I have just finished updating my profile for an accrediting agency that both Hofstra and I are involved with. The update was necessary if I wanted to be considered for a future accreditation review team. I recognize that being part of an accreditation team entails significant work but I do so gladly because I think that accreditation makes an important positive difference.
My first experience with accreditation was three decades ago when I was serving as associate provost (and subsequently business school dean) and was very involved in preparing for a visit by AACSB, the national and international business school accrediting agency. The end result of this effort was a stronger business school in every meaningful way, including the accomplishments of the faculty as well as the breadth and depth of the curriculum. My next experience occurred when I was serving a few years later as acting dean of the school of education and I was very much involved in an NCATE visit. Once again, in preparing for the visit and in adhering to the standards, we were clearly a better school of education. At this point in time, I have been involved in multiple accreditations, multiple times, and have also served on Middle States Periodic Review teams, AACSB visitation teams and ABA visitation teams. From my first impressions of accreditation to the current time, my opinion has stayed the same: I think that accreditations, both voluntary and required, serve enhance the education we provide.
Is this always a perfect process? Hardly! Two concerns stand out. Firstly, there are accreditation team members who view everything that anyone else does through the lens of what happens at their home institution. There is more than one curriculum structure that accomplishes what needs to be accomplished. There is more than one way of assessing outcomes. There is more than one way of doing much of what we do. Anyone who comes in with a fondness only for what is done at his/her home institution, at the expense of alternate philosophies that are within the accreditation standards, is doing a tremendous disservice. Hopefully the other visiting team members can moderate any such tendency in this direction, but especially if it is the visiting team chair that has this bias, it can be a real problem.
The second concern is when a member of the accreditation team or the chair of the accreditation team looks for perfection in measuring whether a standard has been met. A person new to an accreditation team is most vulnerable to having perfection as a standard. A person who has been on the receiving end of such an accreditation committee member may also be somewhat vulnerable to advocating this standard when they are part of a team. Perfection is not a realistic standard (or a realistic expectation) but overall high quality needs to be the standard against which an institution or a program is measured. And hopefully the efforts of the visiting team will help move an institution further in that direction.
Overall, for me, accreditation translates into verifiable quality. I am very pleased that so many of Hofstra’s programs are nationally accredited and I think we are all well served by accreditations.