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UA to undergo re-accreditation

By Eric Swedlund
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 19, 1999
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As the university prepares to undergo its re-accreditation process, administrators are organizing a self-study report outlining areas in which the UA needs improvement.

"We'd be dead in the water if we didn't change," said Betty Atwater, associate Physiology Department head and co-chair of the self-study steering committee.

Atwater said the University of Arizona uses the re-accreditation process as a means to improve its programs, although the evaluation is also crucial to university functions.

Without official accreditation, which is evaluated by the North Central Association every 10 years, UA students would be unable to receive financial aid.

In preparation for a visit by the NCA review team, scheduled for next Feb. 14, the university undertakes an involved self-evaluation, Atwater said.

The 20 members of the steering committee, appointed by UA President Peter Likins, oversee the eight working teams, which submitted preliminary reports in March.

The working teams evaluated the university according to five NCA criteria - institutional mission and purposes, human, financial and physical resources, performance, capacity for continued effectiveness and institutional integrity in practices and relationships.

"We need to synthesize all that has been collected, and see how it relates to the five criteria for re-accreditation," Atwater said.

In addition, the NCA evaluation considered 24 general institutional requirements, divided into seven major areas - mission, authorization, governance, faculty, educational programs and public information.

"The top priority of the UA is advancing learning through the integration of teaching, and services to others," Likins stated in the President's Prioritization Principles, which assists the steering committee.

"There are three special populations within the university community that require special priority - new students, especially incoming freshmen, outstanding scholars at all levels, and anyone who is directly or indirectly crucial to the financial success of the university," Likins stated in the document.

In the 10 years since the last self-study report, Atwater said the university has become more student-centered, particularly in dealing with undergraduates.

Atwater said that the self-study report lets the steering committee examine how the university is functioning and improving.

"In this large an institution, one can never know everything," Atwater said. "We're trying to prepare a report that gives more people an opportunity for input."

Michael Cusanovich, former UA vice president of research and graduate studies and a member of the steering committee, said the self-study report can be a useful planning document.

Cusanovich said the uses of the document are two-fold. The study helps correct deficiencies and develops the university's strengths.

"We try to use (the self-study report) as an opportunity to improve, as well as identify things that are going particularly well," Cusanovich said. "It is a useful exercise, with benefits beyond re-accreditation."