It was announced last night that Gallaudet University has been taken off of probation. I’m happy to hear the news and hope that they continue to make improvements, not just until they are re-accredited for 10 years, but beyond that. The fact that their probationary status wasn’t supposed to be decided until the spring is a great thing to hear about, and I hope to see Gallaudet continue their push to excel as they have done over the past year.
By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Gallaudet University is no longer on probation, its president, Robert Davila, announced last night.
“We are not finished, but we are on our way back,” Davila said.
The school in Northeast Washington, known internationally as a center for deaf education, was put on probation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education this summer after a turbulent year. In October 2006, protesters angry over the choice of a new president shut the campus down for several days by blocking the entrances.
The unrest brought greater scrutiny of academic, enrollment and other problems, and accreditors warned that the school was out of compliance on eight of 14 standards. The school remains accredited, but it awaits a 10-year renewal of that status.
Being on probation made it more difficult to attract and retain students at a school where enrollment had been dropping.
School officials used the probationary status as a wake-up call, Davila said, working to turn the problems around. The university defined its mission as an inclusive school using both English and American Sign Language, a stance that had been in question because of the changing nature of deaf education, with technology and public policy make it easier for deaf students to attend mainstream schools.
The school’s board of trustees opened an inquiry into the presidential search, worked to give faculty members and students a greater voice, and appointed six trustees to replace many who had left during the turmoil. Faculty members and administrators devised more-rigorous academic standards and admission requirements. And Davila held meetings for people to express concerns.
Some divisions from the protest lingered, and school officials have still been dealing with bomb threats and some dissatisfaction this fall.
But Linda Suskie, a Middle States official, confirmed that a panel of accreditors voted unanimously yesterday to take the school off probation and give it a warning, an interim step as the school works toward reaccreditation.
“In all my years of professional service, I never faced a more difficult burden than the one I assumed in January,” when he took office, Davila said. “But neither have I experienced the exhilaration on receiving the news of our upgrade.”
Frank Wu, vice chairman of the board of trustees, said last night: “This is terrific news. It’s the first step. . . . It’s a testament to Bob Davila’s leadership as president.”
The school had thought that the probationary label would not be dropped until next spring, so the committee’s decision yesterday came as a surprise.
“We had hoped for this,” Wu said, “and we knew this would happen eventually, but to have reached this stage already is just wonderful.”
Today, administrator Richard Lytle said, a party will be held on the campus.
© 2007 The Washington Post Company