When Msgr. Richard Liddy was appointed to serve on Seton Hall University’s reaccreditation committee, he thought it would be a pointless bureaucratic, paper-pushing exercise.
Imagine his delight when he discovered he was wrong. “The Middle States process prods us to ask if in fact we have it right and whether the message we want to project to the world is genuinely coming across,” said Liddy, a professor of Religious Studies and Catholic Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Liddy was one of more than 100 faculty, employees and students who were involved in the two-year process of self-study and reflection that will culminate with a visit in April by a team of visitors whose job it is to assess how well we are meeting our goals. Every U.S. university that holds regional accreditation must be re-evaluated every 10 years to make sure the university is doing what a university should be doing – educating its students. Seton Hall University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The visiting accreditation team includes nine experienced faculty and administrators drawn from universities with similar goals and student populations. The team leader is Dr. Keith Taylor, President of Gannon University, a Catholic institution in Erie PA.
In preparation of the visit, Seton Hall convened seven working groups to draft the self-study document. The self-study document is divided into six chapters, mirroring the University's six strategic directions, with each chapter addressing one or more Middle States accreditation standards.
Liddy and Mark Maben, general manager of the University’s award winning radio station, WSOU FM, co-chair the team responsible for Strategic Direction One, "A Home for the mind, the Heart and the Spirit". This chapter covers Middle States standards 1: Mission and Goals, 4: Leadership and Governance, 5: Administration and 6: Integrity. In anticipation of the Middle States accreditation team's upcoming visit, the two co-chairs talked about their participation in the University's self-assessment, a process whose goal is to confirm that Seton Hall is achieving its own individual mission as an institution of higher learning.
Both Liddy and Maben confessed to approaching their responsibilities with a certain amount of skepticism. Early on they felt they had more in common with the author of an editorial about accreditation that appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education which characterized the long, drawn-out process as "run by bloodless bureaucrats" and just "more paperwork." However, both participants formed a completely different opinion as their engagement in the effort progressed.
Liddy admitted to becoming more open-minded about the self-study: "Although it can have that 'bloodless' character, it can also be understood as our basic humanity demanding feedback on whether in fact we are achieving what we say we are setting out to achieve in our universities," he said.
Maben found that asking and answering questions, the Socratic method at the heart of the self-study process, gave him “credible ways to assess educational outcomes that still honor the nature and essential essence of higher education."
Liddy believed that the feedback he received helped him see that Seton Hall, as a Catholic institution, succeeds in providing a well-rounded education in light of the Catholic intellectual tradition.
Maben echoed Liddy's sentiments: "By discovering the many different ingredients that make up Seton Hall University, one can find the essential elements that make our school special, as well as identify ingredients to add or subtract to make us even better. For that insight alone, the process has been well worth the effort."
As the April visit approaches, the research and writing of the Middle States Self-Study Committee is coming to a close. The Self-Study document is being finalized and will be presented to the visiting team for review.
For more information about Seton Hall’s Middle States Self Study visit the website dedicated to the process »
For more information please contact:
Susan A. Nolan, Ph.D.