GC petitioned SACS in July of 1999 to use an Alternate Self-Study Model. The proposal was approved in October. The alternate model provides an opportunity to dialogue and delve deeply into values and issues that are at the heart of the College's learning and teaching functions. Our Self-Study officially kicks off in January 2000. Reaffirmation of accreditation is expected in 2002.
The Alternate Self-Study is a new option devised by SACS. The last Self-Study at GC that began in 1990 and ended with reaccreditation in 1992 conformed to the traditional protocol and dealt exclusively with compliance to the "must" statements. The current Self-Study is the first time that GC has undertaken an alternate model. This new approach, which is also referred to as a Strategic Self-Study, divides the process into compliance and strategic components. The campus committees that conduct this type of self-study are organized accordingly as is the final report.
The compliance component determines whether the College meets the SACS Criteria for Accreditation. There are 87 criteria defined by over 400 "must" statements. The criteria set minimal standards of quality for the examination of all aspects of the institution: Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Institutional Advancement, Administration and Finance, and the Office of the President. In the alternate model, the audit of compliance uses an abbreviated format that allows for a documentation list that points to College literature that details policies, procedures, etc.
The strategic component differs by institution. Those that undertake the alternate model convince SACS in the original proposal that they are already in compliance with most, if not all of the must statements. Thus, they are allowed by SACS to decrease the time, energy, and documentation that normally are spent on the must statements in order to free up resources to investigate one to several institution-defined issues.
Our strategic component investigates the degree to which the College meets four of its fifteen core values: (1) student learning and growth, (2) growth and well being of employees, (3) integration of technology into the fabric of the College, and (4) innovation and experimentation to facilitate progress to advance knowledge. College committees determine how these issues will be studied and the benchmarks needed to assess them. An outgrowth of this phase is the formulation of an Action Plan that shows ways to improve in each area.
The Self-Study Report will be completed by December of 2001 and released in two parts to cover both compliance and strategic issues. Although it seems as though a Strategic Self-Study is more exhaustive and time-consuming than a regular one, this apparently is not the case. There is an assumption at the onset that there are no serious problems with compliance, thus reducing the emphasis in that respect in deference to the effort invested in the strategic section.
Accreditation is granted only if the College is in full compliance with each must statement. Compliance is determined by a peer review of the College by a SACS Visiting Committee that spends one week on campus during the spring semester of 2002. The Visiting Committee interviews personnel and scrutinizes the Self-Study Report.
The proceedings of the Visiting Committee include how effectively the College addresses the needs of the campus community through its commitment to four of its core values. The Visiting Committee submits its findings to SACS after the visit. The College is given the opportunity to respond to the Visiting Committee recommendations over the summer and early autumn and correct anything that requires attention. SACS makes the reaffirmation decision at the end of 2002.
The strategic process will continue after the self-study concludes with the College focusing on one additional core value each year.