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COMMUNICATION HEAD WITHHOLDS WHAT HE CALLS ROUGH-DRAFT

Director Dennis Davis of the UND School of Communication has refused to make public a national accrediting team's report critical of the school. Davis said, despite North Dakota's open-records laws, he considers the report a "private consultation" in rough draft form. He said he'd make a revised report available later but won't give public access to a copy now.

North Dakota laws say the records of any publicly funded agency or institution are open, unless specially exempted. Davis said he couldn't cite any law exempting reports of accrediting teams but still felt the report should be off limits to reporters and the public.

The School of Communication has more than 400 majors in advertising, radio and TV broadcasting, journalism, public relations and speech. Davis said a month ago that a national accrediting team had recommended the school be placed on probation a year while it makes improvements in faculty and resources. He has refused several requests by the Grand Forks Herald to look at the report. It's an astoundingly bad example for his students," said Herald Managing Editor Tim Fought.

Davis has made the report available for comments to most of his faculty members and some personnel with KFJM the campus station run by the communication school. Davis acknowledged Wednesday the report is unfavorable to UND: "It's frank. It calls for important changes at the school. It raises questions whether the university can afford to make the changes for re-accreditation."

In a letter written to the Herald Wednesday in response to requests to see the report, Davis says, "My position is that at this point in time the site team report is a private consultation. ... Thus far, the report exists only in rough draft form and we have yet to receive a final report from the team."

He said the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AJCME) has indicated a revised copy will be sent to UND President Thomas Clifford after Jan. 15. "When President Clifford receives the revised report, he will determine if it is a public record," Davis says.

Clifford was out of state and not available for comment this week on the School of Communication's refusal to make the document available for public inspection. UND has to make decisions based on what's been discussed in the draft report being held confidential by Davis. The UND administrator confirmed reports that the accrediting team has given UND until April to come up with a plan of action to show it could qualify for a one-year probationary states. Otherwise its accreditation will be yanked.

President Clifford often mentions the full accreditation of all its university's programs as an achievement of his administration, and UND frequently refers to the accreditation of its professional schools in its promotions and recruiting. Accreditation is typically used as an indicator that a college division meets a national standard of quality in teaching and research.

The School of Communication's last accreditation visit was six years ago. It's not the first academic division to face an accreditation struggle in the past two or three years. The UND College of Business and Public Administration increased its budget more than $300,000, dropped some programs, tightened standards and schedules, and added staff recently to win full accreditation of its graduate and undergraduate programs.

Grand Forks Herald, January 1, 1992

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