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CONTACT: Bruce Smith
Public Information Officer
(310) 434-4209
DATE: March 25, 2004


Santa Monica College was commended today (March 25) for being an “outstanding” college in a preliminary report from the Accreditation Team that spent three days on campus conducting a detailed review of the institution.

SMC received high praise in many areas, including its “outstanding” instructional programs, “comprehensive and vibrant” student service programs, student retention efforts, its new Library, and more.

At the same time, the team urged the campus community to “move past the disagreements” that have marked internal relations over the past year – which, the team recognized, was precipitated by the college’s financial difficulties, much of which stemmed from the state budget crisis.

“You are simply, in our words, outstanding,” said Dr. Guy Lease, accreditation team chair and superintendent/president of Lake Tahoe Community College.

“The team found a college that provides outstanding academic and student services,” he said. “But we also found a campus in pain.”

The 12-member team spent three days on campus to validate SMC’s “Institutional Self-Study for Reaffirmation of Accreditation” and make recommendations on the fulfillment of SMC’s mission and goals.

Team members held two open meetings; met with nearly 300 faculty members, classified employees, administrators and students; observed classes; sat in on meetings; and attended today’s Club Row.

The team will write a report that will be sent to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges’ Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which is expected to reaffirm SMC’s accreditation in June.

“The preliminary report was a testimony to the excellence of the people and the programs of this institution,” SMC President Dr. Piedad Robertson said. “We understand the preliminary recommendations of the team and, when the final report is submitted to the college, we will have the courage to make the necessary changes.”

In an “exit interview,” Lease outlined the major points for commendation and for recommendations for improvement.

The special commendations included:

• Outstanding instructional programs.
• Comprehensive and vibrant student service programs.
• A variety of programs targeting retention for all kinds of student populations, from re-entry students to students on academic probation.
• An excellent transfer program, which is a “source of pride” for SMC employees.
• Support of student clubs and activities.
• Development of student leadership.
• The Library, a “beautiful building utilized by students in impressive numbers.”
• Technology resources.
• Facilities-related financing strategies.
• The ability of Piedad Robertson – who has “a national and state prominence” – to bring in grants and other sources of revenues, including money from the passage of a facilities bond.
• The effective use of research and data on a wide variety of issues, including student success.
Areas of suggested improvement included:
• Developing a document that clarifies the roles of individuals and constituent groups in college governance and decision-making.
• Developing concrete strategies to improve communication among and between college constituencies to create a campus climate of collegiality and mutual respect.
• Initiating an institution-wide dialogue about student learning and processes.
• Devising a multi-year, integrated planning cycle that includes instructional programs, student services, facilities, technology and human resources.
• Developing clear, reliable, timely and transparent financial reports.
• Establishing contingency reserves “sufficient to maintain stability and meet financial emergencies and unforeseen occurrences.”
• Accomplishing SMC’s “re-growth” plan for 2004-05 “to ensure economic viability.”
The team’s visit comes almost a year after the college started preparing for accreditation, which is required every six years. Earlier this year, the campus completed its self-study, a comprehensive document that evaluates everything from institutional effectiveness to physical resources. A new major focus for WASC this year is student learning outcomes.

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