Colgate Begins Self Study



Chris Nickels

Colgate University is currently being evaluated for reaccredidation as an institution for higher learning. This process occurs every ten years, and is run by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Accreditation is a standard used by colleges and universities to maintain quality higher education and to make participating schools worthy of public confidence. Moreover, the federal government requires accreditation by official organizations like Middle States in order for a school’s students to be eligible for federal grant aid under Title IX.

At this point, Colgate’s reaccredidation is in its early stages. Professor of English Constance Harsh and Professor of Physics Joseph Amato are co-chairs of the steering committee that is in charge of initiating and executing the process.

Reaccredidation is largely done by the University itself, with Middle States overseeing and approving the way in which it is done. Harsh and Amato completed the design of the self-study and now seek sanction from Middle States to carry it out.

The design was made public a few weeks ago, and is accessible to everyone via the Portal website.

The design was created with the goal of making Colgate the nation’s foremost liberal arts university. The plan is to create several working groups that will evaluate specific areas of consideration: academic programs, the school’s scholarly profile, student life and institutional planning are all areas of focus.

“[The] Middle States self-study will provide an opportunity for a campus-wide consideration of matters that are central to Colgate’s institutional identity,” the design plan stated.

The members of the steering committee and working groups will consist of faculty and staff members. Students are welcome to become involved in the process as consultants.

“[It’s] likely that we would bring in students for particular questions. There will be a point where we want to show students what the groups have come up with and ask for their input,” Harsh said.

In order to get more student input, the Steering Committee will likely send out questionnaires to students. Harsh and Amato also plan to reach out to student groups; they plan to give a presentation to the Student Government Organization next week about Middle States and reaccredidation.

“We are basically going to ask for their ideas. That’s one group we’ll ask. Hopefully, to try to be as inclusive as possible, we want to get as many ideas as we can about how to include the various student groups,” Amato said.

Apart from the self-evaluation, a team of outside consultants will come to Colgate to analyze the university. The visiting team will be from other academic institutions of a similar kind to Colgate.

The design cites Dartmouth and Wesleyan University as possible matches to Colgate’s profile.

“The team that comes to evaluate us are our peers, and if they spot something wrong, we have to take that seriously,” Amato said. “These are good people coming to evaluate us … we can no longer [only] say that we are doing a great job: we have to demonstrate it.”

The self-study will be useful to both outsiders and the university itself.

“The external audience of Middle States is important, but this is also important to an internal audience as well. This is a time for the community to think about some big questions. Hopefully, that will have a positive impact on planning for the future,” Harsh said.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is one of several accrediting organizations, and its membership includes other liberal arts schools like Swarthmore and Bard Colleges.

Once the self-study is complete – it will be carried out through next semester – the results of the study will be made public.

“I think the whole self study report will be available. What we expect is that there will be a draft of it by early next fall, and we will show it to the entire community for comments and for suggestions for change. Then it will be submitted to Middle States,” Harsh said.

After the committee submits the self study, the commission will decide Colgate’s accreditation status.