Middle States team visits Allegheny


Dawit Kahesay

Chair of the Middle States External Review Team Gary Crosby of Saint Elizabeth University (left onstage) delivers the external committee’s oral report to the campus community at the open session on Wednesday, March 29, at the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre in the Vukovich Center for Communication Arts.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education sent an external team to visit Allegheny College from Monday, March 27, until Wednesday, March 29, signaling the beginning of the end to the almost two-year-long reaccreditation process.
The external team consisted of seven members — Chair Gary Crosby of Saint Elizabeth University, Vice Chair Michael Palladino from Bloomfield College in New Jersey, Danielle Brown from Susquehanna University, Jennifer McClinton-Temple of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Dana Morude of New York Medical College, Edward Pittman of Vassar College and Juan Sandoval of Midwestern State University in Texas.
Associate Provost and Co-Chair of the Steering Committee Jennifer Dearden said that although the external committee started their formal visit on Monday, they arrived in Meadville on Sunday, March 26, for a “get acquainted event” in the Tippie Alumni Center.
“We had a kickoff event Sunday evening and we had to change a number of things due to the power outage on the weekend,” Dearden said. “Initially, we were going to have an off-campus event, but the venue we had chosen did not have power … so we had to host at the Tillotson.”
Professor of History and Global Health Studies Kenneth Pinnow added that the external team’s hotel also had to be changed at the last minute due to the power outage.
On Monday, March 27, the team started its visit in Bentley Hall before meeting with the Board of Trustees, taking a campus tour and also holding an open session for the entire campus, particularly students.
“The purpose of the open session was to not only allow community members to ask questions of the external committee but mainly to allow the committee members to ask those community members questions who weren’t directly involved in the reaccreditation process,” Pinnow said.
William Lowthert, ’24, who serves as Alegheny Student Government’s director of community relations, attended the open session.
“It was very interactive and it seemed like they wanted to get genuine information on what they had read in the self-study report,” Lowthert said. “They asked me a question about disability services on campus and I felt comfortable answering their question as I am dyslexic and use the services often myself.”
Lowthert said that the session had a makeup of staff, administrators and students.
“Different people were there and everyone was answering questions that were best suited for them,” Lowthert said. “There were only three students, though, and I think this could have been much better if the timing of the meeting was more accommodating to students.”
On Tuesday, March 28, the external committee conducted several work sessions and met with administrators and faculty members.
“The committee spent most of the second day working on the information they had gathered the previous day and revising the questions they would be asking throughout the day,” Dearden said. “I know that during the evening session, the team worked on preparation for the final oral report before leaving campus.”
After breakfast on Wednesday, the external committee met with Cole and spent the morning finalizing their oral report.
From 11 a.m. to noon, the external committee addressed the campus community in an open session in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre at the Vukovich Center for Communication Arts.
Crosby delivered the final oral report that contained reflections of the external committee during the open session before the external committee departed from campus.
Lowthert also attended the oral report.
“Dr. Crosby mainly spoke and this session was much less interactive than the last,” Lowthert said. “Many people were there and the atmosphere was not too tense or too relaxed but similar to a class lecture with (Crosby) going over their findings during their visit.”
Middle States requested that the oral report be kept private after it was given since it does not want the report to indicate the final decision regarding Allegheny’s reaccreditation process, according to Dearden.
“These are just the reflections of the external committee … the final decision will be made by Middle States in June,” Dearden said.
Pinnow added that the external committee will release their report in two weeks to the steering committee and Middle States.
“We will have a chance to compile a response to their report within a few days after the final report by the external committee is released,” Pinnow said.
Although the external committee’s visit has concluded, the process of reaccreditation is not finished, according to Pinnow.
“We still have to stay in touch with Middle States and keep providing them with any additional materials they require or answer any questions they may have,” Pinnow said. “This is similar to the work we did in the lead-up to the external committee visit.”
To prepare for the visit, the steering committee held preparatory meetings with staff, administrators and students, according to Dearden.
“We wanted to make sure that everyone knew that it was okay to not know something,” Dearden said. “It’s better to say you don’t know something rather than speculating what it may mean.”
Dearden shared that the external committee was interested in meeting many others on campus apart from the cabinet and the steering committee.
“Although the external committee has read over the final self-study report we prepared, it is still possible and natural for them to have more questions for us,” Dearden said. “Some questions and inquiries come to the committee during their visit so it was also likely that they asked to meet someone abruptly.”