Some readers may have wondered if I had lost my marbles by hosting a series of posts by contributor Reed Fawell questioning a decision of regional accrediting agency to inject itself into a governance controversy between the University of Virginia’s president and its Board of Trustees. (See here, here and here.) Now comes news that the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has taken a similarly dim view.
Indeed, ACTA has requested that the U.S. Department of Education initiate an investigation into a decision by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges (SACS) decision to put UVa on warning for an alleged breakdown in governance procedures when the board forced President Teresa Sullivan to submit her resignation last summer. Sullivan was subsequently reinstated amid calls that Rector Helen Dragas be compelled to resign her post as chief of the board.
“We believe there is substantial reason to believe that the accreditor has inappropriately become involved in a power struggle between the president, faculty and the board of trustees, and urge you to investigate,” said Anne D. Neal, ACTA president, in a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
According to reporting by the Associated Press, Neal said it was “ludicrous” for SACS to suggest that the board should give advance notice to the Senate Faculty of a decision to fire a president. “It appears that SACS’ real issue is not the absence of a board policy but the substance of the board’s policy,” Neal wrote.
To reiterate my personal stance: Dragas made significant procedural mistakes in handling Sullivan’s firing but that’s UVa’s problem to work out, not SACS’.