ADMINISTRATION

Save the Union poster misleading

In posters distributed across campus and online through its website on October 10, 2017, the Save the Union organization drew upon—and misrepresented—information from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education report that was created in 2016.

One poster read, “Middle States accredition [sic] requirement: Is there a pattern of student complaints that raises concerns? The institution is not in compliance with this requirement.” This quote was attributed to the 2016 MSCHE report, which is available as the “Rensselaer Team Report” at https://poly.rpi.edu/s/5w6. This poster included early findings without supporting evidence. By the time of release, the MSCHE team had been given sufficient information to show that the Institute was in compliance with the accreditation requirement.

In June 2014, Rensselaer began the process for reaccreditation through the MSCHE. According to RPI’s website, this is a “voluntary method of self-regulation adopted by the higher education community to strengthen and sustain the quality and integrity of higher education in the United States.”

In November 2016, President Shirley Ann Jackson received a letter from Chairman of the Middle States Commission George A. Pruitt, in which the MSCHE acted “to reaffirm accreditation,” “commend the institution for the quality of the self-study report,” and schedule the next evaluation for the years 2024–25. On December 20, 2016, Jackson sent an email to the campus community in which she shared the contents of this letter and the report’s existence.

In the report, there is a section of tables detailing the Institute’s compliance with certain categories, including “Institutional Records of Student Complaints.” There are three columns titled: “recommended review,” “evidence,” and “findings.” The “recommended review” section poses a question that is then explored by the team. Their findings can either be that the institution is “in compliance” or “not in compliance” with the requirement from the “recommended review,” which is then supported by the “evidence” column.

The question “Is there a pattern of student complaints that raises concerns?” is under the column for “recommended review” in one of these tables. The question and statement about lack of compliance on the Save the Union posters were taken from this portion of the document, without any of the information supplied in the “evidence” column.

However, that “evidence” column included the statement, “No evidence of student complaints was supplied, so no patterns can be discerned from submitted documentation.”

Additionally, in the beginning of the MSCHE report, a Verification Report by Tom Gregory was given to the MSCHE team on March 30, 2016. “[Gregory] found Rensselaer to be in compliance with seven of the eight categories, but noted that additional action would be required to verify the institution’s compliance with the category on Institutional Records of Student Complaints.”

In response to this, the team noted that, during its visit in April, additional review was conducted that included the production of additional documentation. The team then decided that “the institution is in compliance with this category.”