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Saturday, March 31, 2007

MSA letter = total vindication for UFG

A letter from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to Gallaudet President Davila dated January 13, 2007 was strongly critical of the Jordan administration and the Gallaudet Board of Trustees, blasting the Jordan administration for its failure to provide appropriate documentation and responsive plans in the reaffirmation process, and also blasting the members of the Gallaudet Board of Trustees for not keeping themselves properly and fully informed on university matters.

The letter acts properly on allegations against protesters that originated from the Jordan administration, putting into proper the perspective the fact that such were only allegations and not facts.

The MSA letter also shows an understanding on the part of the MSA of the cause of the recent protest, i.e. the lack of proper methods of shared governance on campus which led to the protest, as well as defects in the strategic goals of the university that were leading the university in the implausible direction of trying to be all things to all people.

The letter can be seen as a total vindication for the protesters, since the closure of the school is actually a consequence of the Board's and the Jordan administration's failure to properly run the university according to accepted standards in the first place. It was up to the protesters then to follow up on the only logical path to rectify the situation, which was the implementation of responsible and nonviolent acts of civil disobedience. The blame for the closure of the school then rests with the Board and the Jordan administration for closing off all other avenues of redress and putting the protesters in the position of having to resort to the legitimate and moral tactics of civil disobedience.

Even Jordan himself said in
an interview in 1998 that the Deaf President Now protest of 1988 (i.e. including the five-day lockdown of the campus) was proper ("perfect") because members of the university community had involved itself politically in holding rallies, writing letters and other communicative activities, only to have their legitimate concerns ignored.

Jordan's comments in the interview represent an acknowledgment on his part that the the deaf community has a moral veto power over the Gallaudet Board of Trustees' decisions.

The January 13 MSA letter also makes no claim that the acts of civil disobedience were improper per se, but only that the closure of the school put the school in violation Eligibility Requirement 8. The ultimate blame for the cause of the school closure and putting the school out of compliance, then, rests with the Board and the Jordan administration, not the protesters.

History will show that the campus lockdown and HMB takeover were completely proper acts of civil disobedience, due to the emergency nature of the situation, which was created by Jordan's actions when he put Gallaudet's future existence in jeopardy by manipulating the Board and rigging the presidential selection process. Not only did Jordan create the emergency situation himself, but he also lied to the MSA, fabricating allegations against the protesters.

The protesters never intimidated others. No evidence has ever been provided to back up such a false claim. The protest was a responsible, peaceful, and historic event, which was conducted out of sense of harmony and respect for everyone, including a sense of respect for the tiny percentage of students and others on campus who disagreed with its goals.

Here is the January MSA letter. (Note: some of the deadline dates have since been postponed to later dates):

Middle States Commission on Higher Education
3624 Market Street,

Philadelphia, PA 19104-2680
Phone: 267-284-5000
Fax: 215-662-5501

January 13, 2007

Dr. Robert Davila, President
Gallaudet University
800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002-3695

Dear Dr. Davila:

I am writing on behalf of the Middle States team that visited Gallaudet University on January 10-12, 2007, first to thank you and your colleagues again for your warm hospitality in hosting our visit. We are most grateful not only for your hospitality but also for the graciousness and professionalism with which you all received our comments, observations, and suggestions.

A copy of the team’s report to the Gallaudet community on its visit is attached. Please advise me no later than January 31, 2007, of any errors of fact in the report. A formal institutional response is not necessary at this time, as it may be incorporated into the Supplemental Information Report due on March 1.

I am also writing in response to your request that we provide you with a written summary of the many comments we made during our visit, so that you can convey them accurately to those who were unable to attend our meetings:

Rationale for the Commission’s November 2006 action.

Three events prompted the Commission’s action in November 2006 to postpone a decision on accreditation, direct a visit, and request a supplemental information report and monitoring report:

1. Gallaudet’s Periodic Review Report, submitted by June 1, 2006, did not meet Middle States expectations because it did not include the required comprehensive plan to assess student learning and institutional effectiveness, because the reviewers felt there had been inadequate attention to some of the 2001 evaluation team recommendations, and because the Committee on Periodic Review Reports found the institutional response dismissive.

2. President Jordan’s response to my October 16, 2006, request for information on plans to assess and strengthen the effectiveness of institutional governance and plans to further a climate that fosters respect among students, faculty, staff, and administration for a range of backgrounds, ideas, and perspectives did not present concrete plans that reflected current realities.

3. Media coverage of Gallaudet, including protests, in Fall 2006 raised additional concerns about Gallaudet’s compliance with a number of Middle States accreditation standards. The Commission is obligated to investigate serious public concerns such as those expressed through media reports.

Accreditation standards in question.

The Commission has concerns about Gallaudet’s compliance with eight of the Commission’s 14 accreditation standards:

• Standard 1 (Mission and Goals): There is great fragmentation within the Gallaudet community regarding its mission, leading to concerns about the mission’s viability. In particular, Gallaudet tries to be “all things to all people” within the deaf and hard of hearing community, an aim that may not be viable.

• Standard 2 (Planning, Resource Allocation, and Institutional Renewal): Gallaudet’s strategic plan may not be viable; there may be insufficient buy-in by the university community to enable it to be achieved. Press reports, for example, raise questions about whether there is sufficient support within the university community for the first goal (making Gallaudet more inclusive) to implement it successfully.

• Standard 4 (Leadership and Governance): The extent of the fall protests raises concerns about the functionality of Gallaudet’s governance system, especially the Board’s fulfillment of its responsibilities to keep fully informed of institutional matters and its capacity to offer informed, independent counsel to the president. The failure of two presidential appointments because of protests is a disturbing precedent.

• Standard 6 (Integrity): The extent of the fall protests and repeated allegations of violence and intimidation raise grave concerns about whether Gallaudet has “a climate that fosters respect among students, faculty, staff, and administration for a range of backgrounds, ideas, and perspectives.” Also, changes and issues affecting the institution, particularly the Federal OMB report and the protests, were not communicated in a timely manner to the Commission. Furthermore, press allegations of lack of academic integrity raise additional questions.

• Standard 7 (Institutional Assessment): The Periodic Review Report did not provide evidence of documented, organized, and sustained processes to assess institutional effectiveness, including achievement of the institution’s mission and strategic goals.

• Standard 8 (Student Admissions and Retention): The Federal OMB report, declining enrollments, and allegations of low admission and academic standards all raise concern about Gallaudet’s effectiveness in providing “programs and services to ensure that admitted students who marginally meet or do not meet the institution’s qualifications achieve expected learning goals and higher education outcomes at appropriate points” and “ongoing assessment of student success…that evaluates the match between the attributes of admitted students and the institution’s mission and programs, and reflects its findings in its admissions, remediation, and other related policies.”

• Standard 11 (Educational Offerings): Low retention, graduation, and placement rates, accompanied by press allegations about a lack of academic integrity, raise questions about compliance with this standard.

• Standard 14 (Assessment of Student Learning): The Periodic Review Report provided assessment information only on programs with specialized accreditation and indirect evidence such as surveys; it did not provide the comprehensive student learning assessment plan that the Commission asks to accompany the report.

In addition, the university’s three-day closure, accompanied by allegations of cancelled classes and students being intimidated from attending classes before and after the closure, raise concerns about Gallaudet’s compliance with Eligibility Requirement 8 (The institution is operational with students actively pursuing its degree programs.).

As the team noted during its visit, because the Commission is concerned about Gallaudet’s compliance with so many of its standards, Gallaudet’s accreditation is currently fragile. When the Commission has serious concerns about an institution, its normal practice is to ask the staff liaison to visit the institution to explain the Commission’s expectations.

Having three Commissioners accompany the staff liaison to communicate the Commission’s concerns is unprecedented. The concerns expressed here are, however, questions rather than conclusions; it is now incumbent upon Gallaudet to provide evidence of its compliance with these standards.

Actions considered by the Commission.

The action to postpone a decision on accreditation and request a supplemental information report was the mildest action considered by the Commission.

Other actions considered were to:

• Reject the Periodic Review Report and staff-requested information report and direct the institution to resubmit the Periodic Review Report.

• Direct the institution to commence self-study in preparation for an evaluation visit within two years.

• Place the institution on warning that its accreditation is in jeopardy.

• Place the institution on probation.

The Commission bases its actions upon what it believes will most help the institution. In Gallaudet’s case, the Commission decided to postpone a decision on accreditation and ask for a Supplemental Information Report to give the university an additional opportunity to tell its side of the story.

Supplemental information report.

The Commission is asking for the following information in the Supplemental Information Report due March 1, 2007:

• Effectiveness of shared governance including presidential search process: The Commission is looking for evidence that governance problems are acknowledged and the university is moving to address them. Explain, in concrete terms, plans to systematically analyze, assess, and improve the functionality of Gallaudet’s governance system so that all segments of the university community feel that they have a meaningful, appropriate voice. Also explain, in concrete terms, analysis of lessons learned from the failed presidential search process and plans to modify the next presidential search process so that the outcome is more successful. Finally, include an assessment of board effectiveness (or concrete plans to conduct one), including, to quote AGB [Association of Governing Boards] publications, whether:

o All board members regularly receive the data and information they need to monitor the institution’s health and welfare.

o That information is provided in the right amounts, on the right matters, and in forms that are quickly comprehensible and usable.

o The board serves as an independent, informed source of counsel to the president.

The following resources may be helpful in examining governance and learning about policies and practices at other institutions:

o The Association of Governing Boards (AGB) regarding board governance

o The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) regarding student governance and judicial systems

o The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) regarding faculty governance and academic freedom

o Magna Publications ( regarding student leadership

o Anker Publications ( regarding faculty

I am attaching an article by Derek Bok on the role that the board can assume in assessing academic programs and student learning. Also, a search for books on “faculty governance” at will yield a number of good publications on the subject.

• Nurturance of a climate that fosters respect among students, faculty, staff, and administration for a range of backgrounds, ideas, and perspectives:

Explain, in concrete terms, your plans to analyze, assess, and improve campus climate (not just in terms of racial/ethnic diversity but also for diverse viewpoints) in light of what has been learned from the protests. Include in this section your plans to systematically analyze and assess the effectiveness of policies and processes regarding complaints, grievances, discipline, and academic and intellectual freedom for students, faculty, staff, and administration, and the integrity evidenced in the manner in which such policies and processes are applied.

As part of this assessment, the team also encourages you to develop systematic evidence of the true extent of intimidation in the expression of ideas. NASPA and AGB [Association of Governing Boards], both mentioned above, may provide helpful resources for this section.

• Mission review and implementation of a comprehensive strategic plan:

Explain, in concrete terms, plan s to review Gallaudet’s mission to ensure that it reflects the current environment and is viable, keeping in mind that institutions can be faithful to their mission while expressing it in new ways and that, to quote AGB [Association of Governing Boards], “major changes in mission and purpose require great sensitivity and broad consultation.”

Questions the university community might consider include:

o What are the fundamental activities that Gallaudet should always do, no matter what?

o What are the key values that the Gallaudet community embraces?

o What is the community's vision for Gallaudet, say, ten years from now? In what ways would the community like it to be the same? In what ways would the community like it to be different?

o How does the Gallaudet community define a high-quality education? How does the Gallaudet community know it is providing it?

o Given that deaf students have many opportunities for higher education elsewhere, what do you see as the distinctive needs and opportunities that Gallaudet should aim to fill? How can Gallaudet maintain its “competitive edge”?

o What are the characteristics of students who might find Gallaudet an especially “good fit”?

The mission review may include consideration of the role of ASL and other means of communication in the life of the university. Data-based evidence of the extent of ASL fluency among faculty and staff would greatly inform this discussion. Also explain, in concrete terms, plans to analyze systematically the viability of Gallaudet’s strategic plan and, if it is determined to be viable, plans to implement the strategic plan (timelines, accountabilities, plans to assess institutional effectiveness in achieving mission and strategic goals, etc.). The Society for College & University Planning may provide helpful resources in these areas.

• Implementation of a comprehensive enrollment management plan that addresses student recruitment, retention, graduation, and enrollment: Include your current enrollment management plan, addressing all these items, along with information on underlying assumptions, to assure the Commission that the plan is realistic and achievable. Include strategies and processes to ensure that institutional decision-makers have timely, transparent access to enrollment management information. If a comprehensive enrollment plan is still under development by March 1, provide goals and targets for 2007-2008 and 2008-2009, with assumptions and rationales, along with concrete plans to develop a more comprehensive enrollment management plan. Include in this section an explanation of your overall enrollment goals and your plans to obtain systematic, concrete information on why students leave before graduating and what students do after graduation.

• Evidence of the academic rigor of the degrees offered: Explain, in specific terms, the steps the institution is taking to ensure academic integrity in all it does.

Also explain, in very concrete, specific terms, steps you are taking to ensure that all students graduate with college-level knowledge, competencies, and skills, especially in general education competencies such as written communication and quantitative reasoning.

Include an overview of your plans to develop a documented, organized, and sustained process to assess the achievement of institutional and program-level student learning goals that includes direct evidence of student learning, in preparation for the monitoring report due April 1, 2008.

• Procedures for ensuring that changes and issues affecting the institution are disclosed accurately and in a timely manner to the Commission. This should be self-explanatory.

Throughout the Supplemental Information Report, the Commission will be looking for evidence that the Gallaudet community is moving from conclusions, decisions, and plans based on rumor and anecdote to ones based on careful analysis of systematic evidence, data, and facts that are communicated widely and transparently. The report must be honest and balanced in acknowledging successes, shortcomings, and work to be done. It should include evidence of analysis of past actions and tangible rather than conceptual plans.

Platitudes, unsubstantiated assurances, and defenses of past actions do not have a place in the report.

We encourage you to look upon the Supplemental Information Report as a means of engaging the entire Gallaudet community, including students, rather than as an administrative task. We further encourage you to look upon the report as an opportunity to develop an action plan for the next 18-24 months.

Upcoming sequence of events.

The Commission will next meet on March 8, 2007. While I cannot predict the Commission’s action, if we assume that there will be no further disruptions on campus, a likely scenario is that the Commission will act to thank Gallaudet for receiving the Commission’s visitors and to note that the Supplemental Information Report due March 1 will be acted upon at the Commission’s June meeting.

The Supplemental Information Report due March 1 will be followed by a visit by me, perhaps accompanied by others. I have asked Audrey to get in touch with me to identify a mutually convenient date for the visit, probably in April, and discuss the schedule for the visit.

The Supplemental Information Report and my report on my subsequent visit will be submitted to two members of the Commission on Follow-Up for review, then considered by the entire Committee on Follow-Up on May 31, 2007, and finally considered by the entire Commission at its meeting on June 28, 2007. Again, while I cannot predict the Commission’s action, the best possible scenario is that the Commission would accept the report, reaffirm Gallaudet’s accreditation, and request a monitoring report on key plans described in the report that are not yet implemented. If the Supplemental Information Report does not adequately address the Commission’s concerns, or if there are further disruptions or thwarting of the free and open exchange of ideas, the Commission will be obliged to take further action regarding Gallaudet’s accreditation at that meeting.

Please convey to your colleagues our great interest in and regard for Gallaudet University and our sincere hope that the university community will succeed in its quest to heal the university and propel it to greater excellence. Please feel free to contact me (LSuskie at or 267-284-5019) if I may be of assistance at any time. I look forward to seeing you and your colleagues again later this spring.

Best wishes,

Linda A. Suskie
Vice President

cc: Dr. Stephen Sweeny, College of New Rochelle, Team Chair
Msgr. David Rubino, Seton Hill College
Ms. Lisa Marsh Ryerson, Wells College

Team report to the Gallaudet community
Article by Derek Bok in Trusteeship

[End MSA letter]

CLICK HERE to read previous posts of the Gallaudet Protest Legal Issues blog.


Blogger David Ennis said...

1. Gallaudet’s Periodic Review Report, submitted by June 1, 2006, did not meet Middle States expectations because it did not include the required comprehensive plan to assess student learning and institutional effectiveness, because the reviewers felt there had been inadequate attention to some of the 2001 evaluation team recommendations, and because the Committee on Periodic Review Reports found the institutional response dismissive.

In fact, the 2001 evaluation team collected problems from 1996 to 2001 (given by five years MSA accredition) or 1991 to 2001 (given by ten years MSA accredition)

Seriously, I realized that the corruption of the Jordan Adm and BOT did not begin to happen in 2001 but in 1996 or even worse, in 1991.

Please take an inquiry into the 2001 evaluation team reports where they found some problems in what year?

April 1, 2007 at 12:59 AM  

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