Cal Lutheran shows improvement in ‘areas of concern’ amidst 2022 WSCUC report


Kennedy Lum

Issues initially marked during the 2020 accredidation review have show growth in new 2022 report.

Kennedy Lum, Reporter

California Lutheran University is part of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and Senior College and University Commission, and recently had a special visit to review areas of concern cataloged in the December 2020 report. The 2020 report criticized Cal Lutheran on diversity issues, lack of resources for graduate students, marginalized groups, equal staff representation, creating clear consequences for inappropriate behavior and expanding resources available to students. WASC has a background in accreditation; the organization sets forth standards in accreditation and has a continued mission to advocate for students and faculty.

Many of these issues showed improvement during the recent 2022 examination as noted on the official report for Cal Lutheran. WASC broke down the positive and negative things the university has been doing. 

WASC Commissioner Andrew Dorantes, one of the representatives that reviewed Cal Lutheran, outlined the important points of the report. Dorantes led the meeting that addressed the university’s successes and areas in need of improvement, the biggest revision area being campus culture.

Analyze and assess campus climate including issues in trust in senior leadership,” Dorantes said. “Take action to address the large number of open positions and challenges with faculty and staff.”

There were many polarities in the report conducted on Cal Lutheran, major areas in need of change, yet successful in other endeavors like increasing diversity initiatives.

One of the biggest developments in terms of diversifying Cal Lutheran has been from hiring staff members. Over half of the new recruits identify as people of color, and efforts have been made toward creating an advocacy diversity program. 

In the December 2020 report, the university was flagged as a campus that struggled to serve marginalized students and faculty. However, Cal Lutheran President Lori Varlotta has worked to make the school more inclusive by having meetings with student organizations such as PRIDE Club and other affinity groups to address representation issues.

“We worked hard to secure resources, grants, spaces, and staff associated with our many vibrant diversity programs. Just a month ago, we had two large federal grants renewed that will allow us to maintain several of our diversity programs,” Varlotta said in an email interview. “Three years ago, student groups joined forces with the administration to build a wonderful multipurpose space (The Alexander Twilight Legacy of Black Excellence) in the Student Union.”

In addition to diversity initiatives, WASC praised Cal Lutheran for addressing their concern about the lack of resources for graduate students. Cal Lutheran tried to improve its graduate program by offering students access to a writing studio, peer writing consultants and literature reviews.

Grant donors Rod Gilbert and Steven Dorfman have provided the school with funds to support student scholarships and entrepreneurial grants, which have been a leading factor in creating change around campus.

“One of our key values is inclusivity…we strive not only to be a place that welcomes students to the door but a campus where everyone experiences a sense of belonging once they are here,” Varlotta said. “Creating this type of inclusive campus is all our work–administration, faculty, coaches, students.”

Cal Lutheran’s Accreditation Liaison Officer Taiwo Ande had similar remarks about the WASC report.

“We have taken important steps as an institution,” Ande said. “This past WASC visit validated that we are going in the right direction.” 

According to Ande, Cal Lutheran is always looking for ways to improve, and WASC has the knowledge to guide the university to a better future.

Ande also said Cal Lutheran has been granted a ten-year contract for accreditation, but WASC will make sporadic visits to advocate for student and faculty needs.

Varlotta said the administration team aims for continued collaboration with students and staff members in cultivating a strong sense of community with Lutheran values.