SACS to Bishop State: Probation Extended Six Months

MONTGOMERY, Ala., June 22, 2007 --  The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has added more information to the pile new two-year college Chancellor Bradley Byrne must wade through prior to making his recommendations to the State Board of Education on the fate of two college presidents on June 28th.

Bishop State President Dr. Yvonne Kennedy has been at the helm of a college that has seen at least 27 employees arrested for alleged theft of more than $200,000 in financial aid and sports program money.

SACS Commission on Colleges President, Dr. Belle Wheelan says a written report will be available on the SACS Web site on Wednesday of next week.  "What has happened is the accreditation was continued for good cause.  And they're continued on probation, and that's important because that says they're still an accredited institution.  And, it's for six months for failure to comply with the following sections of our principles:"

  • Section 1 on integrity. 1.1 states the standard, "The institution operates with integrity in all matters."
  • Core requirement on 2.11.1  which states: "The institution has a sound financial base and demonstrated financial stability to support the mission of the institution and the scope of its programs and services."
  • Comprehensive Standard 3.2.8 which deals with qualified administrative and academic officers. "The institution has qualified administrative and academic officers with the experience, competence, and capacity to lead the institution."
  • Comprehensive Standard 3.5.1 on college level competencies - "The institution identifies college-level competencies within the general education core and provides evidence that graduates have attained those competencies."
  • Federal Requirement 4.7, which deals with federal financial aid - "The institution is in compliance with its program responsibilities under Title IV of the 1998 Higher Education Amendments.  (In reviewing the institution's compliance with these program responsibilities, the Commission relies on documentation forwarded to it by the U.S. Secretary of Education."

Chancellor Byrne told Thursday, "The only thing I can say now about Bishop is that the situation is very serious and we must make some pretty dramatic changes by September when the next report to SACS is due."  SACS will then review that report and issue another recommendation in December.

Byrne has stated previously these decisions and issues are not easy.  "These issues are not easy issues for anybody.  We've got a report from the examiner back in February that showed several things and of course we've got two internal investigation reports and on top of that you've got the report from the accreditation agency...There's quite a lot of information on Bishop, so much so that it's taking me a long time to go through it with my staff and make sure we all understand it."

Byrne has said he will have his recommendation ready by the June 28 board meeting, "The last thing that I want to do is to make a recommendation to you on something of this magnitude that I and the staff haven't thoroughly reviewed and thought through.  I'm not going to bring you anything until I am ready."

Board member Ella Bell told Byrne previously that she expects details concerning his recommendations:

"I don't just want you to tell me what you recommend.  I want you to tell me why you recommended it in detail and I just want to make sure that when I see charges that are levied or whatever at your level I want to make sure that everything is just right and exact.  I don't know how to say this any other way than the way that I'm getting ready to say it.  But I've watched this board work and I know for a fact that everything's not always done fairly and I'm not going to be a part of anything that is not done fairly and I just want to make that crystal clear to everybody here."

According to a report in the Mobile Press-Register, Bell was surprised by the SACS report and felt, and these are the Register's words, their "finding was prejudiced because Wheelan met with Byrne before the decision."

Ms. Bell told me Friday that she "had some concern about them having a meeting prior to them going on to Florida.  I'm certain I said something to the effect that I'd rather they had not stopped in Montgomery to meet Mr. Byrne.  I probably said something like that.  I would have felt better if they had come in and relied on the information that Dr. Kennedy had available for them."

Concerning the report itself, "Actually, I haven't seen it, so I can't comment on it.  I just know that that (visit) took place and it just concerned me that there was that meeting prior to the meeting in Pontre Vedra, Florida."

Byrne says regarding that meeting with Wheelan,"In my meeting with Ms. Wheelan, I listened to what she had to say and asked questions to clarify.  I did not call the meeting - she did.  So, I was there to receive information from, not give to, her."

Dr. Wheelan says, "Bishop State was not the topic of that conversation.  He was a new chancellor and we simply welcomed him to the fold.  I took him a new president's package because I'm about to go in the hospital and I don't know how long I'll be out.  All of his institutions are our institutions and I knew that they had some issues and I just wanted him to know what the presidents and the institutions were being held responsible for from our standpoint."

Reported by:  Helen Hammons