A test for the future of St. John’s

Vincentian View

Father Patrick J. Griffin, CM, Special to the Torch

In three short weeks, the members of the student community at SJU will be given the opportunity to demonstrate the depth and breadth of their learning during this semester. During the current week, the University itself is undergoing an exam.

The Middle States Association accredits institutions of higher learning like St. John’s and they do this by sending a team of administrators and scholars to our campuses to determine if we are who we say we are, and we do what we say we do.

Across the administration and faculty, a self-examination has been taking place over the past two years to prepare for this visit. Led by the Provost, Dr. Robert Mangione, Ed D., R. PH., teams have been formed across the University structure to study and respond to the “fourteen standards” supplied by the Middle States Commission. A document of some 200 pages has been created.

The chair of the evaluation team to visit St. John’s for this time of examination (April 17-20) is the President of Villanova University, Rev. Peter Donohue, OSA. He brings a group of eight colleagues from various universities and assorted specialties to carry out the business of a “site visit.” We can hope that Villanova’s recent success in the NCAA men’s basketball championship has placed him in a positive mood.

During their time here, the team will gather with many or even all of the constituencies which make up St. John’s. Students, faculty and administration will be invited to attend meetings which will involve dialogue with one or more of our visitors. Of course, our President, Dr. Gempesaw, will give considerable time to this group as he explains his vision and hopes for our University and its students.

For this self-examination, I have served on the “Steering Committee” which, from the beginning, has been preparing for the upcoming days.  It has been quite a learning experience.

Under the leadership of chairs Vijaya Korlipara, Ph.D. and Linda Sama, Ph.D., seemingly every aspect of our University has come under scrutiny.  We have learned things about ourselves which can now contribute to our betterment. The visiting team will undoubtedly offer other recommendations.

As with the student experience of examination, a certain excitement accompanies the presence of our colleagues from Middle States. We have been challenged to take note of all the aspects of our programs and to write clearly about them, providing us with a mirror reflecting our vision of ourselves.

The visiting team offers a window.  They look at us from outside without prejudice and see things from their own perspective and they want us to be a success. They will not be inclined to pass over weaknesses without comment.  They will also encourage us in our strengths.

Yes, the University can understand something of the student apprehension in these days. Like a good student, it has prepared well for this evaluation and hopes that our examiners hold the same opinion. One way or another, our St. John’s will profit from this experience.