CCE on Shaky Ground - One Year to Show it Represents Profession

Rob Sinnott, DC, FPhC
Dr. Sinnot w/ Dr. George
Dr. Sinnot w/ Dr. George

by Rob Sinnott, DC, FPhC
Educational Correspondent for Spizz Media

December 14th, the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) was berated by the US Department of Education’s NACIQI Committee.  NACIQI determines which groups are allowed to accredit programs at the Federal level.  They rule over all groups from, bartending colleges accrediting bodies to medical accreditors to regional accreditors of colleges.  The CCE also exists only at their approval.

The highly respected Chronicle of Higher Education wrote in their December 15th report titled, Chiropractic Accreditor Gets Extra Scrutiny from Federal Panel:

“After four hours of public comments and deliberations, the federal panel that advises the education secretary on accreditation issues approved a standard motion recommending to continue a chiropractic-program accreditor's authority if it can clean up its act within a year.” 

There was no other agency mentioned in such a light of the entire days hearing.  Being there, it was plainly obvious that the CCE had finally drawn such unusual attention from the federal government for its tactics and related mountain of violations.

While other groups’ hearings are scheduled for a mere fifteen minutes, the hearing over the status of the CCE was scheduled for an hour and forty-five minutes.  Due to the overwhelming number of violations the NACIQI had found against the CCE and the roughly twenty individuals there to testify to the problems in the CCE, the hearing ran OVER FOUR HOURS.

The profession had a tremendously negative reaction to the proposed Standards the CCE sought to change over the past year.  Thousands of DCs in the field, as well as students in our schools spoke out vehemently against this over-reach by the CCE.

The hearing before the packed room began by the CCE making a statement to explain their record-setting number of violations.  After having over 3,000 complaints on the proposed Standards filed to the CCE by the profession, Dr. Wickes of the CCE stated, “This culminated in the unanimous approval of the new Standards in January 2011.”  The complaints against the changes to the Standards at that time were nearly all those filed in the process currently by the government.  It was obvious that the CCE turned a deaf ear to the will of the profession.

Many groups stepped forward during the hearing to offer testimony of the massive errors within the CCE, most of which were already enumerated by the government investigation of the CCE.  These included the International Chiropractors Association (ICA), the International Federation of Chiropractors and Organizations (IFCO), Foundation for Vertebral Subluxation, Doctors for Excellence in Chiropractic Education (DECE), Movement for Chiropractic Quality and Integrity (MCQI), and others that came of their own accord from across the country to hold the CCE accountable for their monopolistic actions.

Once the individual testimonies began, Dr. Clint Erickson, a recent graduate spoke to the mandate from Secretary of the Dept of Education, Arnie Duncan, when he had previously said of the NACIQI:

“This committee will play a vital role in ensuring the highest standards of accountability for accrediting agencies. These agencies have the formidable task of assuring the schools participating in federal student aid programs provide a quality education to their students.” 

He asked for Committee to request data to show the legitimacy of the CCE’s policies in education.  “The results reflect the educational dictum of the CCE,” Dr. Erickson said.  He quickly realized the shortcomings of the CCE sanctioned education by stating, “It is my observation that the current direction of Chiropractic education turns out licensed Chiropractors that are ill prepared for the field of Chiropractic.”

There was much concern over several points, one of which is the CCE’s attempted removal of the term “subluxation” this past year.  While it was reinserted with a far lesser degree of emphasis, it is akin to the dental profession’s accrediting body removing the emphasis upon the term “teeth”.  What might motivate an accrediting body to make such a flagrant anti-Chiropractic move?  Supreme Courts have ruled that to have a separate health care profession you must legally show a separate theory of “cause and cure” from all other professions.  If we remove the vertebral subluxation, we lose a legal right to exist.  To lessen its emphasis is a greased pole toward elimination.  The “Bible of law”, Black’s Law Dictionary, is used to determine legal definition at a Federal level.  In his testimony, Dr. John Bomhoff suggested the NACIQI consult it for reference in this matter.  It defines Chiropractic this way:

“—a method of detecting and correcting by manual or mechanical means structural imbalance, distortion or subluxations in the human body to remove nerve interferences, where such is the result of or related to distortion, misalignment or subluxations in the vertebral column;—the specific science that removes pressure on nerves by the adjustment of spinal vertebrae.”

Diminishing, in any way, the importance of the vertebral subluxation is to condemn the profession to its end.  Dr. Campanale of IFCO testified:

“The argument of the CCE will likely be that they included the term subluxation within the meta-competencies. Please note that the term subluxation was noted ONCE within these meta-competencies and essentially is buried within an unrelated paragraph.”  

One of the NACIQI Committee members, Anne Neal, JD, asked a pointed question:

“Is there some reason that the CCE can’t accommodate the vertebral subluxation folks, so that consumers have a choice?”

Dr. William O’Connell of the ACA answered her in this way:

“I think, Ms. Neal, what you’ve heard today is that it is doing that.”  He continued, “If you look at the folks that sit on the Council of the CCE and represent the spectrum you are referring to—there is simply NO (his emphasis) lop-sided nature to that see-saw that is all over here on the so-called liberal (scope) side.  At least I don’t see it that way.  I could not identify that group for you.  There is no listing of the ship to one side in the CCE.”  He also said, “It is the unanimous opinion of the leaders of the ACA that they have high regard for the CCE processes.” 

Unfortunately for the credibility of this statement, several articles by the former president of the ACA are in direct opposition to this ACA testimony.

When asked why the CCE felt it is necessary to change the language surrounding the vertebral subluxation, Dr. Wickes of the CCE said:

“This particular phrase that was in there was not one upon which we were doing a site evaluation and making accreditation decisions on.  So, it wasn’t serving and evaluative service for the agency (CCE).” 

How telling it is that the CCE does not evaluate the teaching of being able to locate and correct a vertebral subluxation, even though it is required to care for ANY patient of Medicare age each and every visit.  So, if a school has the mission of teaching the detection and correction of the vertebral subluxation, the CCE has nothing to offer them on that mission.  Not only that problem, but graduates of some schools can learn nothing of the vertebral subluxation at all, rendering them legally incapable of offering care to patients of Medicare age.
There were some that testified on behalf of the CCE, such as Kathleen Linaker of D’Youville College.  She extolled the virtues of the CCE and was coincidentally named to the CCE by “election” a mere eight days later.  Interestingly, her school in New York and their special treatment by the CCE was noted by the Dept of Education Committee.  One member, Cameron C. Staples, JD, was strikingly disturbed to find a sense of favoritism and willful ignorance on the part of the CCE in protecting students:

“A site visit is supposed to be made within six months (of a new school, such as D’Youville) and the institution opened a branch in 2009 and the site visit did not take place until 2011.” 

It certainly would be no surprise that a school that was allowed to run for years before the CCE performed their government assigned role and now had a staff member praise the CCE in their testimony.  We are to believe her testimony to protect the CCE had no influence on the process of her appointment onto the CCE itself a week later.

The CCE has a documented history of wrongfully abusing some Chiropractic schools while, in the case of D’Youville, putting students at risk by not adhering to the requirements in the CCE’s own Standards.  Referring to the case where a Federal judge ruled against the CCE, Dr. Mattie Leto testified:

“That decision prompted a federal judge to refer to the cartel like actions of the CCE as “an aggressive group of leaders of the eight liberal chiropractic schools, who had only one-third of the chiropractic students, had undertaken a series of corporate manipulations in order to reduce the representation and dominance of the eight conservative chiropractic schools (of which Life University was one), who had approximately two-thirds of all chiropractic students; that these corporate manipulations, which may very well have violated CCE's corporate charter, were calculated to give dominance to the liberal minority group over the conservative majority group.”

It was also brought up, by those testifying for the CCE, that it was necessary in the process of allowing students to obtain Title 4 Student Loans to attend school.  NACIQI did not buy into this argument and said to David O’Bryen of the Association of Chiropractic Colleges, “It appears to me that this is not a Title 4 issue at all.” To which, O’Brien agreed.  This shattered the “fear tactic” of losing loans for students that had been promoted through some of the pro-CCE testimony.

One of the points often raised by those that sought to protect the status quos of the CCE was that the CCE is necessary for licensing.  In fact, the ACA claimed:

“You’ve got 43 of the licensing bodies of states and territories that do require CCE accreditation.”  The ACA continued, “The fact of the matter is, if CCE went away, just for the sake of this discussion, and you didn’t have that, then you’ve got the situation where you’ve got a situation where 30-some odd states where DC’s simply would not be able to be licensed at all.” 

This is an interesting point, considering that a member of the Minnesota Board of Chiropractic Examiners was asked recently what needed to be done to remove this CCE-protective language from the Minnesota regulations.  When Dr. Fidler was asked in an online forum if he would seek an Attorney General’s Opinion from the Minnesota official, he claimed it was not his job.  If not the gate-keeping state body that determines the qualifications for licensure in Minnesota, then whose job is it?  If a member of the board of any state refuses to even consider helping fix an obvious potential problem, they should leave their position or be removed by the profession.  Incidentally, this past week, this Minnesota Board official, Howard Fidler, that shirked any responsibility in changing the CCE-protective language, was named to the “Academy of Site Team Visitors” of our school's programs for the CCE on January 5th.  It seems obvious by actions such as this and the one of Dr. Linnaker above, that there may very well be a transparency problem in the CCE and being a “loyal protector” has its privileges when it comes to filling seats on the CCE.

This subject of the power of the appointed Site Teams was noted by the Dept of Education during the hearing.  Site team visitation teams and that process was used to manipulate schools using draconian tactics holding further accreditation of a school hostage in order to enforce liberal scope views, no matter the stated mission of conservative scope schools.  This meant that even though the CCE Standards may seemingly allow a school to choose not to encroach into medicine, the Site Team could use their judgment to force compliance to what they preferred over the school’s stated mission.  A student may therefore choose to go to a school that focuses upon the detection and correction of the vertebral subluxation, but that school may not be able to fulfill the wishes of the student.  You would agree that it seems hardly fair to deprive a student of their chosen direction in their OWN education, if it is within the written Standards of the CCE.  The Hearing Committee questioned whether that could be done properly under the current CCE.

A student from Life West, Sarah Mongold, came from across the country to have her voice heard on behalf of students in Chiropractic.  Her testimony caused many on the Education Committee to feverishly make notes of how the CCE “controls” the election process under a veil of questionable tactics:

“The nominations are then forwarded to the nominating committee, which is where the potential problem arises.  The chair of the nominating committee is appointed by the current council, and the remaining members are appointed by the current council chair.  Consequently, only the interests of the current council – and not those of the profession at large - are represented in the nominating committee.  Once the committee has been formed, there is no regulation of what the committee must do with the received nominations – which could potentially allow them to ignore nominations that have been received or create their own nominations altogether.  Then, as there are insufficient guidelines regarding the structure of the ballot, the committee has the power to create a “head to head” format where one candidate is pit against another.  This limits the free will of the voters as the election is no longer decided by who has the most votes. As a result, the council is potentially able to manipulate the election process and perpetuate its own agenda – without regard to the will of the profession as a whole, and without regard to the goal of graduating excellent CHIROPRACTORS who will be successful in practice.  This is a clear conflict of interest, and therefore prohibited by the secretary’s criteria.  Urgent attention is required in this matter so that I, and my fellow students, may become a part of a profession with an accreditation agency that is beyond reproach in terms of its policies and procedures, and is fair and inclusive of all.”

On the other side of that testimony was the Vice President of Academic Affairs from the Western States school in Oregon, Gary Shultz

“My experience with the CCE Standards revision process was that is was THE (his emphasis) most transparent process—the most inclusive process and the most outreaching process, that I have had the privilege and opportunity to participate in,” he professed. 

This is in stark contrast to the fact that many thousands of revision forms were sent in by both the students and the field alike, and summarily dismissed, according to former Life West president Dr. Gerry Clum in his newsletter.  He wrote at the time of the revision process that the number and severity of complaints from the field and students had little discussion at all in the CCE meeting.  Then again, Gary Shultz began his testimony stating that he has previously served on the CCE in “various roles.”  This may be why he was so adamant of the infallibility of the CCE in his view.

It was heartening to hear a student offer a non-emotional honest appraisal of what she had discovered in her research.  This point was later raised again by the Committee in their comment session at the end of the hearing in the NACIQI berating of the CCE.

The need of having the CCE for state licensure was repeated by others including the FCLB’s Lawrence O’Connell: 

He claimed that the CCE is important to, “show that graduates have graduated from an accredited program in all 54 jurisdictions.”  “To change that statute will take anywhere from one to four years,” the FCLB official stated. 

Factually the CCE is not necessary in 54 jurisdictions either.  In truth, even if every state required the CCE accreditation, which they certainly do not, it would legally equate to a graduate bringing a live unicorn to the state Chiropractic Board as an offering in order to gain a license.  If the CCE were de-listed, as nearly occurred, the various state Attorney Generals would offer an opinion and would negate the rule as being unenforceable.  How can they ask for something that is impossible as a requirement?  It is unlikely that those that made the claim that the heavens would fall without the CCE in place, did not know that such restrictive rules would be deemed illegal in courts.  Yet, that same argument was being used the day after the hearing by ACA press releases all over the profession in an attempt which seemed only to do damage control and frighten the field and students into supporting the CCE over their best interests.

Dr. Bomhoff, as the last to testify, brought much into focus of what had been said throughout the day by saying:

“You have heard speakers here today (on the CCE’s behalf), say that everything is ok—that there are no problems with the CCE.  Yet, the 41 violations listed and cited against them (by the Dept of Education), 4,000 letters in opposition from practitioners in the field regarding the changes they are putting forth.”

After the testimony and further questions from the NACIQI of the CCE breaking rules, the Committee struggled over language to use to vehemently rebuke the CCE at a higher level.  They sought to find a way to set the CCE far beyond the other groups that had come before the Hearing Committee and were asked to come back in 12 months.  Finding they could not do more than either renew them or not renew them, they chose the shortest possible term for renewal and gave them a stern lecture as the CCE had been caused more violations than any agency that had come before this NACIQI Committee in its history, according to one Committee member.

Each and every person and organization testifying on behalf of the profession to the inadequacies of the CCE gave an articulate and well thought out testimony.  Each was allowed only three minutes, often followed by questions from the NACIQI Committee.  The careful planning on their behalf of those that testified against the CCE was apparent.  Often the NACIQI members could be seen making quick notes of what some had to say of the CCE’s indiscretions.

A turning point in the hearing occurred when Dr. Judy Nutz-Campanale of the IFCO laid out a clear concise point that the CCE had violated the Dept of Education’s Standards section 602.13B.  This rule requires the CCE to have the support of the profession and students.  Since the complaints against the CCE overshadowed a sliver of written compliments 3,909 to 30; a factor of 130 to 1, the NACIQI Committee realized what the IFCO representative was saying had great weight.  The CCE was told to come back showing the support of the schools, the field and the students they were supposed to be protecting.  The schools are afraid to oppose the CCE as the last to do so, lost their accreditation.  The schools will feel no choice but to back the CCE.  The field can be cherry-picked in a carefully designed survey to show a number support them.  It is the students that are the wild card.  Media, such as Facebook, has brought the students to be able to find truth in a matter such as this.  Sites there like the “CCE URGENT Massive Complaint Campaign”, have given students the opportunity to interact with the field one on one.  Links to audios of this Dept of Ed hearing can be found there as well.

This is the issue which students face right now.  The best way for the CCE to show student support is by frightening them into buying the story that it will be impossible to get licensed when they graduate to get students to sign loyalty oaths.  The longer they wait to get those oaths, the better chance the students will find out the truth and NOT support them.  It is quite likely students will be assaulted with a barrage of misinformation this month to prevent true investigation by the students.  On behalf of the field, we hope you will read this article and also listen to the CCE hearing audio recordings that will be accessible online at this point and make an EDUCATED decision, not one of fear.  To believe the field will not aid students in obtaining licenses in those states where the CCE was required, is not reality based.  We will collectively fight for you in each and every such state and see that you are given the same right to be licensed as was secured by the field a generation ago.  We are with you!  Get educated and don’t be used as pawns.