February 3, 2017

Acting provost forecasts re-accreditation efforts will strengthen U of L

The Louisville Cardinal News

By Kyeland Jackson —

Arts & Sciences faculty assembly members sought clarity on U of L’s accreditation retention efforts Feb. 3.

Acting Provost Dale Billingsley said the process will strengthen U of L, and asked faculty to ease students’ concerns.

“Be very clear with your students that the university maintains its accreditation,” Billingsley said. “We are still an accredited institution … they do not understand, and the media and the temper of public discussion has not made clear that probation and loss of accreditation are two very different things.”

Billingsley expects the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, U of L’s accrediting agency, will view Senate Bill 12 as a boon to accreditation. But, he warned there are other issues regarding governance and prospective Senate Bill 107, which Billlingsley expects will pass soon. The bill grants Governor Matt Bevin power to reconstitute “dysfunctional” educational institutions’ boards. Senate Bill 107 defines a board is “dysfunctional” when it cannot reach a consensus to carry out primary functions, a provision Billingsley has called “a real problem” for educational institutions’ boards.

The draft bill, updated Jan. 3, includes an emergency order that makes its passage law once Bevin signs it. U of L’s Faculty Senate endorsed SB 107 revision recommendations penned by Council on Postsecondary Education President Robert King. King’s recommendations include charging university boards with removing fellow trustees for cause, including CPE in nominations for unequally represented boards and request Bevin ask a “dysfunctional” board to step down before he removes them. CPE faculty representative Robert Staat said legislators are likely to adopt the changes.

“He (Robert King) said the legislators are drafting it (SB 107) word, for word, for word of what we’re doing,” Staat said. Staat is a CPE member and representative for faculty members in Kentucky.

Without a clear nod from SACS, the bills could be setting obstacles for retaining accreditation.

“What happens if SACS does say, ‘We’re not going along with this’?” English professor Matthew Biberman asked. Biberman also asked how three more possible infractions, cited in a letter dated Jan. 27, could be involved in SACS response to re-accreditation actions.

“This (three more possible infractions) is an entirely different section of the principles of accreditation, so it’s scary,” Billingsley said. But, he said efforts to resolve accreditation issues would likely bring a positive response from SACS.

SACS’s Jan. 27 letter warned the university may have violated three more accreditation standards, citing a state audit sent by the university. The letter questions the relationship between U of L and the University of Louisville Foundation, its endowment manager, personnel appointments and financial control. SACS asked the university respond by March 3. The new infractions could be included in an investigation by SACS’s special committee, tasked to inspect U of L’s re-accreditation progress and report to the accrediting body.

University of Louisville spokesperson John Karman said the university expects SACS’s special committee Sept. 19 – 21.

Acting President Greg Postel, citing discussions with SACS, King, Bevin and Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, said Wednesday U of L is on the “right path” towards re-accreditation. The SACS accreditation board will review its findings in December, choosing to either grant U of L’s accreditation, prolong probation or remove accreditation. Loss of accreditation means academic degrees lose value, credits will not transfer from U of L, federal financial aid will not be available and the university cannot participate in the NCAA.

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