Changes to college accreditation standards focus on principles of diversity, equity, inclusion

Off-campus activities another focus of proposed revisions

The AVMA Council on Education has proposed revisions to its Standards of Accreditation for veterinary colleges after conducting a regular review. A number of suggested changes have to do with ensuring that veterinary colleges adhere to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In addition, the COE completed a scheduled comprehensive review of Standard 3, Physical Facilities and Equipment; Standard 4, Clinical Resources; Standard 5, Information Resources; and Standard 6, Students.

The Academic Affairs Committee of the COE performs the regular review of the standards as a whole once every four years and a comprehensive review of three to four standards annually on a cyclical basis and makes recommendations to the council. The committee also provides recommendations regarding council policies and procedure.

The COE is then responsible for developing, adopting, and implementing the standards for the accreditation of veterinary colleges. Input from stakeholders is part of the process and considered by the council when it revises or creates standards.

Instructor and two students looking at skeletal model

‘Important societal components’

The COE previously had revised the accreditation standards in 2017 to include more language related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This time, the council formed a new working group on diversity and inclusion. The group was charged with identifying areas for improvement to the diversity and inclusion language within the standards, benchmarking the standards to other health professional programs, and assessing the potential for including specific language regarding pipeline programs.

For example, veterinary colleges are currently required to provide documentation of policies and activities that demonstrate that diversity is an important part of the academic culture in order to demonstrate compliance with Standard 1, Organization. The proposed revisions now ask that, in order to show compliance, veterinary colleges provide not only a statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion but also provide information documenting how the institution fulfills the statement; how the veterinary college collects and uses information on diversity, equity, and inclusion to inform decisions; and the system for reporting and responding to allegations of discrimination or harassment.

The rationale behind the proposed changes, according to the council, is this: “Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important societal components which produce a measurable effect on the education of healthcare providers and the delivery of healthcare to communities. Veterinary colleges must be aware of this, and define these concepts within their collegiate community, the communities they serve in reflection of their mission.”

Further, a proposed change to Standard 6, Students, would require that veterinary students receive diversity training.

Standard 7, Admissions, currently states that “a veterinary college must demonstrate its commitment to diversity and inclusion through its recruitment and admission processes, as consistent with applicable law” and that the college’s policies must be nondiscriminatory.

Proposed revisions take that wording a step further by adding this: “Such initiatives should include programs that promote achieving diversity among qualified applicants for veterinary college admission. While maintaining its standards for admission, and the quality of applicants admitted, the college must review its admissions processes at least every five years, to identify and reduce barriers in the application process.”

According to the rationale for the revisions, “Promotion of the veterinary profession among diverse populations and assisting applicants from these populations in meeting the high standards of the profession are key in broadening diversity within the profession.

“The identification and removal of application barriers is important to promote a fair and equitable admissions process.”

Recognizing that the collegiate environment extends to all the people at a veterinary college, not just veterinary students, the council is proposing changes to Standard 8, Faculty, to require that faculty search committees be trained on best practices to have more inclusive searches, including practices to eliminate bias in the search process. Veterinary colleges must also strive to create an inclusive and supportive environment for existing faculty members.

In Standard 11, Outcomes Assessment, proposed changes would require that veterinary students be observed and assessed on their ethical and professional conduct, “including the knowledge, skills, and core professional attributes needed to provide culturally competent veterinary care in a multidimensional and diverse society.”

Off-campus requirements

Other proposed changes to the college accreditation standards focus on clarifying requirements regarding off-campus activities. For example, a proposed addition to Standard 3, Physical Facilities and Equipment, is the sentence, “Off-campus required training sites must be directly overseen by college faculty to provide a safe and effective learning environment.”

Nearly all of the U.S. veterinary colleges that have been accredited by the COE in the past 10 years have had a distributive model of clinical education, including the veterinary colleges at Texas Tech University, Long Island University, and the University of Arizona. In the distributive model of education, students learn clinical skills both on campus and at private veterinary practices or other sites.

A proposed addition to Standard 4, Clinical Resources, is the sentence, “All required clinical training sites must demonstrate a commitment to instructional quality.”

These proposed changes would be made “so that student training is managed and conducted at educational sites, including required off-campus sites, with a robust and comprehensive system to provide an appropriate and safe learning environment,” the council stated.

Further, changes to the student standard would add that student support services must be accessible and publicized and that they “must be accessible to students when engaged in off-campus learning experiences.”

The council stated in its rationale: “Student services must be accessible to students and students must be aware of the services to use them. Without these, the services serve no use.”

See the entire list of proposed revisions (PDF).

Written comments regarding all the proposed standard changes must be postmarked or emailed no later than Feb. 15. Mail comments to Anahita Gonda, Administrative Assistant, AVMA, 1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173-4360. Email comments to agondaatavma [dot] org with the following subject line: COE Standards Changes—Public Comments.

In addition, the COE Selection Committee is looking to fill the position on the COE representing private mixed animal practice. Applications are due March 15. More information is available.