A Brief Synopsis of the History of SCASA

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            The Straight Chiropractic Academic Standards Association, Inc. (SCASA) was incorporated in the summer of 1977, just a few short months after the decision to start ADIO Institute of Straight Chiropractic had been made.  The accrediting agency would require at least two straight schools, so that May at Sherman’s lyceum, plans had begun to open a second school, in addition to Sherman. Thom Gelardi, D.C. and his consultant, K. Shelby Armstrong, were already doing the groundwork and SCASA was incorporated in Pennsylvania before ADIO officially opened its doors in January 1978.  The president of SCASA, Leroy Moore, D.C., in his 10 year report said, “The non-existence of a valid set of standards by which straight chiropractic education could be judged an agency. The development of the Straight Chiropractic Academic Standards Association (SCASA) was an effort to fill that vacuum through the creation and development of an accrediting agency capable of formulating responsible and reliable standards and applying them to straight chiropractic educational institutions.” 

            Accrediting agencies like SCASA and CCE are non-governmental agencies recognized by the federal government to evaluate and approve educational institutions. Being accredited  is purely voluntary.  However, the advantages of accreditation include access to governmental programs as well as public assurance that the institution has met standards.  SCASA went through a lengthy process of being evaluated and applying for recognition, by the United States Office of Education (USOE) when it was under the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) and later when given its own cabinet position as the Department of Education (DOE). While the CCE was obviously not in favor of a “competing” agency, somehow SCASA was able to gain recognition. In October 1987 they filed a petition for recognition by the DOE and after going through the evaluation process by different committees and agencies the DOE recognized SCASA as a “reliable authority for accrediting colleges of straight chiropractic on August 30, 1988.” This was without doubt, the high water mark of the straight chiropractic movement.

            It had been slightly more than 12 years since the ICA Board of Control voted to join the CCE and the Federation of Straight Chiropractic Organizations (FSCO) was founded in Davenport Iowa, which precipitated  that action. During this time SCASA was incorporated (1977), ADIO opened its doors (1978), and Pasadena College of Chiropractic opted to seek status with SCASA. It had been an uphill battle, not only because of the opposition by CCE/ACA but because the ICA and their schools (Palmer, Cleveland and Life) did nothing to support the straight movement and in fact often worked openly against it. During the time SCASA was gaining recognition by the USDE, Sherman applied for and gained accreditation by SCASA. ADIO (now Pennsylvania College of Straight Chiropractic) and Pasadena College of Chiropractic ( later Southern California College of Chiropractic) had both gained Candidate Status with SCASA.  With an accrediting agency that was going to evaluate schools on the merit of their “straight” chiropractic curriculum, things looked very good for the straight chiropractic movement. The schools would have equality with any CCE school and individual states, and other agencies like the Nation Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) would be hard pressed to discriminate against a school that was accredited by an agency recognized as equal to the CCE. It looked as though the straight chiropractic movement could finally go its own way and begin to develop as a legitimate entity in chiropractic education. Or so it was thought.

            There were two problems that proved to be monumental. The CCE was not about to concede the battle for monopolistic control of the chiropractic profession. Further, the U.S. political environment was going against the straight movement. This was the middle of the Reagan Administration and the Republicans were working toward a more limited government. There was even talk of doing away with the DoE and putting it back under the control of HEW. This worked against SCASA and the straight movement and to the benefit of the CCE. CCE maintained (and still does today) that there is no need for two accrediting agencies. They argued that they accredit straight schools and they already were doing so in the form of the Palmer, Life, and the Cleveland schools. Of course the schools testified that yes they were straight and that CCE was treating them fairly. It was very difficult to demonstrate to the DOE the sometimes subtle difference between the Sherman and PCSC “straight” and the Palmer, Life and the Clevelands’  “straight”.

             During the next two years, while SCASA was solidifying itself structurally and the schools were solidifying themselves academically, the CCE was attacking SCASA with a political and lobbying effort. SCASA was stronger as an accrediting agency than it was when it gained initial recognition in August 1988. To gain continued recognition SCASA, like any other accrediting agency, had a hearing before the National Advisory Committee (NAC) on November 13, 1990. This committee was charged with making a recommendation to the Secretary of Education and usually relied heavily on reports from the Accrediting Agency Evaluation Board’s (AAEB) staff and six DOE staff observers. The latter had attended and observed three different site visits to the three schools and had also observed SCASA’s Commission on Accreditation decision making meeting. Their reports indicated that SCASA was in substantial compliance with the Secretary of Education’s Criteria for Recognition.

            After that, events took place that can only be described as bizarre and tragic. Keep in mind that for two years, the CCE had lost its monopolistic control over chiropractic education. While no other schools had applied to SCASA, it was not outside the realm of possibility that some would in the future, especially as the CCE adopted more of the medical model and put pressure on schools to adhere to that model, which would become increasingly expensive and undoubtedly create a decline in enrollments and the tuition those enrollments would bring. Further, the straight movement would have greater incentive to begin more straight schools, which would definitely affect the enrollments at the CCE schools. At this time, there was friendly competition between Life and Palmer to have the largest school. The following is a summary of events following SCASA’s recognition in August 1988, leading up to the November 13, 1990 hearing before the NAC that resulted in their recommendation that the Secretary of Education rescind SCASA’s recognition. The details can be found in a letter written by the then President of Pennsylvania College, William A. Volk, and addressed to Sen. John Heinz (R-PA)(available upon request):

            1. Following SCASA’s recognition in August 1988, CCE threatened to sue the Secretary of Education if SCASA’s recognition was not rescinded.

            2. CCE lobbied state licensing boards and other organizations not to use SCASA’s  accreditation for licensure and to oppose the straight accrediting agency’s continued recognition.

            3. SCASA submitted its petition to the AAEB before the May15th deadline and   additional information as requested, meeting all deadline requirements.

            4. The staff report was not received by SCASA until November 8, 1990 giving them 1.5  working days before the November 15th meeting to prepare their response to concerns  expressed in the report.

            5. The staff found non-compliance in one subsection of one three-part criteria and  only    partial compliance in two other subsections, however they did not make a  recommendation to the NAC until after the hearing even though they did make a   recommendation for all of the 15 other accrediting agencies they were evaluating at that time.

            6. After a number of 3rd party presenters, state boards and ACA dominated    organizations testified at the hearing, the “spokesman” for the AAEB without   consultation with the rest of the staff recommended to the NAC that SCASA be       disqualified from continued recognition based upon non-compliance with the criteria.

            7. SCASA was never informed prior to that time that non-compliance with the one   criterion would be grounds for denial nor were they given time to respond.  Other  organizations still received continued recognition despite non-compliance with one  criterion. The one criterion in question was the least important one in reflecting an accrediting agency’s quality and the Criteria for Recognition even stated that this one   criterion was “as appropriate” rather than mandatory.

            8. The AAEB allowed documents from Boards and agencies known to be antagonistic to  SCASA to be submitted without checking on their accuracy or allowing SCASA the   opportunity to respond.

            9. The chairman of the NACAIE allowed continued testimony from organizations known   to be antagonistic to SCASA to be submitted despite acknowledging that they did not relate to the Criteria for Recognition. Some of the issue had to do with CCE  accommodating straight schools and different scopes (or “a different scope”) of  chiropractic practice.  On several occasions, NAC members questioned the chairman as to whether these comments by pro-CCE factions were even germane to the hearing. He     always allowed them because he found them “interesting.”

Summary

Section 602.10(c) was the area that it all came down to, particularly 602.14 (c) which requires that an accrediting agency be recognized by other recognized agencies. After conducting an extensive review of SCASA’s petition, resulting in six favorable DoE observer reports, the committee found that  SCASA was in complete compliance with 40 of the 43 subparts of the criteria, partial compliance in  2 of the remaining ,  and non compliance with the third. That one being recognition by other recognized agencies. Due to the newness of SCASA, only being a recognized agency for 2 years and the antagonism by other chiropractic agencies that were inclined toward the mixers, that criterion was not met. One of the AAEB staff members even suggested that it was a difficult criterion to meet inasmuch as SCASA was a new agency and that was likely why the criteria had a clause “as appropriate.”  

            With all the documentation and testimony it seems clear to me that this was a political battle. Even the committee members could see that it was a straight vs. mixer issue and not one of the quality of SCASA’s accreditation program. Nevertheless, the NACAIE’s recommendation to the Secretary of Education was to deny continued recognition of SCASA. To completely deny recognition without giving an opportunity to make corrections is highly unusual. As you can see by the letter to Sen. John Heinz, Dr. Volk expected that the PA Senator could speak with the Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander, and convince him to reconsider the recommendation of the NACAIE. Tragically, less than four months after  the December 11, 1990 letter was written, Sen. Heinz was killed in a helicopter accident and that avenue of recourse was not open to SCASA. On September 4, 1992, Secretary of Education Alexander informed SCASA that its petition for renewal for recognition by the USDE was denied and that on June 4, 1993, SCASA schools would have to seek another means of accreditation. (Reprinted from a soon to be published book on the history of ADIO Institute of Straight Chiropractic)

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