College Of Marshall Islands Back On ‘Warning Status’

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Accreditation visit note plagiarism in ‘follow-up report’

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, May 2, 2016) – Less than a year after full accreditation was restored, the College of the Marshall Islands was sanctioned with a "warning status" last week by the U.S.-based Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation group.

The College of the Marshall Islands or CMI had been on warning status before a return to full accreditation was approved by WASC in June 2015. The confirmation of full accreditation last year came with the requirement that CMI submit a "follow-up report" documenting ongoing college improvements to WASC’s Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges earlier this year. The report CMI submitted to WASC dated February 29 ran afoul of the U.S. accreditors because CMI reportedly used statements from other colleges in its own report without giving credit to those colleges.

"Issues based on non-acknowledgement of primary resources in relation to some documents that were presented as evidence in the follow-up report have led to a revised accreditation status," CMI President Dr. Theresa Koroivulaono told the Marshall Islands Journal. "The college is now on ‘warning’ status with the requirement to submit the follow-up report on October 1. This gives CMI the opportunity to complete addressing all of the recommendations for compliance and improvement in the evaluation report prepared by the evaluation team that visited the college in March 2015. Additionally, CMI will also need to comply with Eligibility Requirement 21: Integrity in Relations with the Accrediting Commission."

Koroivulaono said CMI is already working towards securing full accreditation with the submission of the follow-up report by October 1. The CMI president called a special meeting for CMI employees Wednesday morning to discuss the situation.

The college has not publicly released either its February 29 follow-up report or the "action letter" from WASC outlining why it placed CMI back on warning status.

Koroivulaono said she was advised by WASC that until the commission accepts the follow-up report, CMI cannot release it publicly. Once it is accepted, CMI will post it on its website, she said.

However, people knowledgeable about CMI’s accreditation reports and support documents said comparison of the February 29 follow-up report and other documents submitted by CMI to WASC contain sections that are identical to the text contained in reports that other colleges submitted to WASC — with no credit given by CMI to the other institutions. Text copied by CMI from other colleges is reportedly not just used in the follow-up report, but also in a number of other documents CMI submitted to WASC.

The issue of "plagiarism" is why CMI must now comply with the WASC requirement, "Integrity in Relations with the Accrediting Commission."

There are three sanctions that the WASC accrediting commission can place on a college: warning, probation and a final "show cause" that can lead to termination of accreditation. The previous warning sanction was related mostly to financial issues at CMI, which the college resolved satisfactorily by last June to get full accreditation back, which lasted 10 months.

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