[Libs-Or] Support libraries and academic freedom in the NWCCU Standards

ACRLOR President acrlor at olaweb.org
Tue Mar 12 12:23:29 PDT 2019

Hello colleagues,

Some of you may be following the Northwest Commission on Colleges and
Universities (NWCCU) accreditation standards revision process
<http://www.nwccu.org/accreditation/standards-review/>. They published a First
Draft of the revised accreditation standards
in which the standards overall have been pared down considerably. The
library community is concerned that in the revised draft, the library is
only mentioned in relation to collections, and information literacy is only
mentioned as one of several examples of potential core competencies set at
the institution level. We want to make sure that information literacy
instruction and a requirement to employ qualified personnel remain in the
standards. We are also concerned about the removal of any language about
Academic Freedom, a critical element of intellectual freedom in higher
education. The current NWCCU Standards
<http://www.nwccu.org/accreditation/standards-policies/standards/> are
available for comparison.

The ACRL-Oregon Board has shared our concerns and suggestions with NWCCU.
You can read our letter here
and also at the bottom of this email. Please feel free to share it with
others and you are welcome to use our suggestions in your own advocacy.

Nearly this exact same thing happened in New England several years ago with
the NEASC accreditation standards and librarians had to mount a significant
advocacy campaign to keep information literacy and libraries in the
standards. Here are a few ways that you can help support library presence
and values in the revised standards.

1. Ask your institution's Accreditation Liaison Officer (ALO) to advocate
for libraries and academic freedom. The ALO is the individual at your
college or university who is responsible for working with NWCCU on
accreditation. It's often a Provost or Vice President of Academic Affairs,
but the institution can designate who they wish. Advocacy from an ALO will
be very influential. Please feel free to share our letter with your ALO.

2. Comment on the current draft. There is a form you can use to provide
feedback <https://www.tfaforms.com/4719938> or you can send your comments
to standards at nwccu.org.

3. Spread the word! Get others -- librarians, non-librarians, and
organizations that have an interest in this -- involved in advocacy.
Librarians are not the only ones who should be concerned by these proposed

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Best wishes,

Meredith Farkas

ACRL-Oregon President


Dear Drs. Huftalin and Powell and members of the NWCCU Bylaws, Standards,
and Policies Committee:

The Association of College and Research Libraries, Oregon Chapter
(ACRL-Oregon) Board is pleased to provide feedback on the current draft of
NWCCU’s Accreditation Standards
<http://www.nwccu.org/accreditation/standards-review/>. Accreditation
standards provide critical guidance to colleges and universities about what
a successful institution should provide to students. Library resources,
services, and personnel are critical components of institutional quality.
By evaluating academic libraries merely on the adequacy of their
information resources, NWCCU sends a message that libraries' instructional
work in support of student and faculty information literacy is not critical
to maintaining a high quality institution of higher education.

We assert that collections, information resources, and information literacy
instruction require the expertise of library and information professionals
for both instruction and resource development and management. It is because
of the dedicated work and teaching of qualified library faculty and staff
that academic libraries are at the heart of their campuses. Librarians are
frequent information literacy teaching partners with disciplinary faculty
and are often embedded in courses, curricula, and campus initiatives.
Library instruction is not only critical to improving student information
literacy and mitigating achievement gaps, but also helps institutions
maximize the value of those collections in which they’ve invested.

ACRL-Oregon suggests the following addition to section 2G, focused on
Library and Information Resources:

2.G.2 Consistent with its mission, programs, services, and characteristics,
the institution employs sufficient appropriately qualified library and
information resources personnel to provide information literacy instruction
in support of institutional student learning outcomes.

If standards around library instruction are softened, we will very likely
see a decline in institutional support for these services. The removal of
any mention of qualified library personnel or library instruction from the
Standards could have a tremendously negative impact on library staffing and
student information literacy.

We also believe that librarians should continue to serve on NWCCU
accreditation review teams. Librarians are best positioned to evaluate the
adequacy of library resources, personnel, and instruction, and also often
have a unique birds-eye view of academic curricula as a consequence of
their support of college or university disciplines.

The ACRL-Oregon Board is also deeply concerned about the proposed removal
of the entire section of the current standards focused on academic freedom.
Academic freedom is a bedrock principle for higher education. This
principle is under attack on many fronts in the U.S today. The removal of
any reference to academic freedom in the NWCCU accreditation standards
removes an important and vital defense of this core principle. As such,
ACRL-OR suggests the following addition to the draft standards:

2.B.5 Within the context of its mission, the institution defines and
actively promotes an environment that supports academic freedom in the
pursuit, dissemination, and teaching of knowledge. The institution adopts
and adheres to policies and procedures that affirm the freedom of faculty,
staff, administrators, and students to share their scholarship and reasoned
conclusions with others, and protects its constituencies from inappropriate
internal and external influences, pressures, and harassment.

Thank you for considering our suggestions.


The Association of College and Research Libraries, Oregon Board

Meredith Farkas, ACRL-Oregon President, Portland Community College

Candise Branum, ACRL-Oregon Vice-President, Oregon College of Oriental

Steve Silver, ACRL-Oregon Past-President, Northwest Christian University

Angie Beiriger, Reed College
Kim Olson-Charles, Concordia University
Arlene Weible, State Library of Oregon
Rick Ball, Klamath Community College
Christopher Mansayon, Western Oregon University
Patrick Wohlmut, Linfield College
Katherine Donaldson, University of Oregon
Sarah Rowland, Eastern Oregon University
Janet Tapper, University of Western States
Aja Bettencourt-McCarthy, Oregon Institute of Technology
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