Colorado Gov. Bill Owens’ recommendation for the CSU presidential position would only cost the school its accreditation if the school did not correctly follow its application procedure, said Robert Appleson, associate director for the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Associate, the Chicago-based company that accredits CSU.
Owens recently advocated his departing secretary of technology, Marc Holtzman, for the presidential position, which will be open after current President Albert C. Yates retires on June 30 or shortly thereafter. This recommendation has initiated rumors that CSU might lose its accreditation.
“The fact that the governor might or might not have openly supported one candidate or another is not necessarily an accrediting issue,” Appleson said.
The Presidential Advisory Committee will review candidates for the position, after which they will recommend three to seven prospects to the Board of Governors for the CSU System, who will make the final decision.
Accreditation is voluntarily pursued by universities and is bestowed by a non-governmental entity. This entity may give either institutional accreditation, where it evaluates the university as a whole, or specialized accreditation, where it evaluates specific programs or units within the university.
CSU is currently up for re-evaluation for institutional accreditation, which must be renewed every 10 years. The process will not be completed until February 2004, but CSU must release a self-study during the fall 2003 semester. After the HLC receives the study, they will send a team to the university to do its own evaluation.
“We look at the general operation of the university,” said Robert Jones, co-coordinator for the accreditation self-study. “Do we have a capacity to operate as an excellent university for the next 10 years?”
Political intervention in a presidential search process is not explicitly restricted by the HLC’s university accreditation requirements. The commission only requires that an institution demonstrate integrity in its practices to help ensure it is providing high quality education to its students, said Jones, who is also a professor in the department of microbiology, immunology and pathology.
“As long as the governing board conducts the search in a way that it preserves the institution’s integrity, then it would fulfill (the HLC’s) expectations of an accredited university,” he said. “If it appeared they were not following (their procedure), then the HLC would want to evaluate whether those deviations were disruptive to the quality of education.”
Don Hamstra, chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee and a representative of the Board of Governors, feels Owens’ recommendation of Holtzman will have no affect on the school’s accreditation.
“This has gotten blown way out of proportion,” Hamstra said. “The issue for us is to find the best president for CSU. If we do that, I don’t see how accreditation will be an issue.”