General Conference Action "Could Threaten" La Sierra's Academic Autonomy, Accrediting Body Says


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In an article published on Sunday, The Press-Enterprise, a major paper covering Southern California, details how the recent interference by the highest level of Seventh-day Adventist Church leadership could endanger the academic accreditation of La Sierra University.

The pressure on La Sierra is causing concern at the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, a federally approved accreditation agency that, among other things, measures academic quality and integrity at public and private colleges and universities. Federally approved accreditation is required for acceptance of university class credits by most other universities and many employers, and for most financial aid.

The association in August extended its accreditation of La Sierra for eight years but said the controversy over creationism could threaten La Sierra's academic autonomy. It is sending a team to the university in the next several weeks to review the university's handling of the situation, said Ralph Wolff, president of the association.

"What we want to make sure of is that non-academic outside forces are not controlling the curriculum," he said. "While we respect that it is a faith-based institution, it is still an academic institution."

A university can lose its accreditation if it allows outside groups to dictate its academic curriculum and policies. Wolff said he did not expect La Sierra to lose accreditation.

An accredited university can require faculty to present a religious denomination's beliefs on creation, as long as faculty accurately explain that the scientific consensus is in favor of evolution, Wolff said.

Since the Western Association of Schools and Colleges also accredits other Seventh-day Adventist institutions, the GC action could significantly harm the academic reputation of Adventist education more broadly.

Read the article here.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/3101