Press Releases | Trusteeship

Accreditors’ Political Litmus Tests Require HHS Review

October 25, 2006

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and other higher education reform groups wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services to protest a troubling political litmus test. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), an accrediting agency that works with HHS, requires its member schools to subject their students to “dispositions” evaluations that encourage violations of students’ expressive rights.

“We urge the Department to distance itself from the intrusive and unconstitutional tactics of CSWE, disavow accreditation standards that subordinate knowledge and skills to social engineering, and require CSWE to modify its criteria if it wishes to maintain its position as a federal accreditor,” ACTA president Anne D. Neal said in the letter.

ACTA’s letter notes that CSWE guidelines claim that social work education exists for the purpose of “preparing social workers to alleviate poverty, oppression and other forms of social injustice.” It also says that all CSWE-accredited programs must ensure that students “understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination and apply strategies of advocacy and social change that advance social justice.”

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)—another accrediting agency used by the federal government—employed similar standards until earlier this year. After a public outcry provoked by ACTA and others, NCATE’s president acknowledged that the language of social justice “is susceptible to a variety of definitions” and removed such language from his organization’s criteria.

ACTA’s letter accompanies similar missives from the National Association of Scholars and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, national organization dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability. ACTA has a network of trustees and alumni around the country and has issued numerous reports on higher education, including How Many Ward Churchills?, Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action, The Hollow Core, and Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

Discover More