YSU Prepares to Reaffirm HLC Accreditation

By Elizabeth Lehman

Youngstown State University is preparing to reaffirm its accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission in 2018 by hosting a series of five open forums.

The first meeting was Oct. 4 and the rest will be held through Dec. 6. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to participate.

Kevin Ball, coordinating committee member of the HLC Steering Committee, said the objective of the forums is twofold.

“We’re sharing the evidence we’ve gathered and the arguments we are making with the campus community, and at the same time we’re also soliciting feedback from the campus community about anything we may have overlooked or omitted in our argument,” Ball said.

The steering committee is distributing a guide around campus to help prepare the YSU community for the HLC’s visit, scheduled from March 25 to March 27. The guide explains accreditation and the process involved in reaffirmation.

According to the guide, during the visit five peer review team members of the HLC will interview a range of campus community members, including the president, provost, board of trustees, deans, department heads, faculty, students, staff and Youngstown leaders.

Ball said the team will want to ask students about their experience with the mission, their instructors and various offices on campus.

“We know the team will want to meet with groups of faculty and staff, so we’re trying to reach out to all of those groups now so they know what to expect,” Ball said.

Each open forum will focus on one of the five HLC Criteria for accreditation, which was stated in a mass email from the steering committee that announced the dates of the forums.

According to the steering committee’s guide, the five criteria are: mission; integrity: ethical and responsible conduct; teaching and learning: quality, resources and support; teaching and learning: evaluation and improvement; and resources, planning and institutional effectiveness.

The first open forum focused on the mission of YSU. A presentation given at the forum said the HLC looks at four core components in regards to the university’s mission: the mission must be broadly understood within the institution and guide its operations; the mission must be articulated publicly; the university must understand the relationship between its mission and the diversity of society; and the mission must demonstrate commitment to the public good.

The first open forum began with opening remarks from Ball. Mary Lou Dipillo, member of the steering committee and co-chair of the Criterion I section, took the floor next and gave the first half of the presentation about YSU’s mission.

Cary Wecht, professor in communication studies and director of faculty development, stepped up next to present the rest of the slides. An open discussion among attendees followed.

Ball said YSU is required to compose an assurance argument to present to the HLC. The argument outlines how YSU meets each of the five criteria for reaffirmation. The forums give attendees an opportunity to discuss the argument.

Julia Gergits, member of the steering committee, said in the end, hundreds of people will have been consulted about the argument.

“We want to make sure that we capture the truth about the assertions we make in the report,” Gergits said. “It’s hard to know every corner of the university; it’s easy to miss important things. So, we hope that our teams and participants will point us in the right directions.”

As the forums proceed, the corresponding section of the argument will be available at YSU’s website about HLC accreditation.

According to the website, YSU has had continuous regional accreditation since 1945 and received a 10-year reaffirmation in 2008. Accreditation qualifies the university to administer federal financial aid to students and to receive federal grants and contracts. It also supports transferability and recognition of credits earned by students.

The rest of the open forums will be held on Wednesdays from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in the Schwebel Reception room in Kilcawley Center. Please contact Kevin Ball at x1560 or [email protected] for dates or with any other questions.