WSCUC removes formal notice of concern

Carrollyne Aasen, Editor in Chief

On March 17, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission released its Commission Action Letter, addressed to President Lori Varlotta, and removed the formal notice of concern that was issued March 3, 2021. California Lutheran University is now accredited without concern. WSCUC will conduct an offsite review in fall 2024 and return for an accreditation visit in spring 2025.

“This action was taken after consideration of the report of the review team that conducted the Special Visit to CLU September 7-8, 2022. The Commission also reviewed the institutional report and exhibits submitted by CLU prior to the Special Visit and the institution’s October 24, 2022 response to the team report,” WSCUC President Jamienne S. Studley said in the letter.

The report from the special visit team included sections on:

  1. Sustaining a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  2. Implementing culturally sensitive pedagogical practices.
  3. Clarifying policies and processes that hold individuals on campus accountable for inappropriate behavior.
  4. Expanding information resources available to faculty and students
  5. Consistency in staff hiring processes.
  6. Reevaluating the effectiveness of support services for graduate students.

In the letter, it states that the commission commends Cal Lutheran for developing a campus-wide DEIJ strategic plan, “moving ahead in with its efforts to integrate DEIJ into the curriculum with a more consistent approach,” developing structures and policies “designed to address accountability for inappropriate behavior and conduct” and implementing “the equity advocate and equity checklist” designed by the university to “increase diversity in faculty and staff hiring.”

Following this letter, Studley said that the commission requires the university to respond to various issues. The first issue addressed in the letter includes obtaining and analyzing “metrics to evaluate the progress” of the initiatives in place, such as the critical incident response system, strategic plan implementation and other initiatives. Another issue included is to resolve the “large number of open positions and continue to address challenges with faculty and staff retention.” Lastly, the letter details that Cal Lutheran is required to respond to the issues of addressing “campus climate, including issues relating to trust in senior leadership, staff and faculty morale, burnout, and equity,” as well as enhancing “the assessment of information literacy in consultation with the professional librarians.”

In the Faculty and Staff Town Hall meeting on March 14 and an email to the university’s community on March 16 about the town hall meeting, Varlotta said that the Campus Climate Survey task force unanimously recommended Rankin Climate as the vendor to help generate and analyze baseline campus climate data. Varlotta also said that Rankin Climate’s assessment, which are “likely to include a survey and focus groups,” will occur this fall.  

The letter also says that the WSCUC is appreciative of the meeting on Feb. 24 with Varlotta, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Leanne Neilson and Senior Associate Provost and Accreditation Liaison Officer Taiwo Ande, where the comments “were very helpful in informing the Commission’s deliberations.”

“The Commission wishes to express its appreciation for the extensive work that CLU undertook in preparing for and supporting this accreditation review. WSCUC is committed to an accreditation process that adds value to institutions while contributing to public accountability, and we thank you for your continued support of this process,” Studley said.

An action mentioned in the letter includes a progress report that is to be submitted by June 1, 2023, that addresses “an update on the selection and planned implementation of the new climate survey,” “completion of the faculty handbook” and “approval of the DEIJ strategic plan.” 

Editor’s Note: A follow-up article regarding the President and Provost Forum on March 21 and the full report is forthcoming.