Acceptance: An open letter and response to the Chancellor’s apology

Chancellor Sandeen,

 

It has been over two weeks since the news broke about UAA’s  School of Education initial licensure program accreditation revocation. There have been meetings, announcements, reports, letters, articles and numerous interviews.  Recently, we even received an open letter from you, apologizing for the university’s failure to protect our “academic welfare.”

It’s worth noting that our second week of uncertainty was much different than our first. During our first week, many of us were simply trying to regain our bearings — learning more about accreditation than ever before. Some of us were going so far as to joke that our newfound personal use of the term “ombudsman” was near-exponential. But in our second week things were different — two things to be specific. First, there was a persistent narrative that, with the State of Alaska’s Department of Education and Early Development promise of licensure for spring and summer 2019 graduates, we were out of the woods. Second, that a “seamless transfer” with UAS or UAF would be an illusion.

So in the wake of your published apology, even if it is the polite thing to do, I hope you can understand our hesitance to accept it.

Many of us keep coming back to this term, acceptance. Often parents or supervisors denounce an action — or in this case inaction — as unacceptable. Yet many times the word doesn’t translate to action. We say something is unacceptable, but it also “is what it is,” and due to circumstances and realities we eventually deal with the consequences and begrudgingly accept the outcome. This is where we, the pending graduates, find ourselves.

The second week of our accreditation crisis began to make one thing uncomfortably clear: we will not be made whole.  

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Students in the master of arts in teaching for secondary education program are forced to choose between two frustratingly unacceptable options. First, we can do nothing and trust every administrator that has been paraded before us that tells us CAEP accreditation will not matter as long as we possess a license and a degree. Often dismissing the challenge that in a resume to resume comparison our cohort would be at a clear disadvantage. To say nothing that this option does nothing to honor, as you put it, the “hard work, time, money and faith [we’ve] invested in UAA.”  Simply put, accepting this option means accepting less than what we had paid for.

Our second option comes at the grace of UAF, a transfer that if we want to graduate on time, means we must complete unanticipated courses in technology and research. Again, on top of our student teaching, seminar and comprehensive exams. Accepting this option ignores the preparation of our one and two-year tracks that set us up to succeed by allowing us to focus on our classrooms in our final term. This option most certainly prevents us from having any significant employment this term and asks us to place now-shattered faith in UAA that it will cover our new tuition differences and textbook purchases.

Oh, and we should state that this second option does nothing for members of our cohort who planned to graduate with a music education or physical education endorsement as UAF does not have a similar program.

This also means placing student veterans in financial peril as distance classes make recipients ineligible for housing stipends.

This crisis is costing us more than accreditation stamps. It is costing us thousands of dollars.

If we can appreciate your apology rather than accept it, then perhaps we might have to meet there. We can appreciate that you were not chancellor at the time this process began and your stated commitment to your responsibility, mission and job.  We can also now admit that we cannot complete our original program and have an accredited license and graduate on time. Any seamless transfer would require UAS or UAF to seek a new accreditation for our UAA-derived courseload… which would take much longer than four months.

So here we are. Disappointed. Angry. Wronged.

Maybe an apology is a nice gesture, but it is not the needed gesture. You once admitted a commitment to making us whole. So let’s start there. We can’t all graduate on time with the exact credentials we were promised and paid for, but you can try harder to alleviate these hardships. Whether it takes 200 new desktop files or pages in a notebook, each of these Seawolves have a less-than-amazing story being written and you have the power to waive extra fees and tuition, extend deadlines, add time for comprehensive exams, supply textbooks and work with the Veterans Affairs Administration to ensure the outcome for each and every one of us — even if not expected or optimal — is at least acceptable.

 

Respectfully,

 

Nick Tabaczka

Suzy Rousculp

Morris Linett

Jessica Blignaut

Lauren Casey

Mia Sison

Jessica Aho

Felicia Krieter

Matt Kays

Tayler Snoddy

Cody Priest

Erin Ingle

Lauren Fritz

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