To the Editor:
The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) is disappointed by the accusatory tone of Annie Waldman’s commentary, “Who’s Regulating Troubled For-Profit Institutions? Executives at Other Troubled For-Profit Institutions” (The Chronicle, February 26), which presents a distorted view of the peer-review discipline and unfairly tarnishes the reputations of honorable men and women who voluntarily serve as ACICS commissioners. The article includes numerous allegations that are misleading to readers; the author cherry-picked voluminous information provided by ACICS to fit her preconceived notions.
ACICS commissioners are accomplished academics and administrators who have spent most of their careers in the field of postsecondary education. Nominated or appointed to the council by their peers, commissioners have earned the trust and confidence of students, educators, and faculty over the course of multiple decades of work.
ACICS commissioners take their responsibility very seriously. They recognize that their decisions can have a significant impact on students and institutions, and that they have an obligation to ensure student protections and instill public trust. It is in this spirit that they fulfill their obligations of:
• Reviewing member institutions and programs; and
• Shaping education standards, policies, and expectations that preserve student value and contribute to public confidence in higher education.
ACICS has standards of ethical responsibility that each commissioner is required to sign prior to serving as a commissioner. These standards provide clear requirements to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, partiality, and actual or potential conflict of interest. The council’s risk-management protocols ensure that any appearance or actual conflict of interest is disclosed, reviewed, and removed from the review of institutions.
This means commissioners are systematically and methodically excluded from any and all discussions and decisions involving institutions with which they are affiliated.
If it is determined that a commissioner has violated one of the standards, he/she may be removed by a vote of the full council. In all instances where a violation is found, the council is required to take such action as necessary in order to maintain the integrity of ACICS.
ACICS remains fully confident that our commissioners serve with the utmost integrity and recuse themselves when necessary to avoid either the appearance or actual conflict of interest.
ACICS accreditation follows the same process and adheres to the same requirements applied to all accreditors of higher education in the U.S. All have to demonstrate adherence to ethical standards; and most of the institutions named in this commentary are also accredited by other recognized accrediting agencies.
Anthony S. Bieda
Vice President for External Affairs
Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools