- NCHC Conference in Dallas
- NCHC's Stance on Public Honors Issues
- Quad Learning/American Honors
- In Response to Racist Violence on a University Campus
- Collegiate Honors Societies
- For-Profit Honors Education
Statement on NCHC Conference in Dallas
October 10, 2019
NCHC recognizes that the location of the 2020 Annual Conference and Business Meeting in Dallas, Texas may affect some of our members from public universities subject to California’s state law restricting travel to other states considered to have discriminatory laws. As of September 2019, California has banned the use of state funds for travel to 11 states: Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Planning for NCHC conference programming begins nearly two years in advance of the event, while hotel contracts are often finalized much earlier. The Dallas contract was approved by NCHC in 2014, two years before the California travel ban was enacted. Nevertheless, when this issue was brought to the attention of NCHC leadership in 2018, the board of directors, NCHC’s legal counsel, and the NCHC certified meeting planner spent the past year researching and discussing options.
State by state conference attendance histories were studied, costs for breaking the agreement and relocating the conference were investigated, and the opportunity to employ conference programming to address the issues raised by the discriminatory laws were explored. It was determined in February 2019, at the NCHC board meeting, that relocating the event would create excessive financial risk for the organization (a possible loss of up to $1 million), and that NCHC would fulfill the terms of the 2014 contract while also engaging some of the difficult questions of this issue, much as it did with the labor dispute in Boston in 2018.
The NCHC Board also has an ad hoc committee working on principled decision making, so as to foreground some of these questions before NCHC commits its resources to other cities, states, and organizations. Vice President Suketu Bhavsar, NCHC 2020 conference chair, and his conference planning committee are also exploring ways that those public institutions in California impacted by state law might participate in the conference in other ways.
Guiding Principles of the NCHC on Taking a Stand on Public Issues Pertaining to Honors Education
The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC), founded in 1966, is a 501(c)(3) educational organization that supports and promotes undergraduate honors education. NCHC has nearly 900 member institutions and several hundred individual members, impacting more than 300,000 honors students, as well as faculty, and administrators (November 2018).
When authorities, institutions, individuals, or organizations, public or private, threaten access to honors education, when educational disparity is apparent, or when other important situations arise pertaining to honors education, NCHC may respond.
Access to and preservation of honors education may include, but will not be limited to, positions on access to education, tuition costs, admissions criteria, and various academic and administrative hurdles. Threats to honors education may include but are not limited to legislation, public administration, budgetary constraints, and violations of academic freedom.
When formally presented with an issue, the NCHC Board of Directors will determine the appropriate stance, statement or other response, method of distribution, and follow-up, if required.
In January 2017, Art Spisak, then President of the National Collegiate Honors Council, formed an ad hoc committee to look into complaints filed with the Washington State Attorney General about the for-profit company Quad Learning, Inc., then a member of NCHC operating under the trade name “American Honors.” After five months of interviews and additional research, the committee submitted a report of its findings to the NCHC Board of Directors at its June 2017 meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska.
In spring 2018, at the request of the NCHC Board, NCHC sent a copy of the report to the offices of Quad Learning, and on May 9, 2018, NCHC Executive Director Mary Beth Rathe and members of the ad hoc committee met via conference call with the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at American Honors, whom they had interviewed previously, to discuss the report as well as changes in operation since the time that the report was submitted to the NCHC Board in June 2017. When asked, the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs said that he did not disagree with any questions of fact in the report, though he did say that he believed that statements in the report about American Honors’ claims of being less expensive for students were unfair. He also reported at the May 9th meeting that Quad Learning had decided to shift its focus toward recruitment of international students, under a program called “American Success,” and that the American Honors programming would be offered on a more limited basis, and at fewer campuses. Since the time of the original report in June 2017, the number of two-year degree college partners listed on the American Honors website has decreased from nine to three. As of August 2018, Quad Learning continues to use both the americanhonors.org internet domain name, and the “American Honors” trade name in its website masthead.
At its summer meeting on June 22, 2018, the NCHC Board of Directors voted to make the ad hoc committee report available on the NCHC website. The report may be found below.
The leadership of the National Collegiate Honors Council has released the statement below in response to the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In the wake of racist violence and hate on the University of Virginia campus and then in the city of Charlottesville, the leadership of the National Collegiate Honors Council is mindful of the role its members can play in fostering the critical analytic and evaluative skills, the civic engagement, the global understanding and the ethical compass severely lacking in public discourse today.
The 872 higher education institutions that comprise the membership of NCHC are public and private, two- and four-year, faith-based and secular. Our students represent all academic disciplines, come from every U.S. state and many other nations, and are both citizens and undocumented residents. Many are the first in their families to attend college; many are veterans of our military forces. They represent people of all backgrounds, inclusive in race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and country of origin. We denounce all groups such as the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis who use colleges and universities as a stage for their violent theater that threatens that rich inclusiveness of our campuses.
Rather than using methods such as threats, bullying tactics, and violence, honors education helps students from all backgrounds to understand the world in its complexities through critical thinking, the ability to listen to and engage with divergent opinions to effect a workable compromise, and a moral compass that guides their actions. Now, more than ever, it is essential that we offer students, and ourselves embrace, the tools we can wield to correct injustice: the analytic skills to discern between fact and fiction, a nuanced and informed understanding of the complexities of history and the global community, and a tradition that embraces a plurality of voices.
Honors students are frequently offered membership in a wide and bewildering array of honor societies, but are often concerned about their value and legitimacy. In general, the honor societies that have a chapter on your campus are an honor you can proudly place on your resume. For all others, NCHC recommends that honors students, directors, and deans go to the website of the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS), founded in 1925 as the impartial certifying agency for college and university honor societies. According to its website, "ACHS sets standards for organizational excellence and for scholastic eligibility for the various categories of membership: general, specialized, leadership, freshman, and two-year honor societies."
Of particular interest is ACHS’s web page titled "How to Judge the Credibility of an Honor Society." In addition to many positive criteria, ACHS lists "Factors that Raise Questions about Credibility," which include an address limited to a post office box, missing information about the organization’s chief executive officer, vague and flexible eligibility standards, no institutional chapter structure, and an on-line application. "Certified honor societies issue invitations to all qualified candidates from institutional chapters." You can find a list of certified members of ACHS at the ACHS Member Societies page.
Following the Board of Directors meeting on June 28, 2013, NCHC Board members developed the following statement related to for-profit Honors Educational organizations:
Essential tenets of the National Collegiate Honors Council include that honors directors and deans have primary authority over honors curriculum, governance, policy, development, and evaluation decisions (see the Basic Characteristics of a Fully Developed Honors Program, Numbers 2, 3, and 10 ).
The NCHC Board of Directors is aware that for-profit educational organizations are approaching two-year and four-year institutions of higher education with contractual offers to deliver honors education and to develop articulation agreements. Honors directors and deans must be involved in any discussions—from inception to decision—regarding proposals that affect the honors education and its delivery.