On Monday, Yale hosted a series of three simultaneous forums, gathering input from students, faculty and staff respectively as part of its reaccreditation process.
According to an Oct. 28 community-wide email from University President Peter Salovey, the reaccreditation process takes place every 10 years, a time period determined by the New England Commission of Higher Education, the group that conducts the review. In the email, Salovey wrote that a NECHE-assigned team of reviewers will examine Yale according to NECHE’s nine standards for reaccreditation, which are determined “by consensus of the higher education community.”
“It’s just a really great opportunity for us to show the world and to be reviewed by the world, whether we’re on the right track and whether we have good plans moving forward,” Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun told the News ahead of the forums.
While Monday’s faculty and staff forums were closed to the press, the News confirmed that, 10 minutes into the student forum, no students had arrived.
According to Chun, the reaccreditation process is crucial because a university must be accredited in order to grant degrees. This year, Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber chaired the reaccreditation team, while administrators from peer institutions like Cornell and Brown rounded out the remainder of the 10-person committee.
According to NECHE’s website, the nine pillars by which universities are evaluated include “educational effectiveness” and “mission and purposes.” In an email to the News, University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews described the standards as “essential to any institution’s quality and effectiveness.”
When asked about the “plans” mentioned by Chun, Salovey told the News that some of those plans involve highlighting the sciences at Yale, while also recruiting a diverse faculty and increasing access to Yale through financial aid.
He added that Yale’s central method to achieve these goals is through fundraising campaigns, the latest of which has raised about $827 million in the past year.
“You can’t pay for those things by hoping — hope is not a strategy,” Salovey said. “Hoping that the endowment will grow faster than any budget model predicts — that’s not a strategy either. And so really the strategy for making change and implementing the set of priorities is to go out and fundraise for them.”
Salovey added that forums for students, faculty and staff are standard for the reaccreditation process. During a past forum, Salovey said, reviewers heard complaints about Yale’s course evaluation system, which at the time was completely paper-based. As a result of the feedback, Yale updated the process to the online system used today.
According to Salovey, Yale should receive feedback from the review team sometime during the upcoming spring semester. He added that the 10-year period between reaccreditation reviews is appropriate because implementing changes and analyzing their effectiveness take time.
“10 years is actually an interval where you could make a change and see a difference, and so I’m pretty comfortable with that cycle,” Salovey said. “Preparing for a reaccreditation site visit is an enormous undertaking.”
He added that larger decisions such as changes to the curriculum are made through a shared governance system with the faculty.
Chun also said that faculty play an important role in “running and governing” the University. He explained that most Yale administrators come “up through the faculty to join administration to serve the University.”
“A lot of our business is conducted through faculty committees,” Chun said. “I have lots of different committees to approve majors, to approve courses, to study and review teaching and learning. These are all comprised of faculty and students. So I barely do anything alone — maybe running a party … But we’re run by faculty and everything we do is based on faculty input, and almost everything we do requires faculty approval.”
According to Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate chair John Geanakoplos, he and deputy chair Jennifer Klein met with the accreditation committee outside of the forums for a “very positive and friendly conversation.” In an email to the News, Geanakoplos wrote that the message he conveyed was similar to what he said to faculty following his appointment to chair this past year — that while Yale has a long history of working alongside faculty on research- and teaching-related matters, over the past few years faculty governance has “waned.”
“The mission of this Senate, like its predecessors, is to work with the administration to ensure that faculty governance continues to make Yale the best it can be,” Geanakoplos wrote.
On her way into the staff forum, graduate registrar in the History Department Marcy Kaufman told the News that she was concerned that programs may be suffering due to a decrease in staff and budget.
Kaufman added that she believed some faculty members are “burdened by administrative responsibilities” that should not be within their purview.
“I am most interested in the Yale Faculty Senate report where the faculty believe that, first of all, they are not compensated appropriately,” Kaufman said. “I’m a [clerical and technical] employee and I am concerned about [downsizing] staffing, particularly in the humanities, but in all of the [Faculty of Arts and Sciences], and that some of that work is shifting to faculty — and that’s not appropriate, in my opinion.”
NECHE is one of seven higher education accrediting bodies in the U.S., according to its website.
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Clarification, Nov. 5: The article has been updated to more accurately reflect Geanakoplos’s remarks.