Is The USM Administration Even Mildly Serious about Accreditation?
A little more has emerged about the Director of Assessment that the University of Southern Mississippi just hired.
According to sources in the USM community, the position was created (and briefly advertised on the Web) in early to mid-November.
Was the new Director of Assessment, Joy Hamilton, chosen on account of her expertise in dealing with the accreditation process mandated by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools? Well, she holds two Masters degrees from USM, and in early 2003, she was managing the Center for Community Health at USM, where she reported to the center's director, Joan Exline. And now, as Director of Assessement, she will report to a Special Assistant to the President for Accreditation, Articulation, and Planning, whose name happens to be... Joan Exline.
So all we have here is a cozy internal hire. Hamilton may be a whiz at evaluation research, but she was chosen in the expectation that she will obey Exline, who in turn will obey Thames.
It's pretty clear now that the position was not created to deal with SACS problems, as I incorrectly concluded yesterday. It was crafted in October to pump up the upper administration, which has been shorn of a few Thames loyalists over the past few months. When the probation hit on December 8, a new rationale for the position was hastily retrofitted for the benefit of the media. Apparently, Hamilton hasn't received her full set of marching orders, so Thames and his PR machine don't want her in front of the media just yet:
The position was posted and advertised in November. Asked why officials did not introduce Hamilton at last week's news conference, Exline said both parties were still in negotiations. Hamilton will earn $72,000 annually.
If USM is to have a prayer of emerging from probation, it needs to do what universities in trouble over accreditation often do: hire someone from the SACS Consultants Network. But, of course, an experienced SACS consultant isn't going to jump when Shelby Freland Thames says,"Jump!"
In another item of breaking news today, the USM chapter of the American Association of University Professors will be issuing a concisely worded, highly effective statement of the case against entrusting Shelby Thames with the reaccreditation effort. For now, you can see it on the AAUP-USM message board.
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