As part of its decennial review by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), Yeshiva University recently received a warning that its accreditation may be in jeopardy. The notice explained that YU may lose its accreditation if it fails to address three major issues that the MSCHE has uncovered. Should YU fail to resolve these concerns, YU students would no longer receive funds for work study and would be ineligible to receive federal student loans. In addition, YU would face the prospect of a downgrade of the University’s academic standing.
Most of the efforts undertaken to evaluate a university are customarily handled by the university itself through a self-assessment. The university drafts a report of what they need to improve in order to keep progressing as an institution, and submits it to the MSCHE. YU’s most recent self-evaluation took approximately two years to complete under the guidance of Associate Professor of English William Lee, who was appointed by the Provost’s office to oversee the accreditation process. After the report was submitted to the MSCHE for approval, a team comprised of agency officials was dispatched to conduct their own evaluation.
The first of the MSCHE’s concerns regards the 10th standard of the MSCHE, which discusses the proper role of faculty within the university. In their Public Disclosure Statement, the MSCHE warned YU that there was insufficient evidence of “development, approval, and dissemination of clear procedures and policies governing faculty appointment, promotion, tenure, and grievance processes.” According to Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, one of the reasons that YU has never had a printed tenure policy is because there are so many different fields in the University that one uniform policy would not have worked. However, a tenure policy has been drafted by Professor Nancy Beckerman of the Wurzweiler School of Social Work and has been submitted to the Faculty Council for review.
The MSCHE’s second issue questions the faculty’s role in facilitating the progress of the University’s academic programs. The MSCHE felt that there was unsatisfactory proof “that faculty have appropriate input into the design, maintenance, and updating of curricula.” This matter relates to how faculty and the administration interact in the development of curricula. As a result, the University has drafted a new faculty handbook which was recently approved by the Board of Trustees that outlines a plan to address this concern. Additionally, YU has formed a Faculty Council elected by members of the faculty with representatives from all of the Manhattan Campuses that should help ensure proper faculty participation in the progression of curricula.
Lastly, the MSCHE has expressed their concern regarding student assessment, the 14th standard of the MSCHE. The agency has determined that it could not reasonably conclude whether students are learning what the University desires them to learn. As such, YU is in the process of studying current trends in student assessment and could be implementing some changes in order to verify whether students are meeting university standards of achievement and scholarship.
YU is required to submit a monitoring report on September 1, 2013, which will discuss how they have addressed the warnings issued by the MSCHE. Dr. Schiffman, emphasized however, that the administration views the report as a resounding success. “The MSCHE is merely assisting the university in evolving to face the challenges inherent in remaining a premium university. The fact is that we are accredited and will be for the whole process.”