By Larry Becker
A special visiting team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) has commended La Sierra University for the considerable work the school has completed addressing concerns regarding university governance expressed by the regional accrediting association.
The WASC visiting team issued its exit report during a meeting with the university’s board of trustees, administration and faculty. The team shared seven commendations and two recommendations that they will include in their formal report to WASC. Visiting team members were James Donahue, president, St. Mary’s College of California; Kerry Fulcher, provost and chief academic officer, Point Loma Nazarene University; and John Borek, Georgia State University.
The visiting team commendations to the university included:
- La Sierra’s constructive process to address how the curriculum presents the interface of faith and science in ways that balance the school’s faith-based commitments and responsible academic inquiry.
- Consistency in adherence to university policies regarding faculty governance while also demonstrating responsible governance by the administration and board of trustees.
- Implementation of creative solutions to curriculum issues in biology and general studies in ways that honor both instruction in Church doctrine and academically sound science education.
- Development of curriculum and assessment standards that enhance student learning throughout the institution.
- Involvement of the university president and provost to strengthen La Sierra University’s academic and institutional cultures.
- Clarifying the scope of responsibilities appropriate to the board of trustees, the president and his administration, and the faculty through changes in the university’s bylaws.
- Significant efforts by the Board of Trustees to refocus and clarify board members’ governance responsibilities.
The WASC team recommended La Sierra’s Board of Trustees continue to monitor and revise bylaws and policies that assure its independence, while honoring its commitments to both its faith-based and educational mission. A second recommendation called for the university to continue its good work of establishing learning outcomes and assessment measurements.
“We appreciate the visiting team’s strong affirmation of our efforts to address the commission’s concerns,” said Randal Wisbey, university president. “Moving forward, the entire La Sierra University learning community will give focused attention to strategic planning, assessment efforts, and enhancing student success. We will work diligently to enhance the university’s ability to serve our students and our church in the best ways possible.”
The October special visit culminated two years of study and action by La Sierra University in response to a WASC Letter of Concern issued in July 2011. That document identified concerns with the university’s governance structure and bylaws regarding the role and composition of the La Sierra University Board of Trustees and issues related to institutional autonomy.
These commendations and recommendations will be included in the visiting team’s comprehensive written report to WASC. The WASC Commission will take official action on the visiting team report and recommendations” during its February 2014 meeting.
Source: La Sierra University