SACS accreditation board demands new report from UofSC amid controversial presidential search

Published: Jul. 16, 2019 at 6:58 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The agency responsible for determining accreditation for colleges and universities across the south is reaching out to the University of South Carolina, amid concerns of political influence in the school’s search for its next president.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools policy dealing with “unsolicited information” stipulates the “commission give appropriate consideration to significant accreditation-related unsolicited information revealed about an institution between periods of scheduled review.” In doing so, the university or college in question is given the opportunity to respond to concerns of the commission.

The letter, addressed to current president Harris Pastides, outlines concerns about the university’s hiring process and whether it is in ongoing compliance with the Principles of Accreditation. Colleges and universities must abide by several rules, including “…the governing board protects the institution from undue influence by external persons or bodies.”

SACS Vice President Linda Thomas-Glover, who wrote the letter, states she is aware state law designates the governor as the ex officio chairman of the Board of Trustees. She goes on to say, “your bylaws also state that it is the responsibility of the individual board members to recognize the legal authority of the board to govern and direct the university system rests with the collective board and not individual board members.”

As a result, SACS is requesting the university prepare a report that “explains and documents the extent of compliance,” with standard 4.2.f, which states, “This standard expects the institution’s governing board to protect the institution from undue influence by external persons or bodies.”

The letter requests two copies of the response to the letter by August 10. Read the full letter below:

Communications Director Brian Symmes provided the following statement on behalf of the Governor’s Office:

“In his capacity as the ex-officio chairman of the university’s board, the governor has contacted each of his fellow Board members and has encouraged them to select a permanent President for the University of South Carolina as soon as possible. To suggest that the governor, who by law is a member of the board of trustees, did anything improper is preposterous. Governor McMaster has made no secret about the fact, that as a member of the Board, he believes General Robert Caslen is supremely qualified and is perfectly suited to address the challenges ahead for the University of South Carolina.”

This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates.

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