Owens students get apology for lost accreditation

11/19/2009
BY MEGHAN GILBERT-CUNNINGHAM
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Owens Executive Vice President and Provost Paul Unger has taken some heat for the nursing program's loss of accreditation but says he will not resign. ‘I'm not focusing on that. I am focusing on our students, our faculty, and our nursing program,' he said.
Owens Executive Vice President and Provost Paul Unger has taken some heat for the nursing program's loss of accreditation but says he will not resign. ‘I'm not focusing on that. I am focusing on our students, our faculty, and our nursing program,' he said.

Owens Community College leadership apologized numerous times yesterday to its students for losing national accreditation for the registered nursing program.

“To say the loss of this accreditation is a disappointment is an understatement,” Owens Board of Trustees Chairman John Moore said. “We are sorry we disappointed you.”

The Board of Trustees called the special meeting yesterday that drew a crowd of 200 students and staff to discuss the loss of accreditation and answer any questions.

A number of students wanted to clarify the process in which Owens lost the accreditation from the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.

There was much discussion about why it wasn't widely known that Owens was notified in 2007 of areas it needed to work on when it was put on “accreditation with conditions.”

The college lost its accreditation for not having enough faculty with master's degrees and not showing it uses data to improve the program.

Paul Unger, Owens executive vice president and provost, said it's not unusual to be told of weaknesses during an evaluation and they are typically addressed, but that didn't happen in this case.

“We mistakenly felt this was not an uncommon occurrence and that those things were going to be addressed,” he said. “And if I were to know what I know now back then, I would have inserted myself personally when there was time to make a change and affect this ac-creditation.”

Mr. Unger has taken some heat for the loss of accreditation with the Owens Faculty Association previously asking him to take responsibility and resign.

The faculty union passed a vote of no confidence in the provost.

Of the 260 members of the faculty union, 199 voted between Friday and Tuesday with 86 percent approving the measure.

“I would hope that it would send the message that we do need new academic leadership at Owens Community College to work through these issues that we've had and the majority of faculty believe they were created by the current leadership,” union President David Matheny said.

Mr. Unger has worked at Owens since 1992 and has been provost since 2002. His salary is $182,844.

Mr. Unger said he had not seen the vote of no confidence, but he would not resign.

“I'm not focusing on that. I am focusing on our students, our faculty, and our nursing program,” he said.

A number of students at yesterday's meeting noted they no longer have trust in the leadership at Owens.

“It's distressing,” said Allen Gillis, 33, of Toledo, who is in his fourth and last semester in the nursing program. “Trust was broken and it's something that's going to take time to build.”

Owens Vice Provost Renay Scott said she knows that Owens violated student trust and she is sorry. She also admitted the college's early communication was clumsy, awkward, and not good.

“We let you down. We did. I just ask that you sit and you give us an opportunity to right the ship,” Ms. Scott said.

Mr. Gillis asked the administration if it was true that Owens graduates can't work for Mercy Health Partners because of the loss of accreditation, which gave Ms. Scott the chance to explain that Mercy was in the process of adjusting its policies to allow Owens graduates to apply.

Mercy spokesman Sarah Bednarski confirmed that yesterday.

After internal discussion, Mercy decided to change its nurse job description to require the applicant to graduate from an accredited institution, rather than accredited program, she said.

Andrea Bening, 25, of Toledo, who is in her third semester at Owens, asked the college leadership if they could provide a letter to students to share with prospective employers to explain the situation.

The idea was well received and Ms. Scott said the college would have no problem doing so.

“I don't want them to have questions I can't answer, and I want Owens to show exactly what happened so it doesn't affect my ability to get a job,” Ms. Bening said.

Owens President Christa Adams was not at the meeting because she is off campus working on a transition plan for hiring the next president. She announced last month her plans to retire at the end of 2010.

Allan Libbe was the only trustee who did not attend the meeting.

Mr. Moore said it was important to hold this meeting to have a dialogue with students.

“Today we proved we're human, we care, and we make mistakes like anyone else, but when we do, we try to fix those mistakes,” Mr. Moore said. “Today we start rebuilding that trust and make an excellent program even better.”

Contact Meghan Gilbert-Cunninghamat: mcunningham@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.