St. Augustine’s College Faces Sanction by Accreditation Board
By Eleanor Lee Yates
St. Augustine’s College has been issued a 12-month warning from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. SACS denied St. Augustine’s 10-year accreditation renewal, instead renewing accreditation for only one year.
The historically Black college in Raleigh, N.C., was cited for failure to comply with standardized planning and evaluation in academics and administration, as well as education support areas such as the library, career center, student services, finance offices, provost offices and food service. The college also was cited for not providing transcripts and other credentials for some faculty members. And according to the SACS report presented in December, St. Augustine’s did not provide sufficient evidence of its financial stability.
A warning is the lesser of the SACS sanctions. Probation is more serious. A SACS committee will make a follow-up visit to St. Augustine’s this fall, and its status will be re-evaluated in December.
Tom Benberg, SACS executive director for the commission on colleges, says colleges can determine much of their future after a sanction.
“Some just float along and are still in trouble. Some make this their top priority and put their focus, energies and resources toward the solutions,” he says. If all goes well, St. Augustine’s could come off its warning status and be reaffirmed its 10-year accreditation after the re-evaluation.
That is exactly what St. Augustine President Dr. Dianne Boardley Suber plans. Suber, who arrived at the college two years ago, says the primary problem at the 135-year-old school was inconsistent record keeping.
“The SACS team didn’t see 10 years of documentation,” she says. She says she feels St. Augustine’s is financially solvent but admits financial record keeping has been a problem. She says administrators became aware that documentation was missing during a self-study in preparation of reaccredidation. The college is working with a consultant from SACS.
“These issues are fixable,” Suber says. A progress report from the college is due in August.
Suber, who was appointed to President Bush’s Advisory Board on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, defends what critics cite as a drop in student enrollment. It is now around 1,400, down several hundred (see story, pg. 8). But Suber says enrollment is stable now, not falling.
“Our retention rate has increased. We’re looking at both increasing and retaining. The completion process is very important for our students,” she says.
Suber is hoping the re-introduction of a football program at St. Augustine’s will raise its visibility and energize the campus. Though a costly venture, she cites success stories, such as the program at Stillman College in Alabama (see Black Issues, Aug. 2, 2001).
Suber has brought on nine new trustees since her arrival. While she enjoys strong backing, not everyone is a staunch supporter. Logan Delany recently resigned his post as chairman of St. Augustine’s Board of Trustees, citing philosophical differences with Suber. Delany, who is president of Delany Capital Management in New York City, will remain on the board until his term ends next year.
“Dr. Suber has done a lot of things well. And I’m willing to concede that I may be looking at the glass as half empty. I think she has some great ideas, but is lacking in execution,” says Delany, who had been chairman since 1999. “To see the glass half full, they need a chairman who agrees with her vision and supports her leadership for the school. If I believed in what she was doing, I would stick in there. But under the circumstances I don’t have the faith this requires.”
However, Delany believes St. Augustine’s can get back on track.
“I think (Suber) can do that, but I think a lot of things have to break in her favor. I was a big fan of Dianne’s when she came in. She had a lot of great ideas. I’m hopeful that she will have a chairman who will work with her to do what needs to be done,” he says.
Delany is concerned about changes made by Suber so far, including abolishment of the faculty senate and some high-profile administrative changes, including the provost.
Delany has strong ties with St. Augustine’s. His great-grandfather, Henry Beard Delany, was a teacher and professor who went on to become the Episcopal Church’s first elected Black bishop. His great-aunts, Sarah Louise Delany and Annie Elizabeth Delany, who grew up on the college’s campus, gained fame with their book, Having Our Say.
Melvin Miller, a 1952 alumnus, is the new trustee chairman. He served as chairman in the 1970s and was interim president of the college in 1999 before Suber’s arrival. Like Suber, Miller admits that documentation “was not very good” and could in part be attributed to high turnover in presidents and top staff in the 1990s.
“Since she’s been there, she has tried to clean things up. Between last August and December, a whole lot has been done to correct the situation. I think Dr. Suber has done an amazing job. I think we’re on track,” says Miller, an attorney and administrator with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“I’m very confident. There’s no question of any loss of accreditation.”
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