SUNY Fredonia anticipates reaccreditation

OBSERVER Photo by Mary Heyl Dr. Mary Beth Sievens (left) and Dr. Lisa Hunter presented the council with updates on the college’s regional reaccreditation process at a recent council meeting.

The SUNY Fredonia College Council recently met for the first time of the 2018-2019 academic year. In addition to welcoming a new member, the council received updates on ongoing projects, as well as plans for new ones including renovations to dining facilities.

Honorable Frank Pagano, chairperson, welcomed new council member Anthony J. (A.J.) Dolce to his first meeting. Dolce, former mayor of the city of Dunkirk, was appointed to the council by Gov. Cuomo in June. “The governor appointed A.J. to a seven-year term on the college council. We welcome him, and I know he’s going to be of great value to our board, so thank you very much for accepting,” Pagano stated.

Student council member Connor Aitcheson updated members on recent and upcoming activity of the Student Association. In November, the student body will be voting on a referendum mandated by SUNY that could make the student activities fee change from mandatory to voluntary. “If it were to go voluntary, that would mean we wouldn’t have the guaranteed funding. We’d probably have to switch our entire model of government and overseeing of our clubs. All of these resources that we provide, like the Campus and Community Bus, FRED assist, other things that we help fund, would probably get reduced in service and would be a burden that we’d have to work out,” Aitcheson explained. Pagano inquired about the cost of the student fee and if it could be reduced based on program participation. Aitcheson estimated the fee to be $115 per semester and reported that historically, it has always been mandatory at the college. Aitcheson expressed concern that should the fee become voluntary, important services and programs would suffer, such as the well-utilized Campus and Community bus, which runs from campus to Wal-mart,Tops and other locations, as well as student clubs. “The campuses that are voluntary are struggling to provide the resources and services to students,” Aitcheson stated. He went on to explain that if the fee became voluntary, “Our biggest place to cut would be the clubs, which would have a drastic impact on student experience, especially the intercultural clubs because they’re a sounding board, a safe place for students of color.”

Dr. Lisa Hunter and Dr. Mary Beth Sievens presented the council with an update on the college’s Middle States Reaccreditation process. “According to federal law, institutions whose students receive federal financial aid have to maintain their regional accreditation,” Sievens explained. “We also do it because it’s an opportunity for us to take a look at what we do here and see if we are satisfied with the way things are going. Are we meeting our goals here as an institution? If we think we could be doing better, how so? Middle States gives us the opportunity to figure that out.”

Sievens explained the process in more depth. “One of the things we would ask the council to be familiar with are those things that we have identified as our institutional priorities. Middle States has asked us to take a look at what’s happening in our institution and to identify several big issues that can serve as themes that run throughout our self-study process for them,” Sievens explained.

She went on to identify three institutional priorities. The first is equitable and inclusive student success, which means giving each student the same opportunities to succeed and the same level of support. The second priority is continuous improvement through integrative planning and assessment, and the third is the issue of financial sustainablilty. Sievens and Hunter said the approximate timeline for reaccreditation is about two years and includes writing a self-study, receiving feedback from the campus community (notably the college council) and a campus visit from members of Middle States. Sievens stated that the accrediting body would take action some time in early summer 2020.