UB Begins Stringent Self-Study

Earlier this fall, UB launched a comprehensive self-study that will serve as a basis for the renewal of the university's membership in the Middle States Association, an accreditation without which UB could not offer students federal financial aid.

The Middle States Commission for Higher Education is a division of the Middle States Association of Schools and one of six independent, regional accrediting associations. The group grants accreditation based on an in-depth self-study and on a peer review by a team of officials and educators from similar institutions within the association.

"This is a very elaborate process, where we will conduct a major self-study to see how we are doing," said UB Provost Elizabeth Capaldi. The two-year study, to be completed in spring 2003, will examine every aspect of UB, from educational opportunities to the quality of student life.

The re-accreditation process must be performed every 10 years, a process UB has undergone since it joined the association in 1921.

According to the MSCHE Web site, its accreditation is "a means of self-regulation and peer review adopted by the educational community."

Dr. Beth Delgenio, professional staff coordinator of UB's self study and assistant vice provost of academic affairs, said that other colleges and universities are also required to submit themselves to detailed self-analysis, but other types of studies are possible. For example, studies may focus on only one aspect of an institution or, as at UB, encompass a broad, comprehensive review.

"We thought that the comprehensive study would do the most good for our goals," said Delgenio.

Because few institutions lose accreditation, it has become mostly a process focused on constructive criticism.

"Accreditation serves now to try to help you improve," said Capaldi, "[by] requiring self-study and having a group of outsiders come in and evaluate you."

"Institutions that are not accredited cannot receive federal assistance in the form of financial aid for students," Capaldi said, something she called a "very important implication."

The study will be guided by a leadership committee, led by Dr. Dennis Malone, chair of the electrical engineering department, who led UB through the last re-accreditation process in 1993 and an interim report in 1998. Below the leadership committee is a 20-member steering committee.

"The steering committee represents a cross-section of the community here at UB," said Delgenio. "There are faculty, staff, administrators, and students who serve on this steering committee."

Delgenio said the steering committee will eventually be broken up into 14 subcommittees to study many parts of UB, from its mission and how the respective parts live up to that vision to how efficiently resources are divided and spent. Other aspects to be studied include educational effectiveness, strategic planning and the overall institutional integrity.

The university will absorb the majority of the cost of the study, which will be performed by university staff, minus the cost of hotel rooms and meals for the visiting peer review team.

After the study is completed, the findings will be compiled by the leadership committee and circulated among the UB community in the spring of 2003.

The peer review team will look at UB not only in terms of meeting the bar set by the MSCHE, but will also suggest ways for UB to meet its goals in the future.

"Instead of always self-evaluating," said Delgenio, "having outside people come in provides an objective view as to how we [as a school] are doing."