Board of Regents Chair says he's taking accreditation concerns seriously

Board Chair John Davies and University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen speak at a meeting on Sept. 13, 2019.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - On September 26, the University of Alaska Board of Regents received a letter from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. It raised concerns that the UA system wasn’t meeting critical accreditation standards.

The two main issues the commission raised are that the system hasn't clearly communicated the relationship between the universities and the statewide administration and that it hasn't listened to student and faculty feedback enough.

The relationship between the board and the universities isn't new.

“There has never been a problem, from the commission's point of view, about how we did that in the past,” says John Davies, chair of the UA Board of Regents. “The only reason that there's a problem now is because of the difficulty of the conversation around the various consolidations."

Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, President of the NWCCU, says the issue isn't the structure, it's the communication.

“The board, and the president, and the chancellors, they all have a responsibility to very clearly state who's doing what, and why, and how," Ramaswamy says.

Davies also says the board takes into account faculty and student opinions.

“We have faculty governance representatives at the board level,” Davies says. "We have public hearings. I meet with a number of faculty representatives on an ad hoc basis."

But based on their own observations of the discussions, the NWCCU says that’s not enough.

“The faculty and students, and particularly the students, felt like their voices were not being heard," Ramaswamy says.

For Davies, the bottom line is maintaining accreditation.

“There's just so many different aspects of what a modern university is that rides on that accreditation, on that approval of our program, and so that just cannot be jeopardized," Davies says.

Davies did not share any specific plans for responding to the NWCCU’s letter. He says that response will be determined at an emergency Board of Regents meeting scheduled to be held Wednesday.

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