Phi Beta Cons

Accreditation is part of the problem

Missouri State University president Michael T. Nietzel deserves kudos for publishing the recent review of Missouri State’s School of Social Work, a damning document that Nietzel himself admits is “as negative a review of an academic program as I have ever seen.” In it, the external auditors describe a “toxic environment” in which students are bullied, discriminated against because of their faith, and coerced “into certain belief systems regarding social work practice and the social work profession.”
What Nietzel does not realize is that the woeful state of this department is not entirely Missouri State’s fault. In truth, the profession’s accrediting body deserves a great part of the blame. Far from ensuring standards in the field, as Nietzel has suggested, the Council on Social Work Education—which accredits Missouri State’s School of Social Work—is a part of the problem. 
One need only look at CSWE’s national standards to see why students at Missouri State and other institutions across the country report that they are being bullied by their professors.
CSWE’s Educational Policy Section 3.0 requires that “graduates [of CSWE-accredited programs] demonstrate the ability to … understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination and apply strategies of advocacy and social change that advance social and economic justice.”
Policy Section 4.2 requires that CSWE-accredited programs “integrate social and economic justice content grounded in an understanding of distributive justice, human and civil rights, and the global interconnections of oppression.” 
These politically-charged requirements become vehicles for pressuring students, under the guise of promoting “professionalism,” to alter or abandon their core beliefs. As cases at Missouri State and Rhode Island College make clear, viewpoint discrimination inevitably follows when professors substitute these ideological concerns for academic ones. 
Since CSWE accredits schools across the country, there’s good reason to believe that there are other egregious cases of bullying and viewpoint discrimination going on. And there’s even more reason for trustees to demand that institutions with social work schools systematically undertake external reviews like Missouri State to make certain this doesn’t happen to students elsewhere.  
If I were President Nietzel, I’d ask CSWE for a refund.


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