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including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Validation of Faculty Credentials

By David Conn, self study director

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 08 - October 17, 1996

The criteria for regional accreditation include several that relate to faculty credentials. As a public institution of higher education, we have a responsibility to ensure that our faculty members are appropriately qualified to undertake the teaching responsibilities assigned to them. Unfortunately, in recent years, there have been well-publicized cases of individuals in various professions-including education-who have misrepresented their credentials. Such occurrences undermine public trust, making it all the more important that our documentation leaves no room for question or doubt.

For new faculty members, we have for several months required official documentation (normally transcripts) at the time of appointment. For existing faculty members, after consulting with other universities in the same accrediting region, we have tried to design a process that imposes as little as possible on everyone concerned. Unlike some institutions, we are not insisting on the provision of transcripts. Instead, we are asking department heads to check faculty files for the presence of one or more of the following: official certification of highest degree or official transcript or original diploma or a notarized copy of any of these.

When none is present already, nor can readily be obtained (for example, by copying a diploma that is hanging on the wall), we will write from central administration to the registrar of the appropriate degree-granting university to seek validation of highest degree. Virginia Tech degrees will also be validated centrally. In most cases, individual faculty members will have little or no involvement in the process. Only occasionally, when the highest degree is not from a institution that is accredited in the US, or when special competency must be demonstrated (e.g., for the teaching of interdisciplinary courses), will further documentation be required. When all reasonable efforts to obtain acceptable documentation are unsuccessful, department heads (or deans) themselves can vouch for their faculty members' qualifications.

We realize that, despite our best efforts to "minimize the pain," this process will still be viewed as an imposition on some people. We hope, however, that there will be a general understanding of why it is needed. Before implementation, the process was reviewed by the Advisory Council on Strategic Budgeting and Planning (consisting mostly of faculty members), the deans, selected department heads, and others. Not all were entirely happy with it; some suggested improvements; but most felt that the final version is a reasonable way of addressing the issue.