The latest news about the accrediting body SACS putting Florida A&M on probation is worrisome indeed.
USA Today’s story on the situation explains the probation this way:
According to [FAMU President Larry] Robinson, SACS’ most recent decision centered around four key areas at FAMU, including two involving the Office of Audit and Compliance. A whistle-blower’s complaint in summer 2011 led to an independent investigation of that office by the Tallahassee law firm Sniffin & Spellman. It found serious issues with 15 internal audits, including instances in which summaries were presented when audits had not been conducted.
Robinson says he had recently been in touch with SACS about student safety following the Robert Champion tragedy, but the organization’s heightened concern about finances came as something of a surprise.
It’s also worth noting, SACS isn’t the only oversight body that’s taking a special interest in FAMU these days. The Orlando Sentinel reports that we may yet hear more from state legislators on the university’s woes soon:
Senate President Don Gaetz said he expects lawmakers to take a closer look at FAMU during the coming legislative session. In 2007, FAMU’s accreditation was placed on probation for six months, which was eventually extended to a year.
“There are members of the Senate who have deep and abiding admiration for FAMU and who are concerned that the university seems to lurch from one scandal to another,” he said, adding that he hopes the accreditation probation will push FAMU to improve. “This is an opportunity for FAMU to get its house in order.”
If the legislature can proceed in the concerned-but-constructive manner that Gaetz’s quote suggests, I actually think that would be a positive thing for the university. Of course, though, there’s risk that the whole thing will become an overly politicized mess. We’ll have to wait and see.
I have to say, as a “Golden Age” alum, I’m also weary of the “lurching” about that Gaetz describes. Sometimes it feels like we made some Robert Johnson-like deal with the devil around the time we won the College of the Year award, then it’s been nothing but strife and drama ever since.
[UPDATE: The Miami Herald points out that FAMU is the only public four-year university in Florida to have ever faced probation from SACS. It’s now done so twice.
Other universities, like FSU, have gotten the proverbial “side eye” from SACS in certain respects at times, but never formal probation. There are also some non-universities, like Edison State College, that have faced probation. But among the public four-year universities, only FAMU hits the perfecta.]