Published: December 12, 2012
Two Colleges Put on Notice By Commission Over Inquiries
By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
An accrediting commission placed Florida A&M University on probation on Tuesday, 13 months after a marching band member died after a brutal hazing ritual.
Robert Champion, 26, a drum major in the Florida A&M band, the Marching 100, died in November 2011 after being beaten by fellow band members. His death was ruled a homicide, caused by blunt force trauma.
The death prompted an inquiry by the accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. James H. Ammons resigned as president of Florida A&M in July amid criticism about academic policies and hazing.
In a brief statement released on Tuesday, the commission said the university had not only violated an accrediting rule requiring “a healthy, safe and secure environment,” but also rules requiring integrity, qualified and competent leaders, and adequate control of its finances. The panel will issue a more detailed account of the charges this month.
A college placed on probation must correct the cited problems or risk losing its accreditation, which is generally seen as a death sentence because its students would lose eligibility for federal aid. Loss of accreditation is rare, and rarer still for a college as large and well-known as Florida A&M, a historically black state college in Tallahassee, with 13,000 students.
The University of Virginia’s governing body, the Board of Visitors, stunned nearly everyone there in June by firing the popular president, Teresa Sullivan, though it had never discussed dissatisfaction with her in its official meetings. Helen E. Dragas, the university rector, had orchestrated the move in private conversations with other board members.
Protest from faculty members, students and alumni ensued, and 16 days after dismissing her, the board reinstated Ms. Sullivan.
The accrediting panel placed Virginia “on warning” Tuesday, citing two rules it said the university had broken, though it did not elaborate.
One rule addresses conflicts of interest by the board of trustees, and mandates that “the board is not controlled by a minority of board members or by organizations or interests separate from it.” The other says the school must publish policies on the role of the faculty in running the university.
The board has acknowledged that it failed to give clear reasons for ousting Ms. Sullivan, leading to speculation about outside influence from wealthy donors or politicians.