In order for Ithaca College to award students with legitimate degrees once they graduate, the institution first has to go through an accreditation process by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to ensure that students are receiving a satisfactory education. The college recently conducted a self-study report, a draft of which was published April 12, that the accreditation committee will be requesting feedback through its website until May 15.
Below is not the entirety of the self-study, which can be found here. Only some of the highlights of the report have been recorded below, including suggestions the accreditation committee made and annotations provided by The Ithacan to contextualize some of the initiatives in question.
Standard I — Missions and Goals of the Institution
— The success of IC 20/20 began with its collaborative creation and the support gained from faculty, staff, students, and the administration (IC 2020 Taskforce Members.pdf). Collectively envisioned and implemented, IC 20/20 has provided a unified perspective on how to move forward.
— IC 20/20 has been implemented by means of a timeline divided into three main implementation periods: 2011-2014, 2014-2017, and 2017-2020.
- Ithacan annotation: The IC 20/20 plan will not continue past Spring 2017 due to the early departure of President Tom Rochon, who resigned from his position following protests and campus wide votes of no confidence in Fall 2015. As previously reported by The Ithacan, Rochon said it would be best to wrap up the initiative almost four years earlier than planned to allow the incoming president to tackle her own strategic plan.
— Vision Statement: Ithaca College strives to become the standard of excellence for residential comprehensive colleges, fostering intellect, creativity, and character in an active, student-centered learning community.
Self-study suggestion: The Vision and Mission should be expanded to address inclusivity in addition to diversity.
- Ithacan annotation: During Fall 2015, protests about the college’s lack of diversity and inclusion consumed the campus, prompting the resignation of Rochon and a roll-out of a number of diversity initiatives, a number of which did not meet their enactment deadlines.
— As envisioned in the Guiding Principles and articulated in the Master Plan, “the most recent phase of building on the Ithaca campus embraces sustainability as a central tenet of design and has created some of the most memorable buildings on the campus” (p. 19). Prior to 2017, Ithaca College was one of fifty-two institutions to receive a Gold rating in STARS (Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System) from the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
Self-study suggestion: As it stands now, a commitment to sustainable management is mentioned within the guiding principles and its prioritization has fluctuated over the past 10 years. Ithaca College should revisit the presence of sustainability as a named priority within our Mission and Vision.
- Ithacan annotation: The college currently has 2.1 percent of its $270 million endowment in fossil fuel companies but has no plan to divest from these companies despite pledging to be carbon neutral by 2050, as previously reported by The Ithacan.
Standard II — Ethics and Integrity
— To help address the rising cost of a college education, Ithaca College has continuously slowed the rate of its tuition growth since 2008 and underwent an Effectiveness and Affordability Review by Huron Consulting in 2012–13 … Progress in implementing the cost saving recommendations identified through the Huron Project are detailed later in Standard VI, and include the implementation of a strategic sourcing program, the closing of the Rochester Physical Therapy Center with operations moving back to the Ithaca campus, and a staff workforce analysis (Workforce Planning Overview).
- Ithacan annotation: During the 2014–15 fiscal year, 47 position lines were cut from the college’s budget through the staff workforce analysis. Thirty-nine of the positions were vacant, while eight were occupied positions.
Self-study suggestion: We suggest that the college review existing policies and procedures to ensure equity and consistency as they apply to key populations in our campus community. We suggest that the college develop and implement a regular process of reviewing and updating ethics policies as it does for academic policies.
Standard III — Design and Delivery of the Student Learning Experience
— All degree programs have commonalities, including the all-college general education Integrative Core Curriculum (ICC), state-mandated liberal arts requirements, and discipline-specific requirements. The ICC is woven into the student experience, providing coherence through a common freshman experience, major-related complementary liberal arts, and a capstone.
— In the past five years, dozens of courses have been approved for ICC Themes and Perspectives designation and the for attributes, expanding student choice.
- Ithacan annotation: At the beginning of the Spring 2017 semester, many seniors reported that they were struggling to finish their ICC requirements. As the first class to graduate under the ICC, many said they were facing issues due to confusion about the requirements and not enough classes being available to fill certain perspectives under certain themes, as previously reported by The Ithacan. Vince DeTuri, associate professor and director of the ICC, said at a Faculty Council meeting Feb. 7 that at the beginning of the Fall 2016 semester, 21 percent of seniors were struggling to graduate because of the ICC, but he said he was able to get this number down to 1 percent, as previously reported by The Ithacan.
Self-study suggestion: We suggest that the college conduct a deeper program review for the Integrative Core Curriculum than is typical for existing degree programs. In particular, we suggest soliciting feedback on the program from students as a formal part of the review as well as from faculty and staff, including those dealing with admitted students, potential transfers, and other prospects impacted by the requirement that theme/perspective courses be taken at IC.
— Recent campus events have made clear that our community still has a long way to go to become more inclusive. Early efforts in that direction are only just underway, with outcomes to be judged in the future. … A diversity education experience has been included in the summer orientation and Fall Welcome experience that is focused on introducing students to what it means to be part of a respectful and inclusive, diverse community.
— The hiring process for full-time, tenure-eligible and multi-year non-tenure eligible faculty … is designed to ensure a competitive and diverse pool and an equal experience for all candidates at all stages of the process as well as input not only from the faculty-led search committees but also from appropriate administrators.
- Ithacan annotation: Full-time faculty made up 13.09 percent of minority groups in Fall 2015. ALANA students make up 20.3 percent of the total student population at the college, as previously reported by The Ithacan.
Self-study suggestion: We suggest that efforts currently underway to enhance faculty diversity should be continued and monitored for effectiveness. Further, training of faculty in relation to inclusiveness and diversity should be continued.
We suggest that the college expectations of continuous development in diversity and inclusion be required for all employees across campus including faculty, staff, and administration.
- Ithacan annotation: Faculty of color at the college have expressed that they are often inundated with mentoring and service requests because of their cultural identity, as previously reported by The Ithacan. Currently, there is no extra reward for these faculty for their extra service, and because they take on so much, it damages their chances for tenure, as the tenure process prioritizes service the least.
Standard IV — Support of the Student Experience
— Individual and group counseling programs are provided through the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Office. Staffing of CAPS has been institutional priority based on student need and utilization as seen in annual reports from the office. Staffing levels have increased from six people (5.24 FTE) in FY08 to ten people (7.92) FTE in FY17. In addition to the annual reports that documented the rising demand for counseling services, this staffing increase happened because of annual accreditation reviews by the International Association of Counseling Services that support increased staffing levels to address student demand, and pressure from faculty allies and the student-organized Get CAPS Ready campaign. The staff-to-student ratio is approximately 1:814, with a 16.5% utilization rate for the student body.
- Ithacan annotation: Despite these staffing increases, students are still reporting that wait times are too long and that many have had to be referred to off-campus facilities to receive the help they needed, as previously reported by The Ithacan. Elizabeth Bleicher, associate professor in the English department and exploratory program director, is a member of the Student Success Committee and said in a Faculty Council meeting March 7 that a lack of mental-health services is “the biggest barrier to retention.” The accreditation task force did not suggest any changes for CAPS.
Standard V — Educational Effectiveness Assessment
— Since the last Self-Study, the college has made a concerted effort at the institutional level to implement systematic assessment of educational goals in both Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. Significant progress has been made across the college in regard to the assessment of the holistic student experience, accompanied by continuous refinement in associated processes.
— Across the college assessment is being used in more rigorous ways to identify areas for improving student learning. After several cycles of assessment, many programs have identified and implemented specific pedagogical, curricular, and/or programmatic changes as a direct result of assessment data.
Self-study suggestion: We suggest that the college expand the assessment process currently used for academic and student affairs programs to include the following areas of student learning across the college: academic advancement, athletics, career services, civic engagement, international programs, library, and state grants.
Standard VI — Planning, Resources, and Institutional Improvement
— As is apparent in the long-term financial plans of the institution, the college is seeking to stabilize undergraduate enrollment at levels between 5800-5900 students. Additionally, in the spirit of making Ithaca College more affordable, the College has taken steps by increasing the tuition discount each year. The college does not plan to increase the discount rate indefinitely, but instead is planning to increase the freshmen discount rate for 1% per year through 2020-21, at which point the college plans to stabilize the discount rate while continuing cost savings and revenue diversification initiatives.
- Ithacan annotation: For the 2016–17 budget, the average discount rate on cost of attendance at the college is 41.6 percent. The average discount rate for private colleges and universities nationally is 42.5 percent, according to an article from Inside Higher Ed.
— We have realized increased enrollment of students from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups over the past several years. The percentage of enrolled undergraduate students identifying as African American, Latinx, Asian or Native American has grown from 10.9% of in the fall of 2008 to 20.3% in fall 2016. The college is committed to enrolling and retaining a diverse student body and recognizes the need to sustain increasingly diverse enrollments moving forward.
- Ithacan annotation: Six years after the implementation of the Diversity Strategic Plan, Ithaca College has steadily increased its number of minority students at a rate comparable to the national average. However, among its peer group of institutions, the college still lags behind. Among the 11 schools in its peer group, the college ranks eighth in terms of diversity of its first-time, full-time freshman class in 2015, as previously reported by The Ithacan.
Self-study suggestions: Based on our review, we suggest that Ithaca College explore institution-wide systematic strategies for periodic review and assessment of non-academic structures like those found in IC 20/20 initiatives, SACL, and academic student learning assessment areas.
Standard VII — Governance, Leadership, and Administration
— In the fall of 2015, the Ithaca College Board of Trustees passed a resolution creating a task force to re-examine the issue of shared governance at the college and “enhance collaboration and communication among members of the IC community.” (Intercom Message from Trustees) Comprised of members of all Ithaca College constituencies, the Shared Governance Task Force collected campus feedback through listening sessions and a survey in the spring of 2016. In October 2016, the task force presented a draft proposal, the Charter of Shared Governance. After a three-week period collecting feedback via meetings and a survey, the task force is expected to present a final draft to the Board of Trustees in March 2017.
- Ithacan annotation: The shared governance draft still has not been approved by the Board of Trustees. A second updated draft was sent out to the campus community by the task force, but the Faculty Council motioned to postpone its approval so that incoming President Shirley Collado could give her input on the draft. However, the shared governance task force was originally charged to create a shared governance model without the input of the president.
Self-study suggestion: We suggest that the college set specific time periods in which to assess and review the College’s governance structure.