By Kyeland Jackson —
U of L has an ultimatum: fix board of trustees issues or possibly lose accreditation.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, U of L’s accrediting body, reaffirmed accreditation Tuesday. However, issues concerning Governor Matt Bevin’s reorganization of the board violated SACS standards, earning U of L a one-year probation. That probation could extend to two years, and gives U of L a deadline to fix remaining issues.
“While we are disappointed, it is important to note that this in no way reflects on the quality of our curriculum or our core academic strengths. It focuses solely on issues related to the board governance of the institution,” Acting President Neville Pinto said in a statement. “The commission’s decision to impose probation does not affect degrees, federal funding (including financial aid available to students), or research grants awarded to faculty.”
SACS probation is often, but not always, the last step before a university is removed from SACS membership. Pinto and university administrators met with media to discuss accreditation Tuesday, where he assured the probation brings no financial sanctions and the university and state government will work to resolve the issue.
“He (Bevin) knows that accreditation is important to the university and we will work collaboratively together to resolve that,” Pinto said. “We’re always willing to work on any aspect off of the issue that requires us to collaborate with partners across the state. We will work together once we have the details from SACS.”
But U of L may have no say in the matter. Restorative efforts to meet SACS standards are largely controlled by the state, currently sputtering under Bevin’s case appeal. Attorney General Andy Beshear originally started the case against Bevin, and issued a statement on the SACS probation action Tuesday.
“In his pursuit of absolute authority, Governor Bevin has inflicted great and substantial harm to one of our public universities. My office, U of L faculty, a circuit judge and even the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools advised the governor about the serious ramifications that could result from his reckless actions,” Beshear’s statement said. “The governor has dug a very big hole and has only one choice – rescind his executive order, dismiss his appeal and announce he will not support legislation that would impact the university’s governance. Otherwise, he will bury the University of Louisville in that hole.”
With two years to meet accreditation standards, U of L’s time is ticking. But Pinto is confident the university will meet standards, and said students’ degrees will retain worth.
“The student degrees, past, present and future, their value has not changed. A sanction simply defines a period in which we respond to concerns about compliance,” Pinto said “We fully expect to resolve these issues. The university’s accreditation will continue – I can say that confidently- will continue without interruption, because this is a very important institution to the state and to the city of Louisville.
The university was scheduled to reaffirm its accreditation in 2017 as part of a recurring check by SACS. Bevin’s executive actions, which completely reorganized U of L’s Board of Trustees and negotiated former president James Ramsey’s resignation, broke three SACS standards according to the accrediting body. Standards demand a university’s governing body be dismissed by fair process, be free of undue political and financial influence and elect its own chief executive officer.
File photo / The Louisville Cardinal