Middle States Evaluation Team Visits Campus, Findings to be Announced in Coming Weeks

As a part of its re-accreditation process, the Middle States Commission for Higher Education visited Frostburg State University to receive feedback from the campus community.

The Middle States evaluation team is composed of volunteer professors and administrators also working in higher education. Their goal is to evaluate the university’s practices and policies and to make recommendations based on whether or not they met standards.

The evaluation team presented an exit report on Wednesday, March 30 to deliver its preliminary findings. However, The Bottom Line is unable to report these findings. Middle States policies state that the exit report is not permitted to be shared by the press or anyone in attendance.

Although the meeting was open to the campus and pertained to the accreditation of a public institution, officials said the meeting would be, essentially, off-the-record.

“The key issue is that the report is only a preliminary one,” said a Middle States spokesperson. “Too often, media will report that a visiting team “reaccredited” the institution or placed the institution on warning or probation.”

The results of the evaluation will not be known for several weeks. A preliminary written report will be provided to the institution’s president for a review of potential factual errors.

“Once the team chair completes his/her final report, the team chair meets with the Commission’s Committee on Evaluations, which reviews the team’s recommendations,” the spokesperson added. “The Committee can endorse the recommendations or change them, based on Commission guidelines for consistency and fairness. The Committee’s recommendations are then submitted to the full Commission, which can also endorse or change the recommendations.”

“The Committee on Evaluations is currently scheduled to meet during May and the full Commission will meet on June 23,” the spokesperson added. “Nothing will be official until the full Commission acts on June 23.”

Student leaders met several times with the members of the evaluation team to provide insight into students’ perspectives.

“SGA was very pleased with the Middle States visit,” said SGA President James Kirk. “Members of our organization were able to meet with the visiting team on four separate occasions and discuss campus policy issues, including academic advising, the General Education Program, and shared governance. The team members took a serious, genuine interest in listening to student concerns, and that was directly reflected by the recommendations made by the Middle States team in their exit report.”

Members from all over FSU’s campus community collaborated to work on re-accreditation. FSU published its Middle States self-study earlier this year after a strenuous research process by the Middle States Steering Committee. Dr. Sydney Duncan, associate provost and chair of the committee, and Sara-Beth Bittinger, director of assessment and institutional research, thanked the members of this team for their contributions.

We’re really lucky to have such amazing people that served on the [steering] committee from all across campus,” Bittinger said.

The re-accreditation process occurs every ten years, with a periodic review report five years in between. After the re-accreditation process, institutions provide annual reports to Middle States that are primarily “data dumps.” Duncan said a proposal has been made to re-evaluate universities every eight years, with a periodic review after four years. If the proposal is approved, there will be “data and narrative” involved, Duncan said. At the four year point, a small evaluation team would review these yearly reports and comment on those developments.

Bittinger said that more frequent evaluations would be “better and more efficient” and that they would “keep everyone focused on continual improvement.”

Now that the university has received feedback, it’s time for officials to begin assessing the information and implementing change as they see fit.

“We have our seven recommendations that we have made for ourselves,” Duncan said. “We have an exit report from the visiting team, which has given us additional guidance. And I think that’s where we pick up. We’ve got a new president starting May 9. All these things are coming together into a perfect vortex that gives us an opportunity to really look at the way we want to go.”

At press time, Bowling, Whitney, and Kirk had not responded to requests for comment.

Caitlin Taylor contributed reporting to this story.

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