Thursday, September 18, 2014

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Agency Moves U.Va. Back to Unblemished Accreditation

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges has concluded its review of the University of Virginia and finds U.Va. in compliance with accreditation standards related to governance. The SACSCOC Board of Trustees announced its decision to restore the University to unblemished status at the organization’s annual meeting in Atlanta on Dec. 10.

SACSCOC placed the University on warning in December 2012 for a period of one year, following its determination that U.Va. was not in compliance with Core Requirement 2.2, regarding board governance, and Comprehensive Standard 3.7.5, regarding faculty role in governance, of the organization’s Principles of Accreditation.

“The University community should be pleased with the outcome of the commission’s thorough review,” U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “While the warning designation did not question the quality of our academic programs or affect our ability to receive financial aid, unblemished accreditation remains an important stamp of approval on the integrity of the institution.”

The organization had been reviewing governance issues at U.Va. since Sullivan’s resignation and subsequent reinstatement in the summer of 2012. The process included establishment of a SACSCOC special committee, which visited Grounds in September as part of a thorough review.

In its summary report, the special committee noted that changes the Board of Visitors made to its manual adequately address the governance concerns, which centered on the potential for “control of a minority of the board, or by organizations or interests separate from the board.”

One manual amendment cited by the SACSCOC special committee stipulates “appointment, removal, requested resignation, or amendment of the contract or terms of employment of the President may be accomplished only by a majority (or, by statute, two-thirds in the case of removal) of the whole number of Visitors at a regular meeting, or special meeting called for this purpose.”

Board policy also was amended to add more detail about the process of evaluating a president and setting performance goals.

The SACSCOC Board of Trustees also endorsed the special committee’s finding that U.Va. is in compliance with the standard regarding the faculty role in governance. The final report notes that Board of Visitors “policy was amended (May 2013) to better outline the responsibility and authority of faculty in academic and governance matters.”

As defined by SACSCOC, 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.”

Accreditation demonstrates, to the public and other stakeholders, that colleges and universities maintain a commitment to quality and continuous improvement in fulfilling their missions. Accreditation is essential to students, for access to various forms of federal financial aid, transfer of credit to other institutions of higher education and recognition of their degrees. For faculty, accreditation is necessary to access most research funding.

The University’s accreditation was never withdrawn during the process.

Documentation relating to the sanction, including the report of the special committee, may be found here.

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