A Healthy, Safe, and Secure Environment

This is the fifth in a series focused on SACSCOC interpretations of The Principles of Accreditation

13.8 Institutional environment
Unlike some of the other standards that are accompanied by interpretations, 13.8 does not represent an accreditation challenge for most institutions. Additionally, the 2020 interpretation of the standard, which can be found here, is included in the Resource Manual in the “NOTES” section.

First, let’s take a look at the standard.
13.8 The institution takes responsible steps to provide a healthy, safe, and secure environment for all members of the campus community. (Institutional environment)

Most institutions have the skeleton of this narrative in place and, after two years of a pandemic, are well-versed in the procedures. A complete narrative provides a summary of and a link to an institution’s Safety Plan, Emergency/Disaster Plan, and Crisis Communication Plan. In addition to those plans, a description of Campus Security and their operations and powers as well as a description of how health and safety issues are identified and resolved rounds out the narrative. The Resource Manual includes a more comprehensive list of questions and possible documentation to consider; however, well-written and comprehensive plans will cover most of these items. Remember to provide evidence of the implementation of the plans. When did you use the Crisis Communication Plan? The Emergency Plan? How did everything work and how did you assess the effectiveness of the plan’s implementation? Can your maintenance team provide evidence of work tickets for health/safety related projects and the timeline for resolving those issues?

The best way to close your narrative is to be able to say that you have had no investigations by the USDOE Office of Civil Rights for possible violations alleging sexual violence since the last SACSCOC comprehensive review. If there have been any, you need to report that in your 13.8 narrative and indicate the status of the investigation(s)—active or closed. The inclusion of these investigations (or hopefully the lack thereof) is the subject of the 2020 interpretation.

At Southeastern Accreditation Consultants, we’re ready to collaborate and support your accreditation efforts. From reviewing narratives to building your documentation, we offer individualized services to best meet your needs. Contact us to get started.

Published by Douglas A. Wymer

Throughout an academic career spanning nearly 20 years, Dr. Wymer participated in many site visits (both substantive change and reaffirmation visits) for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and he has been a visiting team member for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges with the Western Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition to serving as a team member, Dr. Wymer has served as a visiting committee chair for SACSCOC. After earning a B.S. in Biology (with a minor in Chemistry) from what was then Shorter College, an M.S. in Entomology from Clemson University, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Tennessee Technological University, Dr. Wymer started a rewarding career in academia. He earned tenure and achieved the rank of Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences at The University of West Alabama and served in a number of administrative roles at UWA including Department Chair and Assistant Dean. He served as a Department Head at Pensacola State College and, after a year in that position, was promoted to Dean of Baccalaureate Studies and Academic Support. In 2016 he became the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Lake-Sumter State College, where he served for four years before launching Southeastern Accreditation Consultants.

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