Business school accreditation visit pushed back two months

The GW School of Business will have an extra two months to prepare for an intensive accreditor’s visit – a cushion from administrative turmoil and financial woes that hit the college this fall.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the gold standard for business schools, will take a microscope to GW in February to see how much students are learning and whether it has a sound organizational structure.

Faculty had said in September – after former dean Doug Guthrie was fired in the aftermath of the school’s $13 million overspending last year – that the near-guarantee of accreditation was now in jeopardy after three years of work.

But with the site visit now pushed back and a temporary leader in the dean’s office, most said nerves about the school’s financial situation had smoothed over and they thought the school was well-prepared for a February site visit.

Murat Tarimcilar, a professor of decision sciences, said delaying accreditation would not hurt the school’s approval, and that most faculty in the school had overcome fears of not being accredited.

“Some people probably got nervous at the beginning, but I’m pretty confident that we’re going to get accredited. Because accreditation looks at your numbers, assessment of learning, and those things are very dependent on the leadership. As an institution, our numbers are very solid,” Tarimcilar said.

The association’s website says the review will consider student engagement with faculty and the curriculum, the participation of faculty and staff, professional engagement and the school’s mission.

Interim dean Christopher Kayes is leading the school’s preparation for both the site visit and the required self study, which is now due in December. He declined several requests to sit for an interview through a spokesman for the business school.

The spokesman, Dustin Carnevale, said in an email that the school submits information about its degrees offered, courses and faculty teaching. He added that most of the information will cover the last five years.

Fears about the business school’s standing rose dramatically to the surface in September when the school’s then-acting leader, Vice Dean of Programs and Education Phil Wirtz begged faculty in September to team up to take back control of the school from administrators in Rice Hall.

In the school-wide meeting, some faculty protested the 50 percent cut that the University takes from business school revenue each year, a budgeting practice that has frustrated a college with ambitions to break past the top 50 business schools in the country.

A spokeswoman for the AACSB said she could not comment on when the school’s request to delay the visit was approved, because they do not discuss ongoing reviews.

The AACSB reviews business schools every five years, and requires a self reflection study due 60 days before a committee visits the school to meet with faculty, students and administrators and details the schools’ curriculum and growth. The school has formed committees to prepare statistics and curriculum and faculty reviews leading up to the visit.

Douglas Frechtling, a professor of tourism studies, said accreditation did not faze him because he said the AACSB puts more emphasis on teaching and faculty.

“I think they expect, and they do audit this, that the administrative office is solid and stable, and that it can withstand personnel changes,” he said.

Professor of management James Bailey, who has worked on previous accreditation committees, said it is not uncommon for the AACSB to delay site visits when colleges ask. He said faculty anxiety about the process had calmed.

“I don’t think that there was any big concern about it. Obviously there’s always going to be some people who think things will go wrong, but i think that those were kind of out of the way. Anybody in the know knew this would not be an issue,” Bailey said.

Both professors said the AACSB would be concerned about the sudden firing of former dean Doug Guthrie so close to their visit, though.

“Their big concern will be, ‘Does the business school have enough autonomy or are they being run by Rice Hall?’ and there will be questions for the Provost around that,” Bailey said.

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