UNC has been placed on probation for 12 months by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting organization announced Thursday at its semi-annual board meeting.
Probation is “usually, but not necessarily, invoked as the last step before an institution is removed from membership,” according to the SACS website.
SACS found that UNC was noncompliant in accreditation standards of integrity, program content, control of intercollegiate athletics, academic supports services, academic freedom, faculty role and governance, and Title IV program responsibilities. These findings stem from the fact that more than 3,000 students took courses that gave very high grades for very little work for a period lasting nearly two decades.
This is the second investigation by SACS of UNC in recent years. The university was initially reviewed by the accrediting body in 2013 after the initial investigation into academic irregularities in the African and Afro-American Studies department. After UNC submitted a proposal to SACS for its review, the organization deemed that Carolina would maintain its accreditation status.
UNC then commissioned the Wainstein Report to further investigate revelations that the “paper courses” were being offered. Wainstein’s findings broadened the scope of the scandal and caused SACS to launch a separate investigation at Carolina.
In the initial letter from SACS to UNC, the organization requested information regarding 18 areas of possible noncompliance. UNC submitted their response to SACS in January, and the accrediting body found that Carolina was noncompliant on the seven aforementioned charges.
SACS Coordinator of Communication and External Affairs Dr. Paula Cravey says the board also authorized that a special committee visit the institution.
Cravey adds the board will revisit UNC’s probation next June during its meeting.
Chancellor Holden Thorpe is one of many administrators who have left the university in the wake of the scandal. Nine other employees have resigned, been fired, or placed under disciplinary review during the fallout of the investigation.
UNC has continued to point to an estimated 70 reforms put in place to ensure that the university has remedied the issues that were found in the Wainstein report. The independent investigation is also the basis for the Notice of Allegations delivered to UNC by the NCAA alleging a “lack of institutional control.”
The failure to comply with accreditation integrity is, much like the NCAA’s lack of institutional control, the most harsh and most vague standard UNC is charged with. SACS officials say that charge stems from UNC not providing complete information during the initial SACS investigation.
Chancellor Carol Folt said via a prepared statement that “a one-year period of probation will be imposed for Carolina in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of the many reforms instituted in recent years in response to the academic irregularities that ended in 2011.”
Folt went on to call the probation an “expected consequence” following the submission of the Wainstein report.
If UNC were to lose accreditation, it would impact the university through the loss of federal funds, including financial aid awarded to students and grant funding awarded to faculty for research.
SACS will release a full public disclosure statement further detailing their findings later this month.
UNC is a founding member of SACS.
Read the foll statement from Chancellor Folt below:
Dear Carolina Community:
I am writing to inform you that our regional accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), has notified the University in a telephone call that our accreditation is being maintained and that a one-year period of probation will be imposed for Carolina in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of the many reforms instituted in recent years in response to the academic irregularities that ended in 2011.
The SACSCOC Board of Trustees convened this week for their biannual meeting. The Commission’s Vice President, Dr. Cheryl Cardell, called today to share the Board’s decision that, in light of the self-reported irregularities of the past, a 12-month period of probation would be imposed. The Commission’s decision is the next step—an expected consequence—in Carolina’s tireless efforts to ensure integrity in everything we do and that the past irregularities are not allowed to recur.
In October 2014, the University notified the Commission of the release of the report prepared by Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP documenting the results of its independent investigation into the past academic irregularities. The Commission responded by requesting additional information from Carolina. In January, the University provided SACSCOC with a detailed 200-page report demonstrating compliance with the Commission’s Principles and explaining the extraordinary measures undertaken in recent years to restore trust, hold individuals accountable, and implement an expansive range of reforms. (http://carolinacommitment.unc.edu/updates/unc-chapel-hills-report-responding-to-the-southern-association-of-colleges-and-schools-commission-on-colleges-sacscoc/)
In today’s call, the Commission took care to acknowledge the University’s adoption and implementation of the many and significant reform measures in recent years. These efforts have indeed been extraordinary and are documented in detail in Carolina’s January submission to SACSCOC. It was clear from the discussion today that the Commission chose to impose a period of probation to acquire an additional year of data regarding the implementation and effectiveness of the University’s reforms and initiatives. It was also clear that the Commission’s decision to extend its period of review was based upon the gravity and length of the past irregularities, as documented in the University-commissioned and independent report of Cadwalader.
The University was informed that the Commission, in accordance with its standard protocols, intends to convey its full findings in a forthcoming letter, which Carolina expects to receive within the next few weeks. At that time, the University will be in a position to comment further on the Commission’s specific findings and will post any further reactions on the Carolina Commitment website.
Let me use this opportunity to underscore again that the University remains accredited. The Commission’s decision to impose a period of probation will have no impact on federal funding, including financial aid available to students and research grants awarded to faculty.
As the University recognized in its January submission to SACSCOC, all great institutions encounter challenges at one time or another. Recent years prove that Carolina is no exception. The important question is how the University has responded and will continue to respond. As your Chancellor, I can assure you that the University’s response—including by every member of my leadership team—has been defined by our unrelenting commitment to get it right and to act with complete integrity.
The University has worked very hard and in complete good faith to provide the Commission with an expansive range of information to demonstrate our compliance with the Commission’s principles, standards and requirements. We have the utmost confidence in our present compliance and in the effectiveness of the many reforms implemented in recent years and will embrace the opportunity during the one-year period of probation to prove that even further. We owe that to the University’s rich and revered history, to our current students, faculty and staff and indeed to the entire Carolina community.