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Accreditor Lifts Louisville Probation

December 6, 2017
 
 

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges ended the University of Louisville’s probation Tuesday, closing a year of scrutiny during which the university’s accreditation was in jeopardy because of concerns about its administration, governance and financial condition.

SACS placed Louisville on probation last December, several months after the university was thrown into turmoil when Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin ordered an overhaul of the university's board and announced the departure of former president James Ramsey. Probation is the second most serious sanction the accreditor levies, short only of the loss of accreditation.

Louisville announced the lifting of the probation in a news release containing statements from both the university’s interim president, Greg Postel, and SACS President Belle Wheelan. Postel said faculty, staff and administrators had worked to address concerns and place the university on solid ground for the future. Wheelan said SACS is “excited any time” institutions come back into compliance.

“The university worked hard to show that they cared about the university enough to make sure that there were no clouds hanging over them anymore and we are very proud,” Wheelan said in the statement.

SACS voted to remove Louisville’s probation less than three months after a special committee visited the university in September. The committee, chaired by University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, issued a report in October outlining Louisville’s progress in complying with nine accreditation principles. It found the university had met seven of the nine principles, although the university subsequently responded that it met the remaining two.

Specifically, the committee examined whether Louisville had a properly sized and functioning governing board, whether its board is responsible for selecting and evaluating its chief executive, whether the board has a conflict of interest policy, whether board members are free from undue external influences, and whether the governing board can be dismissed only for appropriate reasons and via a fair process. It also examined whether Louisville had qualified administrative and academic leaders, whether the university has a clearly defined relationship with its foundations, whether the university is financially stable, and whether it appropriately controls its financial resources.

On governance issues, the special committee noted that Kentucky’s General Assembly passed legislation early this year to clean up process and legal issues surrounding the dismissal of Louisville’s previous board and the appointment of a new board. It also found that newly appointed trustees appear to operate free from outside influence and that the new board has been responsible for appointing two Louisville interim presidents.

“Although the governor became involved in the removal of the previous president in contravention to the above policies, the board itself eventually accepted the resignation of the previous president,” the committee wrote in the report, which noted several additional policy changes related to governance that have been put in place.

The committee also noted that Louisville and its foundation have put changes in place to prevent the foundation from overspending and to address concerns about the relationship between university and foundation.

The committee did leave the university with two recommendations in October: that it provide evidence it has qualified academic and administrative officers who have enough competence and experience to lead, and that Louisville have a formal written agreement with an existing separate real estate foundation. Louisville has responded that its leaders are qualified and that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the real estate foundation outlining legal authority and operating control.

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