Staff Writer
CCE Receives Reprimand From Department of Education Committee - Over Forty Deficiencies Cited

The National Advisory Committee on Institution Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) of the US Department of Education met on Wednesday, December 14, to consider the Council on Chiropractic Education’s (CCE) petition for renewal of recognition.  The process of continuing the recognition of an existing agency is generally unremarkable, often requiring only 15 minutes or so of discussion.  The proceeding involving CCE was anything but routine, with four hours of public comments, agency responses, and deliberations.

In recent years, CCE has had a troubled history.  In 2001 when CCE was reviewed for continued recognition, the Department of Education staff analysis was clean, and continued recognition was granted.  This changed following the CCE's controversial removal of accreditation of Life University’s Doctor of Chiropractic program in 2002.  This was followed by the reinstatement of accreditation by a federal judge—an event unprecedented in academia.  In 2006, when CCE petitioned for continued recognition as an accreditor, there were 4 compliance issues raised, and CCE was required  to address them a year later in an interim report. 

When the CCE last faced the NACIQI in 2006, committee members made an extraordinary observation – that the chiropractic profession was controlled by a "virtual cartel." Dr. DeNardis stated:

"[S]ome of this, maybe most of it, is a consequence of, at least as I see it, a monopoly control of a profession which has led to the establishment of a virtual cartel." 

Chairperson D'Amico responded:

"Dr. DeNardis, I don't know if you hate cartels and monopolies more than me. I think it would be a real contest. So I am sympathetic to your notion of can we send a message about cartels and monopolies and inclusion and the answer I am hearing is yes."

This time, in 2011, Department of Education staff identified over 40 compliance issues.  Arthur J. Rothkopf, president emeritus of Lafayette College and vice chairman of NACIQI told CCE, “You’ve hit the jackpot on deficiencies,” noting that the problems enumerated by the department suggest a “sloppiness” in CCEs actions as an accreditor.

Christopher Kent, DC, JD, president of the Foundation for Vertebral Subluxation, told reporters, “It appears that CCE has been so engrossed in promoting a political agenda that it has forgotten its responsibilities as an accrediting agency, particularly having an open, transparent process that includes all stakeholders.”

An unprecedented display of solidarity was demonstrated by the third party commentators who presented testimony critical of CCE.  In addition to the Foundation for Vertebral Subluxation, representatives of the International Federation of Chiropractors and Organizations, International Chiropractors Association, Movement for Chiropractic Quality and Integrity, Doctors for Excellence in Chiropractic Education, Council on Chiropractic Philosophy, and Georgia Council of Chiropractic joined individual chiropractors in an outpouring of heartfelt concern over the future of the chiropractic profession at the hands of the CCE. This was contrasted by comments from the American Chiropractic Association and the Association of Chiropractic Colleges with both organizations voicing complete support of the CCE, its policies and standards. Reports over the years indicate that the schools represented by the Association of Chiropractic Colleges are fearful of speaking out against the CCE due to the power the accrediting body holds over them, with the example of what happened to Life University often cited as an example of this unchecked power.

Department Staff sought to avoid the substantive issues relating to philosophical issues.  Their report states, “It is not the Department's responsibility to take sides in this ongoing philosophical discussion; rather, the Department may only evaluate the agency's compliance with regard to the Secretary's Criteria for Recognition.”  However, Dr. Kent stated in his testimony:

“It has been suggested that philosophical disputes in the profession are not within the jurisdiction of the Department.   Yet, it is necessary and proper to address the fact that CCEs involvement in the Cartel, and the exclusion of dissenters, is the underlying cause of some violations.  The accreditation process should not be used to force an institution to adopt a mission that is contra to its purpose.”

As noted in the December 15, 2011 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“The number of people who showed up to raise their concerns made an impression on Cameron C. Staples, a member and past chairman of the committee.  Mr. Staples questioned whether the chiropractic education council had done enough to meet federal requirements for accrediting agencies to show that their policies and procedures are widely accepted by educators, institutions, licensing bodies, and practitioners.”

The committee finally decided that CCE would be given one year to address the over 40 deficiencies which were identified.  The committee also added language expressing their serious concern regarding acceptance of CCE policies:

 “In addition to the numerous issues identified in the staff report, NACIQI asks the agency to demonstrate compliance with Section 602.13 dealing with the wide acceptance of its standards, policies, procedures, and decisions; and to address how its standards advance quality in chiropractic education."

In the end, this last issue related to Section 602.13, will be the most difficult for the CCE to address. Given its role as the center of the Chiropractic Cartel, the actions of the CCE since its inception have been to move the educational process of the profession closer to that of medicine and further from the foundational premises of the profession, such as the role of vertebral subluxation, upon which it is based. 

According to Matthew McCoy DC, MPH, Vice President of the Foundation for Vertebral Subluxation, “There is a real opportunity here for the CCE to demonstrate its oft stated intention to be the ‘profession’s accrediting agency’ and for their tent to be big enough for everyone. However, doing so will require a thorough revision of the CCE’s organizational make-up, its policies and its standards. I’m skeptical that they are actually willing to do that. We’ll see.”