Morris Brown to Begin Process of Re-Accreditation
Morris Brown College will begin the process of re-accreditation following the ruling of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) which denied its appeal for membership.
“We are clearly disappointed by the ruling,” said Sixth District African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Frank C. Cummings, chairman of the Morris Brown College Board of Trustees in a statement. “But Morris Brown will survive.” Cummings said the board will meet soon, and that the college has begun the process of communicating the SACS decision to stakeholders and supporters.
The closed-door appeal hearing before a panel of 9 college presidents was held earlier this month at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Atlanta. Former U.N. Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young made an impassioned appeal to the Review Committee on behalf of the college.
“Morris Brown offers a strong academic program, a holistic experience and opportunities for many students who are underserved by other institutions,” said Young. “Morris Brown’s admission policy considers test scores, character and individual potential. We all need Morris Brown College.”
In December 2002, SACS voted to rescind Morris Brown’s association membership, effectively ending accreditation — contingent upon the appeal — because of financial problems, its lack of compliance with federal regulations for student financial aid and a failure to maintain audits and other documents (see Black Issues, Feb. 13).
In response, Morris Brown has raised more than half of the $10 million short-term debt that it owes, has maintained current notes on the long-term debt, and has restructured the board to recruit business and corporate leaders including two bank presidents. Many internal protocols have been improved and systems of accountability are being reviewed and strengthened.
When the appeals committee met, the only issue before the board members was whether SACS officials acted unfairly or in a capricious manner in making its initial decision. New information, such as fund-raising updates and college progress reports could not be taken into consideration.
SACS rules list two situations as grounds for appeal: 1) …wherein the Commission failed to follow its procedures and this failure was significant in leading to the decision, and 2) if the Commission’s decision was arbitrary, unreasonable, and not based on, or consistent with the criteria or policies of the Commission. The appellate process further stipulates that the institution bears the burden of proof.
The Morris Brown appeals team included Bishop Cummings, Ambassador Young, President Charles Taylor; Milton Jones, president, Bank of America-Georgia; Atty. Belinda Edwards, Morris Brown General Counsel; Michael Goldstein, Special Counsel; and Charles Riepenhoff, partner, KPMG.
“This decision will have a tremendous impact on Morris Brown but the College has weathered very difficult times before,” said President Taylor. “With the help of a lot of people, we have made great progress. We will continue to improve, we will continue to raise funds, we will continue to meet the needs of our students and all standards for accreditation as we engage the process for re-accreditation.”
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