RCC passes accreditation

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By Alethia Melancon

By Alethia Melancon

The Accreditation Committee came to the Riverside Community College District to survey and conclude whether or not the District is up to standard for Accreditation.

Accreditation is essential to the college’s continual funding by federal government. Without it, the school would not be able to remain open. It also assures students that the units they are taking can be transferred to four year colleges and universities, a vital necessity for transferring students.

“The accreditation process assures that units will be transferable to four-year universities and colleges from RCCD, along with continued financial aid from the federal government,” Eva Conrad, Chairperson for the accreditation team, said.

Conrad also noted that, without these crucial elements, the college would not be able to survive.

Conrad and the ten other members of the committee looked for long and short term planning, the college mission statement being upheld, standards of excellence, the budget process and serving students with honesty on the web site.

“The purpose is to make sure that the students get the best possible help while they are here,” Conrad said.

The team had 11 fully-trained members that were selected by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The entire process to assemble the team took approximately 90 days, Conrad said.

“The members all volunteered to help the greater mission of supporting colleges. It is a commitment to excellence in colleges,” Conrad said.

The team arrived at RCC Oct. 8 and started with a tour of the three campuses.

One part of the process was the open forums that allowed students and faculty to ask questions and gather additional information.

It was recommended by the accreditation team that the Board of Trustees and chancellor develop and implement a planning process that aligns with the district’s mission statement for their college and campuses. It must also be open and transparent so that it can be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure it is working properly.

This means that the mission statement and the college goals need to be the same and easy to understand what the colleges are doing actively to align itself with the mission statement.

The team also recommended that the college assess the roles and responsibilities between the district and the three campuses by identifying who is responsible for what.

The roles, responsibilities and scope of authority for the college’s presidents and district chancellor also need to be clearly defined on how they will communicate with each other.

The team suggested that the college must reframe its mission statement to be comprehensive and include the educational goals that may be fulfilled at the college, as well as describe the student primary population for which the college is designing a program.

Meaning, that each role of the executive staff should be clear and concise so the flow of communication is simple.

The accreditation team determined that the college must complete the implementation of the planning process, then access that process and communicate the result of the assessment to all constituents that promote institutional effectiveness and identify area for improvement. This means that colleges finish implementing their strategic planning for the campuses.

RCC must also meet the standards related to ethical, effective and empowered leadership by identifying and documenting the roles and scope of authority for the faculty and staff of each college.

This helps to accurately identify the chain of command for each departments and administrative roles.

Another recommendation asked RCC to identify and document the specific procedures for moving items and issues throughout the decision-making progress at the college and between the college districts. This would give a clear path of chain of commands for the colleges.

In reviewing the past recommendations, Conrad and the committee found that there were a total of five recommendations on the previous accreditations.

Two of the recommendations had been fully completed and the remaining three were partially completed. Planning, process review and revised curriculum accomplished stellar results.

Preparation for the accreditation committee is also done internally by a group of faculty members that prepare their own findings which takes up to a year.

Associate Instructor of the English Department, Tom Allen, was chairperson on the steering committee for the last two accreditations and was the final editor for the steeringcommittee for this accreditation.

Allen said that most of the hits in the findings were more on the district level and credited the outstanding work done on this accreditation to Susan Mills, Associate Professor of Mathematics, and Richard Mahon, Associate Professor of Humanities. Both served on the Steering Committee.

“Riverside had 150 people participate in the self-study,” Mills said. “We did an incredible job putting it together.”

Mahon, who was also co-chairperson on the steering committee, was involved due to his position as the Academic Senate Committee president.

“My role in the accreditation was the primary editor for Standard IV which is leadership and governance,” Mahon said.

Mahon and Mills took the information that was collectively written by over 100 faculty members and then organized the self study to read as one flowing continuous document.

They researched and read other colleges self studies and carefully reviewed material from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

They also provided detailed comments on standard committee’s drafts.

“The intent of the self study is for the college to take a rigorous look at itself and identify the weaknesses so they can improve it,” Mahon said.

Mills saw the self study as a major task for everyone involved.

“It was challenging,” Mills said. “It’s never done; it’s an on-going process.”

The self study is a life-long process of the colleges looking at areas internally where there are weaknesses, identifying them and saying how we can do this better. The other says good job and continue what we are doing as a college.

Conrad said that accreditation is a voluntary peer review.

In this process, the institution first evaluates itself according to goals, objectives, business integrity and the thoughtfulness of future plans.

“It is saying one of two things: ‘good job your right on mark’ or ‘oops, we forgot something,” Conrad said.

The two most important questions the accreditation committee asked concerned the honesty of the survey and if major areas were left out, according to Mahon.

Mahon felt that the accreditation team’s findings were the same as the steering committee’s survey.

“The accreditation committee’s findings hit it right on target,” Allen said.

At the end of the exit interview Conrad thanked the college for its participation.

“We are grateful to students who were very open and friendly and faculty and staff who allowed their schedules to be open,” Conrad said.

Conrad commended the faculty for maintaining and nurturing a campus climate where students, faculty and staff are flourishing.

“No matter who we spoke to the always had good things to say,” Conrad said. “The campus is gorgeous and people are proud of it.”

The atmosphere here creates a place where people enjoy coming,” Conrad said.

Conrad thanked the Board of Trustees and administrative team, including Interim President Linda Lacy, Liaison Officer Kim Brown, Mahon, and Miller.

“I was very pleased with the Accreditation Committees findings,” Lacy said. “With today’s standards it’s amazing.”

The findings are only drafts, the colleges will receive a written report in November from the accreditation committee, at which time any errors of fact will be reviewed and adjusted by the college presi

Lacy stated that if anything was inaccurate in estimation on the written report once she received (it) back she would make the necessary adjustments. The estimations are not changed of what the committee finds, just inaccuracies.

The report will then be sent to the WASCC who will review the findings and make a decision by late January 2008.

“We are confident that the accreditation will be successful,” Mahon said.

“We are doing a great job,” Lacy said. “We just need to make sure that we finish implementing our planning.”

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