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 the COA. Commissioners have a minimum of 5 years of teaching experience and have been experienced site visitors prior to serving on the COA.
Selecting the Commission Visitor
The director of OSWA and site visit coordinator select a commissioner to make Commissioner Visit I after the program’s accreditation specialist or associate 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 November 15, on the June agenda between December 1 and February 28, and on the October agenda between March 1 and May 31.
Format of Commissioner Visit I
The first commissioner visit is to be conducted in-person for all programs, with the exception of online-only programs.
The first commissioner visit is to be conducted virtually for online-only programs. Online-only is defined as holding all regular weekly classes online without regular location-based components. Programs with an annual on-campus component are still considered as online-only. Online-only programs may elect to request an in-person visit in lieu of a virtual visit. Expectations are consistent for both in-person and virtual visit formats.
Program Preparation for the Commissioner Visit
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.
Commission Visitor Arrival
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.
Meeting With the Institutional Administrators
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.
Meetings With the Social Work Program
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.
The 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 or associate.
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 the 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 the COA before making a decision about compliance. The commission visitor should explicitly inform the institution and program that the COA will notify them of its decision about program compliance and concerns, and that it is possible that the 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.
Emergencies or Questions During the Commissioner Visit
DOSWA recognizes that scheduled visits may need to be delayed or cancelled due to special circumstances beyond the control of relevant parties. Examples of these special circumstances include inclement weather conditions, natural or manmade disasters, or changes to visitor’s or key personnel’s schedules due to unforeseen personal matters. As this list is not exhaustive, the visitor or program is encouraged to contact CSWE’s site visit coordinator to discuss special circumstances that may affect the completion of the visit. Cancelling or delaying a visit is an extenuating circumstance. Due to complexity in scheduling visits, cancellations and delays will be avoided whenever possible.
Should an emergency arise before the visit occurs requiring the visitor or program to delay or cancel the visit, CSWE’s site visit coordinator should be notified immediately via telephone and email. To inform the DOSWA of any delays or cancellations to a planned visit:
- The party (visitor or program) must immediately notify the site visit coordinator of the delay or cancellation along with the other party (visitor or program) via telephone and email
- The program, visitor, and site Visitor Coordinator must communicate to determine the best course of action:
- Delay visit
- Reschedule visit with same visitor for a later date
- Reschedule visit with an alternate visitor* for the original date
- Reschedule visit with an alternate visitor* for a later date
*If the program and visitor are unable to select a new visit date, the site visitor coordinator may work directly with the program to assign an alternate visitor if available. The delayed or rescheduled visit is based upon the alternate visitor’s availability.
Responsibility of Fees Incurred
The program will be responsible for any fees associated with the delayed or rescheduled the visit. Programs are advised to purchase refundable and transferrable transportation and accommodations to avoid incurring fees in the event of visit cancellation or delay.
Should an emergency arise during the visit requiring a visitor or program to leave the visit early, the site visit coordinator should be notified immediately via telephone and email. These occurrences will be handled on an individual basis.
If the site visit coordinator is unavailable, the DOSWA director or accreditation specialist may be contacted.
Questions During the Visit
Logistical questions related to visit, including concerns about boundary or ethical issues, scheduling, transportation, accommodations, or reimbursement* may be directed to the site visit coordinator.
*Per policy 2.3.4. Program Preparation for the Site Visit, requesting visitors to complete W-9 forms in order to be reimbursed is not supported by the CSWE or the DOSWA.
Visitors or a program’s primary contact may contact the program’s accreditation specialist at any time to clarify an accreditation standard or the Commission on Accreditation’s policies or procedure, such as:
- Interpretation of an accreditation standard
- Clarification of the letter of instruction
- EPAS Handbook policies and procedures
If the site visit coordinator or accreditation specialist is unavailable, the DOSWA director may be contacted.
Reimbursement for Out-of-Pocket Expenses
It is the policy of the Commission on Accreditation that:
- Programs are to provide prepaid airline tickets to site/commission visitors.
- Programs should consult with the site/commission visitors about the most convenient airline carrier and flight times.
- Programs should inform site/commission visitors about transportation from the airport to the hotel and campus.
- Programs should house site/commission visitors in hotels, not in dormitories or other campus housing.
- Programs should arrange for hotels to bill the program for site/commission visitors’ expenses minus personal expenses.
- Hotel accommodations should be arranged so that site/commission visitors have a place to work on the site visit report.
- Ground transportation and meals not taken at the hotel are likely to be out-of-pocket expenses and programs should inform site/commission visitors how reimbursement for these will be managed.