By Kyeland Jackson —
U of L’s accrediting body said the university may have violated three more accreditation standards in a Jan. 27 letter released Feb. 3.
Interim President Greg Postel said U of L sent the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, U of L’s accrediting body, a copy of Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon’s audit. Harmon’s report unveiled dysfunction, questionable finances and “serious weakness” in U of L Foundation’s governance. SACS responded, saying audit results bring more questions for accreditation standards.
“It appears that the institution may not be exercising appropriate control over its financial resources,” SACS said. “In the relationship between the institution and the University of Louisville Foundation (ULF), appropriate operational controls may not be clearly established in writing and/or followed in practice.”
SACS’s response said three accrediting standards may have been violated, relating to personnel appointments, relationships with institution related entities and financial control.
“It’s important to note that the university supplied this information to the agency. The administration, the Board of Trustees and Foundation Board all have committed to addressing issues that have arisen in recent months,” Postel said. “We will do so openly, keeping the university community posted on our activities.”
If said standards were violated, it brings U of L in violation with six accrediting standards and one core accrediting requirement. SACS asked U of L to respond by March 3.
During a Feb. 1 faculty senate meeting, Postel said the university is “on the right path” towards re-accreditation.
Harmon applauded U of L for sending SACS the audit results.
“I applaud the leadership at the University of Louisville for providing our governance examination of the U of L Foundation to their accreditation agency as they work to bring trust and transparency back to the university and the Foundation,” Harmon said in a statement.
A SACS special committee is expected to visit the university this fall to check its progress toward accreditation compliance. SACS President Belle Wheelan said details surrounding the new infractions may be reviewed by the special committee. U of L must supply a report at least four weeks before that committee arrives, no later than Sept. 8.
U of L spokesperson John Karman said the university expects the special committee Sept. 19 – 21.
SACS placed U of L on probation in December for violating four accreditation standards. SACS later said Governor Matt Bevin, whose executive orders reconstituted the university board and negotiated James Ramsey’s resignation, was to blame for the university’s probation.
Kentucky’s General Assembly is attempting to comply with standards by reconstituting the U of L’s Board of Trustees via Senate Bill 12. The bill abolished U of L’s board, replacing them with fewer members who largely constituted Bevin’s 2016 executive orders. SB 12 stipulates nominees must be approved by the Kentucky Senate. SB 12’s appointed trustees have instituted major reform, nominating Postel as university interim president and Diane Medley as foundation chair, and asking ULF halt contracts and financial deals until a forensic audit on its finances is completed.
Medley announced Feb. 2 that four foundation directors, often labeled Ramsey supporters, resigned. Medley expects to fill vacancies “shortly.”
U of L American Association of University Professors President Avery Kolers said the university is progressing towards keeping accreditation.
“I’m glad that the board of trustees in the fall finally forced open the foundation’s books and began a forensic audit,” Kolers said. “If the board had not been hamstrung and thrown into chaos for nine months by Governor Bevin, we would perhaps already have resolved these problems.”
Another prospective bill could grant Bevin power to replace other public institutions’ boards. University faculty criticized that bill, Senate Bill 107, worried academic freedom could be endangered by its passage. Faculty endorsed Council on Postsecondary Education President Robert King’s letter asking legislators revise the bill. CPE’s recommendations include charging university boards with removing fellow trustees for cause, including CPE in nominations for unequally represented boards and a Bevin ask a “dysfunctional” board to step down before he removes them.
Senate Bill 107 defines a board is “dysfunctional” when it cannot reach a consensus to carry out primary functions, a provision Interim Provost Dale Billingsley has called “a real problem” for educational institutions’ boards. 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.
SACS Vice President Patricia Donat previously said the bills imply Kentucky is heading in the right direction toward accreditation compliance. SACS President Belle Wheelan warned the decision lies with the accreditation board, who will either grant U of L’s accreditation, prolong probation or remove accreditation in its December review. 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.
Read SACS’s full letter here.
File photo / The Louisville Cardinal