A. Commentary: ACBSP Leadership During a Once-In-A-Lifetime Crisis

Jeffrey Alderman
ACBSP President & CEO

There are certain moments in our respective lifetimes in which we remember exactly where we were when human life seemingly changed direction at that moment; forever etched in our minds.

For some, it has been November 22, 1963, when America became united in grief after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Jr.

For others, it was when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded soon after takeoff on January 28, 1986; there’s the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, that would forever change our nation; and  November 4, 2008, when Barrack Obama became the first African-American President in U.S. history.

There are so many significant events, festive and sorrowful, that we all remember.

Identifying and Responding to a Pandemic

For me, another moment in time will be March 11, 2020, when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the suspension of the 2019-2020 professional basketball season after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus disease, now classified as a pandemic.

I was reading in bed and about ready to call it a night when my mobile phone perked up with the breaking news. To be sure, the Coronavirus was becoming mainstream news, but it was that decision when it became real to most Americans. By the following day, the National Hockey League had suspended its season soon to be followed by all other professional and amateur sports, including NCAA March Madness, in a barrage of postponements and cancellations.

As the ACBSP President & CEO, I knew there would be many difficult challenges and decisions that lie ahead.

The most important thing would be the health and safety of our professional team and our volunteer leaders.

It was in the early morning hours of Thursday, March 12, that I sent an email to our team informing them I was immediately closing the home office and moving to a fully remote work operation so that they could work safely from their homes and continue to support you without disruption.

By the end of the day, everyone had gathered their personal belongings, work computers, and any necessary paper files that would be needed to carry out their work responsibilities for the foreseeable future.

Like its members, the spring always is a busy time of year for our organization.

As a respected global accreditor, ACBSP has members in more than 60 countries throughout the world. These relationships are grown and enhanced by our willingness to travel the world to meet with our members and member prospects face-to-face.

So, the next decision to be made was to cancel all upcoming staff trips. It was an arduous process, particularly for my own travel schedule which included planned visits to Africa, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Colombia, and India prior to June.

In consultation with our Boards of Commissioners, we immediately suspended remaining in-person site evaluations. With approval from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the evaluations would now be taking place virtually.

Working with our host institutions at Xavier University of Louisiana and Lee University, we postponed two Access Accreditation Workshops scheduled for late March and mid-April. Registrants could opt for an immediate refund or carry-over their registration to a future workshop.

Service to Members

Like all of you, we were living in a bubble of worsening news every day about COVID-19 with conflicting guidance from various sources. Colleges and universities all over the world were evolving to accommodate a fluid situation. When the majority of the ACBSP member campuses closed their physical campuses and transitioned face-to-face classes to online for the remainder of the semester, we began brainstorming how we could best serve our members to allow you to best serve your students.

We were receiving questions from accredited members wondering how to measure quality and how to continue to meet accreditation standards during the pandemic. We decided to create and schedule a series of complimentary webinars that would address various ongoing challenges such as working remotely, teaching online classes, and assuring quality in a time of crisis.

These webinars have been a great success with more than 1,400 webinar attendees during the past two months. This new series, along with the Teaching Excellence Webinar Series, will soon be available on demand at www.acbsp.org.

ACBSP Conference 2020

Another important decision that had to be made was the status of ACBSP Conference 2020. With so much uncertainly, the ACBSP Board of Directors wanted to be proactive and alleviate any concerns our members might have about attending this popular event. The in-person conference had been scheduled to take place June 26-29, at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile.

Considering all of those who would have to come together to make the conference happen as well as our broader responsibility to society’s efforts to tackle this global challenge; in a special session on April 1, the Board voted unanimously to transition this year’s conference to a virtual affair, which will now be held from June 22-24.

The vote by the Board to change from an in-person conference was a very difficult decision. They had been monitoring the sweeping changes our membership was experiencing as the pandemic continued to impact the world. They surveyed the membership and learned that travel restrictions for most members extended through the semester, for many through the summer, and for some through the fall.

Members who registered for the in-person annual conference should have already received a refund. It is important to note that you do need to re-register for the virtual conference in order to attend. Also, you must confirm with the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile that your hotel reservation has been cancelled.

Plans are well underway for ACBSP Virtual Conference 2020 and it promises to be an informative and engaging event with virtual presentations, awards, and even a virtual exhibitor marketplace.

For more information or to register, please visit www.acbsp.org/events. All regional annual meetings and committee meeting will be held in early June, so be sure to visit the conference landing page for a complete schedule of events. A combined meeting to include both the associate degree and baccalaureate/graduate degree commissions as part of the Annual Business Meeting of the Council will take place beginning at 11:00 AM-EDT on Thursday, June 25.

Lastly, I want to note that we recently conducted our first-ever completely online invoicing process for the 2020-2021 membership year. All Champions or Co-Champions should have received notification and dues can be paid via credit card as well as check. To accommodate not being on campus, the Board has extended the due date from July 1 to September 1. For schools facing financial difficulties, ACBSP has a hardship waiver in which your dues can be waived. It is an anonymous process, so please contact me for more information.

When we get past this—and we will get past this—you will have a multitude of examples of ways in which you responded in a careful, effective way, ensuring that your students’ education and experiences go uninterrupted.

We Will Get Past This

Nearly three months of stay at home quarantine later, how could we have comprehended the devastation and impact that COVID-19 would have on the world?

We value your support as we all face these challenges together. If you have any questions or if there are other ways in which we might assist you or other resources we might provide, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

When we get past this—and we will get past this—you will have a multitude of examples of ways in which you responded in a careful, effective way, ensuring that your students’ education and experiences go uninterrupted.

Your efforts have been nothing short of heroic and ACBSP is honored to stand beside you, now, and in the future.

Blessings, always,

Jeffrey Alderman

To connect with President Alderman, please email him at jalderman@acbsp.org.