SVCC HLC Self-Study Document

Sauk Valley Community College
HLC Self-Study Document

September 19-21, 2011

Criterion 1: Mission and Integrity

Sauk Valley Community College operates with integrity to ensure the fulfillment of its mission through structures and processes that involve the board, administration, faculty, staff and students.

The vision of the founders of Sauk Valley College was established in the bedrock of the traditional values of a rural and industrial area that desired a college to improve the community and to educate the “baby boomer” generation that was swelling the local public school systems. The earliest goal of the proposed institution, according to the 1964 Citizens Advisory Committee recommendation for its establishment was to “promote maximum development of all citizens through the availability of educational resources, without arbitrary barriers or restrictions” (Out of the Prairie, p. 7 print copy in resource room).

Photo of the SVCC campus by the Rock RiverMore than 45 years later, the community that sustains Sauk Valley Community College is much different than that of the founders or anything they could have foreseen: only a few manufacturers remain and the many small farms have been gathered into fewer, larger operations. School districts decline in size while the average age of the population increases (link to an another section of the reportProfile). But as steadfast as the river that forms the southern edge of the campus, the college continues to carry out its mission to serve. Sauk’s current version of its Mission Statement, deliberated by the college community and enacted by the Board of Trustees, is accompanied by a statement of its Vision:

Sauk Valley Community College is an institution of higher education that provides quality learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of its students and community.
Sauk Valley Community College will be recognized as a benchmark institution of higher education that provides exceptional learning opportunities in response to the diverse needs of its students and community.
Rev. April 26, 2010 (link to digital resource room support)

The Mission Statement tells us what we should be as an institution and what we should do. The Vision Statement defines what we should strive to become. Together, these statements drive the planning process, providing the foundation for establishing goals and for evaluating whether changes are achieving them. These statements set a standard against which all of our systems, procedures, decisions, and activities may be measured.

Sauk Valley Community College asserts that it fulfills the expectation of the Higher Learning Commission that a clear mission provides the foundation upon which the entire organization builds and against which the integrity of the entire institution can be ascertained.

Responses to HLC Concerns

In another section, we have provided a comprehensive response to the concerns and suggestions of prior review teams at the 2002 HLC Reaffirmation of Accreditation Visit, which was conducted against the previous set of criteria, and the 2006 Focused Visit. Here is a brief summary of the responses to concerns that intersect with the values addressed in this criterion:

  • The college should ensure that the faculty are fully understanding of their role in the ownership and direction of the curriculum, as well as provide for clarity in a student’s progression through coursework to a degree” (2002, p. 12). The role of faculty in directing curriculum is now a well-documented aspect of the college. From the general education philosophy and degree requirements to the development of specific course outcomes, faculty clearly have accountability for establishing the curriculum. The makeup of the Curriculum Committee, the leadership of faculty Area Facilitators, and the operational planning and program review processes all provide evidence that faculty are actively responsible for directing the curriculum at every level (Link to another part of the report1D.4).
  • A review of the 2000-2003 strategic plan reveals no provisions for persons responsible, resource implications, timeline for implementation, nor evaluative components. . . . The next iteration of the Strategic Plan should include the aforementioned essential elements, linkages to other developed plans, and clarity in implementation strategies" (2002, p. 12). Each of two iterations of the planning process have successfully added the expected components: Accountabilities are clearly indicated; a timeline coordinates strategic planning with various other planning systems and with the budget cycle; appropriate data is supplied to allow planning implications to be appropriately evaluated (link to another section of the report2C.1).
  • Faculty and academic administrators should discuss and arrive at agreement regarding the logic of enrolling students in any required remediation as a co-requisite along with transfer courses that purport an expectation of expertise in reading ability for student success” (2002, p. 12) Further review of the concurrent reading enrollment requirement has confirmed the college’s initial disagreement with this item. Given improvements in faculty direction of curriculum and by articulating this requirement as part of an over-arching effort to help students overcome study skills barriers, Sauk has addressed underlying philosophical concerns about the policy. In addition, data shows that students are able to succeed in their college-level coursework while concurrently enrolled in a reading class (link to another section of the reportHLC).
  • Topical Areas: The visiting teams provided suggestions to address some general concerns(link to another section of the reportHLC).
    • In addressing “communications challenges” (2002, pp 6-7) that surfaced both at leadership levels and during the team’s contact with faculty and students, Sauk has taken several actions to make improvements: Reorganizing the administrative positions and other changes in the organizational structure tended to improve cooperation and teamwork. Development of internet communication options increased access to information, including regular posting of committee and administrative meeting minutes  .
    • The college added the identification of itself as “an institution of higher education” in the 2006 revision of the Mission Statement as requested by the visiting team (2002, p. 7).
    • The college added “the HLC-NCA name, address, phone number, and email address” to the 2004-2006 catalog as directed and has kept it in place through subsequent revisions (2002, p. 7). The college also uses the electronic mark of affiliation on the web as recently required.

1A: Mission Documents

Sauk Valley Community College’s mission documents are clear and articulate publicly the organization’s commitments.

1A.1: Clearly Defined Mission Documents

The Mission and Vision Statements form the basis for the Strategic Directions, which combine them with a statement of Shared Ethical Values, a set of Strategic Goals and Objectives, and Key Performance Indicators (link to an appendix Appendix) . Together, they provide a road map for where the institution is going and how it will get there, establish a basis for measuring progress, and identify the priorities that are important to the institution.

The Strategic Directions for FY11 mark the culmination of an evolutionary process that began in January 2004. These efforts resulted in the current form of the Mission Statement, which was originally adopted by the Board of Trustees on March 22, 2004. The strategic planning system implemented prior to the 2006 HLC Focused Visit established the concept of moving from the Mission toward the Vision by way of goals and objectives and integrating day-to-day operations with Sauk's priorities. This design of a reliable, mission-based strategic planning system met with approval. However, the desire for better linkages between systems led to further revisions of the system. At its April 2010 meeting, the Board adopted the Strategic Directions, thereby re-affirming the Mission, Vision and Shared Ethical Values and adopting the current Strategic Goals and Objectives. This approval marked the first-time completion of a continuous improvement process designed to be undertaken annually by the Board and campus community to evaluate the success of the college in carrying out the Mission.

1A.2: Systematic Review of Mission

The college must continually re-evaluate its Mission and Vision in light of its ever-changing environment. In recognition of the need to adapt, Sauk is committed to a regular, systematic review of the Strategic Directions. Several systems have been established to ensure that appropriate revisions occur:

  • Board policy establishes an annual review of the Mission and Vision Statements.
  • The timeline for the review process is spelled out in the Planning Timeline, which coordinates the college’s planning processes with the budget allocation cycle (link to an appendixAppendix).
  • The regular annual review of the Strategic Directions is built into the charge of the Organizational Planning and Improvement Committee (OPIC), which forwards data-influenced recommendations to administration and the Board of Trustees each February (link to an appendixAppendix).

1A.3: Defined Constituents

As a community college, Sauk is aware of its need to carry out the community college mission established by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) to serve a wide range of community needs related to pre-college preparation, transfer, and employability, among others (courtesy link to external web source). As a public institution of higher education, Sauk serves traditional instructional functions for its college district. As an employer, the college recognizes that the faculty, staff, and administrators are a vital internal constituency.

Sauk’s identification of its constituencies is addressed throughout the Strategic Directions: in its Mission and Vision Statements that recognize the “diverse needs” of students and community; in all of its Shared Ethical Values; and in its Strategic Goals that call for it to provide “effective assistance activities” to students and to be “responsive to non-academic community needs.”

1A.4: Strategic Directions Publicized

In order for the Strategic Directions to successfully direct decision-making and the operations of the college, they must be embedded in the thinking of the community. To ensure regular contact with the Strategic Directions, Sauk publicizes them to the following groups:

  • Faculty, staff and administration: The Strategic Directions form the basis for the annual operational planning process, which involves every college employee. Operational planning creates a direct link between the Strategic Goals and Objectives and the day-to-day operations of each office or academic area (link to an appendixAppendix). In addition, strategic planning updates are presented to staff at appropriate meetings, in mailings, or both. Job candidates receive a copy of the Strategic Directions at their interviews.
  • Students: Sauk engages in regular practices to inform students about the mission documents. Students in Orientation (PSY 100), a course required of degree-seeking students, learn about the Mission, Vision and Shared Ethical Values. In addition, the Strategic Directions are included in the Student Government Association (SGA) annual officers’ retreat.
  • Public: The Mission Statement has traditionally been printed in the college catalog, and currently the Strategic Directions appear in the online catalog. The Strategic Directions are also maintained on the college website to be available to the Sauk community and the public in general.

1A.5: Commitment to High Academic Standards

The Mission and Vision establish the clear expectation that Sauk will “provide quality learning opportunities.” In FY11 Strategic Goal 1, Sauk pledges that “the college will expand and improve the quality of programs and services.” This commitment to maintain the highest standards for quality of its instruction permeates academic processes and practices:

  • Assessment: Faculty have established and continue to improve a program of assessment of student learning, to ensure students are achieving program goals and the general education competencies expected of graduates.
  • Course outlines: A consistent format used for all course outlines requires clearly stated learning outcomes. These standard course outlines ensure that all teachers can understand and carry out the quality expectations for student learning.
  • Curriculum Committee: A cross-institutional Curriculum Committee is charged with reviewing and approving all course and program changes to ensure that high academic standards are maintained (link to an appendixAppendix).
  • Faculty evaluation: A contractual process for full-time and adjunct faculty evaluation exists “to ensure quality education."
  • Operational planning: Annually, each of the academic areas uses a variety of data and information sources to prepare a tactical action plan focused on achieving the college’s objectives for academic quality.
  • Program review: Sauk conducts regular, comprehensive reviews of all academic programs to ensure quality and viability, in accordance with ICCB guidelines. The process allows the review team to answer critical questions about program quality and to chart progress.

In addition, all Sauk courses and programs meet the standards set by the ICCB, whose charge is in part “to provide high-quality, accessible, cost-effective educational opportunities for the individuals and communities they serve” (courtesy link to external web source). Sauk also belongs to the Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI), a statewide group of faculty and academic administrators which ensures the quality of instruction and guarantees acceptance of course credits for transferring students (courtesy link to external web source).

Documents published through a variety of media clearly communicate to both internal and external constituencies the college's commitment to high academic standards:

  • Catalog: The catalog shows that all programs have an appropriate mix of general education credits and subject-specific courses to provide a broad-based general education and suitable content-area instruction. It also contains the general education philosophy statement, which provides standards for basic knowledge and competencies for graduates.
  • Website: The college website displays the Mission Statement in a banner on the front page and includes for community viewing various documents that show its commitment to academic quality, such as the Board of Trustees’ policy manual, the online catalog, and annual reports.
  • Public forums: Information pertaining to the commitment to quality education is regularly communicated in brochures, billboards, and newspaper articles, as well as at annual high school counselor breakfasts and talks presented to students and parents at district high schools.

1B: Service to a Diverse Community

In its mission documents, Sauk Valley Community College recognizes the diversity of its learners, other constituencies, and the greater society it serves.

One component of the Strategic Directions is the college’s statement of Shared Ethical Values. The statement, developed in 2000 by a cross-institutional committee in response to an ICCB directive, clarifies the way in which Sauk carries out its Mission. These values establish an expected behavior for people and departments, for processes and projects, in classrooms and offices. The Shared Ethical Values have been embedded in the Strategic Directions to recognize their proper role in Sauk's efforts to move from its Mission toward its Vision.

Shared Ethical Values: Recognizing that education is the single best means of improving the quality of people’s lives, we the people of the Sauk community commit to living these shared ethical values:

  • Respect: We respect the worth and dignity of all people.
  • Responsibility: We value and advocate that all take responsibility for themselves, their learning, and the environment.
  • Fairness: We advocate fairness and just treatment of all people.
  • Integrity: We expect and constantly stand for integrity, honesty, and ethical treatment of all people.
  • Caring: We value the creation of opportunities in a caring environment.

1B.1: Commitment to Honor the Worth of Individuals

The general endorsement of meeting “diverse needs” of students and the community that appears in the Mission and Vision Statements underlies the value Sauk places on the importance of recognizing the worth of every person. However, the commitment to respect is specifically stated in the Shared Ethical Values pledge to “respect the worth and dignity of all people.”

Dignity is protected when clear expectations for behavior allow an individual to act knowledgeably. Worth is acknowledged by equitable treatment and appropriate support for individual circumstances. Evidence that Sauk acts on its value statements can be found in its policies, a few of which are highlighted below:

  • The Student Code of Conduct explains students’ rights and responsibilities, and appears on the Sauk website with other policies, procedures, and handbooks.
  • The Academic Appeals Policy, within the Student Code of Conduct, establishes a process to deal fairly with student issues pertaining to grades or faculty actions.
  • The Acceptable Use Policy lists policies and expectations regarding the use of the college’s technology resources.
  • Radiology and Nursing programs each have separate admissions and student handbooks. The admissions handbooks, which inform students of the admission requirements, are available on the website. Printed copies of the student handbooks, which inform students of the expectations for conduct once they are admitted, are distributed directly to students.
  • The Student Athlete Handbook is distributed at the annual August orientation for student athletes. Athletes confirm they have been informed of and understand the rules and policies.
  • Employee handbooks describe expected standards of behavior (for example, customer service, privacy rules, etc.) appropriate to each classification’s function.

1B.2: Recognizes Diversity Within the Community

Sauk’s Mission and Vision Statements address diversity as an issue of “needs,” both of students and the community. This directive is mirrored in the Shared Values Statement that the college will “respect the worth and dignity of all people.” Ultimately, the Mission, Vision, and Shared Values Statements move Sauk beyond mere regulatory compliance for protected classifications to overcoming the barriers that keep people from participating in higher education.

Each of the five Strategic Goals contains objectives that direct Sauk's efforts to carry out the mission imperative to address diversity as it relates to removing barriers to education:

  • Goal 1 ties expansion and improvement to diversity by expecting the organization to use “alternative delivery methods” to “expand student access” (Objective 1.3).
  • Goal 2 mandates awareness of students’ diversity as the college seeks to improve persistence, retention, and program completion (Objective 2.1-2.3).
  • Goal 3 points directly to increasing the number of minority students (Objective 3.6) and non-traditional age students (Objective 3.7).
  • Goal 4 points to continuous reassessment of community needs (Objective 4.1). In addition, the objective to “expand and strengthen” programs and services for community members and organizations (Objective 4.2) speaks to Sauk's determination to exercise its Shared Ethical Values with the external constituencies it serves.
  • Goal 5 calls for the college to “redesign the campus for better utilization, efficiency, and handicap access” (Objective 5.2).

Sauk carries out its commitment to help learners overcome barriers through a variety of practices and programs, including the following:

  • Ability: Learning styles are diverse across the campus population. Students are regularly informed about using and adapting their learning styles by the Counseling Office and in various classes, including Orientation (PSY 100). The Special Needs Office helps students to adjust to their physical or cognitive barriers to learning with specific accommodations on a student-by-student, course-by-course basis.
  • Economic: Financial Assistance staff not only provides one-on-one support to students, but also informs the general public of available financial resources. During FY10, for example, the office held ten workshops at high schools, four FAFSA workshops, and three scholarship workshops; presented at 49 Orientation (PSY100) classes; and maintained over 200 scholarship listings on the college website.
  • Preparation: To address the diversity in academic preparation of its students and of the local community, Sauk maintains a Developmental Education Department, supervised by the Director of Academic Development, which coordinates curriculum and services for underprepared students. In addition, an Honors Program provides opportunities for those who are ready for additional academic challenges.
  • Age: One of the ways in which Sauk has helped increase opportunities for adult learners has been through its rapid response team, which has conducted career and academic advising, testing, and registration for employees at plants that have announced a closure. The college also offers reduced tuition to senior citizens, although few use this assistance.
  • Racial/Ethnic: Sauk is in compliance with all of the pertinent laws and regulations regarding service to diverse racial and ethnic populations. In addition, the college employs a Cross-Cultural Coordinator to recruit, support, and help integrate minority students into the college.

Sauk also addresses diversity issues in the surrounding community based on its Shared Ethical Values statements on Integrity and Fairness. These values underlie practices that expose the college community and the district to diverse cultures and social issues. The Cross-Cultural Coordinator’s job description includes a responsibility to “propose and/or provide cross-cultural development activities for Sauk faculty, staff, and students.” Many of these activities reach out into the surrounding Sauk Valley district (Internal Document Link5A.2).

1C: Support for Mission

Understanding of and support for the mission pervade Sauk Valley Community College.

The cross-institutional nature of Sauk’s planning system ensures that every level of the college community regularly encounters the Strategic Directions, not as mere slogans, but as the underlying foundation for the continuous quality improvement that drives the institution.

1C.1: Learning Organization Context

In 2006, the Focused Visit Report made clear that Sauk understood that success of its new systems required a context in which the Mission could be consistently understood and carried out. To that end, Terry O’Banion’s Learning College model had been adopted as the philosophy to provide the foundation for Sauk to become a learning organization that practiced continuous quality improvement. Through the period of change that followed, the system has proven itself able to meet the HLC Focused Visit Team expectations that it is “flexible enough to respond over time to changing needs.” While Sauk no longer claims to be operating under the O’Banion model, many of its principles have become embedded in the college community.

As a learning organization, Sauk’s strong commitment to continuous improvement can be evidenced in its policies and practices, as well as in the expectations of administrators, faculty, and staff:

  • Procedural integrity/routines: The college understands the importance of systematic quality improvement and has embedded the concept in its processes. The organization makes and implements plans, evaluates the results, makes adjustments, and repeats the cycle. Documentation ensures that what was learned, both from successes and failures, is available in the future. Presentations on the integration of the planning systems have been made at the ACCT’s 2010 Leadership Conference in Toronto, the 2011 Illinois Assessment Fair, and at the 2011 HLC Annual Meeting.
  • Data-influenced: Underlying every Sauk process is the expectation that data is a necessary starting point for decision-making. The use of qualitative or quantitative data is embedded in assessment, in operational planning, and in program review. It is foundational in OPIC’s charge and the development of the Strategic Directions.
  • Outcome-based evaluation: From course outlines to operational plans, the college evaluates success not by its inputs, but by the results that are achieved. Carefully balanced with capacity concerns and environmental scan data, student learning remains a central concern for the entire planning process.
  • Shared governance: Sauk’s committee structure involves employees in shared governance. Although there is no expectation that all academic areas and offices will be represented on all committees, most committees have a cross-institutional profile. The Operational Improvement and Planning Committee (OPIC) is a cross-institutional body that ensures that strategic planning has broad community input. Other committees, including Curriculum Committee, Assessment Core Team, Program Review Committee, Developmental Education Committee, and hiring screening committees, incorporate a cross-institutional membership appropriate to their charges. In addition, annual operational planning is done by employees for their respective areas and offices, allowing each employee a voice in how to carry out the Strategic Directions.

1C.2: Mission-Linked Budgeting Priorities

The Strategic Directions provide the fundamental structure for all of Sauk's planning processes and budget priorities. Based on congruency to the Mission and Vision Statements, the Board approves the Strategic Goals and Objectives, which have been recommended by OPIC after college-wide input through the strategic planning process. These goals and objectives are broad in scope and pertinent to multiple college functions (document available in the resource roomAppendix).

Operational Plans:

In order to ensure the intimate connection between the planning processes and the Strategic Goals, Operational Plan Templates guide each office or academic area to consider all of the Strategic Goals and Objectives during annual planning discussions and forces each planned activity to be linked to a specific Strategic Objective (link to an appendixAppendix). This process results in everyone’s having a role in moving Sauk toward achieving its Vision.

To ensure that each planned activity is aligned with a Strategic Objective and has a measurable outcome, the Dean of Institutional Research and Planning reviews each Operational Plan and requests changes be made if needed. The results of the planned activities are reported at the end of the fiscal year at the same time that next year’s Operational Plans are made. This timing allows conclusions drawn from last year’s planning to influence next year’s planning.

In addition, the college’s full Operational Plan and the end-of-year results are posted for access by the Sauk community in FAST, beginning with the FY10 report. The reported Operational Plan results are also the major source of information for the Sauk’s Annual Report (link to an appendixAppendix), which has become a “status report” on the progress toward achieving the Strategic Goals and Objectives. This report is posted on the website for access by the general public.

The Budget Process:

The strategic planning system links the component processes of assessment, operational planning, and program review to state-mandated budget deadlines. The strategic planning system also orchestrates a planning feedback loop that is linked with the budget process, as shown in Figure 1i below.

Figure 1i: The SVCC Strategic Planning Process
diagram of the strategic planning process at Sauk Valley Community College

Key to the system is a timeline that coordinates data flow, decision-making, and action (link to an appendixAppendix):

  • The Dean of Business Services initiates the budgeting process each spring by presenting current budget information and financial projections to the Board of Trustees, administrators, and OPIC.
  • Administrators construct their budget requests in keeping with the projections and based on needs identified through operational planning. They submit the forms along with the completed Operational Plan. Program review data is also used in years when a review has been completed.
  • The Dean of Institutional Research and Planning monitors the planning and review processes, ensuring that budget requests can be directly linked to the Strategic Goals and providing status reports to OPIC and administration. Once the review and Operational Plans are approved, the requests are forwarded into the budgeting process.
  • Members of the President’s Cabinet represent their respective departments as they consider the budget requests against the Strategic Directions. The group creates a recommended budget that the President approves and forwards to the Board for approval.

1C.3: Mission-Linked Strategic Decisions

The effectiveness of Sauk’s planning system to keep college actions aligned with the Mission are evidenced in the following changes that have occurred over the past few years:

  • Wind energy: Initiated based on external scan data on the local and national job outlook for sustainable energy technicians, the Wind Energy program constituted a way to “develop and expand programs” (FY07 Strategic Initiative 1.2). Plans to develop this program were a part of the Technology area’s FY08 Operational Plan.
  • One-stop service enrollment: An Admissions’ FY08 Program Review finding indicated a change in the process and flow for students during enrollment would help the college to meet FY07 Goal 3, to be “responsive to the learning needs of our students.” That finding was incorporated when architects developed the institutional master plan to occur in phase 5A of the plan.
  • Testing center: As early as FY07, Operational Plans identified a need to improve testing services. In the FY09 Program Reviews by both the Learning Assistance Center (LAC) and Developmental Education, a testing center was listed as a top-priority opportunity to contribute to the FY07 Strategic Initiative 3, “Expand learning opportunities and support services.” By combining various campus testing functions into a single location, Sauk opened the Testing Center in June, 2010, which answers the concerns identified in the various planning documents (link to an another section of the report3D.4).

Additional evidence that the strategic and tactical operations of the college flow from the Strategic Directions is found in the existence of ideas that surfaced, but were dismissed because of a lack of congruence with the Mission. For example, the Sauk Valley College Foundation approached the President’s Cabinet at its November 4, 2008, meeting about paying the fees for local immigrants to take the U.S. citizenship test. When measured against the Mission, there was no directive to provide such a service, and the college declined to take this specific action. However, Sauk later collaborated with Trabajando Juntos, a local group that works to empower the local Hispanic community, to offer two Citizenship Clinics, which addressed the educational needs of those desiring citizenship in a way that does carry out the Mission.

1D: Organization Structures

Sauk Valley Community College’s governance and administrative structures promote effective leadership and support collaborative processes that enable the organization to fulfill its mission.

1D.1: Board-Enabled Effective Leadership

The Board of Trustees establishes a clear relationship with administration in Board Policy 116.01 (link to digital resource room support), which states that Trustees “recognize that the primary function of the Board is to establish the policies by which the college is administered, but that the administration of the educational programs and the conduct of college business is the primary function of the President and the staff . . . ." In addition, the Board authorizes the organization’s administrative personnel to exercise effective leadership and defines that leadership. The Board conducts an annual spring self-evaluation where it gauges its effectiveness in meeting its responsibilities, the results of which are stored in the President’s office.

The President meets with the administrative staff as two groups, based on their relationship to the specific provisions of their job descriptions:

  • President’s Cabinet meets with the President weekly, consisting of “direct reports” who are tied directly to carrying out major elements of the President’s job description. The Cabinet plans and responds to challenges and opportunities that arise outside of the planning cycle.
  • Administrative Council meets monthly and includes the entire administrative team. The Council discusses and reviews administrative and planning information and recommendations, providing cross-institutional feedback on college-wide issues.

1D.2: A Structure That Defines Authority

The responsibilities and authority for Sauk employees and committees are described in a set of documents and procedures:

  • Organizational chart: Based on Board policy (link to digital resource room support), the President has established an organizational chart that defines lines of authority and accountability. The chart is stored on the website and is available to the college community and the public (link to an appendixAppendix).
  • Job descriptions: For every position, the Human Resources Director maintains a job description that summarizes the job responsibilities and the requisite essential skills. These job descriptions provide information to job applicants and create the basis for annual performance evaluations.
  • Annual goals: As a component of the annual evaluation process, each administrator, faculty member, and professional/technical staff member sets personal goals. These goals are evaluated during the subsequent year’s performance evaluation.
  • Handbooks: As directed by Board policy, “written administrative rules and procedures for the general and specific administration of the institution” exist to clarify how duties are to be accomplished throughout the college (link to digital resource room support).
  • Committee charges: College committees each have a written charge to identify membership and direct the activities of the committee.

One important element of the delegation of responsibilities is that of carrying out Sauk's Mission, which is communicated to new employees during orientation, practiced by employees during the annual operational planning process, and will be reviewed in the employee evaluation process, beginning in FY12.

1D.3: Qualified Employees

The Board has stated that “the quality of the administrative staff and instructional faculty is central to the quality of the educational experience of the students” and committed “to employ and retain persons with the highest professional qualifications and continuously demonstrated ability." Sauk promotes excellence in staff by building into its hiring process several steps that allow scrutiny of the quality and qualification of potential employees:

  • Applications require submission of a resume and appropriate transcripts.
  • The Human Resources (HR) Director verifies that the applicant meets the minimum required qualifications (via transcripts and employment records).
  • In addition to interviews with the hiring supervisor and appropriate administrators, each full-time job candidate interviews with a screening committee on which any college employee may volunteer to participate. This practice encourages different perspectives and allows stakeholders a voice in the selection process.
  • Before a job is offered, the HR Director conducts reference checking, primarily for work history, character, qualifications, and appropriate background checks.

The ICCB has established minimum qualifications for faculty, and Sauk’s full-time and adjunct faculty meet or exceed all requirements. Information regarding employee qualifications is stored in the HR Office and reported to the ICCB. The HR Office also maintains the annual performance evaluations for all employees.

1D.4: Faculty Responsible for Curriculum

Sauk’s faculty are the primary force for developing curriculum, establishing and assessing student outcomes, and conducting operational planning and program review for academic areas. Their work is reviewed and approved by the appropriate college committees and supervisory administrator. After the 2002 HLC Reaffirmation of Accreditation Visit, Sauk established systems to safeguard the principle that faculty have ownership of the curriculum:

  • Area Facilitators: Faculty Area Facilitators, charged primarily with coordinating assessment and operational planning, play a key role in moderating discussions among faculty regarding curriculum and academic issues.
  • Assessment: The Assessment Plan (link to an appendixAppendix) mandates regular discussion and review of the general education competencies by the whole faculty, as well as by area-level groups. In addition, annual evaluation of assessment data by faculty places them in the position to propose curricular changes and submit budget requests designed to improve student learning. Inclusion of assessment findings and plans into Operational Plans ensures that the faculty’s intentions are communicated to administration and into the planning system.
  • Wednesday meetings: Faculty meetings are scheduled two Wednesdays a month (12:30 – 1:30 p.m.), in accordance with the Faculty Contract. One of those meetings involves the full faculty in an assessment or professional development activity, and the other is usually reserved for academic areas to do assessment, planning activities, or other curriculum-related projects.
  • Committee membership: Beyond the Curriculum Committee, which is charged with approving all curriculum developments and revisions, all of the college committees include faculty members so that curricular and student learning implications are represented in discussions and decision-making.

1D.5: Effective Communication

Sauk has improved communication over the last ten years, both by establishing or improving internal processes and by increasing the use of the Internet.

  • FAST: FAST (Faculty and Staff Tools) is a password-protected portion of the college webpage restricted to employees. It provides access to internal documents, procedures, and committee minutes. In the fall 2009 survey, 97% of employees reported that they were aware that committee minutes are available on the website.
  • Email: The availability of FAST has greatly reduced the number of internal emails with attachments. Only a few vital reports are still emailed to receive greater visibility:
    • Human Resources updates contain information related to benefits, current job openings, and new hires.
    • President’s Cabinet and Administrative Council Minutes draw attention to current issues that are receiving administrative attention.
    • Board of Trustees meeting agendas and minutes provide information on policy and budget items under consideration.
  • Employee newsletter: Until recently, the Sauk Scout was a weekly newsletter published online. The newsletter contained information regarding upcoming events, meetings, activities, emergency information, and accomplishments of faculty and staff. Information Services records show that over a six-month period of time, the Scout had 1345 unique viewings, and the fall 2009 survey showed that the Sauk Scout was read on average by 67% of employees weekly and 41% of the adjunct faculty. The Scout was discontinued in January 2011 while the entire marketing function went through a review and reorganization after the Coordinator of Public Relations resigned. A reformatted Scout is scheduled for fall 2011.
  • Meetings: Preparation for the 2006 HLC Focused Visit created a complex system of groups and meetings. Since then, the number and type of meetings have been reduced. However, regular meetings continue as a demonstration of the shared governance expectation that has become embedded in the institution’s philosophy. For example, each semester, a workshop day is conducted which includes campus-wide information for faculty and staff.

1D.6: Organizational Review

In the 2006 Focused Visit Report, the college acknowledged that past practice allowed structures and processes to grow stagnant. Subsequent changes in the institution have served to embed a commitment to regular evaluation and review of processes, as evidenced by the following:

  • The Dean of Institutional Research and Planning: The position of Director of Grants, Planning and Institutional Research was revised and elevated to a dean level in FY08. Among the charges for this position is to “Coordinate institutional strategic and operational planning as a system of continuous improvement . . . .” This accountability provides a driving force for cross-institutional awareness of the importance of continuous improvement.
  • Program Review Committee: The Program Review Committee regularly reviews and modifies the program review process to benefit the institution and meet ICCB requirements (link to an appendixAppendix). Revisions to the Guidelines in the last five years have improved links with the Strategic Plan and budgeting, as well as creating accountability for assessment and operational planning processes (link to an appendixAppendix).
  • Assessment Plan (link to an appendixAppendix): Sauk’s current assessment system was founded on the principle that it must continually change and grow. To that end, the Assessment Plan requires an annual system evaluation, which includes a summary of the year’s activities, recommendations for system changes, and a proposed schedule of activities for the year ahead (link to an another section of the report3A.6).

1E: Integrity

Sauk Valley Community College upholds and protects its integrity.

Sauk consistently strives to adhere to high ethical standards and practices. Integrity may be best demonstrated in having written policies and documenting their implementation in the college’s day-to-day operations. The Board recognizes its responsibility to ensure that the organization operates responsibly and with integrity. To that end, it establishes policies that hold the organization and individuals to high standards. The Board maintains its policies by reviewing 2-5 policies per month and by making revisions in response to legal requirements and to keep each policy current.

1E.1: Ensures Fiscal Honesty

Board policies establish a commitment to ethical fiscal operations. For example, Board Policy 301.01 (link to digital resource room support) requires financial procedures in accordance with appropriate statutes:

  • The college complies with Illinois Law (110 ILCS 805/3—22.1) requiring an annual audit and filing the audit report with the ICCB. The report is available to the public on the Sauk website.
  • The Financial Assistance Office is audited for compliance with federal guidelines as part of the college’s annual audit and every three years by the State (A1 33 Audit).

The fact that no serious findings have been cited in any financial audit provides evidence of the Board’s attention to fiscal integrity.

The Sauk Valley College Foundation is governed by a 15-member Board of Directors. The Foundation adheres to its bylaws and reviews them every year. It also abides by the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice, both of which appear on the Sauk website. The Foundation publishes a statement on the rights of donors and awards scholarships in accordance with the criteria provided by donors in coordination with the Financial Assistance Office. The Foundation was included as a part of the college’s annual audit through FY10, but will undergo an annual audit independent of the college beginning in FY11.

1E.2: Abides by Applicable Laws

Sauk retains the services of Ward Murray Pace and Johnson PC so that legal counsel is present for deliberations and available to ensure legal compliance whenever necessary. All revisions to Board policies are made with the guidance of the college’s legal counsel. Monthly Board meetings are publicized as required by law and are open to the public. Agendas and Minutes for these meetings may be found on the Sauk website or may be requested from the President’s office. The Dean of Institutional Research and Planning is responsible for submitting required legal reports or assuring they are submitted by the appropriate staff person, to state and federal entities.

Following is a brief sampling of selected laws and regulations with which Sauk must comply and the ways in which that compliance is carried out:

  • The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is adhered to by the college, which publishes various required statements on the Sauk webpage and in the student handbook. The privacy policy is also communicated to students, via a statement which is required on all course syllabi. An audit of syllabi showed that 100% of the syllabi contained the required statement. A section on FERPA requirements is included in each employee handbook. In addition, new employees are provided the booklet “Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Privacy of Student Records But Were Afraid to Ask” and are trained in the requirements, with a sign off that the employee received the training stored in the employee’s file.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is addressed as an obligation for the college pertaining both to facilities and to academics. Job candidates are informed of Sauk’s ADA policy when they interview on campus. The Special Needs coordinator works with students to provide appropriate accommodations for their specific disabilities. The Instructional Technology Office provides students with specialized equipment, workstations, and software. Although the building was constructed prior to ADA, all of the remodeling projects over the last ten years have adhered to ADA requirements. The 2010 Master Plan has committed Sauk to continued efforts to make the college completely accessible.
  • The Emergency Preparedness Plan, developed in 2008 and later revised to meet the requirements of the Illinois Campus Security Enhancement Act of 2008, was coordinated with area emergency responders. The manual has been distributed to college staff with emergency responsibilities and training has been provided to employees who have a role in implementing the procedures. Employees have received regular updates in the Sauk Scout, and monthly posters are displayed in restrooms to update students and visitors.
  • Sexual harassment policies are established in board policy (link to digital resource room support) and explained to students in the Student Code of Conduct. Sexual harassment officers are identified on bulletin boards throughout the building and included in the Emergency Preparedness Manual. New hires receive sexual harassment training, and periodic retraining is provided to the entire staff. Online Workforce Harassment Training, which included sexual harassment, was conducted in FY11.

1E.3: Maintains Clear and Fair Policies

Sauk protects its integrity by maintaining policies that describe the rights and responsibilities of its constituencies, mandating procedures that protect those rights, and making that information available to the public. Board policy is carried out in a variety of processes and practices:

Student-Related Policies and Practices:

  • Academic policy: In order to treat students consistently and fairly, Sauk has established a number of pertinent policies, which can be found in the online college catalog. For example, the Admission and Placement Policy ensures that students enroll in courses for which they have the needed skills and abilities. The Academic Appeals Policy ensures that students have recourse if they believe they have been treated unfairly.
  • Student code of conduct: Expectations regarding student conduct are described in several policies. The Students Rights & Responsibilities Statement indicates that students are expected to be responsible and follow ethical standards of behavior to maintain a safe environment that supports the educational process. The Student Code of Conduct & Disciplinary Practices clearly states that students must adhere to all college policies, rules, and regulations and describes the disciplinary actions that may result for violations.
  • Financial aid policy: Information pertaining to the application, distribution, and eligibility requirements for public and private funds is available on the Sauk website. Related policies, such as Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy, Loan Policies, and Return of Title IV Funds Policy, ensure that students understand their rights and responsibilities.

Employee-Related Policies and Practices:

  • Hiring process: The Human Resources Office adheres to a hiring process outlined in the Job Posting and Hiring Guide, which is posted on FAST. This documented process includes membership guidelines for cross-departmental screening committees, conducting reference and background checks, and final employee placement. In addition, all new hires undergo a standard orientation that describes Sauk and its Mission; provides training in various essential expectations (privacy and sexual harassment policies, for example); and clarifies compensation and benefits choices.
  • Contract: Full-time and adjunct faculty must agree to abide by the Contractual Agreements between the Board and the Sauk Faculty Association or the Adjunct Faculty Association, which establish working conditions and compensation. The contracts are posted on FAST.
  • Employee handbooks: Separate handbooks are maintained for full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, professional/technical and support staff, and administrators. Although employee handbooks had become outdated, drafts of new digital versions are ready for input from the campus community.  When approved, the handbooks will cover a variety of policies and practices, personnel matters, and college forms.

Sauk’s Co-curricular Organizations:

  • Athletics: The Athletic Department abides by all NJCAA policies and procedures in offering ten sports with about 140 athletes each year. The Athletic Director and coaches conduct an all-athlete orientation at the beginning of each academic year to inform athletes of their rights and responsibilities under NJCAA and college regulations. Student athletes sign documentation that they have reviewed and understand the policies. As of FY11, an athletic handbook has been created.
  • Clubs and organizations: To maintain their status as active organizations, student groups must adhere to college guidelines published in The Student Organization Manual. Requirements and procedures are provided for club formation; activities and travel; participation in Student Government, and financial accountability. The Dean of Student Services conducts an orientation meeting at the beginning of each academic year for club advisors and officers to clarify the rights and responsibilities under these regulations.

1E.4: Oversees its Auxiliary Services

Sauk has contracted with two auxiliary service providers and expects these providers to maintain policies and procedures that allow them to demonstrate their integrity in providing services. Sauk’s Business Office is responsible for evaluating service and is satisfied that both venders are operating fairly and trying to provide quality service to students and the institution:

  • Food service: The college contracts for cafeteria and catering services through Consolidated Management Company (CMCo), which establishes policies and procedures for pricing and serving. For example, some students may use financial aid to purchase cafeteria food. CMCo abides by all health regulations and cooperates with regular inspections by the Lee County Health Department. The Cafeteria surveys students for input on service every fall and spring semester and has implemented suggestions from these surveys, such as relocating the salad bar, making soup available as self-serve, and preparing hot sandwiches to order.
  • Bookstore: The college contracts with Follett's Bookstore, which establishes and adheres to its policies pertaining to book purchases, using financial aid, returns, and book buy-backs. Students learn of the bookstore policies from the information provided when they make purchases and by checking the bookstore website, accessed from the Sauk homepage.

1E.5: Deals Fairly with External Constituents

Among the college’s external constituents are prospective students, as well as district residents, public and private school districts, businesses, faith-based and social service organizations, and local government (link to an another section of the report5A.3). Sauk maintains policies and processes to ensure that it deals fairly with these stakeholders. Here is a sampling:

  • Prospective students: Student services representatives make information and recruitment visits to every district high school throughout the year. Every high school is treated in a consistent manner, as evidenced by a visit calendar kept of such contacts. All of the high schools in the region’s Partnership for College and Career Success (PCCS) participate in Sauk’s tech prep services.
  • Bidders: The purchase of any equipment priced at $10,000 or higher and any construction project valued at $15,000 or higher is put out for bid. Project advertisements are sent to area newspapers, and notices are sent to known qualified vendors. Any qualified bidder may submit a sealed bid, which is opened at a public opening. To ensure that each bid meets qualifications, the bids are reviewed by the qualified person requesting the purchase prior to being forwarded to the Board for approval. This process ensures that all qualified bidders are given the chance to participate in the bidding process.
  • Work Force Councils are comprised of representatives from regional employers who offer input regarding the types of programs and training that are offered by the college (link to another section of the report5B.2). Sauk strives to ensure that this membership is inclusionary by sending invitations to join the Council to all employers listed on the Sauk database.
  • Building use: Sauk facilities are available for use by individuals and outside groups. Board policy (link to digital resource room support) establishes guidelines for use and appropriate charges. The Information Center handles all facility use reservations. Some of the groups that have used the building include the Women’s Health Fair, Bridal Fair, Boy and Girl Scout Groups, and Fire Departments. Sauk also collaborates with community organizations and schools to offer programs and events such as the Job Fair and Child Fair.

1E.6: Represents itself Accurately to the Public

Sauk honors its Shared Ethical Values in its efforts to present itself accurately to the community and to maintain a reputation among its stakeholders as an institution that acts with integrity:

  • The Sauk website contains a wealth of information for students, staff, and the Sauk community. It provides a way for important information to be universally available and continuously updated.
  • The college catalog has moved to a web-based electronic format. The Academic Vice President’s office, which is responsible for the publishing of the catalog, continuously records revisions for the next catalog edition and leads an extensive review before posting the catalog to the Internet.
  • The semester schedules are published to the website and are refreshed daily for inclusion of the latest changes. Multiple offices, faculty, and counselors all have input into course scheduling.
  • The Office of Public Relations ensures that all Sauk news releases and publications are accurate. Although mindful of the value of portraying the broadest possible community in its photographs, the PR office is careful not to over-represent minority students in photos in a way that would imply the presence of more minority students than actually attend.

1E.7: Makes Timely Response to Complaints

Operating in the spirit of the Shared Ethical Values, Sauk strives to minimize the number of complaints and grievances, but maintains policies and practices that ensure a prompt hearing and fair treatment for those seeking remedies:

  • Affirmative action: The college’s Affirmative Action Plan contains a grievance procedure that any employee, employment applicant, student, or student applicant may obtain by contacting the Human Resources Director. The Affirmative Action Policy is posted on the Sauk website, and job candidates are informed about the policy when they interview. There have been only two complaints filed since 2004, for which confidential investigations were opened within 24 hours.
  • Sexual harassment: Board policy describes how students or employees may file a complaint. Students are informed of the policy and procedures in Orientation (PSY 100). Faculty and staff are informed in their new employee orientation and at periodic training thereafter. Information on filing complaints is also posted around the campus. Confidential investigations are opened within 24 hours. Since 2004, there have been seven sexual harassment complaints filed and resolved in a timely manner.
  • Security: Sauk maintains uniformed security personnel on campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Annual Security Report is produced in compliance with the Campus Security Act of 1990 and is posted on Sauk webpage. The report indicates that there have not been any reported crimes or arrests at Sauk in the past three years.
  • Academic complaints: The complete Academic Appeals Process is described in the college catalog. The appeal begins with the instructor, subsequently with the instructor’s supervisor, and if unresolved, results in a formal hearing to the Academic Appeals Board. Since 2003, there have only been four Academic Appeals Board hearings. In all cases, the initial response was within 24 hours and the Academic Appeals Board met within a week to decide the issue.
  • Student complaints: The general student complaint procedure, which provides students an avenue to have their grievances addressed and resolved in compliance with federal regulations, is posted on the Sauk website. The Dean of Student Services maintains a log of student complaints and provides the log to the Dean of Institutional Research and Planning twice a year to analyze for reoccurring problems and to assure that grievances receive an appropriate response. All of the official complaints have been resolved quickly, most within a week.
  • Financial aid: The Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy for financial aid, scholarships, and veteran’s benefits ensures that students meet the pertinent eligibility requirements. When students disagree with an eligibility finding, they have access to the policy’s appeal process. In FY10, there were 594 successful appeals where decisions were reversed and students were found to be eligible. Unsuccessful appeals are not tracked and recorded.



  • The integrated system Sauk has developed for strategic planning approaches our Vision for it to be a benchmark for other institutions: The Mission and Vision Statements provide direction for the system. The strategic planning procedures keep the institution focused on priorities of strategic importance. Data drawn from various internal and external sources provides our basis for discussion and decision-making. Broad-based involvement in operational planning and cross-institutional involvement in the committee structure contribute to engagement by the whole campus community in the process.
  • Sauk’s community of employees is self-reflective in a way that we believe is distinct. Because of our regular involvement in the planning process, our opportunity to be involved in various committees, the time set aside for us to meet and discuss or learn from each other, employees on this campus in every job classification tend to be aware of their stake in the future of the institution, to expect and receive information about ongoing issues that face the college as a whole, and to have some input in those issues.
  • While mindful of our legal obligations to address diversity issues, Sauk’s view of diversity expands beyond mere compliance to recognize the needs of other at-risk groups who need help overcoming barriers to education. Noteworthy examples include the work of the Cross-Cultural Coordinator and the existence on our campus of the Student Support Services program.


  • Although Sauk has clearly established regular review as an important element in its major planning systems, the self-study discovered that this system element has not yet been extended to employee handbooks. At the beginning of the study process, all were outdated and some were still print versions that were not easily accessible. The self-study committee recommends that a system be put in place to assure that the handbooks are reviewed and updated regularly.
  • The Human Resources Director presents an institutional orientation to all new employees, and each academic area and office is expected to conduct its own specific orientation as well. The self-study found that not all areas and offices consistently orient new employees to the department or office. The self-study committee recommends that all areas and offices conduct a specific orientation for new employees.
  • The examination of compliance revealed that although the college provides required training to new employees, it does not consistently meet all of the annual retraining requirements of some legislation. The self-study committee recommends that Sauk identifies the topics that require annual training updates and maintain a regular training schedule.

Opportunities for Growth

  • The self-study found that some of the information on the Sauk website is outdated. While the college has successfully converted many printed resources to the Internet, it has yet to establish a system to keep the information updated and current. The self-study committee recommends that Sauk initiate a procedure to routinely update or delete information that is outdated.
  • There has been little marketing done for new programs and special initiatives. The self-study committee recommends that the college consider new and broader marketing approaches.
  • Although the Sauk slogan is effective in communicating the spirit of the Mission, the self-study committee found little evidence to indicate that any portion of the Strategic Directions is routinely included in printed materials that are distributed to the public or to employees. The self-study committee recommends that appropriate components of the Strategic Directions be included in print materials and posted throughout the campus.