March 2014 (revised September 2014)
18. Site Visits
18.1. Site Visit Team
Site visit teams are selected to represent educators, practitioners, and others (including public members) in the proportion necessary to evaluate a college and its programs.
- US – Accreditation site teams are composed of at least five trained site visitors, at least four of whom shall be trained site visitors selected by the COE (one of whom will serve as chair) and one trained site visitor selected by the CVMA. In addition the team will be accompanied by one or two current COE member(s) (non-voting observers), one state veterinary medical association (VMA) observer (optional at state VMA discretion and expense, non-voting), and one AVMA staff member (non-voting).
- Canada – Accreditation site teams are composed of at least five trained site visitors, at least two of whom shall be trained site visitors (one of whom will serve as chair) selected by the COE and three trained site visitors selected by the CVMA. In addition the team will be accompanied by one or two current COE member(s) (non-voting observers), one provincial observer (optional at the discretion and expense of the province, non-voting), and one AVMA staff member (non-voting).
- Foreign – Accreditation site teams are composed of six trained site visitors; three trained site visitors (one of whom shall serve as chair) selected by the COE, one trained site visitor selected by the CVMA, and two members from the country wherein the college is located, with the exception of joint site visits where the make-up of the team shall be decided by the accrediting bodies. In addition the team will be accompanied by one or two current COE member(s) (non-voting observers) and one AVMA staff member (non-voting).
- Advisory/Consultative site team – These site teams are composed of at least three COE site visitors and one AVMA staff member (non-voting).
COE site visitors will be veterinarians or former COE public members who have undergone training to conduct site visits. Such training shall include review of an on-line training module and a two and one half-day initial training session and annual refresher training online. Site visitors without previous site team experience will serve as an observer on their first site visit. Training must be updated annually to continue to serve as a site visitor. Current COE members may not serve as voting COE site visitors.
Site visitors will serve six-year, staggered terms. A call for applications and nominations will be disributed broadly. The COE will review the credentials of the applicants and nominees and select site visitors. A pool of no less than 30 wil be maintained.
Observers may not vote at the site visit. Current COE members serving as observers may not vote on the accreditation status of the institution visited.
Site visitors are identified and assigned to each team by the chair of the Evaluation Committee. These individuals participate as volunteers and are not eligible for honorariums, but may be reimbursed, when necessary, for transportation, food, lodging, and incidental expenses. Public members may be included on site visits, but because of their limited number, are not included in every visit. However, public members shall fulfill all the duties of a team member and have the right to vote.
An effort will be made to balance the areas of expertise on the site visit team. Each site visit team includes a representative of the CVMA appointed and supported by that organization. No member is assigned to a site visit team until they have completed training and orientation.
An AVMA staff member will accompany each site team and assist in coordinating activities. Staff will consider how each of the standard requirements is being met by the college and note any points not covered in the self-evaluation report. If major deficiencies are found in the material presented, staff is requested to ask the college for supplemental material.
18.2. Conflict of Interest / Confidentiality Statements
Each site team member is required to sign a Conflict of Interest/Confidentiality Statement (see Section 21.1, Appendix A).
18.3. Objective of Site Visit
The objective of a site visit is to verify and supplement information presented in the self-study report. Site visits are made only with the concurrence of the administration of the college and its parent institution. When it appears in the best interest of the college, the university concerned, the AVMA, or another accrediting agency, every effort is made to coordinate and cooperate with other accrediting agencies in request for information and conduct of visits.
18.4. Site Visit Overview
The agenda for the visit is established by the chair of the site visit team in consultation with the college administration.
Site visit teams are fact-finding bodies, usually composed of seven members, including AVMA staff. Using the college self-study as the basis for evaluation, a four-day site visit is conducted. Input is sought from all program factions of the college including faculty, students, staff, and alumni. Facilities, programs, and other pertinent areas are also studied. A factual report of the current status of the college is produced using a standardized site visit rubric (see Section 21.9, Appendix I) to ensure thorough and consistent application of the standards by each site team. The report is reviewed by all team members for factual correctness.
During the site visit the team audits the college educational program by consulting with the dean and appropriate staff, department heads, representative faculty members, the librarian, representative students at both professional and graduate levels including interns and residents, and appropriate faculty committees. In addition, the team tours the buildings, facilities, equipment, and views case records. The site visit team holds a series of executive sessions to compare notes on its findings, begin formulation of its report, and instruct the chair as to the points to be addressed and directives and recommendations made in the draft report of evaluation. Each member drafts directives concerning deficiencies in meeting the standard requirements for which he/she has been assigned responsibility. All directives are based on discussion noted in the commentary provided by the site team under each standard. Directives are stated as specifically as possible to identify the deficiency involved and suggest possible solutions, without dictating the specific method for achieving the necessary outcome. The entire team discusses and approves all directives which become part of the report. The site team may also add recommendations when a standard is in compliance, but an opportunity to make a suggestion for improvement has been identified. If there is disagreement within a team concerning a directive or recommendation, the item remains in the report; the disagreement is called to the attention of the Council when the report is presented.
The final report of evaluation will inform the college of the Council's assessment of student achievement.
18.5. Code of Conduct for Site Team Members
Site team members are required to conduct themselves professionally, courteously, and with the utmost respect for faculty, students, and other representatives of the college educational program visited as well as fellow site visit team members.
Site team members must:
- Remember that the objectives of accreditation include verifying that an institution or program meets established standards, assisting prospective students in identifying acceptable institutions, creating goals for self-improvement of weaker programs and stimulating a general raising of standards among educational institutions, and involving the faculty and appropriate staff comprehensively in institutional evaluation and planning;
- Keep a positive attitude and not offer negative feedback or other criticism during the site visit;
- Remember that all materials, discussions, deliberations, and reports of the site visit are confidential;
- Refrain from discussing the "state of a college" with anyone other than site team members and appropriate AVMA staff;
- Remain open-minded throughout the evaluation process;
- Carefully study the materials contained in the college self-study to acquire a basic understanding of the college and its operation;
- Be prepared for four and a half days of intense work with long evenings;
- Participate in the discussions, both with college administration and personnel, and in the team deliberations;
- Focus on and uphold the Standards of Accreditation;
- Be alert at all times using all senses;
- Be on time for all functions;
- Be involved in all functions of the site visit;
- Dress in corporate/professional attire for all site visit activities (men are asked to wear suits or coats and ties, and women are asked to wear suits or dresses); and
- Wear AVMA-COE identification badges at all times.
Site team members must not:
- Bring any preconceived ideas about the college to the site visit;
- Have a personal agenda regarding the college, its programs, or people;
- Become separated from the team for any reason unless so assigned by the site team chair;
- Become involved in a confrontation involving any issue of the visit;
- Compare colleges or programs, since each college and its program will be unique and the Council is not attempting to diminish diversity among programs or to hinder or impede innovation;
- Offer judgments on solutions to problems during the course of the visit; these activities are to be reserved for the exit interviews with the college dean and university president;
- Tell "war stories".
Remember at all times, the site team is a guest of the college and is there to assist the college in meeting its mission and goals.
18.6. Site Team Modus Operandi
It is important that the college recognize that comments made during the site visit about the status of the program with respect to a specific standard are in no way a final determination. During the exit interview, the chair of the site visit team should emphasize that the comments made represent the majority view of the site visit team and will be considered as a directive or recommendation by the full Council on Education. The team votes on a classification of accreditation to be recommended to the Council. The final decision on the status of each standard and the accreditation status rests solely with the full COE.
Each evening during the site visit the team meets and reviews the day's activities. The draft report of evaluation is updated and revised in light of new information gained during the day. All members of the team attend the evening meetings. On the last evening of the visit, development of the draft report is completed and recommendations agreed upon. Each directive must be based on a deficiency described in the commentary under the appropriate section of the of the affected standard.
At the conclusion of the site visit the team holds exit interviews with the dean of the college, and with the chief executive officer of the institution to review its findings. The exit interview with the dean and college administrators of the dean's choosing, completes the site visitation of the college and precedes the exit interview with university administration. The exit interview is a critical part of the site visit; therefore, all site team members will attend. The exit interview with university administration normally involves the president of the institution and such other administrative officers as the president may choose. In the absence of the president, the team meets with his duly authorized representative. The dean is usually not present at the interview with the chief executive officer. The chair of the team is responsible for developing remarks for the exit interview. The team assists in preparing the outline for these remarks, and each member comments on items concerning the sections of the report drafted by the respective member.
There is no place in accreditation for adversarial relationships. The college and the Council should proceed with the premise that both parties are dedicated to the common goal of quality in veterinary education. Only through full and open communication and cooperative efforts to correct deficiencies can educational excellence be attained.
Interactions between the COE site teams and the colleges should have a collegial tone, and be based on mutual trust and a desire to arrive at a full understanding of the current status of the educational program of the college. The dean and other administrative officers should be knowledgeable in the definitions of the various levels of accreditation status and the impact of the failure to meet one or more of the standards.
18.7. Guidelines for Site Team Visitors to Foreign Veterinary Colleges
Site team members and AVMA staff are the guests of the host foreign veterinary college. Cultures and customs may differ from those in the US and Canada.
Regarding travel, the host institution is responsible for all expenses. However, the COE has established limitations to enable each site team member to understand the process and avoid misunderstandings. The following guidelines should be followed.
Air transportation is in business class. Should you choose to use first-class, the additional charges will be the responsibility of the site team member and will not be paid by the host institution. The host institution is responsible for ground transportation to move the site team during the visit.
The host institution is responsible for arranging lodging for the site visit. There may be those who want to combine the site visit with personal vacation or business, which is permissible. However, lodging charged to the host institution will be limited to the following:
- For those traveling only for the site visit, two nights of lodging before the site visit are permitted to allow for adjustment to time zone changes. At the end of the site visit (general mid-week at mid-day) air flights may not be available for immediate or convenient departure. In that case, one additional night is permitted. Please use good judgment in choosing the proper options.
- Extenuating circumstances may arise (weather, aircraft maintenance, etc.) which might delay departure on any leg of the flight. The host college is responsible for the cost of lodging during these rare occurrences. Charges resulting from injury or illness of the site team member causing delay in departure are the responsibility of the team member.
- The host institution is not responsible for charges associated with spouses, significant others, or dependents of a site team member.
Meals and Miscellany
The host institution is responsible for all meals and other related incidentals for the team during the site visit, with the same time limitations as lodging.
Telephone calls made by site team members for family or business reasons are not paid by the host institution. Calls, if made, are billed directly to the site team member. Use careful judgment related to any other charges.
In many countries where special guests are being hosted, it is customary to provide or be provided with gifts. It is AVMA policy that official gifts will not be presented to the host institution. If a host institution wishes to provide a small gift to each participant, acceptance is allowed. However, gifts offered to individuals (and not to all members of the site team) must be refused. It is the desire of the AVMA that no gifts be presented; however, it is not the intent to disregard customs of a given society. It is permissible for site team members (as individuals or as a group) to provide a gratuity for some special services (chauffeur, hotel employees, etc.), but this voluntary gesture should not be charged to the host institution.
18.8. Reports of Evaluation
The final draft report of the site visit team is the responsibility of the team chair. Drafts of report sections previously assigned to individual members of the team are submitted to the chair prior to leaving the site.
Following a general introduction, each section of the report will coincide with a standard requirement and a list of directives and recommendations, as warranted. The report indicates in what ways the college complies or does not comply with the standard requirements. Strengths (Commendations), as well as weaknesses are noted. Directives are written with enough detail to be helpful to team members on subsequent site visits as well as to the current college administration, but are not intended to be prescriptive.
The chair of the site visit team will provide AVMA staff with an edited draft copy of the report within ten days following the visit for duplication and distribution to the team members. Each member will review the draft, suggest changes, and make corrections. Such suggested changes and corrections will be sent to the chair of the site visit team within ten days of receipt of the draft by each member of the team. The chair of the team will prepare a final draft of the report and forward it to staff within 30 days of the conclusion of the visit. Copies of the final draft are sent by AVMA staff to the dean of the college for correction of factual errors. The final draft, together with any comments by the dean or the university president, is presented to the Council by a COE reviewer assigned to the college at the next semi-annual Council meeting.
Directives are a part of the report of evaluation. Recommendations may be included, but are only suggestions for program improvement. Deficiencies in the compliance with any standard results in lowered accreditation statusand are clearly noted in the report of evaluation.
Within 90 days of mailing the final Report of Evaluation, the COE will request that the dean of the school/college provide written comments on outcome(s) of the accreditation process. Specifically he/she will provide comments regarding the impact of the recommendations on 1) the education and educational process of the DVM/VMD students, 2) student outcomes, 3) program finances, 4) the university, 5) the state legislative process (where appropriate), and 6) other (to be defined by the dean). This report will be used by the Council to determine if the recommendations are clearly understood; and to determine the impact of the recommendations on the school/college/university/state.