Sunday, April 20, 2014

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Accreditation Commission to Visit U.Va.’s Grounds Next Week

Officials representing the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges will be on Grounds next week as part of the accrediting organization’s ongoing review of the University of Virginia.

This review is the next step in the months-long process of determining whether the University has met the organization’s expectations. The University was placed on warning in December for a one-year period, following its initial review of the events surrounding the resignation and reinstatement of President Teresa A. Sullivan in summer 2012. As required by the commission, the University submitted a monitoring report in August.

“We appreciate the careful consideration that the commission has provided the University and we welcome the special committee to Grounds,” Sullivan said. The team will arrive Monday for a three-day visit.

The commission’s review centers on its determination that the University was not in compliance with two of the organization’s Principles of Accreditation dealing with board governance and the faculty role in governance.

The special committee’s meetings while on Grounds are not open to the public.

During the visit, the University is expected to address deficiencies identified by the commission and offer information detailing satisfactory progress toward compliance. The special committee will prepare a report following its on-Grounds visit, and the University will have an opportunity to review the report and submit factual corrections as necessary, prior to the report’s finalization later this year.

Since the commission’s initial decision to begin the review process, the University’s Board of Visitors has instituted several changes, including amending the board’s manual in November and August to address issues raised by the accreditor and to promote greater accountability and transparency.

The manual now states that amending the contract of a president will require a publicly noticed board meeting and a majority vote of the full Board of Visitors. The board also modified the process of evaluating presidents and passed a resolution that provides for more direct involvement by faculty in its committee meetings. The resolution calls for the appointment of a faculty member to serve as a consulting member of each standing committee that does not already have faculty representation.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges review does not imply criticism of U.Va.’s academic quality and programs, and does not affect the University’s ability to receive federal aid, including financial aid and sponsored research, University officials said.

Accreditation is intended to “assure constituents and the public of the quality and integrity of higher education institutions and programs, and to help those institutions and programs improve,” according to the commission. It is essential to students for access to various forms of federal financial aid, transfer of credit and for recognition of degrees. Accreditation is necessary for faculty to access most research funding and plays a key role in the ability of an institution to attract and retain students and faculty.

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