Folt: Accreditation review gave UNC-CH chance to study academic changes
Posted January 21, 2015
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Chancellor Carol Folt said Wednesday that answering questions from an accreditation organization has given University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill officials a chance to examine reforms the school put in place in the wake of an academic fraud scandal.
In a 224-page report submitted last week to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, UNC-Chapel Hill officials asked that the group find them in compliance with various accreditation standards.
Folt briefed UNC-Chapel Hill's Board of Trustees about the report during a Wednesday meeting, noting that SACS had previously requested much of the same information two years ago.
"We weren’t just going to paper clip those together and turn in that report. We decided we, too, would take it seriously from the start, start over (and) do every single question," she said. "When you prepare something like this, it gives you a chance to re-investigate it again, to look it through over and over again, to continue to question yourself, to produce the data to show that what you put in place is really working."
Faculty Chairman Bruce Cairns agreed that the SACS report allowed the university to "talk about what we stand for."
"(It was) to really allow us to take a close look at who we are and make sure we are doing everything we can to be a great university and address all the issues people have concerns about," said Cairns, a professor of surgery at the UNC School of Medicine.
The Faculty Council plans to discuss the report with Folt on Thursday, he said.
SACS put the university on notice when claims of academic impropriety first surfaced in 2011, and SACS president Belle Wheelan said last fall that her organization considered the findings of independent investigator Kenneth Wainstein as a new issue.
Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor, released a report in October that showed academic advisers at UNC-Chapel Hill steered student-athletes for 18 years toward classes that never met and required only a short paper to pass.
SACS officials said in November that Wainstein's findings didn't jibe with information the university provided to the accrediting organization in 2013, when officials insisted the fraud was limited to the activities of two people in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. So, the group asked for documentation to demonstrate the university is complying with 18 standards of accreditation, including institutional integrity, program content, academic support services and control of college athletics.
"The administration has done a wonderful job responding to all of SACS' questions. Reading through, it’s clear we have made a lot of progress," Student Body President Andrew Powell said. "Students are still really interested in it. ... We care a lot about Carolina. I’d say we are optimistic about being able to move forward from this whole year and return to a more stable and exciting future."
It's unclear when SACS might complete its investigation and issue a ruling.
"We have to let that play out, but I am confident in the way we have responded," Cairns said. "If we are asked to do more, we’ll do that."