By Kyeland Jackson —
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools partially cleared the air Wednesday, saying legislation appears to push U of L towards accreditation compliance.
Assistant Provost Connie Shumake briefed SACS Vice President Patricia Donat on passage of Senate Bill 12, a bill dissolving the current board of trustees for a smaller board vetted by Gov. Matt Bevin and the state government, and prospective Senate Bill 107. SB 107 would grant Bevin and appointing authorities power to dissolve “dysfunctional” boards of educational institutions.
The bill defines dysfunctional as a board which cannot hold at least quarterly meetings, elect a chair and vice chair, establish a quorum or reach consensus to execute its primary mandate. SB 107 also requires members replacing boards fill representation requirements.
Donat said the bills showed progress, but warned she did not know how the SACS board would respond.
“Although I cannot predict the SACSCOC Board response to this legislation, it does appear to be moving in the direction of clarifying the process for reorganization and a process for notification to current Board members regarding review and termination of their service,” Donat’s email to Shumake said. “I do know that it will be important for all legislation, Board documents and institutional policies to be aligned once something new is in place.”
SACS President Belle Wheelan said the decision comes down the SACS board, who will review U of L’s compliance December.
“It doesn’t matter what Donat or I think because the decision is not ours but the decision of our board,” Wheelan said.
Donat’s response clarifies SACS possible stance on U of L’s accreditation efforts. Kentucky senators reworded a dog bill during the Kentucky General Assembly to address U of L’s Board of Trustees makeup, attaching an emergency clause to rush the bill’s passage. Senators warned the accrediting body could respond negatively to the bill, advising the assembly wait for a letter from SACS.
That letter arrived Wednesday, blaming Bevin’s executive orders in late June for the university’s probation. U of L has a maximum of two years to fix everything before accreditation is removed. Loss of accreditation means academic degrees lose value, federal financial aid is rendered unavailable, credits cannot transfer and U of L cannot participate in the NCAA.
Bevin and Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers praised SB 12, affirming it could remove U of L from probation. In a response to The Cardinal’s article, revealing 12 private institutions SACS removed from accreditation, Stivers said the previous board was unduly constituted partially because of former governor Steve Beshear.
“Kentucky law also required that at least seven of the 17 board members should be registered Republicans, reflective of Kentucky’s voter registration statistics. There were no Republicans on the Board as appointed by Beshear,” Stivers’ editorial said. “I doubt even Attorney General Andy Beshear would dispute his father’s appointments created a Board out of compliance with the applicable laws.”
A SACS special committee will visit the university to check its progress this year. U of L must supply a report at least four weeks before the committee arrives, and no later than Sept. 8.