Chapter 2    Accreditation History and Self-Study Methodology


Accreditation History

Since 1921 Howard University has maintained continuous accreditation by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. After its most recent accreditation visit in 1989, the Commission once again reaffirmed Howard’s accreditation.  In 1994, Howard submitted a required five-year periodic review to the Commission, which was favorably received.  In accord with the Middle States Association’s requirements, another report was submitted in 1996 after the installation of new Howard University president, H. Patrick Swygert.  It was determined at that time that no further action would be needed by the University until the scheduled 1999 reaccreditation visit.  (A copy of the reaffirmation statement appears in Appendix A of this report.)

Although the 1994 and 1996 reports were favorably received by the Commission, several concerns were raised.  These concerns included: (1) a need for greater clarity of the mission; (2) a comprehensive review of graduate and professional programs; (3) a similar review of student development programs and services; (4) an assessment of off-campus sites and activities; and (5) more strategic planning efforts involving all constituent groups within the University.  All of these concerns have been addressed by the University and are discussed throughout this self-study report.

Self-Study Methodology

Howard University’s Self-Study Steering Committee adopted the comprehensive approach for Howard’s 1999 Self-Study — the fifth in the history of the University.

Because of the many changes the University has experienced over the last 10 years, the self-study has assessed every aspect of Howard’s programs, including governing and supporting structures, resources and services, and educational outcomes.  The appropriateness of the current University mission, adopted on September 4, 1988, was reaffirmed by this self-study.  Information for the study was gathered from interviews with University personnel, annual reports of colleges/schools and other University units, accreditation reports of colleges/schools, and four self-study surveys.

The self-study surveys were administered to students, faculty, staff and senior administrators to assess their perceptions of the programs, resources, facilities and services of the University.  Great effort was made to ensure University-wide representation.  The survey instruments are included in Appendix B.

Approximately 50 percent (6,000 students) of the student body were randomly selected for polling.  The response rate was 48 percent, with approximately 2,859 students responding to the survey.  An almost equal number of students matriculating at various levels responded to the questionnaire.  Fifty-three percent of the respondents were undergraduates.  Ninety-six percent of the students were full-time, 35 percent of the respondents were males and 65 percent were females.  Most of the students were between the ages of 19 and 29, with the majority being 25-29 years of age.

Faculty surveys were distributed to all full-time and part-time faculty.  A total of 429 (34 percent) of the faculty responded.  Nineteen hundred thirty-one staff members were surveyed and 511 responses were received, a response rate of 26 percent.  More than one hundred senior administrators were polled and 48 responses were received.  The results of these surveys are presented throughout this report.

This self-study focused primarily on an assessment of University resources, programs, services and facilities in light of the Howard mission, goals and objectives.  Where opportunities for immediate improvement were identified, plans are being developed to assure that they will be accomplished in a timely and efficient manner.  Similarly, where challenges were discovered, work towards an effective solution will commence now.  Ultimately, the University achieved the following specific objectives during the current self-study:

·        evaluation of how well Howard is fulfilling the Middle States Association’s “Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education;”

·        determination of how well the University’s core values are exemplified through its teaching, research and service;

·        assessment of the diversity among its faculty, staff, students and alumni; and

·        examination of Howard’s commitment to global, national and community service.


The Office of the University’s Self-Study was established under the administration of the Office of the Provost and Chief Academic Officer.  The office staff included the self-study director, an assistant to the director, an administrative assistant, an editor/writer, a secretary/office manager, as well as a number of student aides.  The staff was responsible for handling the day-to-day administrative operations of the self-study.

The diversity of the University’s organizational structure was evident in the organization of the self-study.  Faculties of each school and college, the Faculty Senate, deans, vice-presidents, and the leaders of the Howard University Student Association and the Howard University Support Staff Organization recommended members to serve on the Self-Study Task Force.  From these recommendations the president appointed 68 individuals to the Task Force – 29 faculty members, 25 deans and senior administrators, five staff, and nine students.  From that group, 28 individuals formed the Self-Study Steering Committee, and nine individuals were Executive Committee members.  As the self-study progressed the composition of the Task Force changed as new members were added and others became inactive.  At the completion of the study there were 60 active members of the Task Force.  All groups played pivotal roles in the planning and execution of the self-study design, preparation of the final report and the preparation for the Middle States Association’s team visit.

The self-study process involved faculty members, chairs or academic deans from each academic area, e.g., medicine, law, social work and engineering.  Representatives were involved from administrative and support units such as the Office of the Provost, Student Life, University Communications, Comptroller, General Counsel, University Research and Planning, Government Affairs, Enrollment Management, Health Affairs, Information Systems and Services, as well as the Board of Trustees.

The Task Force was divided into eight study teams that provided pertinent data for the report.  Study teams were comprised of a team leader, a co-leader, an executive committee liaison, five to eight team members and a self-study office staff assistant.  Study teams addressed specific charges developed by the Executive Committee and focused on the following areas: (1) students and student services, (2) faculty, (3) academic programs, (4) organization, administration, governance and planning, (5) library, and information technology and transfer, (6) physical facilities, (7) planning and financial resources, and (8) outcomes assessment/institutional effectiveness.

The study included: a comprehensive description and assessment of each subject area or program, an analysis of key resource and staffing issues addressed subsequent to the University’s 1996 Middle States Association’s special staff visit, and specific recommendations for addressing the identified challenges and for building on existing  strengths for each of the areas examined.

To ensure that the self-study was an interactive and collaborative process, a variety of strategies was used to communicate with the Howard community.  The Office of the University’s Self-Study assumed this responsibility and provided continual updates on self-study activities through newsletters circulated on campus, with articles to University publications and through a Web site linked to the University’s home page.

Draft reports were distributed among faculty, staff, students and administrators for review and comment.  Two town meetings -– one particularly focused on students -– were held to discuss the report’s findings.

It is the collective belief of the Howard University 1999 Self Study team that the critical introspective processes in which it has engaged for the past year — the results of which are reported in this document — have made the University’s administration both more knowledgeable about and more sensitive to the needs of the Howard community as a whole.  Thus, we hope that the Middle States Association will view this report as more than a mere assemblage of data for reaccredidation purposes.  For those whose present this document will impact and whose future it will improve, this document represents a compass and a guide by which Howard University will be led on the path toward the broader horizon of veritas et utilitas — today, tomorrow, and in the coming millennia.