SACS issues warning to S.C. State

2013-06-21T01:30:00Z 2014-03-05T11:06:11Z SACS issues warning to S.C. StateBy DALE LINDER-ALTMAN T&D Staff Writer The Times and Democrat

South Carolina State University is being placed on a 12-month warning by its accrediting agency, but President Thomas Elzey says he’s “extraordinarily confident that we will be able to address these concerns.”

Elzey, who took office on Monday, said the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools notified him about the warning by phone Thursday, but has not yet given him information about specific violations or what steps the university will have to take to remove the warning.

“There are two core standards that we have fallen short on: the goal of the governing board and financial resources,” he said.

Elzey said he wanted to assure students that their education is not at risk because of the warning.

“We want to be very, very clear,” he said. “This will not affect anyone’s degree ... program or threaten this university’s standing.”

SACS does not take away accreditation without following a process, he said. The warning is part of the process, and he will fully follow every step.

“As I understand it, during the 12 months they will be monitoring us and they will ask us to respond to some specific deficiencies in the materials that were sent to them,” he said.

Communication between SACS and the university has been ongoing since April, when SACS requested information about various issues including the university’s financial base and history, the board’s policy on conflicts of interest for members and governance issues.

In May, former interim President Dr. Cynthia Warrick’s administration prepared a response for SACS.

Elzey said that happened before his watch and he doesn’t know where it falls short in responding to the issues.

“My intention is to review what was submitted, prepare for response to them (SACS). We will have some time to do that and it’s my intention that we will do a thorough and adequate job in responding, that we will be comprehensive and we will be transparent,” he said.

He said he’s already looked over the May report and has some “ideas where they might not have responded as fully or clearly as they should have.”

Elzey said he plans to be prepared to tell the board at next week’s retreat why the report was not sufficient.

He said he’s been involved in accreditation processes numerous times at various universities across the country and knows what an accreditation team is looking for.

Dr. Pamela Cravey, coordinator of communications at SACS, reported that the organization is looking at board conflict of interest, the distinction of board and administrative authority, financial stability and control and Title IV responsibilities.

The T&D could not reach Board Chair Dr. Walter L. Tobin for comment, but trustee Dr. Dennis Nielsen said that he knew of no instances of board conflict of interest. If someone was getting value from the university and serving on the board at the same time, that would be conflict of interest.

However, Nielsen, who was appointed to the board last September by Gov. Nikki Haley, said the board has been placed in a difficult position in regard to the separation of board and administrative responsibilities.

“The problem while I have been on the board is that our administration, at the time, did not perform the kind of administrative responsibilities that a president needs to do,” he said.

S.C. State was placed on a one-year warning in 2008 for, among other things, allowing its board to interfere in fundraising and sports activities that SACS says should have been controlled by the administration. The warning was lifted after the university showed it had the proper policies in place and that the board was not interfering with the administration’s role.

A warning is the lesser of two sanctions SACS can impose, and can precede probation.

Akeem Brown, president of the S.C. State Student Government Association, said that students have confidence in Elzey’s ability to address the issue.

“We fully support our president in regard to how he is going to follow through with this,” he said. “We believe he has a plan to fight this issue. We will continue doing what our parents sent us here to do and that is to maintain academic excellence and graduate.”

Elzey said the university will respond to SACS and, at the end of the 12-month period, and the organization will review the university’s response. S.C. State’s warning may be removed at that time. The worst-case scenario is that the university could be placed on probation, he said.

“That will not happen. Let me say it again. That will not happen,” he said.

* Contact the writer: dlinder-altman@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5529.

Copyright 2015 The Times and Democrat. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. iDog76
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    iDog76 - June 22, 2013 3:08 pm
    Adults ought to keep children out of these messes too. The SGA President in the article Keep Warrick http://thetandd.com/news/local/education/s-c-state-students-petition-to-make-interim-president-permanent/article_d0b83ae6-7664-11e2-9f20-0019bb2963f4.html indicates that she should be president. Now, he supports President Elzey. Where is leadership of the VP in Student Affairs? This kid now has no credibility in the media and he was used unfortunately for adult motives.
  2. iDog76
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    iDog76 - June 22, 2013 11:59 am
    Thank you The Watcher. At least someone can think and link all of this together to see who is the villainess in this. You're absolutely right. Hugine did the same thing. The President has to clean the cabinet, deans, chairs, and directors. We keep changing the head and the body is the same. Not only that, let's see if Grant and Lott will allow the President to do his job. Warrick is vengeful, emotional, and absence of leadership skills. Good thing she's not the president. #goodbye
  3. The Watcher
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    The Watcher - June 22, 2013 10:36 am
    Looks like someone is being vengeful because they are not the president of SCSU. That should really point out the former IP's character. That reminds me Hugine did the same thing. To the new President of SCSU your gotta clean house for things to work right.
  4. LoyalBulldog
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    LoyalBulldog - June 21, 2013 11:59 pm
    The problem was with the BOT, same members same problem years ago before Warrick" it will be fixed, not because of Elzey but because Maurice is gone! It would have been worth $500k to rid us of Maurice. Warrick thanks for cleaning up the board.
  5. iDog76
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    iDog76 - June 21, 2013 10:10 pm
    Look at Willie Owens - laughing and grinning in President Elzey's face. Rev. McCutcheon got up in his pulpit and literally said SCSU needed to keep the former IP. Disgusting! Unfortunately, President Elzey has quite a bit of cleaning to do, and he will have to contend with a couple remaining trustees who will protect their friends in leadership, but I don't think trustees want to get into the Prersident's business in the next year. Mr. President, handle your business as we know you will!
  6. iDog76
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    iDog76 - June 21, 2013 10:05 pm
    The first principle of accreditation is "integrity," and SACS has none. It seems as if Wheelan would have recused herself of any dealing with SCSU since she admitted she had a personal relationships with the former IP. SACS walks around like it's a Sheriff Arpaio with a gun, threatening schools. What SCSU needs to do is sue SACS; it is not unprecedented. Aside from SACS, the former IP pulled a whammy on SCSU; she thought she had this presidency. President Elzey, we are with you Sir!
  7. shinton06
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    shinton06 - June 21, 2013 9:47 pm
    I am very surprise and have wanted to say this for months how T/D has not reported that OC Tech is on warning has been on warning since December 2012 until December 2013.
  8. shinton06
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    shinton06 - June 21, 2013 9:43 pm
    St. Paul College is closing because SACS refuse to re-affirm accreditation after they addressed the issue. Why issue a warning now when the college has a new board in place less than 2 weeks? However, I am sure President Elzey will address this and mover forward quickly after he finish reading the document IP sent to SACS. President Elzey please don't waste anytime putting together a competent cabinet to help carry out the vision and the support of the college.
  9. shinton06
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    shinton06 - June 21, 2013 9:39 pm
    Exactly! You should have seen them at the ice cream social on Wednesday! Interesting not one faithful soul from previous posters has commented on this! I knew this was coming bit not surprise. You have the President of SACS speak at graduation? You place a warning citing board indifference? SACS is a big bully accreditation. Many schools are leaving this accreditation and applying to others. All SACS want to do is not re-affirm HBCUs because they do not see them as relevant anymore.
  10. iDog76
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    iDog76 - June 21, 2013 7:46 pm
    This is clearly residue from the former IP. Because she was not appointed president, it's clear to thinking people that she tried to sabotage SCSU and President Elzey's beginning tenure via SACS. Warrick's first order should have been fall 2013 enrollment. This leaves President Elzey with a larger deficit and the BOT with raising tuition more than 5%-10%. Now, all of the Orangeburg Alumni who wanted Warrick are now in Elzey's face grinning and skinning. He's not foolish. SCSU #hypocrites.
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