Accrediting agency gives Kean Univ. three recommendations after review

UNION COUNTY, NJ — A regional accrediting agency that threatened Kean University’s status five years ago has given the school three recommendations in response to the college’s internal “periodic review report.”

“The Middle States Commission on Higher Education response to the report was overwhelmingly positive,” university spokeswoman Margaret McCorry said in a recent statement. “The review team was thorough and professional in its work, and Kean appreciates both its accolades and recommendations.”

A Middle States spokesman said each university or college can make evaluations and recommendations public. McCorry said the recommendations to the university are confidential, and that “Kean is committed to addressing” them.

The commission, which is an independent agency that accredits colleges in the region, put the university on probation approximately five years ago and held off reaffirming its accreditation status. The commission found evidence that the university was not in compliance with several standards at the time, including integrity, institutional assessment, general education and assessment of student learning.

Kean’s accreditation was affirmed in 2012 after a team from Middle States visit-ed the campus and concluded the university had met those standards.

Kean was put back on a standard 10-year assessment cycle at the time, and a periodic review report was required to be sent to the com-mission June 1. That report was put together by the university’s Office of Accreditation and Assessment, a Kean spokeswoman said.

A Middle States spokesman said the review was received on time. Although the university received what McCorry called “accolades” from Middle States, the faculty union on campus pointed to Kean’s inability to get accreditation for one new program from a separate agency. The university did not obtain provisional accreditation for its physician assistant program from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, McCorry said.

Kean Federation of Teachers President James Castiglione said the denial of provisional accreditation for the program “shows that the university has never properly addressed all of the accreditation issues identified by Middle States several years ago.”

The university made a “business decision” not to try to get accreditation for the program again, which was slated to reside in the new North Avenue Academic Building.

“Since it would require a minimum of two years to go through the accreditation cycle again, a business decision was made to suspend the process,” McCorry said. “However, the University reserves its right to pursue the program in the future.”

One of the key points in an online draft version of the periodic review report dealt with the university’s commitment to shared governance, or working with other groups on campus to make decisions.

The report noted that the University Planning Council, which includes members from faculty unions, administrators and student representatives, ensures that all major plans and decisions are consistent with the university’s strategic plan. Castiglione, who sits on the UPC, said it has “no such authority.”

“Last year, the administration unilaterally decided to disband the College of Visual and Performing Arts and reorganize it into a new College of Liberal Arts, without consulting any of the shared governance bodies on campus,” he said.

“Most shockingly, without previously consulting or even informing the faculty senate, which has jurisdiction over all academic matters including academic organization.”

That reorganization, Castiglione, was “highly wasteful” financially since it pulled professors out of the classroom and instead gave them administrative positions. He also said students would have benefited more from having those “expert” professors as teachers, not administrators.

The university, in its statement, did not directly address Castiglione’s concerns regarding shared governance, but said it maintains, “a system of ongoing assessment to inform and guide the university inits planning and practices, and in carrying out its mission of accessibility and excellence in higher education.”

The required periodic review report swill be eliminated by Middle States this year, commission spokesman Richard Pokrass said. Instead of using a 10-year cycle, the commission will move toward an eight-year cycle starting in the following academic year.“

A more robust Annual Institutional Update is replacing the Institutional Pro-file,” Pokrass said in an email.

“In place of the written PRR, the Commission will institute a new process called the Mid-Point Peer Review. It will be a review by peer evaluators of the accumulated data submit-ted to the commission by the institution in each of the four years since the last on-site evaluation.”

Kean’s periodic review report will still be reviewed by the full commission this year. The Committee on Periodic Review Reports is slated to discuss Kean’s report Oct. 19.

From there, the recommendations from the committee will be presented the full Middle States Commission at its meeting on Nov. 16. The university will be notified of the action taken by the commission, which will be posted to the agency’s website approximately one week after the November meeting.