Body of the review
Auburn University has completed the first phase of the reaffirmation process for its accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges, or SACSCOC. In early November, an offsite committee will review Auburn’s Compliance Certification Report, or CCR, and provide feedback. Auburn will then have until Jan. 16 to submit answers to their questions in anticipation of the review committee’s on-site visit from Feb. 28 to March 2, 2023.
Six months after the SACSCOC site visit, we highlight standard 6.2.a, which focuses on faculty qualifications. If you’ve been asked to find an updated transcript or resume in the last few months, you’re not alone. Our office has collected and reviewed over 1,900 transcripts and resumes to help showcase the outstanding qualifications of our faculty. Below is a bit more information on why.
Working with Auburn faculty in their roles as instructors, researchers, mentors, and colleagues, it’s easy to see that in each of our colleges and departments, our faculty are highly qualified to teach and lead classes that ensure student learning and success. Unfortunately, for accreditation purposes, the lived experience of working with Auburn faculty is not part of the equation. It’s all about documentation.
Every five years, SACSCOC requires member institutions to submit a list of faculty that includes each faculty member, each course they taught in a specific “snapshot” year, and proof of academic or professional credentials. that qualify them to teach each of these classes. To put this into a more concrete context, Auburn University employs more than 1,443 full-time faculty, representing more than 80% of Auburn’s total faculty. Building a list with every instructor and every course taught in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 means collecting information on a large number of individuals and an even larger number of courses.
The alignment between the highest degree earned by the instructor and the specific discipline of the courses they teach is the easiest way for SACSCOC examiners to determine if faculty are qualified. In other words, if you have a doctorate in philosophy and teach courses with the prefix PHIL, you’re most likely to get a quick nod from SACSCOC examiners. With approximately 92% of Auburn’s full-time faculty and other teaching faculty holding a terminal degree (usually a doctorate) in their discipline, our team was ahead of the game in the documentation game.
However, many professors have directly related experience beyond their university degree that makes them qualified to teach courses in a related discipline or specific sub-discipline. In these cases, Auburn may use other means to demonstrate faculty qualifications. This includes professional experience in the field, licenses and certifications, scholarly publications, honors and awards or other demonstrated skills that contribute to effective teaching and student learning outcomes. In fact, several programmatic accrediting agencies even recommend hiring field practitioners in addition to those with college degrees as part of a well-rounded department. For example, disciplines such as building science, journalism, music performance, and public finance highly value experience as a practitioner outside of their academic degrees.
Going back to Auburn’s roster for the 2021-22 academic year, explicitly tying the rich and broad experiences of Auburn’s faculty to the specific courses they teach sometimes required a line-by-line review of a transcript. or a resume. No connection could be taken for granted; the list should be prepared taking into account that the examiners will have little or no knowledge of a given discipline. In some cases, we even worked with the faculty member to help develop an explanation of the relationship between particular seemingly “niche” disciplines. (That’s your business, Tribology.)
Given this level of course-by-course review and the large number of professors and courses included in such a list, it is easy to see why this is the most cited standard in an initial SACSCOC review. In fact, if even a faculty member is flagged because of a question about their qualifications for a specific course, the institution will be flagged as not meeting that standard.
Our team has worked hard to put together a solid and detailed list that will minimize the number of follow-up questions during the on-site exam, but we couldn’t do it alone. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Human Resources Liaisons, Deans, Associate Deans, and Department Heads and Chairs who helped us ensure that we accurately represented faculty qualifications. It really takes collaboration at all levels of the university to champion Auburn’s outstanding faculty.
The work of qualifying the teaching staff of this cycle is not finished. We will likely need to follow up with some professors once we receive initial feedback in November. However, our team has already begun exploring ways to make this process more efficient and effective for the fifth-year interim report in 2027. We hope that a formalized process for regularly documenting faculty qualifications will make it easier to share this documentation. with both institutions. and programmatic accreditors if required. For now, however, we await feedback from the offsite review in November and look forward to welcoming SACCCOC to campus in February 2023.
For more information on the accreditation process, visit our website.