Students measure efficiency of college for accreditation

As University faculty members were grilling students in the midst of midterm mayhem, the roles of the examined and the examiner switched as students were given a chance to grade SF State.

On March 24, SF State students took part in the accreditation process by sharing their academic experiences with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the organization that accredits SF State and other academic institutions on the West Coast of the United States.

“We want to help this institution become the institution you will be proud to say you graduated from,” said Doris Ching, a member of WASC and the vice president of student affairs at the University of Hawaii. “It’s important that we hear a student voice.”

A group of 20 students, both graduates and undergraduates, met with Ching on the fifth floor of the administration building to discuss their likes and dislikes of SF State’s performance in providing them with a quality education.

Sitting around a large square table, students praised SF State for its diversity in both demographics and program offerings—agreeing that exposure to diverse viewpoints enhance education.

“The best thing that came out of that meeting was students being able to identify the positive and negative aspects of their campus,” said Filimon Richardson, freshman representative to ASI and an international business major.

The biggest complaint students had was the abundance of overcrowded classes throughout campus. Many noted that overcrowded classes limit individual interaction with professors, hindering their comprehension of the material and making it hard to move on to upper division courses.

“I’ve been here three years and I haven’t been able to get all my classes,” said Roxana Estrada, a junior majoring in business management.  “It makes it hard for students to stay focused.”

Because of dwindling state support, the CSU now operates with funding equivalent to the year 2000, when the system supported 70,000 fewer students, according to the chancellor’s office website.

At SF State, 401 lecturers lost their jobs since 2008, resulting in 339 fewer class sections, according to the University’s website.

But despite the reduction of resources, Ching assured students not to worry.

“You are definitely an accredited University,” she said.  “There’s no threat to your accreditation.”

WASC takes the harsh realities of the budget cuts into consideration when evaluating the University, Ching said. The most important thing for WASC is that the administration does its best to uphold SF State’s mission under fiscal constraints.

Accreditation establishes that institutions of higher learning adhere to certain standards of quality and takes a total of 10 years to complete, said Linda Buckley, associate vice president in the Office of Academic Planning and Development.

The process unfolds in three phases. The first phase began in 2007 when SF State underwent self-examination. The University also drafted a proposal outlining the focuses of the accreditation process, Buckley said.

According to the SF State WASC Institutional Proposal, the three themes that accreditation will focus on are a commitment to social justice and civil engagement; changing the University to support its changing population; and student success in terms of graduation, retention and writing achievements.

The second stage, which SF State is currently undertaking, looks at the availability of resources for carrying out the University’s mission.

The final phase is an educational effectiveness review, which will examine the level of students’ learning. It is scheduled for completion in October 2012.

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