An academic sets out to expose “The Great Accreditation Farce” but his efforts border on the farcical. “By awarding accreditation to religious colleges, the process confers legitimacy on institutions that systematically undermine the most fundamental purposes of higher education,” Peter Conn wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Skeptical and unfettered inquiry is the hallmark of American teaching and research.”
“However, such inquiry cannot flourish—in many cases, cannot even survive—inside institutions that erect religious tests for truth.” Conn is an English professor at Penn.
“This, in my view, can only be described as a scandal,” Conn avers. “Providing accreditation to colleges like Wheaton makes a mockery of whatever academic and intellectual standards the process of accreditation is supposed to uphold. If accrediting agencies are playing by the rules in this continuing fiasco, then the rules have to be changed—or interpreted more aggressively, so that ‘respect’ for ‘belief systems’ does not entail approving the subversion of our core academic mission by this or that species of dogma.”
Economist Richard Vedder has written of the rather farcical way in which college accreditation is pursued, with administrators, effectively, accrediting themselves. “For example 83% of the board for Middle States Commission on Higher Education is comprised of people that work for institutions that they then accredit,” Vedder wrote. Nevertheless, to even suggest that free and open inquiry is what is being pursued in secular universities is a bit of a reach, particularly in a year in which a number of universities disinvited commencement speakers who were even mildly outside their political comfort zone.
Yet and still, Conn goes on to, perhaps inadvertently make a good point. “I also object to the expenditure of taxpayer dollars in support of religious ideology, in particular when that ideology has set itself in opposition to the findings of modern science,” he argues.
As we have found, when private religious colleges start pursuing government aid, they lose at least some of their spiritual grounding. This is particularly notable in Catholic institutions of higher learning. For example, it’s hard to find an actual Crucifix at Holy Cross, or, for that matter, many other Catholic colleges and universities.