Why things will never change: reaccreditation just more administrational obfuscation

Anna Swenson

Face it, Wildcats: Things are never going to change.

Over the next several years, the UA will be going through a self-motivated, government-mandated process of reaccreditation known as the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools 2010 Self-Study Report. The “”steering”” committee of this report hopes to “”ascertain whether the university satisfies five basic criteria for accreditation,”” with criteria involving having a publicly stated purpose and accomplishing that purpose.

The paperwork on the process even requires the committee to obtain the opinions of the students. They are sending e-mails to students asking them to participate in discussion groups on the process, stating, “”The UA is depending on the input received from discussion groups for the association’s 2010 Self-Study Report. This information will ultimately contribute to making the UA a better university.”” Could it be that they actually care what we think?

Sorry, Wilbur, the answer is a resounding no.

An evaluation of the basic effectiveness of the university is a welcome idea, especially given the criticism students and faculty have been expressing with regard to the direction this university is taking.

We need a mechanism to determine whether the money is going where it should, to programs that are accomplishing what they should, and whether services are available where they are needed.

Meeting and maintaining minimum standards of quality and integrity is the least of what needs to be assessed here, an institution of higher learning that supposedly educates students with the information they need for the rest of their lives and can cost nearly $16,000 annually. 

There are more than a few decisions and “”progressions”” that have happened in recent years that might not look so shiny under the scrutiny of evaluators and, especially, students.  

More than 85 percent of the people on the UA’s payroll of over $780 million dollars are not related to education in any way. Janitors are great, but classes in Centennial Hall are decidedly not. Students would also do well to see evaluations of the educational effectiveness of such giant classes. There are as many issues the association could address as there are wasted dollars flying about the metaphoric UA Mall.

It isn’t pretty and no one likes to say it, but this university needs change. It is, in fact, possible that we could do better. Students are frustrated, faculty are frustrated, and we could all be excited to affect positive change in this place of purported higher learning with a process like the reaccreditation. 

So is this our answer? Is the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools 2010 Self-Study the quality control students have been waiting for since we saw our majors eliminated and our classes enlarged? Is this where the buck stops, the protest ends, WebReg actually works and greed gives way to a better school? The probability that it will change anything is slimmer than a UA student’s wallet.

First, this process is a “”self-evaluation,”” meaning the people conducting the research are already administrators in the current structure. They don’t want to see much change — in fact, their jobs depend on the current model of doing everything for more funding. The fine people who are members of the “”Steering Committee”” answer directly President Robert Shelton and Provost Meredith Hay. It is highly unlikely that any less-than-laudatory observation a student makes in a discussion committee will make it to the upper echelons of the UA, let alone inspire the administrators to actually do something about the student’s concern.

The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools 2010 Self-Study has an admirable mission statement — until you read on to find out why they’re doing it: the UA is going through this multi-year, undoubtedly expensive project to stay an accredited school because “”the Secretary of Education is empowered by law to recognize accrediting associations for the purpose of approving institutions that are permitted to participate in federal student financial assistance programs.””

Of course it’s about the money.

The reaccreditation process is supposed to be a check for the university to make sure everything is going as it should. If conducted effectively, the report would allow those in a position to make positive changes to learn what concerns the students and faculty have and address them. Despite the fact that the students already know the UA has more than enough room for improvement, the association won’t accomplish anything significant. Time-consuming, expensive projects that do nothing for the students are already part of the problem. 

The entire process, from “”kick-off breakfast”” to bureaucratic report, is just more of the same vapid, pedantic rhetoric that got us into this overly-general, donor-pandering, student-sacrificing quagmire that consumed what was and could still be a place of real learning and intellectual value.

We should just toss all our tuition dollars into the Grand Canyon for all the administration understands the students’ best interests. That would be a better use of the money — at least it would generate some visible results.

— Anna Swenson is a sophomore majoring in English. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu