At N.C. Central University in Durham, a search is underway for missing credentials.
Next month, a team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools comes to town for a big, once-a-decade, three-day accreditation visit. The team will poke its nose all over campus, making sure NCCU has its academic house in order.
But SACS already has some questions, and the university is scrambling to get answers.
When the university submitted materials to the agency in advance of the April visit, it was found to have incomplete information on the credentials of faculty members.
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Specifically, SACS found that NCCU has not submitted enough information on 126 of its 649 faculty members, leaving the credibility of those professors in question until the university can find their official college transcripts, curriculum vitaes, and other personnel information.
Essentially, SACS is making sure that faculty members have the proper background - advanced degrees, experience, etc - for the courses they are teaching.
Here's the problem: Until just a month or two ago, the faculty info was on file within NCCU's human resources office. But that office just relocated, and the faculty files have not found their way yet to a new home. They're in boxes somewhere on campus, said Pauletta Brown Bracy, NCCU's director of university accreditaiton. They just need to be found and produced before the SACS team arrives April 14.
Bracy said she isn't worried about the credentials of the NCCU faculty; it's all just a matter of misplaced records.
"I think we're in good shape," she said. "We have to make sure they're all accessible."
While it appears a simple matter of unearthing records from boxes, it will be no small matter if the paperwork isn't all in order when the SACS accreditors review it, said Bernice Johnson, NCCU's assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs.
"If they pull your documentation and your CV is not there, the entire university is out of compliance," she said.
Preparing for an accreditation visit can be a stressful undertaking. Bracy swears she embraces the challenge.
"It brings us in touch with our reality; it helps us reconsider how we do business," she said. "It can be stressful. But you get feedback that can be helpful to an institution's growth."