Reaccreditation team leader offers favorable preliminary report, explains next steps
The Higher Learning Commission reaccreditation team has found U-M to be fully in compliance with the commission’s criteria for reaccreditation. This announcement by team chair Celestino Fernàndez followed several days of meetings, during which the HLC met with more than 300 people from the university.
The site visit followed the university’s completion of an extensive self-study. The visit was intended to provide the commission with a broader, richer sense of the university and its many activities, and served to complement the written part of the reaccreditation review process, said Ben van der Pluijm, who led the self-study. The team’s report is considered advisory, with final determination of reaccreditation to come from the HLC Board of Trustees.
“Dr. Fernàndez said that the team was impressed by both the people they talked with and all aspects of their visit. Their face-to-face meetings with U-M faculty, students and staff, as well as external constituencies, strengthened the reaccreditation report by further broadening the description of the university’s activities,” van der Pluijm said.
The Office of the Provost has offered some information about what took place, some of Fernàndez’ comments on the final day, and what is next in the process:
• Fernàndez began with a brief overview about the reaccreditation process, emphasizing the dual role of the review team members as evaluators and consultants. As evaluators, they develop recommendations as to whether the U-M satisfactorily meets the HLC’s five criteria for accreditation. As consultants, they develop ideas that they hope will be useful to the university as it moves forward.
• Next, Fernàndez will produce a full draft of the committee report, working with members of the review team, within six weeks of the date of the visit. It will be sent to President Mary Sue Coleman. If U-M disagrees with any aspect of the report, including correction of factual errors, it may file a response with the HLC, which must be done within two weeks of receiving the report.
• Within one week from this time the HLC will make any changes to the report it deems appropriate and will provide the final report to the university.
• If U-M files a response that includes disagreement with substantial portions of the report, a process is undertaken whereby the chair and the provost will have the chance to make their cases before an HLC panel.
• Depending on the meeting schedule of the HLC Board of Trustees, within six months the HLC will then send a letter to Coleman with the final decision about U-M’s updated affiliation status.
• The team will recommend that the university be reviewed again during the 2019-20 academic year, with no need for any additional follow-up between now and then.
• While no follow-up activities were requested with regard to the first HLC criterion of mission and integrity, Fernàndez said U-M needs to continue to implement its diversity initiatives. He stressed that the university should not construe this recommendation as a suggestion that U-M is not currently committed to diversity, but rather as support and encouragement to continue to build on its efforts.
• With regard to the review team members’ consultant role, Fernàndez said the team report will have much to say about internationalization, the focus of U-M’s special emphasis study, which they hope will be beneficial to the university as it considers next steps.
• The team also will have some recommendations to offer in connection to the remaining four HLC criteria for accreditation.