The deliberate misreporting of SAT scores and other student data is an issue that deeply affects everyone at Flagler College. It is appropriate that we, as faculty, express to you how we understand this misreporting to affect the academic goals of the College, our hopes concerning continued efforts toward transparency and cooperation, and our reaffirmed commitment to the students at the College.
As you are all aware, the Flagler College faculty – under the leadership of Dr. Alan Woolfolk, the Vice President of Academic Affairs – has taken direct steps in recent years to advance the academic standards and reputation of the College. In 2011, we presented President Abare and the Board of Trustees with our Academic Strategic Plan – a vision of Flagler College at 50. In the few years since, the faculty, along with Academic Affairs and various other departments of the College, have moved to implement several of these initiatives. These include, to name but a few, the First Year Experience, the revision of General Education, and the addition of new and vibrant programs to the academic curriculum.
Despite past divisions at the College, both academic and administrative, we have requested and sought greater cooperation in order to realize our true potential as an academic community. The addition of Dr. Will Miller, as our Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, and the close collaborative successes of Academic Affairs and Student Services embody these efforts. The discovery of the deliberate misreporting of entrance data was a direct result of these comprehensive and cooperative efforts. Faculty, who were working to improve how students are placed in first-year writing courses, initially found and reported the discrepancy.
The faculty, like the President and Board, are rightly concerned about the reputation of Flagler College, as we move forward. We recognize the possible implications of this unfortunate revelation for matters of recruitment, retention, and the general morale of the faculty, staff and, most importantly, the students. We also recognize, however, that test scores are not what bring students to Flagler, nor are they what keep students here. Test scores have never been, nor will they be definitive of the Flagler experience. What brings students to Flagler, and what keeps them here, is the sense of a close-knit academic community comprised of faculty, staff, administrators, and students – a community deeply guided by the values of good citizenship and maintaining high ethical standards.
The Flagler experience is defined by our low class sizes, available teachers, a strong first-year curriculum, a climate of integrity and responsibility, and an administration that values students and their academic success and has invested serious time, money, and effort into their future. For this reason, we, as faculty, are determined that we should not allow the misreporting of academic data to undermine or distract from the fundamental fact that we are proud of our students. We are proud of the academic quality of the education that we offer these students, and proud of the integrity of this College’s broader educational and academic mission. In fact, the discovery of deception has revealed the true accomplishments of our students in outperforming entrance data expectations.
At this critical point in time, the chief concern of the faculty is that the revelations of dishonesty and false reporting be viewed by the Board as an opportunity to move toward greater transparency and cooperation as well as the advancement of the practices of student-focused academic and administrative cooperation that ultimately resulted in the misreporting being uncovered.
One obvious step in this direction is greater cooperation and collaboration between Admissions and Academic Affairs. The historical practice of insulating Admissions from any form of faculty oversight has clearly not been productive or advantageous. No less significant than the fact that we have been publicly misreporting student scores, is the fact that the incoming student body has been misrepresented to the faculty repeatedly. As we devote increasing amounts of time and effort not only to retain students, but also to ensuring their academic success, improved relations between all Academic and Administrative departments are imperative.
While we are reassured that the College is moving forward with an independent and comprehensive external investigation of recent events, we would also like to emphasize the need for this investigation to report in precise and individual detail the costs we have incurred in wasted fees and resources as consultants and others have worked with fraudulent data. While the potential financial impact of this issue – particularly in terms of enrollment and retention – can clearly not be anticipated at this point, the faculty would also emphasize the need to continue our efforts with regard to the First Year Experience – the extended orientation, first-year advising, learning communities, and keystone courses are all high impact experiences that are proven to increase the chances of academic success for lower performing students – a constituency at Flagler that is in fact significantly larger than we had been led to believe. Continuing to build on these efforts seems more imperative now than ever.
In closing, we would like to recognize the great strides that the college has made in recent years under the leadership of the President and the Board of Trustees and assert our commitment to supporting this leadership at this difficult time. We would like to thank the Trustees for their consideration of our concerns and reiterate our belief that Flagler College need not be defined by this mistake; rather, our future actions must demonstrate our unity in recognizing that mistakes provide opportunities and that, as a College, we fully intend to embrace this opportunity to advance our commitment to our Mission and our dedication to the academic success of our students.