By Shane Hilde
This press release from La Sierra University confirms earlier claims that WASC is taking note of the controversy over evolution and has concerns about “institutional autonomy, the appropriate role of the board and faculty, and academic freedom.” WASC will return in the spring of 2011 to review this situation, because it “sees the efforts of some outside the university as threatening to La Sierraâ€™s institutional autonomy.”
August 20, 2010
Director, University Relations
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) has reaffirmed the accreditation of La Sierra University for eight years. This important milestone is the outcome of a multi-year effort by the university, which included a series of proposals, reports, and self-studies, culminating in a March 2010 campus visit by a team of peer reviewers. WASC accreditation means that the university has been judged to be operating at a high level of quality consistent with its mission.
In a letter sent to La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey, the WASC team commended La Sierra for â€œits commitment to marketing, its continued progress on student support and retention, its hard work and progress on assessment, its work on faculty effectiveness, and the facultyâ€™s engagement with active student learning.â€
“Accreditation is one of the most important marks a university can earn. It is a measure of excellence in education,â€ said Wisbey. â€œAccreditation is earned following a rigorous assessment of the processes within La Sierra University, and the ways in which all members of the university family help fulfill the mission of Seventh-day Adventist higher education through their participation in the academic, financial, and planning aspects of the university on a daily basis.â€
WASC evaluators determined that La Sierra is making sustainable and authentic progress on developing a comprehensive assessment system, including program review. During the new accreditation period, WASC will be looking for La Sierra to continue refining its assessments efforts, with particular emphasis on aligning them with the university mission statement, strategic plan, budget, and student learning outcomes.
â€œWe are grateful for this strong affirmation from WASC,â€ said Provost Steve Pawluk. â€œThere are, of course, some matters that will require our prompt and careful attention. Our university will focus attention on strategic planning, assessment efforts, enhancing student success, and instructional technology innovations. We will work diligently to enhance the universityâ€™s ability to serve our students and community in the best ways possible.â€
While finding many positive attributes at La Sierra, the evaluation team also noted the 15-month controversy surrounding allegations of how biology department faculty members present the theory of evolution to students. The controversy touches on several basic principles that form the foundation of WASC standards, including institutional autonomy, the appropriate role of the board and faculty, and academic freedom. WASC clearly understands that this is a denominational issue, but it also sees the efforts of some outside the university as threatening to La Sierraâ€™s institutional autonomy. WASC will continue to closely observe how the controversy is resolved, and plans to send a team back to campus in Spring 2011 to review the situation.
â€œWe value WASCâ€™s interest and peer support,â€ said Wisbey. â€œWe appreciate the commissionâ€™s reaffirmation of our accreditation which allows us to fulfill our mission to seek truth, to know God, and to serve others.â€
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University