The Corner


University of North Carolina Faculty Tries to Hide Behind Accreditation

Accreditation is a great paper tiger. Supposedly it ensure that colleges are of high quality, but accredited schools routinely get away with degrees of almost no quality, as long as they have done everything necessary to look like a college. Accreditors don’t make any effort at monitoring the content or rigor of courses. Famously, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill let the athletics department get away with bogus courses for years — courses in the African-American Studies Department that were academic jokes just to keep star players eligible.

And now the faculty is imploring the regional accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to step in and tell the UNC Board of Governors that it cannot make the changes it wants (such as preventing the law school’s Center for Civil Rights from engaging in ideological litigation) without violating SACS’s standards. In other words, the faculty wants to use the threat of loss of accreditation to keep the Board of Govenors from doing its job.

The good news, as Jane Shaw writes in today’s Martin Center article, is that it isn’t going to work. She writes,

Last February, the assembly sent a letter to Belle Wheelan, president of the SACS commission, with a list of 17 actions by the Board of Governors or the legislature that it claimed may have violated SACS standards. The list was clearly flawed from the start. SACS obviously does not have any control over legislative actions, and yet most of the supposed violations of SACS standards dealt with changes made by the legislature, not the Board of Governors. They included such actions as “packing” the board by electing new members with “partisan bias.

What is going on here is that the Board of Governors consists largely of conservatives who are trying to exert control over the very leftist faculty and administration. Whining to SACS that the Board is doing things that violate accreditation standards is just a desperate ploy.

Shaw concludes, “Without fearing loss of accreditation for every little policy change, perhaps the governors can step up and bring badly needed reform to the UNC system.”

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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