According to some faculty members at John Carroll University, many weren’t shocked last week when they received word the University was put on notice.
“We were anticipating something,” said Anthony Roy Day, chair of the faculty council and professor of physics.
Day explained he was notified last fall when Jeanne Colleran, academic vice president and provost, spoke to faculty members. “The HLC is very controlling about how information comes out,” Day said. “We were told last August there was a draft report that didn’t look good, and were well aware there were issues.”
Only select administrators were allowed to see the reports from the HLC in the fall.
How could this happen?
Since receiving the news, members of the JCU community seemed to pose the same question: “How could this happen?”
Malia McAndrew, professor of history, expressed some frustration about the issue. “I was saddened by the news that JCU would be put on notice by the HLC,” said McAndrew. “I’ve worked with a number of marvelous students who will graduate from the University this May, and I don’t want any of them to have to face questions about the integrity of the degree they’ve earned.”
Day added to this, saying he “doesn’t believe JCU’s status with the HLC accurately reflects the University.”
Mindy Peden, professor of political science, echoed her colleagues’ opinions. “I’m proud to work here. I’m proud of the students that I know who’ve graduated. “I’m proud of my fellow faculty members,” said Peden. “I think we have a lot of talented people here, and I have good relationships with them. I taught at Cornell University, and I’ve had students as bright here as I’ve had there. I’ve known faculty who are as committed here as they are there – and even more so in some cases.”
Concerns of the faculty
During the question and answer session at the community meeting on Wednesday, March 11, faculty, staff and administration were invited to ask Colleran and the Rev. Robert Niehoff, S.J., University president, questions and express their concerns.
Peden expressed her frustration about the HLC’s criticism of the University’s discount rate. Nationally, the average discount rate at American universities is 49 percent, compared with JCU’s 62 percent rate.
“I would guess the reason is that our sticker price is misleading,” said Peden. “If they’re trying to bring discount rates down nationally, I hope that means they’re working on some other mechanism of getting working and middle class students into college.”
Peden is specifically frustrated by how the HLC’s concern interferes with the Jesuit mission. “There’s this whole idea that the University has to account for its value – but, value in the market sense. Basically, what our grads go on to get jobs in,” Peden said. “Then you think about the mission of John Carroll. The mission is much larger than that – it’s to be men and women for others.”
Peden explained how the University often encourages students to pursue careers where, “they’re not getting paid much, but doing things to contribute to the lot of world.”
She added this is “putting pressure on a lot of institutions, but specifically John Carroll University and its Jesuit mission.”
Acknowledging the problems, and moving forward
As upsetting as the news is to some, Day advises that the JCU community shouldn’t dwell on the past, but focus on the problem at hand, working to solve it. “Working together is essential,” said Day. “We have to get through this, and we will get through this.”
According to Day, it’s important for faculty and administration to come together in the process.
“Collecting data and deciding what to collect and how to pose the questions is pretty much a faculty responsibility,” Day said. “However, it’s primarily the administration’s responsibility to set up the structure.”
Day added that the administration’s responsibility to set up the structure was a primary flaw.
“We didn’t have an administrative structure,” Day explained. “Since last summer, various administrative offices managed to find a lot of data that actually does exist that the HLC visiting team did not see.”
The HLC acknowledged this progress in a letter to the University.
“That progress is just pulling together what we already had and just organizing it,” said Day. “The pieces were there, but we haven’t been putting it in a form that the HLC wanted to see.”
In addition to comprehensive data, faculty are also responsible for including programmatic learning goals and course specific learning goals in the syllabus. When the HLC returns to campus, the evaluators will be able to access the electronic documents and see the learning goals.
Day addressed the faculty council’s role in the process of moving forwarding and being better prepared. The HLC raised concerns about governance after the visit, and the faculty council is working towards improving committee structure and communication with administration.
“We’re working with the administration on governance, and have set up an ad hoc faculty council committee to student governance – both our own faculty governance and the way we share governance with the administration,” said Day.
Currently, the faculty council is developing a plan to set up goals for transparency and make sure the University’s policies are adequately communicated with faculty members. Day has also met with a consultant (Thomas Longin) from AGB (the Association of Governance Board) consulting, working towards improving governance structures.
However, Day expressed some possible challenges moving forward.
“Some of the governance concerns are a bit nebulous, so it’s hard to focus on exactly what to fix,” said Day. “We’re still in the process of figuring out what’s the appropriate action that needs to be taken.”
A bump in the road
For Day, he’s unsure whether or not this will have an impact on the University’s reputation. “The thing about a notice is that it’s a warning,” he explained.
“It says get your house in order. We’re working on getting our house in order, and I think it’s all going to be over in two years. In the long term, it’s going to be a minor blip for the University.”