Accreditation commission raises concerns about ASU - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Accreditation commission raises concerns about ASU

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has written a letter to Alabama State University Interim President Dr. William Harris requesting a report on the university's compliance with SACS's Principles of Accreditation.

According to the letter, media reports of alleged conflicts of interest by board members and possible financial mismanagement and fraud raised questions about the university's ongoing compliance with the Principles of Accreditation.

The commission will make an initial determination after hearing from ASU on whether there is evidence to support the concerns and if so, whether it affects compliance.

SACS is requesting that ASU prepare a report documenting its compliance with the following standards of the Principles of Accreditation:

  1. Integrity
  2. Governing Board
  3. Conflict of Interest
  4. Control of Finances
  5. Control of Sponsored research/external funds

SACS also requests evidence that the university has sound financial controls as it related to all contracts between ASU and outside vendors identified in the FSS report. ASU must also submit financial audit reports and management letters for the past two fiscal years and include the most recent financial aid report.

In order to avoid further review, ASU should provide evidence:

  1. That its presiding chair of the board of trustees did/does not have any contractual, employment, or personal or familial financial interest in the institution.
  2. That a majority of its board members do not have a similar financial interest as described in the Core Requirement. As part of the response, you should provide the names of all current and recently retired trustees, board titles, and any personal or familial financial interests in the university and evidence that your board of trustees is and has not been in violation of conflicts of interest policies.

The commission also requested copies of the final forensic audit from Forensic Strategic Solutions and the university's response to it.

SACS letter states "evidence of withholding information, providing inaccurate information, failing to provide timely and accurate information to the commission, or failing to conduct a candid self-assessment of compliance with the Principles and to submit this assessment to the commission, and other similar practices will be seen as a lack of full commitment to integrity…Failure of an institution to adhere to the integrity principle may result in a loss of accreditation or candidacy.

ASU must respond in writing to SACS by Dec. 1.

ASU officials say the university is preparing a response to SACS "that squarely addresses and refutes all of the unsubstantiated allegations, heresay, and rumors contained in the FSS 'Preliminary Update.'"

ASU officials released the following statement to WSFA 12 News:

"Alabama State University is preparing a response to the request for information from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACS) that squarely addresses and refutes all of the unsubstantiated allegations, heresay, and rumors contained in the FSS "Preliminary Update." ASU is also challenging the validity of the information contained in the Update, as well as the circumstances surrounding its preparation and issuance, in the University's pending lawsuit against FSS.

ASU vigorously denies the many untrue statements, false allegations, and unproven conclusions presented in FSS's Update. The University will submit a full and complete response to SACS by Dec. 1.

ASU has worked hard for many years to obtain and achieve the highest level of accreditation given by SACS, which is Level Six accreditation. ASU is proud of its SACS Level Six accreditation, as well as the national accreditation it has earned from other agencies for many of its academic programs.

The SACS inquiry is an example of how false accusations, innuendos, and rumors can cause substantial harm to persons or institutions when information is not properly vetted, nor impartially investigated and reported.

It is unfortunate that the governor of any state would release any report that was in a preliminary draft, knowing that the data contained within it was undetermined and unknown to be correct.

ASU is proud of its many academic achievements, programs and accreditations. ASU is certain that when all the facts are revealed, it will affirm the University's rightful place as a leader and competitor among Alabama's public colleges and universities."

Copyright 2013 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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