Clarification on Accreditation - Update 1-21-14

January 21, 2014

January 21, 2014

Dear Friends and Constituents of Hampden-Sydney College,

It is unfortunate that the three issues which the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission of Colleges (SACSCOC) raised with Hampden-Sydney should have made headline news in the Richmond-Times Dispatch.  In most cases such matters are settled between the Association and the member institution out of the limelight of the media.  For a better understanding of how we made that headline, please see below.

Six weeks after the story appeared in the Times-Dispatch, we have just received official written communication from SACSCOC which states the specifics of the issues in dispute.  I want to report on what we have done to address the SACSCOC warning.   Before doing so, I want to assure you that the issues raised by SACSCOC do not affect the College's accreditation and do not have a negative impact on the quality of the education our students receive or the value of the diplomas our alumni hold.

Periodic evaluation by SACSCOC covers many areas of widely varying degrees of importance.  Hampden-Sydney has been asked to address three. First, we were challenged to defend a particular type of faculty position known as an "Adjunct Associate."  SACSCOC was concerned that those in this position are halfway between a temporary position and a tenure-track position.  This is a definitional issue and can be resolved rather easily.  In fact, I recommended last year that we eliminate this position.  All those who currently hold the Adjunct Associate position will receive new titles later this year.  It is likely that they will be called Visiting Assistant Professors, but this is still under discussion.

The second issue has to do with the assessment of our academic programs.  SACSCOC liked the assessment plan that Hampden-Sydney laid out in its last report but felt that we should compress implementation from three years to one year.  We were already implementing our approved plan; we simply have to complete the process more quickly than we had planned. 

The last of the three issues that SACSCOC has asked us to address is also very straightforward.  Every college must have a process for logging and tracking appeals complaints from students. We had developed a process and reported it to SACSCOC, but it had not been fully implemented. We have implemented this process, so this issue has been resolved.

The issues SACSCOC raised are not without importance, but are essentially administrative.  They have been or will be resolved, and, as I have said, have no impact on the quality or value of a Hampden-Sydney education. 

Dr. Dennis G. Stevens
Provost & Dean of the Faculty

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December 20, 2013

Dear Friends and Constituents of Hampden-Sydney College,

Since the announcement on December 10 that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) placed Hampden-Sydney on warning, we have worked to clarify SACSCOC’s concerns and to address those concerns. The public announcement was made prior to detailed information being given to the College.

The accreditation of Hampden-Sydney College is unaffected by the SACSCOC warning. This action does not question the quality of the education provided by the College. Rather it focuses on confined concerns in three of over 80 standards.

The issues raised by SACSCOC do not diminish the educational experience provided Hampden-Sydney students nor have they impacted freshman applications.  Applications for the freshman class are the most ever received to date.

Be assured that we do not take the warning lightly. We know what must be done and are fully committed to satisfying SACSCOC. We will keep you informed as this process moves rapidly forward.

Dr. Chris Howard, President
Tom Allen '60, Chairman of the Board

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SACS logoThe accreditation of Hampden-Sydney College is unaffected by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) warning issued on December 9. This action does not question the quality of the education provided by the College but focuses on confined concerns in three of over 80 standards. The College is moving immediately and aggressively to resolve these and to provide SACSCOC with the necessary reports.

The issues raised by SACSCOC do not diminish the educational experience provided Hampden-Sydney students. Applications for the freshman class are approaching an all-time record.

The three areas are: 

Core Requirement 2.8: Faculty

The statement in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on December 11 that the warning resulted from “an inadequate number of full-time faculty” did not reflect the nuances of the issue. Linking that statement to “an issue arising nationally as colleges increasing rely on part-time adjunct instructors to cut cost” was misleading.

This issue is largely a matter of definition.  Hampden-Sydney has, and has had for 30 years, full-time faculty designated as Adjunct Associate Professors. These men and women, less than ten in a faculty of 110 (the College's student-faculty ratio is 10.55 to 1 based on full-time-equivalent faculty), are recognized as superior classroom teachers. The Adjunct Associate designation allows these professors to be compensated in salary and benefits nearly comparable to tenure-track faculty. Hampden-Sydney, for its entire faculty, places strong emphasis on classroom teaching. SACSCOC's concern is with how the College defines this position, not the competence and contribution of these men and women.

However, because this is a Core Requirement, it triggered a warning, the least sanction SACSCOC can apply.

Comprehensive Standard 3.3.1.1: Institutional Effectiveness

The article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch indicted that the institutional effectiveness of educational programs was questioned.  Although the information provided by SACSCOC on December 10 indicated non-compliance under this general standard, the specific issue at Hampden-Sydney is the timetable for the assessment of effectiveness.  Discussions with SACSCOC indicate that our plan to assess effectiveness is in compliance; however, our time-frame of three years was not. SACSCOC requires the process to be completed in the next 12 months.

Comprehensive Standard 3.13.1:Policy Compliance


This issue deals with the handling of student complaints. The College has policies and procedures in place to deal with students complaints. However, SACSCOC requires the College  to better substantiate that such policies are appropriate, fair, and reasonable and are followed. SACSCOC requires a definition of what constitutes a written student complaint and detailed records of handling complaints. This is largely an administrative matter.

Questions and Answers

What is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)?

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the recognized regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. It serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices among the diverse institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America and other international sites approved by the Commission on Colleges that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s, or doctoral degrees.

What is accreditation?

Accreditation is a process of peer review that the higher education community has used for self-regulation since the early 20th century. This voluntary process is intended to strengthen and maintain the quality and integrity of higher education, making it worthy of public confidence. Institutions choose to apply for accredited status and, once accredited, agree to abide by the standards of their accrediting organization and to regulate themselves by taking responsibility for their own improvement.

As defined by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, accreditation “is intended to assure constituents and the public of the quality and integrity of higher education institutions and programs, and to help those institutions and programs improve.”