WASC promises to visit LSU spring 2011

By Educate Truth Staff

June 2010 the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) issued a letter to La Sierra University president Randal Wisbey, stating it would return for a special visit spring 2011, because of what WASC considered a threat to LSU’s institutional autonomy and academic freedom. There has been no word about exactly when WASC will visit LSU or even if it has already visited.

The Adventist Accrediting Association (AAA) gave LSU until Dec. 31, 2012 to demonstrate its faithfulness to church teaching on creation, according to the Adventist Review. After AAA’s visit, LSU issued an apology letter signed by president Randal Wisbey and LSU board chair, Ricardo Graham. The letter came almost two years after the initial allegations were made public in a letter David Asscherick wrote to the General Conference April 2009.

As LSU juggles WASC and AAA, it will be interesting to see how LSU complies with AAA without looking like it is giving in to what WASC describes as efforts that would compromise LSU’s academic freedom and institutional autonomy. The WASC letter to Wisbey states:

In your communications with the Commission, both in writing prior to meeting and at the Commission meeting, you expressed the commitment of the board and the president to resist efforts that would compromise academic freedom and institutional autonomy. The Commission’s action, described below, is intended to assure that La Sierra University withstands this threat and continues to meet WASC Standards. (CFRs 1.4, 1.6, 2.2a, 3.8)

Given the above, the Commission acted to:

A. Receive the Educational Effectiveness Review report and reaffirm the accreditation of La Sierra University.

B. Schedule the Capacity and Preparatory Review for spring 2018 and the Educational Effectiveness Review for fall 2019. The Institutional Proposal for this comprehensive review will be due in spring 2016.

C. Schedule a Special Visit in spring 2011, focused on the issues surrounding the teaching of evolution in the science curriculum, including institutional autonomy, the appropriate role of the board and faculty, and academic freedom. The institution’s spring 2011 Special Visit report will be due eight weeks prior to this visit.

D. Schedule an Interim Report due Nov. 1, 2014, focused on the issues set forth in this letter, including strategic planning, assessment, student success, information technology and institutional research, and any unresolved matters related to the controversy about the teaching of science.

WASC

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21 thoughts on “WASC promises to visit LSU spring 2011

  1. BobRyan: Does WASC consider the LSU board management of LSU to be “interference from outsiders”

    How can the LSU Board be considered an “outsider?” They are the ones chosen to guide and protect the institution, in order to keep the place in “harmony” with the guidelines of our denomination’s beliefs and goals.

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  2. BobRyan: Is there a confirmed link between the WASC and PUC or LSU in terms of personnel working at WASC?

    Isn’t the former President of PUC, by his own admission, now working for WASC?

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  3. WASC seems to make a big deal about “institutional autonomy.” Can anyone explain how LSU can be an “autonomous” institution” and still maintain support of our SDA Church’s doctrines? It sounds impossible.

    However, maybe they have a different definition of “autonomy” compared to the common definition. Does anyone know anything about this matter?

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  4. Ron Stone M.D.: WASC seems to make a big deal about “institutional autonomy.” Can anyone explain how LSU can be an “autonomous” institution” and still maintain support of our SDA Church’s doctrines? It sounds impossible.

    Easy, Ron. They need to establish faculty expectations through internal mechanisms and policies that involve appropriate process and documentation. At that point, they can them enforce those expectations.

    If, on the other hand, they pursue a route that is dictated by the demands of those like you at EducateTruth, and they fire these faculty without due process, WASC will see that as inappropriate influence from external pressure, and could justify probation status or revocation of accreditation.

    WASC has a website that clearly spells out these standards and how they should be put into practice. WASC is not hostile toward Church-operated institutions; they simply require a level of autonomy that allows the institution to establish and enforce policies that preserve academic freedom within the confines of those policies.

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  5. Ron Stone M.D.: Isn’t the former President of PUC, by his own admission, now working for WASC?

    Yes. You had the opportunity to ask him questions at one point but instead you made accusations and mischaracterizations and drove him away. I believe he stated that he was not involved with the LSU accreditation issue.

    WASC is not an enemy of the Church’s institutions. LSU should be able to accomodate both their concerns and those of the SDA Church.

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  6. Alexander Carpenter, over at Spectrum, is also making a “big deal” about this autonomy thing. If you think LSU is the only SDA institution being undermined by its faculty, read Capenter’s article (he teaches at PUC) and then read the comment by Aubyn Fulton (also teaches at PUC) to see how other SDA institutions may be at risk for further deterioration.

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  7. Osborn to Western States Association
    Outgoing PUC president to join accrediting organization
    May 28, 2009

    http://www.adventistreview.org/issue_toc.php?issue=2009-1515

    Richard Osborn, who resigned in April as president of Adventist-owned Pacific Union College, is to become an associate director for the Senior College Commission of Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Osborn will start on July 1, WASC said.
    =========================================

    Ok – never mind my previous question.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  8. Ron Stone M.D.: Since old Prof didn’t answer it, can anyone else?!

    You asked, “Isn’t the former President of PUC, by his own admission, now working for WASC? My answer was “yes;” you apparenly overlooked it.

    So how young is this “old Prof?” Any idea?

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  9. BobRyan: Does WASC consider the LSU board management of LSU to be “interference from outsiders”

    No. Every university has a board.

    An example of “interference from outsiders” is when an outside organization pressures an accredited institution to depart from its established policies and procedures. Firing faculty who did not violate established policies and procedures would constitute such a violation.

    I’ve pointed out repeatedly that the policies and procedures can be changed, and that violators can subsequently be disciplined or fired. The board can and should have a process in this. However, many readers here have no qualms about punishing the thousands of LSU students and tuition-paying parents by demanding that LSU capitulate to their desire to fire numerous administrators and faculty. You have to have just cause. If the policies have not stated, “You must teach that the weight of scientific evidence favors a short term chronology and a global flood,” then you cannot fire teachers who do not teach this.

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  10. Since many of you distrust anything I say, let’s see what WASC stipulates by going to an authoritative source: WASC’s very own accreditation handbook. Here is summary of the relevant standards:

    http://www.apu.edu/wasc/pdfs/wasc_accreditation_handbook.pdf

    1.4 The institution publicly states its commitment to academic freedom for faculty, staff, and students, and acts accordingly. This commitment affirms that those in the academy are free to share their convictions and responsible conclusions with their colleagues and students in their teaching and in their writing.

    GUIDELINES: The institution has published or has readily-available policies on academic freedom. For those institutions that strive to instill specific beliefs and world views, policies clearly state how these views are implemented and ensure that these conditions are consistent with academic freedom. Due process procedures are disseminated, demonstrating that faculty and students are protected in their quest for truth. (emphasis supplied)

    1.6 Even when supported by or affiliated with political, corporate, or religious organizations, the institution has education as its primary purpose and operates as an academic institution with appropriate autonomy.

    GUIDELINE: The institution has no history of interference in substantive decisions or educational functions by political, religious, corporate, or other external bodies outside the institution’s own governance arrangements.
    ________________

    The bottom line: WASC respects religious institutions that “strive to instill specific beliefs and world views.” However, these institutions need to establish boundaries within which views can be disseminated.

    I believe the university can readily effect policy which stipulates that faculty must treat SDA doctrines and lifestyle issues with respect. The university can also stipulate expectations when hiring. I’m quite certain there is a faculty handbook that provides many policies, and simple revision can probably accomplish what is needed.

    Even so, WASC will probably expect allowance for faculty to express personal dissenting views, so long as they do so respectfully, without undo advocation, and within established parameters. This does not preclude strong loyalty of the institution to the Church’s mission and concerns. From the rift between Paul and Barnabas to the disagreements among SDA consituents and leaders at the 2010 Atlanta GC Convention, varying opinion has always existed in the Church. And it will remain until Jesus returns. We’ll survive until then.

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  11. @Prof Kent, My question was about the “autonomy” vs church doctinal beliefs (4-14 @ 2:42). You seemed to have “missed” that question and focussed on my “rhetorical” question, which most regulars of this site would remember and know the answer to.

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  12. BobRyan: Working for WASC as what?Who is he?in Christ,Bob

    Richard Osborn, former President of Pacific Union College. Now working for WASC, but evidently not assigned to LSU, so shouldn’t be a factor one way or the othere.

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  13. GUIDELINE: The institution has no history of interference in substantive decisions or educational functions by political, religious, corporate, or other external bodies outside the institution’s own governance arrangements.

    hint: the LSU board of directors is chaired by the Pacific Union President and the School is owned by the Church – the Pacific Union in this case.

    For those institutions that strive to instill specific beliefs and world views, policies clearly state how these views are implemented and ensure that these conditions are consistent with academic freedom. Due process procedures are disseminated, demonstrating that faculty and students are protected in their quest for truth

    This is a very subjective statement and WASC could choose to arbitrarily implement it in some fashion totally inconsistent with the current governance of LSU by its owning body. At which time we do not hand LSU over to WASC, we simply seek another accrediting body with more objectivity.

    Where is the problem?

    in Christ,

    Bob

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  14. BobRyan: Does WASC consider the LSU board management of LSU to be “interference from outsiders”

    Well, technically maybe not, but this site IS certainly a “thorn in the side” of LSU and any criticism from “outsiders” like us, even though we may be constituents of the Pacific Union Conference would surely be “interfering.”

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  15. BobRyan: At which time we do not hand LSU over to WASC, we simply seek another accrediting body with more objectivity. Where is the problem?

    What did you have in mind? The New England Association of Schools and Colleges? The Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education?

    Accreditation determines a school’s eligibility for participation in federal (Title IV) and state financial aid programs. Proper accreditation is also important for the acceptance and transfer of college credit, and is a prerequisite for many graduate programs.

    The most recognized and accepted type of accreditation in the U.S. is regional accreditation. Generally, college credits or degrees received at a regionally accredited institution are accepted by other regionally accredited colleges or universities (non-regionally accredited programs are not as accepted). Anything less than regional accreditation substantially devalues a student’s diploma.

    WASC just happens to be the only accreditation body in La Sierra’s region. Gosh darn.

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  16. Professor Kent: Easy, Ron. They need to establish faculty expectations through internal mechanisms and policies that involve appropriate process and documentation. At that point, they can them enforce those expectations.
    If, on the other hand, they pursue a route that is dictated by the demands of those like you at EducateTruth, and they fire these faculty without due process, WASC will see that as inappropriate influence from external pressure, and could justify probation status or revocation of accreditation.

    How “nice” it would be if the only concern that WASC has – is over Ron Stone’s comments on Educate Truth -as if anyone in the AAA review is quoting opinion posts at Educate Truth – as the “problem to be solved”.

    Rathe all the actual data shows that the “opinions” that are being surveyed are those of the students and those of the SDA Administration responsible for managing SDA institutions like LSU.

    By the same token – the real issue with WASC appears to be LESS of a case where WASC has its own pro-evolution agenda, and MORE along the lines of WASC responding to complaints coming out of LSU regarding freedom to promote this or that professor’s bias regarding evolutionism.

    in Christ,

    Bob

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