UNC-Chapel Hill has implemented about 70 athletic and academic reforms in the aftermath of the damaging scandals that have dealt a hard hit to the university’s reputation.
But the university’s accreditor isn’t convinced that the rules have worked, and it wants to see proof by April 1 of next year.
The accrediting agency asked the university to provide evidence that the many policy and procedural changes are effective, according to a letter received by UNC last week and released Monday. It was sent July 1 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges – the regional body that passes judgment on colleges’ adherence to academic, governance and financial standards and quality.
On June 11, the commission handed down probation to UNC, saying it was out of compliance with seven standards: overall integrity; program content; control of intercollegiate athletics; academic support services; academic freedom; faculty role in governance; and compliance with provisions in federal financial aid law.
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Probation is a rare step for an accreditor to take against any college, but particularly against a university of UNC’s stature.
The probation period is for one year, but if the university is not in compliance at the end of two years, it would lose accreditation, which would mean UNC would not be eligible to receive federal funds.
“Please note that an institution’s accreditation cannot be extended if it has been on Probation for two successive years,” said the letter, signed by the commission’s president, Belle Wheelan.
Wheelan wrote that a special committee will visit UNC to review evidence to determine if the university has met all standards.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt released a statement Monday saying she welcomed the opportunity to submit a report and meet with the commission’s special committee in the spring.
Folt and UNC Provost Jim Dean traveled to Georgia on Monday to speak with the commission’s president, Folt’s statement said, “to reiterate the University’s full cooperation in providing the commission with the information it has requested or otherwise might need during its review.”
She added: “We also used the meeting with Dr. Wheelan to underscore that the University firmly believes it has done everything possible to address and move beyond the past academic irregularities that ended four years ago – to prevent them from recurring and to ensuring integrity in everything that we do.
“We explained that the University continues to devote extraordinary resources to monitoring and refining the more than 70 reforms and initiatives put in place since 2011. We further made clear that Carolina remains committed to doing whatever it takes to getting this right.”
The commission chose to put UNC on probation at a commission board meeting in Virginia last month. The action followed a second review of the university’s academic and athletic scandal, in which 3,100 students took sham classes in African and Afro-American Studies during a period of nearly two decades.
Last fall, after former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein detailed the breadth of the scandal in an extensive investigative report, SACS informed UNC that it had concerns about the university’s compliance with 18 separate accreditation standards.
By last month, the commission had focused its concerns on seven standards.
Now the commission has asked the university for verification in these areas:
* Specific outcomes of a new Integrity Working Group and reviews of athletics and the department now known as African, African American and Diaspora Studies.
* Evidence that changes in the African studies department have been codified and applied across the university.
* Measures of success of initiatives from a Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group.
* Documentation about the effectiveness of the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes.
* Proof that initiatives have been adopted to prevent academic irregularities.
* Evidence of effective operation of the Faculty Athletic Committee.
* Proof of the effectiveness of the 2014-15 Satisfactory Academic Progress process for students under federal law.
While UNC answers the demands of the accrediting body, it is also preparing a response to the NCAA, which last month gave UNC notice of five major allegations. The university’s answer to the NCAA is due by the middle of August.
NCAA to take closer look at academic rules in Division I
The NCAA announced last month that it is close to adopting new standards of responsibility for athletes and staff at Division I schools.
Member universities would be required to adopt specific rules identifying academic misconduct and provide them to the entire student body.
The NCAA’s proposed standards focus on tutoring programs for athletes, defining “impermissible academic assistance” as providing “substantial” assistance to a student-athlete that’s “not generally available” to all students or not “expressly authorized” by other NCAA rules. That assistance has to cause the athlete to be “declared eligible, receive aid or earn an Academic Progress Rate point.”
The proposal would also define impermissible efforts to create an exception for an athlete to “improve a grade, earn credit or meet a graduation requirement.”
The proposed changes are expected to be debated at the NCAA’s annual convention in January. They would be voted on in April, and if passed could take effect before the start of the 2016 football season.
They would be the first changes in academic integrity standards passed by the membership in more than 20 years, the NCAA said.
Staff writer Dan Kane