Bruce Leslie’s letter to SACS re: degrees

The Ranger reports on the letter Chancellor Bruce Leslie sent to  our accrediting agency. Guess what? Generic degrees are not necessary. This really does come down to what Bruce Leslie, Jo-Carol Fabianke, and the rest of the Vice Chancellors and College Presidents think “is best for students.”

The last sentence of the article?

The Ranger is waiting on a list of courses from Fabianke’s office that transfer to five local universities.

Good luck with that followup, Ranger. And thank you for the excellent reporting.

Degree Plan Protest

PAC students have been busy this week and have the ink to prove it:

 

Texas Public Radio also did a story where Vice Chancellor Jo-Carol Fabianke again raised the spectre of SACS accreditation as one of the reasons why the change was made:

Another factor playing into this is a cultural shift in degree awards for schools under the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which awards accreditation.

“In Southern Association we know that there are more and more schools going toward what we are talking about, which is trying to ensure that we guiding students towards classes that are going to count,” says Fabianke.

As we reported in our last post, this change has nothing to do with accreditation. Administrators keep talking in circles hoping faculty and students get tired enough to eventually just shut up and agree.

Going back to the recent Inside Higher Ed article for a moment – there’s another comment which caught our eye. From commenter “therestofthestory”:

This decision to go with only AA and AS programs was made three years ago by the request of the one college that has yet to be accredited to make their SACS assessment process cleaner. A second college made the change in 2012 based on an understanding that all of the five would also be doing it. But they wanted to see how SACS would respond first. New outcomes and new assessment were written. Since SACS agreed that the majors were insubstantial at best, there was no substantial change. It went through with no issues. The problem arose when the degrees still read that they were graduating with majors, but SACS is being told there are no majors. Bad discrepancy during an reaffirmation cycle, which three of the five are currently in. Since the colleges all have to be doing the same thing because of the BANNER system (they are not singularly accredited, but share a common enrollment system in which everything is mirrored), everyone had to have majors on their diplomas or give them up. The administrators at the college level have been aware of this transition for at least 2 years, so it’s really just an example of poor communication and a lack of transparency and trust in a system that does excellent work educating students. I wish these institutions made headlines for their exceptional teaching instead.

Does this ring true to anyone else out there? If so, then are administrators just trying to spin this mistake as something positive like “helping students transfer credits?”

Another issue brought up in the comments by “Hannah”:

The other issue has to do with scholarship applications which often require a declared major. This move will impact community college students earning those scholarships, particularly transfer students, as well as students in STEM programs, Phi Theta Kappa, and other honors students.

Decisions made at the top without shared governance – involving faculty, staff and students – have resulted in a massive failure in District and College leadership.

Degree Plan Debacle: Curiouser and Curiouser

alice

 

We are almost at the midway point in the semester and still haven’t gotten down to the truth behind District’s decision to ditch Associate of Arts degree plans for each independently accredited college.

First there was the mysterious email sent to all college employees on Friday, September 19 from Associate VC Jo-Carol Fabianke which stated:

The Presidents, Vice Chancellors and Vice Presidents made this decision in consultation with our accreditor (the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges) as it was determined that not enough coursework is provided to constitute a true “major field of study” to these transfer degrees.

Then several news articles were published providing a variety of explanations from administrators and even more questions from faculty and students:

Accreditation, number of hours needed for a degree, keeping track of program learning outcomes…the list of excuses grows.

Today’s Ranger article, Chancellor blames Texas Legislature for degree change, has Chancellor Bruce Leslie backpedaling from Fabianke’s September 19 email assertion that SACSCOC is to blame for the change:

Leslie sent a letter seeking clarification last week to a representative at the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

He said he does not expect to hear back from the agency until next week because a lot of the administrators are in a conference.

They just can’t keep their stories straight! Did they make this decision in consultation with our accrediting agency or not?

Meanwhile, SAC AAUP member and SAC psychology Professor Thomas Billimek contacted the President of SACSCOC, Belle Wheelan, for a direct answer on what is required for us to continue offering degrees. Billimek said:

She [Belle Wheelen] verified that all degrees require program learning outcomes assessment. This includes the “generic” AA and AS degrees.

I also asked her about the number of hours in the discipline necessary for the awarding of an associate degree. She said that SACSCOC does not specify the number of hours in the discipline necessary for the associate degree.

So we have our direct answer from our accrediting agency. ALL degrees, even the generic degrees, must have program learning outcomes. And there is no set number of hours to award a degree in a specific discipline.

SAC Faculty Senate hosted the San Antonio College  accreditation team leader Dr. Johnnie Rosenauer at last Wednesday’s Senate meeting. He assured the Senate that there is nothing to worry about:

The Re-Affirmation Team for San Antonio College is diligently moving forward with our work, is on schedule, and I see no reason we will not have a successful Re-Affirmation Report.  Certainly there may be some adjustments we need to make in certain responses since there are so many answers that are required, but there are no huge gaps that causes me to worry about a successful outcome.

SAC Faculty Senate has asked the College Curriculum Committee to investigate whether College procedure was followed in the Catalog change which replaced degree concentrations with advising guides. Just as with the EDUC 1300 issue, how can District make curricular decisions for each independently accredited college?

Curiouser and curiouser.

Compromises and Alternatives

From The Ranger’s Facebook page this morning:

A Presidents and Vice Chancellors Committee (PVC) meeting is going on right now at Palo Alto College for an all-district “4 Disciplines of Execution,” planning session until 10 a.m. Office assistants for both Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor for planning, performance and information systems; and Jo-Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor for academic success, said the PVC meetings will run all day.
Ruben “Mike” Flores, President of Palo Alto College said yesterday during a student forum the PVC would spend today working on possible compromises and alternatives to the “generic” Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees.

Sounds like they should have had an all day meeting BEFORE making the decision to get rid of majors.

Student Evaluations

Another issue in play right now is how student course evaluations will be used to measure “success.” The SPC Faculty Senate discussed this issue at their last meeting as reported in The Ranger. The excellent TCCTA blog also published an article on this topic: “Student Evaluations Criticized.” Take a read through. It brings up a lot of excellent points that our own faculty have already made. And if you don’t already subscribe to the TCCTA blog, we highly recommend that you give it a go. They are on top of all kinds of community college issues.