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March 18, 2016

In just about seven months, the HLC site visit will be upon us.  What once seemed like the distant future is now advancing very quickly.  Amidst an increasing sense of urgency and immediacy in our editing room, we continue to plod along like the proverbial tortoise, patiently refining the Assurance Argument day by day. Outside of the editing room, Round #7, the Cabinet, is currently reviewing the document.  The Steering Committee, the ALG, and one of our outside reviewers have already finished their reviews and provided some excellent feedback. Overall, The review process so far has been a very important part of the Steering Committee process, and we have been endeavoring to treat every comment and suggestion with the utmost respect, giving them prayerful consideration for the good of the whole.

For the good of the whole.  As we get close to the final lap, I’d like to say a word from my heart and ask us to consider what accreditation means for us as a body.  For students, for staff, for faculty, for administrators, indeed for all us, accreditation is crucial for us.  What accreditation is, is an opportunity for us to examine ourselves in all areas of operation and allow ourselves to be examined by peers who in turn determine to what degree we achieve our own stated mission and objectives and to what degree we fulfill the requirements of the Higher Learning Commission. By the time the site (peer) reviewers come to campus, they should have a well informed understanding of who we are.  We ourselves, likewise, should have a well informed understanding of who we are. In this light, we should view accreditation in the most positive way, for we become the greatest beneficiaries.  Conversely, what accreditation is NOT, is a means of asking others to fix our problems.  HLC will not do that, nor will the site reviewers.  The only ones who can fix our problems are we ourselves.

Interpreting the implications of accreditation in practical terms, the site visit is a time to come together as a community, as the Cedarville family.  We want to give a warm Cedarville welcome to the site reviewers and do our best to help answer their questions and concerns, and to assist them in finding any further evidence they may need.  There is a very limited time that they will be with us on campus, and we don’t want to use their time as a forum to present our differences and debates. We already have a variety of avenues in place internally for voicing those matters, and although we should continue to encourage healthy debate and discourse through these means, the site visit is not one of those spaces.

My vision for the site visit includes:

  • Welcoming the visitors to campus as we would welcome our family and friends into our home
  • Knowing who we are–by our Mission, our Portrait Statements, our Core Values, our history, our future
  • Being familiar with our processes that guarantee continual improvement–yes, we assess!
  • Standing firm in our conviction to deliver an education marked by uncompromising excellence and grounded in biblical truth
  • Being bold, but not belligerent, in our stand for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ

Historically, we have fought hard for accreditation.  Our first attempt at accreditation in 1964 was rejected “due to the limited credentials of faculty, the limited physical and financial resources, and the lack of clear educational objectives.”  (Cedarville University Accreditation Self-Study Report, Spring 2007: 5).  Through the efforts of Dr. Cliff Johnson and Pres. James T. Jeremiah to achieve the standards required for regional accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), Cedarville College was granted accreditation in 1975.  This did not come easy even to the end, when a final battle over academic freedom was fought and won.  Dr. Jeremiah’s firm stand for the primacy of the mission in guiding all of the operations of the college proved to NCA that “a Christian college could receive recognition without sacrificing its faith-based distinctiveness, as long as its mission was clearly stated and drove the operation of the campus.” (Cedarville University Accreditation Self-Study Report, Spring 2007: 5).

Since 1975, we have remained in good standing as an accredited university, having obtained reaffirmation of accreditation in 1980, 1987, 1997, and 2007.  Although today we are still facing concerns with freedom of expression, we have a strong history of our accreditors’ support of our missional operations and decisions, and we have the First Amendment and the 1940 AAUP Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom on our side.  Although we may have concerns regarding some internal matters of our operation, I can assure you that similar concerns universally invoke lively debate throughout many universities, and that our current policies are well within the approved guidelines of the HLC criteria.

“Therefore let us also, having so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us. . .run with endurance the race which is set before us, Looking away unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.” (Heb. 11-12a)

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