Students voice opinions ahead of Baruch's reaccreditation

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The 14th floor at Baruch College's Newman Vertical Campus had more than just a great view on Oct. 18; it also had an opportunity for students to broadcast their opinions. The first "community conversation" provided a gateway for students to provide feedback about Baruch’s environment.

The event centered around the recent news of Baruch undergoing the process of reaccreditation in the spring of 2020. Accreditation ensures that a college is meeting the set of seven standards that guarantee a successful future for the school and its students.

The next chapter for Baruch will be decided by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which is in charge of evaluating whether or not Baruch remains eligible for Title IV financial aid.

Rachél Fester, who serves as an assistant provost for assessment, accreditation and institutional effectiveness, and liaison officer for middle states accreditation, explained the procedures surrounding accreditation.

"[Accreditation is] a way for the federal government to ensure that students who get federal financial aid are enrolled in quality institutions," Fester said.

Baruch’s preparation plan for accreditation is divided into the Self-Study Process and a site visit, with the student and community conversation functioning as a catalyst for the former. This process was designed to fully understand the environment that the Baruch community creates for students.

"Out of today’s meeting, I think hearing the voices that we don’t normally hear or that we don’t hear enough of is really important," said Michele Doney, director of the Student Academic Consulting Center.

"I think we all feel purpose, but I think it’s important that we are achieving that purpose in the most effective, student-centered way."

The panel at the event came from specific working groups — members and co-chairs who were specifically assigned to ensure Baruch was meeting each standard.

The Self-Study Process allows for the creation of a document enlisting the standards met or exceeded by Baruch, along with any key adjustments needed. The site visit occurs in the spring of 2020, with evaluators assessing the school.

"This community conversation is part of a broader evidence gathering phase of the Self-Study," said Fester.

"In the spring of 2019, we’re gonna be drafting the report that helps us tell the accreditation agency, 'Here’s how we think we’re doing in regards with compliance of the standards,' and in the late spring, we’re going to be sharing a draft report with students."

After this draft is shared with students for acknowledgement, there is a review process that leads to a final draft and then later a submission to the MSCHE for final review.

"The process is great because it sort of forced grandeur detailed self-reflection that makes us stronger every time we do it,” Doney said.

Throughout the event, the panel encouraged students to provide feedback on the seven key standards.

Former undergraduate alumna Abigail Ryan now finds herself attending graduate school at Baruch. She described her experiences within the classroom, alluding to Standard IV: Support of the Student Experience.

"I think it’s important to know that your professors are not just in front of the class teaching random work, that they do work outside of school and are professional in their fields," Ryan said.

Along with Standard IV, the concept of Standard II: Ethics and Integrity was emphasized by Dennis Slavin, Self-Study co-chair and associate provost for teaching and learning.

"One of the things that faculty and schools do a lot of is make judgements on our students, on people that we work with and it’s a process that we hope is fair and equitable and certainly an ongoing one," said Slavin. "Since we are spending so much time doing that, isn’t it also fair and equitable that we also admit ourselves to a peer judgement and peer evaluation?"

Along with student-centered community conversations, the committees also host faculty and staff conversations to discuss further development in the Self-Study Process.

These conversations encourage all members to discuss plans in which Baruch can grow as a school by applying these standards around the community. "There are a lot of things that go into a lot of these accreditation standards," Fester said. "Are we doing all these things and are we doing them well?"

Students are encouraged to attend community conversations to help provide insight on the Baruch student body.

The next community conversation is scheduled to take place on Nov. 14 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in NVC 15-280.

NewsYasmeen PersaudComment