Excerpt From: News & Observer. Written By: Jane Stancill.
A UNC system faculty group has told a major higher education accrediting body that actions by North Carolina’s legislature and the UNC Board of Governors could put state public universities’ accreditation at risk.
The UNC system’s Faculty Assembly, made up of representatives from the 17 public campuses, sent a memo Saturday to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Atlanta-based organization monitors financial, governance and academic standards for colleges and universities in the region, and has the power to sanction them.
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The memo included a copy of a January resolution by the Faculty Assembly that expressed “serious concerns about the implications of the actions” of the legislature and the Board of Governors.
Gabriel Lugo, chairman of the Faculty Assembly and a professor at UNC Wilmington, said sending the memo to the commission was a difficult decision. Lugo worked intensely on the last accreditation review at his campus, which he said UNCW passed with flying colors. Faculty generally want a rock solid accreditation, which signals academic quality and ensures access to federal dollars.
Accreditation standards are rooted in integrity, Lugo said, and faculty felt duty bound to raise concerns. He said he hoped the legislature and the UNC board would take seriously the issues raised, before the threat of any accreditation sanctions.
“That would be an extreme thing, and I am hoping it doesn’t get there,” Lugo said. “I am hoping that this is basically a wake-up call, that there are many things that are being done that may be damaging to the reputation of the university.”
Belle Wheelan, president of the SACS Commission on Colleges, said in an email that she had received the information and would begin reviewing it next week. She explained that the commission accredits individual universities, not university systems.
“After it is reviewed, I will send a letter to the institutions to ask them to demonstrate that they are still in compliance with our standards,” she wrote. “Their responses will then be reviewed and, if satisfactory, no further action will be taken. If not, then our Board of Trustees will be asked to act upon it.”