Introduction

The Capacity and Preparatory Review is designed to enable the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Commission to determine whether an institution fulfills the Core Commitment to Institutional Capacity: "The institution functions with clear purposes, high levels of institutional integrity, fiscal stability, and organizational structures and processes to fulfill its purposes.[1] In keeping with the Commission's goal of a focused accreditation process that permits adaptation and responsiveness to institutional contexts and priorities, San Francisco State University elected to conduct its Capacity and Preparatory Review and its Educational Effectiveness Review with a focus on three themes:

   Social Justice and Civic Engagement

   The Changing University

   Student Success

The activities surrounding this cycle of reaccreditation for San Francisco State University began in Spring 2007 with the appointment of the WASC Steering Committee by President Robert A. Corrigan. Under the leadership of the Provost, the Steering Committee developed the SF State Institutional Proposal after an extensive self-review following the WASC guidelines in the 2001 Handbook of Accreditation. The first theme (Social Justice and Civic Engagement) represents two of the university's strategic priorities, which are embedded in the SF State psyche and programs in myriad ways. [CFR 1.1] Preserving and maintaining those priorities is essential to the future of the university, and for this reason, it was chosen as a theme.

The two remaining themes (The Changing University and Student Success) represent issues that are crucially important to the current context of the university. Deep engagement with these issues across the campus, both in terms of capacity and educational effectiveness, will facilitate the university's ability to respond to current trends and needs.

Preparation of the Capacity and Preparatory Review

The Capacity and Preparatory Review activities began in January 2009, immediately following the approval of the SF State WASC Institutional Proposal. [CFR 1.9] Theme subcommittees were established for Social Justice, Civic Engagement, Changing Student Demographics, Changing Faculty, and Graduation and Retention. During the 2009-10 academic year, the Social Justice and Civic Engagement subcommittees were merged when one of the subcommittee chairs took a leave of absence. The sub-themes of Assessment, General Education, and Writing are ongoing projects with long-established committee structures, so the WASC review work was folded into the work of these committees.

The subcommittees spent Spring 2009 studying the WASC process, considering the relevant issues surrounding their topics, and refining the research questions that the subcommittees would study. The subcommittee chairs worked through Summer 2009 to evaluate the research questions.

The Office of Academic Institutional Research (AIR) identified the questions for which the University already had data. [CFR 4.5] The chairs determined which of the remaining questions were suitable for survey questionnaires and which were more appropriate for focus group discussion. Following this determination, the subcommittee chairs and AIR developed several sets of questionnaires for faculty, staff, administration, and students to investigate the campus community views regarding the specific research questions. The surveys were administered during Fall 2009. The subcommittee chairs and AIR analyzed the data, and the results were presented to the subcommittees at the end of Fall 2009 and the beginning of Spring 2010.

Based on committee discussions, the focus group questions were modified and refined. During Spring 2010, the chairs of the WASC Capacity and EER Reviews and the staff of Academic Planning and Development organized and conducted 20 focus groups involving staff, faculty, administration, and students. The CPR and the EER chairs, who conducted the focus groups, recruited their own students to assist in the focus group process. These students attended independent study courses (taught by the chairs) that covered the principles and methods in focus group research. Following the classroom component, the students recorded the focus groups, analyzed the data, and wrote summaries for each focus group discussion. The transcripts and summaries were then passed to the appropriate subcommittees, who then deliberated on all data collected. At the end of Spring 2010, each subcommittee submitted a final report to the WASC Capacity and Preparatory Chair for evaluation and synthesis. The following three essays summarize the findings and conclusions contained in these final reports and suggest recommendations for the Educational Effectiveness Review.

It should be noted that the subcommittees followed the logical paths of their research rather than strictly adhering to institutional capacity issues. As a result, some of the recommendations for the EER are related to capacity and some are related to student learning and educational effectiveness. This approach seems appropriate for the SF State review.

Financial Context of the SF State Capacity Review

The SF State Capacity/Preparatory Review has occurred within the context of an unprecedented financial crisis that has had an impact on this campus and all of California higher education. Funding to the CSU and UC systems has diminished incrementally over the past 15 years, with a precipitous drop in 2009-2010 in the face of competing social service needs and a reluctance on the part of the legislature to raise taxes. Over the past two years alone the CSU has seen state support cut by $625 million or 21%. SF State alone lost $47.5 million, and the legislature now provides less than 50% of SF State's funding.

In the midst of California's continuing budget crisis, San Francisco State is relying upon a network of campus members including faculty, staff, administrators and students to do what we have done as a university community for many years – assemble facts and examine options to determine how best to uphold the university's mission in the face of shrinking revenues. [CFR 1.3]

It is clear that we will not be able to continue to operate the University as we have in the past. During the 2009-10 AY, 350 fewer course sections (10%) were offered and the faculty and staff furlough of two days per month undoubtedly had an impact on quality. In the 2010-11 academic year, the furlough ended, and the University was able to augment class offerings by using federal stimulus dollars to bring class availability back to the level required to minimally serve our students. Unfortunately, that funding is limited to this academic year, so the University is using the 2010-11 year as a period of transition, and several steps are underway to guide the transition.

The University Planning and Advisory Council (UPAC) was formed in November 2009 to solicit campus feedback and assist in re-envisioning SF State by considering ways in which the University might be restructured and streamlined to make better use of the funds available to us. The work of this council is not yet finished or approved, but it is expected that the council will recommend, along with a number of other cost-cutting measures, transitioning to a six-college structure rather than an eight-college configuration. In addition to the work of UPAC, the Provost's Task Force on Capacity is looking at ways to determine the optimum size and balance within academic programs in a more intentional way than we have done in the past. [CFR 3.5, 4.1, 4.2] Also the recent 5% student fee increase for Spring 2011 and the 10% proposed increase for Fall 2011, will provide greatly needed resources to the University. In short, we are working diligently to maintain a high quality of education at SF State without seriously altering the university's mission of social justice and civic engagement or its commitment to access. [CFR 1.5]

As the budget crisis has unfolded, President Corrigan and his Cabinet have remained in touch with the campus community through frequent emails and town hall meetings specifically focused on the budget. At the beginning of the 2009-10 academic year, a special forum was organized in which every Vice President, Associate Vice President, and Academic Dean provided a report on the impact the budget cuts had on their academic units. In addition, the University created a "Budget Central" website, which provides summary explanations of the budget crisis as well as frequent updates regarding legislative actions. [CFR 1.3, 3.10] Also, several town hall meetings to address UPAC and the budget were conducted during Fall 2010. We do not know the answers to all of the questions related to the budget at this time, but we do know that our common values of access, quality education, social justice, and civic engagement – and our commitment to the institution and one another – will sustain us.

[1] Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Handbook of Accreditation, Alameda, Ca. January 2001.

 


Supporting Documents

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