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ONE DAY early in his presidency at Union College, M. L. came into the library and saw a bound set of North Central Association Quarterlies. "What in the world would you spend money binding those North Central reports for?" he exclaimed. But when it came to the problem of accreditation a few years later, those reports came to be one of his most useful tools.
Webster defines accreditation as "recognition of [an educational institution] as maintaining standards that qualify the graduates for admission to higher or more specialized institutions or for professional practice." In this setting M. L. could say, "I felt that it was a disgrace to the denomination to give students a premedical course in an unaccredited school."
On June 5,1934, he wrote to the field: "As is well known, for some years there has been a definite movement in this denomination for the accrediting of our colleges. For many years Union College has been accredited with the State and the University [of Nebraska] as a sixteen-grade college, and has . . . had junior accreditation with the North Central Association [the entity whose full accreditation was crucial]. The standards of the North Central Association are very high, and much is demanded. We believe, however, the standards can be met without violating any of the principles for which the denomination stands. Accordingly we made application this year to
the North Central Association for full accreditation." *
In response to the application, the association's inspector visited Union that same year. In his report he commented favorably on the attitude of students and faculty, on the curriculum, the library and laboratories, and on the general condition of the physical plant and other aspects of the college. He ended by commenting, "Union College is doing a very good work, with a fine type of students." With this in mind, the association's board of review voted to extend the time for accreditation.
A teacher recalls, M. L. "tried to find out what colleges were supposed to be about. He tried to make a genuine college of it, one that would stand up to the scrutiny of the world. He found out what would be required [for accreditation]. The faculty was with him, the students were with him. The board wasn't always. There are many colleges in which the president thinks of the faculty as the servants of the president. Not he, otherwise the college never would have become accredited. He treated them like human beings. If you let people help you decide the policy, they feel they are part of it. If you do not, they don't."
Another teacher observed: "Striving for accreditation, he wanted it to be not so much a school of scholastic accomplishments as one with an outstanding labor program for the students. The dean worked out a system of grading them for their work. If a student was five minutes late for a work appointment, he lost a point, which in turn reduced his hourly rate. This systematic training of the students in responsibility toward work was one of the outstanding contributions made in favor of accreditation."
* Central Union Reaper, June 5, 1934.
M. L. resumes his account:
The faculty had to become acquainted with the aim of the school. What are you doing to qualify yourselves for it? Faculty members had to be ready to answer any questions the accreditation committee came up with. They could not give generalities for answers, because the association was very strict.
The North Central Association men were quite considerate. . . . One, a Church of the Brethren man, said, "You must make chapel exercises accomplish something. Form an objective. Three hundred students should receive something at a chapel hour. Chapel should not merely occupy their time. Are you accomplishing what you set out to do? Are the students better Adventists when they leave than when they came? Do they stay in the denomination after graduation?" He brought a challenge to us. "You have to have graphs showing you are accomplishing what you are after. The North Central is not telling you what to teach, but is inquiring. Are you doing good work in what you undertake?" We had no records of what we had done, nor stated objectives of what we were after. We had the golden cords as a symbol and tradition, but this was a rather meager report of fifty years' work. When he was done, I saw that we had something to doŚsomething that I hadn't done, and that had not been done before.
A secretary remembers, "We were more or less feeling our way. We'd have to work all hours of the night and day, skip school if necessary, copying reports and things. We had to get done in time for the meetings. M. L. would embarrass me years after, reminding me of the days when we could have laughed as well as cried when we had to work such long hours."
M. L. picks up the story:
We rallied our forces; we worked, we prayed, we studied. One group learned how to use the slide rule
and made all kinds of computations, statistics, graphs, comparisons, percentages, et cetera. The whole faculty met every week to report and discuss, some sat up till late at night.
The inspectors came and met with the faculty and asked various questions, and the faculty tried to give the best possible answers. At the time of the third inspection of the college by the North Central inspectors, they talked with teachers and students, challenging them. "Where are you from?" they asked an undergraduate. "Minnesota."
"Can you give any reason why you passed up the University of Minnesota and came to a little insignificant college like Union College?"
They couldn't have picked better students. They talked with several and were much impressed.
M. L. also was interrogated: "They asked him one question. He thought for a moment and responded, 'Frankly, gentlemen, I must tell you that I simply don't know the answer.' And the reply he got was, 'Well, Rev. Andreasen, we don't know the answer either.'"
At length came the North Central meeting at which the decision would be made. Andreasen recounts : And so I went to Chicago. The night before the decision would be announced I did not sleep. The president of our sister school, which was also up for decision, had informed me he had heard that his school would be accepted, and Union rejected, but for me not to worry. He would take over our students. It was doubtless well meant, but was not much comfort.
There were seven schools up for decision: "Albion College, Albion, Michigan, application for accreditation as a sixteen-grade college" came the words, very slowly and very deliberately, and with irritating pauses. "Application . . . denied." Our sister school was next. Again the long and slow
words, and then, "Application . .. denied." My heart sank. What hope was there for us? Union was seventh, and last. It seemed to me I could not live long enough to hear our doom. "Union College, Lincoln, Nebraska, application for accreditation as a sixteen-grade school," a pause that seemed to last an eternity, and then the words: "Application . . . granted." It was a terrific moment. It was the supreme moment of my life.
Union was the last of the schools, and the only one accepted. When I came to, I asked immediately to meet with the committee. I went to plead for our sister school, for this was the last opportunity to apply for several years, and to be turned down meant that the graduates that present year would be turned down by the medical school and would be unable to begin their medical work.
Then I sent a telegram and started home on the first train. I came into the chapel the next morning right after the program had begun. I was cheered to the echo and escorted to the platform to receive the plaudits of the assembly. And in the midst of it, I wept.
I told the students that we should be happy, but decently happyŚnot vaunting ourselves. I was happy that the medical students would not be handicapped because they had finished their premedical course in an unaccredited school.