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March 1, 2007

Gallaudet’s accreditation woes

From: The Georgetown Voice - Washington,DC,USA - Mar 1, 2007

Controversy continues at deaf campus
by Michael J. Bruns

Though the protests against Provost and former president-elect Jane Fernandes have subsided, Gallaudet University is still suffering from the long-term effects of last fall’s student strike. The country’s only deaf university may soon lose its accreditation from the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, the same organization that evaluates and accredits Georgetown.

Gallaudet, which last faced evaluation in 2001, submitted a Periodic Review Report to the Commission last June to renew its status. After the protests in October, which received national attention, the Commission decided to withhold approval and requested a secondary report from Gallaudet.

The new report questions the effectiveness of University governance and the “climate of respect” on campus, includes plans to manage enrollment and asks for “evidence of the academic rigor of the degrees offered,” according to a public disclosure by the Commission.

A federal funding program assessment by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget that classified Gallaudet’s performance as ineffective was also a factor in the Commission’s decision. Gallaudet receives $107 million annually in federal funds, but has an undergraduate graduation rate of only 42 percent. The assessment has since been changed to “adequate” by the OMB. While the new assessment did not list any particular improvements, it did mention that President Bush’s proposed 2007 federal budget allocates $600,000 to develop a strategy to improve the University.

Gallaudet has until the end of March to draft a report showing the University’s progress towards addressing the Commission’s concerns. Representatives of the Commission will also make an official visit to the school at the end of April for further evaluation, and the school’s accreditation status will be determined at the Commission’s next official session in June.

© 2007 The Georgetown Voice