College Accreditors Mandating Civility?

By April 3, 2008

Courtesy of Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds comes a link to a story that is very disturbing, if true. According to the Contra Costa Times, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the primary regional accrediting body for all colleges and universities on the West Coast, has threatened St. Mary’s College with sanctions if they do not somehow reduce incivility on campus.

According to the Contra Costa Times,

Accreditors were alarmed by the school’s lack of progress on racial issues, the president of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges said in a letter to St. Mary’s leaders made public this week. The commission first asked St. Mary’s to improve in 1990 and emphasized its concerns in 2004.

‘After some two decades of discussion and planning . . . the commission is deeply concerned that there is so little evidence of tangible results,’ Ralph Wolff wrote to Brother Ronald Gallagher, the president of the Catholic school. ‘The matter now needs to be seen as urgent, requiring immediate attention and moving beyond words and future plans.’

The article went on to note that:

The commission, the primary accrediting body for California colleges, also noted an ‘increasing and sustained lack of civility’ on the Moraga campus. Without mentioning specific incidents, a longer report accompanying Wolff’s letter urged administrators to take immediate steps or risk the college’s accreditation.

One wonders what kind of "immediate steps" to reduce incivility would be required. If a college’s accreditation is truly at risk because of "civility," can a draconian speech code be far behind?

FIRE is looking more into this story, but if true, it is extremely disturbing. In 2006, FIRE helped pressure the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) to drop its vague and politically loaded recommendation that education students demonstrate a belief in "social justice" in order to graduate. The WASC’s reach is far broader, as it accredits just about all colleges and universities in its region, and its apparent civility requirements would be just as bad or even worse than those abandoned by NCATE. Stay tuned for more on this story as it develops.