A major university accreditation organization has put the University of Alaska system on notice in a vague letter that refers to unspecified media reports and undocumented conversations that accreditors had with university stakeholders in Fairbanks.
In a letter to leaders of the university, including the president, chancellors, and the Board of Regents, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities said that after its on-the-ground observations and interactions with university stakeholders in Fairbanks, “we are concerned that the University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Anchorage, and University of Alaska Southeast have failed to meet the above critical Standards for Accreditation, in accordance with the United States Department of Education’s 34 CFR Part 602.”
Those standards that the NWCCU require include, “ … the division of authority and responsibility between the system and the institution is clearly delineated. System policies, regulations, and procedures concerning the institution are clearly defined and equitably administered,” the letter states.
Additionally, the standards require “the institution demonstrates an effective and widely understood system of governance with clearly defined authority, roles, and responsibilities. Its decision-making structures and processes make provision for the consideration of the views of faculty, staff, administrators, and students on matters in which they have a direct and reasonable interest.”
The NWCCU letter doesn’t specify which media reports it gleaned information from, or what precise infractions of standards have been committed or by whom.
“We respectfully urge you to take immediate steps to provide clarity around the authority, roles, and responsibilities of the University of Alaska System and its respective institutions and their leadership. We also respectfully urge you to continue to create a space for inclusive dialogue as the Board of Regents deliberates on the future structure of the University of Alaska System,” NWCCU’s letter continues.
“NWCCU continues to assert the importance of the Board of Regents as an independent governing body, and respects that Board ’s ultimate authority related to the structure and future structure of the University of Alaska System. However, we also must assert the importance of an inclusive decision-making process that respects the tenets of shared governance in the process. We ask that you take immediate action, and that the institutions report either collectively or individually to the Commission on the results of your efforts in an Ad Hoc report, no later than October 31, 2019.”
The Board of Regents will hold an emergency meeting to address the issues raised. The regular Board of Regents meeting is scheduled for Oct. 31 in Fairbanks.