Bishops’ accreditation?

Bishops’ accreditation? November 13, 2014

Over at Aleteia, Randall B. Smith considers the college accreditation process, and argues that bishops could undertake a similar process in accrediting colleges and universities as authentically Catholic.

Describing the existing accreditation process, he writes:

Every ten years, my university, like every other college and university in the country, must undergo a major “accreditation review” to renew our accreditation with the regional accrediting agency.  And every ten years, roughly eighteen months before the accreditation review team is scheduled to show up, the faculty are forced to write (and then re-write according to some bureaucrat’s specification) endless reports documenting what we do, why we do it, the outcomes we hope to achieve by what we do, how we measure those outcomes, and the ways we have developed the program over the years in order to achieve better outcomes — presuming, of course, that we knew what outcomes we wanted in the first place.

He suggests that faculty and administrators understand the accreditation process not as a violation of academic freedom, but a necessary part of being recognized by peers as a competent institution.

And even though this process is very intrusive — we are required to keep on file for review by the accreditation review board all of our class syllabi and tests and be able to account for how they were structured so as to meet our stated departmental and university “outcomes” — nonetheless, the faculty tolerates all of it. No one considers any of this intrusive probing into what we do and how we do it and why we do it to be a violation of our “academic freedom,” even though if we don’t account for ourselves adequately, we would lose our ability to operate as a viable educational institution.

An analogous accreditation for Catholic mission would involve a similar institutional self-assessment. Some questions that he proposes:

1. Is the curriculum offered identifiably “Catholic” in any way, shape, matter, or form, or is the curriculum absolutely indistinguishable from the education a student would receive at the most non-religious school in the nation?

2. Does the school make any effort to uphold and teach the basic intellectual traditions of Catholic faith and morals, or does it make every effort to disabuse students of these “burdens” at every turn?

3. When the bishops suggest that a text is not appropriate for teaching undergraduates, does the school immediately order copies in bulk and invite the author for very public campus lectures?

4. Does the school abide by the principles of Catholic social justice in terms of a “living wage” and appropriate health care benefits for all of its staff (including so-called adjunct faculty), or does it conspicuously fail to live up to the standards it constantly accuses corporate America of failing to abide by?

5. Does the school abide by the Church’s fundamental prohibitions against grave sins, such as avoiding aiding in abortions or stem cell research?

6. Are courses in Catholic thought being taught by faculty who are qualified to teach those subjects and who teach them honestly and with fidelity to Catholic thought and practice?

Read the whole thing.


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