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Regents Approve Policy on Faculty Qualifications (August 9, 2013)

As part of its accreditation efforts, the Northern Marianas College today announced that the Board of Regents approved a policy to establish minimum qualifications for instructors.

The policy was adopted in response to the recommendations made by the External Evaluation Team of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) that visited the Northern Marianas College last October.

In its report, the Evaluation Team recommended: “To meet the Standards and assure the integrity and quality of programs and services, the team recommends that the College develop, and consistently apply, clear criteria in determining qualifications for faculty.”

This recommendation was restated in the February 11, 2013 Action Letter signed by Dr. Barbara Beno, ACCJC president. In the same letter, Beno stated that the Northern Marianas College must fully resolve the deficiencies noted; otherwise, the Commission will act to terminate NMC’s accreditation.

According to NMC President Dr. Sharon Hart, “This new policy helps to ensure that the College conforms with accreditation standards””and in particular, Standard 3A””which requires that the criteria for the selection of instructional faculty include knowledge of the subject matter, effective teaching, scholarly activities, and potential to contribute to the mission of the institution.”

“In approving this policy, we understood that some faculty members would be affected,” said NMC Board of Regents Chairperson Juan Lizama. “However, we also know that the College has taken steps to ensure that faculty affected will be offered alternate options.”

“The proposed policy was developed with input from an ad hoc committee consisting of instructional faculty and departmental chairpersons, as well as administrators,” said Barbara Merfalen, Dean of Academic Programs and Services. “We also looked at minimum qualification standards that have been established for other colleges.”

When determining acceptable qualifications of faculty, the new policy states that the College will give “primary consideration to the highest earned degree in the discipline that the faculty member will teach.”

“It is clear that ACCJC expects us to put in place minimum qualifications for all faculty, and that those minimum qualifications be applied,” added Merfalen. “We were told that we are expected to fully meet all Accreditation Standards and Eligibility Requirements by the time we submit our Show Cause report on October 15, 2013, and it is our intention to do so.” Some instructors have been asked to teach other subject areas that are within their specialized training or take on other responsibilities at the College. “We want to minimize the impact of the new policy in every possible way,” Merfalen said. “The chairpersons of each of our academic departments and I have been painstakingly assessing each instructor’s credentials to make certain that their degrees, graduate level coursework, occupational licenses and certificates, and other qualifications directly relate to their areas of instruction.” “Having faculty that possess the specialization in the content areas that they teach not only allows the College to measure up to national standards, but it also helps to ensure the transferability of our students’ credits when they transition to other colleges and universities,” said NMC President Dr. Sharon Y. Hart. “Equally important, taking these steps brings the College closer to fully addressing the issues raised in the Show Cause order,” said Hart. The College has also begun the recruitment for new faculty and is at varying stages of the hiring process for some of the vacancies.

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