08 December 2016

UTRGV’s accreditation probation details emerge

Local station KRGV and Inside Higher Ed report on what the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has done to get into hot water with the accreditation agency, SACS.

And it’s not just the “timing issue” that president Guy Bailey claimed it was.

The SACC Coordinator of Communications Pamela Cravey explained a few.

“For failure to comply with principle 1.1 integrity, comprehensive standard 3.4.4 acceptance of academic credit, comprehensive standard 3.4.7 consortia relationships contractual agreement,” she said.

Inside Higher Ed calls the list of shortcomings “unusually long.”

(T)o judge by SACS's laundry list of areas in which the new institution is falling short of the accreditor's requirements and standards, UT Rio Grande Valley appears to be a work in progress.

A spokeswoman for SACS cited a full 10 major areas in which the new Texas campus had faltered, including such basic things as assuring that it “operates with integrity in all areas.” Other areas of difficulty included complying with federal financial aid audits and ensuring that the institution's degrees are based on instruction it offers itself (rather than by other institutions).

My reaction might be summarized as: “Holy sh*t.” I mean, to be accused of a lack of integrity? Judging from the quote above, it appears to be section 1.1, which would make it literally the first thing on the list that universities are supposed to do. I have heard, but not confirmed, that there is a lower level of concern, “warning.” If there is, we kind of blew past that.

UTRGV is not the only university on the list, as Inside Higher Ed notes. There are nine others, but UTRGV is unusual in that it is part of a state university system, serves the most students, and was launched with very high goals of creating a new research university.

What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall of the University of Texas System board rooms these days.

At the start of the semester, the UT system was praising UTRGV for its first year, which it called “stellar.”

In the middle of the semester, we learn that the med school isn’t going well and UTRGV mispent millions of dollars.

At the end of the semester, we’re getting warning shots that our legitimacy as an institution is in question.

Update: The campus newspaper, The Rider, has published the full list of ten points of concern:

  • Integrity (Principle 1.1)
  • Acceptance of academic credits (Comprehensive standards 3.4.4)
  • Consortial relationships/contractual agreements (Comprehensive standards 3.4.7)
  • Institutional credits for a degree (Comprehensive standards 3.5.2)
  • Institutional credits for a graduate degree (Comprehensive standards 3.6.3)
  • Financial aid audits (Comprehensive standards 3.10.2)
  • Substantive change (Comprehensive standards 3.12.1)
  • Advertising, Student Recruitment, and Representation of Accredited Status policy compliance, (Comprehensive standards 3.13)
  • Publication of accreditation status (Comprehensive standards 3.14.1)
  • Recruitment materials (Federal requirement 4.6)

The Rider also reports the faculty senate will be meeting with the president soon.

Update, 9 December 2016: Local newspaper The Monitor wrote an unusually pissy editorial complaining that SACS should have released all the details of the concerns that put the institution on probation, and demanding more information.

Meanwhile, mark your calendars for 15 December, when SACS is planning on posting more about the issue:

(Pamela Cravey) said her agency will post “a public disclosure statement” on its website on Dec. 15 providing additional insight.

These statements include an update and explanation of actions taken and what it means for the institution, but the violations are not typically listed, based on statements currently available.

Another update, 9 December 2016: The Faculty Senate emailed the faculty today after meeting with President Bailey. They described the situation thus:

The concerns shared at this point in time center on the transfer of UTB students to UTRGV to meet the expectations of the timeline set by Texas legislature. It took longer for Texas Southmost College to gain independent accreditation than expected. If UTB had been abolished on August 31, 2015 (the date UTPA was abolished), all TSC students would have lost their financial aid. This meant that UTB could not be abolished until a later date even though it had no students. ...

We found President Bailey to be very straightforward about the situation. He provided us with detailed documented timelines starting in July 2013 through September 2016. Our institutions had been in communication with SACSCOC consistently throughout this process. He reassured us that there are no concerns with faculty, programs, students or financial aid.

Update, 11 December 2016: Local paper The Monitor has obtained new documents relating to UTRGV’s accreditation issues.

Because UTB would remain an accredited institution after the creation of UTRGV, there were discussions of transferring all UTB students to UTRGV to avoid “teach-outs,” which would be agreements with UTB and TSC to teach bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs at UTRGV. The next move would be to consolidate or merge UTB with UTRGV.

“Discussed the benefits of just moving all to UTRGV to avoid teach-out and facilitate the award of financial aid,” the log of a Feb. 23, 2015 meeting states.

This meeting was attended by UTRGV officials Bailey, Brown, Provost Havidan Rodriguez, and SACSCOC’s Armstrong, and Director for Legal Affairs Carol Luthman.

A year later, however, during a conference call between Brown, Donat and Armstrong, the SACSCOC officials seemed confused by what transpired during that Feb. 23, meeting.

“No UTB Students in fall 2015; this was not their understanding from the February 23, 2015 meeting,” states the log of a May 4, 2016 call. “Need to respond by clearly describing our understanding of the February 23, 2015 meeting and provide documentation that had been transparent on how UTB operates.”

It still doesn’t address why “integrity” is concern number one.

Minor annoyance: the story repeats the myth that UTRGV is the first university created this century.

Related posts

Show me what you value
Our med school is not going smoothly
Physics fraud
UTRGV placed on probation by accrediting agency

External links

UTRGV Reassures Students Probation Period Won’t Affect Them
A Watchdog Bites
UTRGV may have violated 10 standards on path to probation EDITORIAL: UTRGV probation questions need specifics
UTRGV probation fears dispelled

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