Accreditation raises concerns

by Amy Zoss

Simpson’s next accreditation visit is just around the corner, and problems identified in the last report such as lack of ethnic diversity in the student body, weak requirements in math and foreign language, and overworked faculty still haven’t been solved.

The accreditation report said, “The college needs to make a commitment of resources to achieve the stated goal of diversity.” While Simpson did have a director for multicultural affairs, he has been gone for at least a year and he has not been replaced.

Haddox said that there are more international students on campus, but the lack of ethnic diversity is still a problem.

“We need more minority students, and we need more money for minority students,” said Bruce Haddox, vice president and dean of academic affairs. Registrar and Associate Academic Dean John Bolen agrees that Simpson needs more minority students, but Bolen said, “It is like pulling teeth to get American minorities on campus.”

“We want a campus environment that will allow white Iowa students to adjust to diverse backgrounds and form relationships with diverse people.”

Simpson now has to limit the number of international students it will consider for admission, due to the success of its marketing and networking efforts to bring international students to Indianola. According to Bolen, there are a total of 36 students on campus who hail from outside U.S. borders, compared to about six in 1996.

Math and language requisites

Haddox expects the next accreditation report will again talk about weaknesses in the math and foreign language requirements.

Simpson students are expected to have at least one semester of college intermediate algebra to meet the math requirement. If the student has a math ACT of at least 22, or if they have two years of high school algebra with a passing grade and a math ACT of 19, they don’t have to take any math. Students can also test out on a placement exam.

While this is a stronger criterion than what was used in 1995, Haddox acknowledges that it should be more rigorous. He puts some of the blame on high schools for not adequately preparing students.

“Until these students come to us knowing high school algebra, there won’t be much we can do about the [math] requirement,” said Haddox. “But at least we’ve got something.”

Students coming to Simpson don’t have to take a foreign language if they have had three years of foreign language in high school or test out on a placement exam. The last accreditation report said, “Faculty members in foreign language feel that the requirement of one year of college study of a language is not worthy even to be called competency.”

“In a perfect world, I would like to see two more semesters required,” said Mark Bates, assistant professor of Spanish.

Like Haddox, Bates said that one of the problems with increasing the language requirement stems from working with high schools graduates who are not well prepared for college-level work in the foreign languages. Also, to require more foreign language at Simpson would require more faculty teaching hours and more faculty members, something Haddox said the college can’t afford right now.

Faculty load

Bates typically teaches five class in the fall, four in the spring and a May term course.

The 1995 report called the faculty overload a “serious reoccurring problem [that] was listed in the last report.” According to Haddox, while the number of full-time faculty has increased from 72 in 1995 to the current 84, the strategic plan called for two more by 2003.

The increase in faculty still has not lightened the standard eight classes per year teaching load for Simpson faculty. Simpson hired Assistant Professor Jennifer Hedda three years ago to fill a faculty vacancy in the history department; one of the departments the accreditation team said was woefully understaffed. The department had three professors then; there are now four.

Hedda’s schedule is typical-she teaches three classes in the fall term, four in spring and one summer.

“That is a lot compared to other institutions,” said Hedda.

Professors can choose to take on additional classes for extra pay, something Hedda tries to do. “This summer I’m teaching classes for the extra income, which you need when you have two small children.”

But this heavy load can hinder faculty from pursuing professional development and research projects. The last accreditation report suggested Simpson needed to pay more attention to research and development, and it is something the college has increasingly stressed in recent tenure decisions and annual reviews.

“There isn’t money to support release time for research, conferences or travel,” said Hedda. “Psychologically, the support is there-people are very enthusiastic. In terms of practical support, that’s really what’s missing.”

Haddox agrees that more financial support is needed for faculty development and research, but he said that a budget hit hard by poor investment performance hasn’t allowed the college to meet funding goals in the college’s strategic plan.

“We had a goal of incrementally increasing the funding each year but we’ve hit the wall,” said Haddox. Yet if a faculty member can’t demonstrate that they are working at keeping up or growing in their field, Haddox said it “counts more against them more now than it did in previous years.” Lack of professional development was one of the reasons cited for last fall’s decision to deny tenure to Dan Bauer, assistant professor of English.

Money is a perpetual problem, and lack of funding has stopped Simpson from hiring a large number of additional faculty. The number of faculty is supposed to increase with the number of students, but the hiring rate hasn’t exactly kept pace, according to Haddox.

This keeps pressure on the faculty to pick up extra classes, something Haddox said the faculty has, so far, been willing to do.

“I’ve never thought of it as a bad thing to ask people to go the extra mile,” said Haddox. The faculty generally steps up to the plate said Haddox, but “the downside is that we sometimes ask them to do too much-they have to learn when to say ‘no’.”


The college made progress on some of the cited weaknesses including adding more live-in staff to housing, though some suggest that more should be done to bolster support services for students.

According to Vice President for Student Development Jim Thorius, Simpson essentially had only one and a half live-in staff members working full time equivalency hours (the total number of staff hours devoted to working as area coordinators) at the time of the last accreditation report.

Now there are three full-time area coordinators. Area coordinator Chrysalis Buller, who is leaving this fall to attend graduate school, is responsible for keeping office hours from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Otherwise, Buller said she works to make herself available to students.

Buller is responsible for a little over 200 students, overseeing operations for both residence halls, including things such as keeping track of the hall programming budget, maintenance calls and any check-ins or check-outs. Buller also supervises seven resident assistants and one hall manager, and she coordinates the residential first year program for her two halls.

According to Buller, in an emergency, resident assistants are the first points of contact for students and the area coordinator should be next. There is always an area coordinator carrying the ‘duty phone’, said Buller, and while students don’t necessarily have access to the phone number, resident assistants do.

“That gets to be overwhelming when you’re on call every third weekend. We’re out and about until 2 a.m.,” said Buller. “We definitely could use another one or two [area coordinators].”