representative; and
- On the basis of the individuals’ technical qualifications, professional standing, and demonstrated knowledge in the fields of accreditation and administration in higher education.
Members are appointed equally by the Secretary, House of Representatives, and the Senate as follows:
- Secretary – six appointees with three-year initial terms, including the student member;
- House of Representatives – six appointees by the Speaker of the House with four-year initial terms; three of whom shall be recommended by the majority leader of the House and three of whom shall be recommended by the minority leader of the House; and
- Senate – six appointees by the President pro tempore with six-year initial terms; three of whom shall be recommended by the majority leader of the Senate and three of whom shall be recommended by the minority leader of the Senate.
Given these criteria it is nothing short of astonishing that somehow no one could identify an actual college or university teacher qualified to serve, let alone one who might adequately represent the interests and expertise of faculty generally as determined, say, by the endorsement of one or more leading faculty organizations, like, say, the AAUP. One can only imagine the outcry if, for example, the Secretary of Defense were advised on the purchase of military aircraft by a body without a single practicing aeronautical engineer!
As I have previously argued on this blog, faculty members nationwide are growing increasingly skeptical of the credibility of accrediting bodies. One welcome, if small, initial step to address this skepticism might be to include at least one faculty representative, perhaps nominated from a list provided by faculty organizations, among the members of NACIQI.