Presidents must lead in accreditation process, Garibaldi says in editorial

Detroit Mercy President Antoine M. Garibaldi has authored an editorial about the role of university presidents in the accreditation process for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s (CHEA) spring 2021 newsletter.

In the piece, Garibaldi writes that university accreditation “cannot be achieved without the leadership of its president or chancellor who, by his/her involvement, conveys a strong message that continuous improvement in every school and college is a fundamental element of the university’s academic integrity and reputation.”

You can read the full editorial below.

Presidents Should Continue to Lead in Accreditation

Dr. Antoine Garibaldi

President, University of Detroit Mercy

Accreditation is essential to every college and university. But that certification of the institution’s quality cannot be achieved without the leadership of its president or chancellor who, by his/her involvement, conveys a strong message that continuous improvement in every school and college is a fundamental element of the university’s academic integrity and reputation. Because most universities’ chief executive officers have previously held senior academic or administrative leadership roles, they have been involved in and understand the importance of accreditation. However, after they become presidents, there is a tendency to scale back their involvement because of other critical duties and in deference to the Provost and other colleagues in this process. I make the case in the next paragraphs that universities’ chief executives should continue to lead in this area because of their accumulated years of experience with accreditations.

Over my career, I have been a professor and administrator at four private universities of varied types, sizes and Carnegie classifications. Three were Catholic and two were Historically Black universities (HBCU) in four states (Louisiana, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and Michigan) and in three accrediting associations (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Middle States Association and Higher Learning Commission). My initial experience with state and national accreditations began at Xavier University of Louisiana as an education department chairperson, dean of Arts and Sciences and vice president for academic affairs. While leading and coordinating dozens of discipline-specific accreditations at Xavier and my alma mater, Howard University, as its first provost and chief academic officer, I was also responsible for their decanal accreditation visits. As president of Gannon University and now University of Detroit Mercy, my engagement in accreditations has been active and not intrusive to the diligent work of the committees. And I have chaired the accreditation teams of a public Historically Black university and a major Catholic university, as well as served on visitation teams of different institutions across the country.

Those accumulated accreditation experiences have increased my knowledge of how faculty effectively deliver instruction and advise students, as well as how small and large colleges and universities operate efficiently and manage their financial resources to produce well-rounded graduates who will become exceptional leaders in their professions. Reading institutional and discipline-specific self-study drafts is a way of conveying my support for the careful and meticulous accreditation efforts of dedicated faculty and staff and an occasional opportunity to add to their evidence-based reports and deliberations. Furthermore, a president’s involvement accentuates the importance of the results obtained from curricular and institutional analyses that will influence the decisions of prospective students to enroll at the university and employers to recruit and hire its well-prepared graduates.

Presidents and chancellors must continue to lead in the accreditation process because their opinions in this area are vital to the future of higher education. Moreover, they can send an even more powerful message when they nominate colleagues from academic affairs, finance, enrollment, advancement and other areas to serve as candidates for their respective associations’ accreditation team. Presidents must remain at the forefront of advances in accreditation to assure that all postsecondary institutions and their students continue to benefit from these insightful assessment experiences.