The commission visitor’s primary task is to discuss the Benchmark I document and identify areas of compliance and noncompliance with the first portion of Benchmark I. The visitor also reviews the draft standards in the second portion of Benchmark I and identifies areas of further development that the program can use in writing the compliance section of Benchmark II.
Commissioner Visit I is conducted by a current member of COA. Commissioners have a minimum of 5 years of teaching experience and have been experienced site visitors prior to serving on COA.
The director of OSWA and site visit coordinator select a commissioner to make Commissioner Visit I after the program’s accreditation specialist approves the Benchmark I document. The date the Benchmark I document is approved determines when (February, June, or October) the program will be reviewed for candidacy status. The commission visitor contacts the program to arrange a date for the visit and lets the site visit coordinator know when the visit will occur. Commissioner visits for programs on the February agenda take place between September 1 and October 31, on the June agenda between November 1 and February 28, and on the October agenda between March 1 and May 31.
The program director should communicate with the commission visitor about arrangements such as travel plans, work space requirements in the hotel and on campus, and the schedule for the commissioner visit. The program’s chief administrator or designee should confirm all arrangements with the commission visitor in writing. Programs are to provide prepaid airline tickets and should consult with the commission visitor about the most convenient airline carrier and flight times. Coach fare is expected. The program should also inform the commission visitor about transportation from the airport to the campus.
The commission visitor should be housed in a hotel, not in a dormitory or other campus housing. The program should make arrangements with the hotel to pay the bill, minus any of the commission visitor’s personal expenses, directly. Hotel accommodations should be arranged so that the commission visitor has a place to work on the Benchmark I Review Brief.
Ground transportation and meals not taken at the hotel are likely to be out-of-pocket expenses for the commission visitor, and the program should inform the commission visitor how reimbursement for these expenses will be managed.
The program director is the person responsible for all communication with the commission visitor. Faculty members, students, or others should not communicate with the commission visitor before the arrival on campus, nor after the arrival until the appointed time in the commissioner visit schedule. Constituent groups desiring to meet with the commission visitor should request that the program’s chief administrator arrange time on the commissioner visit agenda. It is inappropriate for the commission visitor to receive anonymous documents, telephone calls, or other similar information. The commission visitor is instructed to discuss any such incidents with the program’s chief administrator and to refuse written or verbal information that cannot be shared openly.
During the first evening the commission visitor works alone to prepare for the visit. The program director may meet with the commission visitor to extend a brief welcome, explain the schedule, answer any questions, and outline the arrangements to escort them to the campus. During the commissioner visit, evenings are reserved for the commission visitor to work on the Benchmark I Review Brief and prepare for the exit interview. No social events should be planned for the commission visitor.
The commissioner visit should begin with a meeting with the institution’s chief executive officer and other institutional administrators. The program director should escort the commission visitor to the office of the chief executive officer of the institution and, after introductions, permit the commission visitor to meet alone with the chief executive officer. The purpose of this meeting is to explain the accreditation process, learn more about the role and place of the program within the institution’s system, and answer questions from the president or chancellor. When it is impossible to meet with the institution’s chief executive officer, it is acceptable to meet with his
or her designee.
The schedule may also include meetings with the program director, faculty members, the director of the field practicum, field instructors, students, librarians, and other individuals whose presence is relevant (such as faculty concerned with ethnic or gender issues) to Benchmark I.
COA does not require or recommend dismissing classes during the commissioner visit. It is expected that the schedule be planned to permit participation by all constituents without disrupting the academic schedule.
If the program provides additional information to the commission visitor during the visit, three copies of those materials must be sent to the program’s accreditation specialist.
The commission visitor holds an exit interview, open to the people who met with the commission visitor during the visit (institutional administrators, program leadership, faculty, students, and other constituencies) to convey the findings that will be in the Benchmark I Review Brief. The commission visitor then invites the participants to ask questions, comment on the findings, and/or correct any inaccuracies. The commission visitor may respond to questions but not make judgments of whether the program is in compliance with the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards, because that judgment rests with COA.
The commission visitor should remind the program that the findings, along with the program’s response to the Benchmark I Review Brief, are reviewed by COA before making a decision about compliance. The commission visitor should explicitly inform the institution and program that COA will notify them of its decision about program compliance and concerns, and that it is possible that COA’s analysis will differ from that of the commission visitor.
After the visit has concluded, contact between the program and commission visitor should end. If the program has additional questions or comments after the visit, the program should contact its accreditation specialist or associate.
The commission visitor or the program’s chief administrator may call the OSWA director at any time during the commissioner visit to clarify an accreditation standard or procedure. This includes any concerns about boundary issues pertaining to the commission visitor. Should an emergency arise requiring a commission visitor to leave the visit early, OSWA staff should be notified immediately.
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