Academic Standards for
Admission and Retention
Patty Gibbs, Eleanor H. Blakely, and Contributors
In recent years, one of the clearest and most important messages to emerge from the literature on gatekeeping in social work education has been that all criteria, standards, and performance expectations must be framed as academic standards if they are to hold up in court (Cobb 1994; Cobb and Jordan 1989; Cole and Lewis 1993; Madden 1993). A growing body of case law indicates it is essential that academic criteria include not only standards for scholastic performance but also standards for professional behavior, whether the standards are for student admissions, retention, or termination.
Most social work faculty, however, have failed to keep pace with these newer legal requirements and often continue to think of academic standards as including only grade point average, skill acquisition, course completion, and other more cognitive aspects of performance. Expectations for professional behavior, such as conduct in conformity with the profession's ethical standards, are often viewed as “softer characteristics” and therefore are erroneously viewed by faculty and students alike as expectations that should fall into a category known as “nonacademic standards.” In fact, even CSWE's current accreditation handbook perpetuates this erroneous thinking in Evaluative Standard 5.8: “The program's policies and practices must include procedures for terminating a student's enrollment in the social work program for