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Accreditation Agency Raises New Concerns about University of Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A recent letter from an accreditation agency that placed the University of Louisville on probation last year has raised new questions about the university and its separate fundraising arm.

Some of the questions relate to policies for compensation for school administrators and whether the relationship between the university and the UofL Foundation is clearly spell out, The Courier-Journal  reported.

Another question is whether UofL is “exercising appropriate control” over financial resources of millions of dollars involving the foundation.

The questions were included in a Jan. 27 letter to UofL from the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The commission’s president, Belle Wheelan, said in the letter that it could expand its investigation into UofL if the commission decides the questions could affect the university’s compliance with accreditation standards.

Wheelan has asked the university to prepare a report on the extent of its compliance with the issues cited in her letter.

The new questions follow months of turmoil at UofL that included the departure of former UofL President James Ramsey, a complete shakeup of the school’s board and a reorganization of the foundation board.

The new issues raised by the commission are based largely on the findings of an audit of the foundation released in December by state Auditor Mike Harmon, who identified multiple problems, including payments to Ramsey and a top aide and a lack of transparency at the foundation.

In a letter to UofL students, faculty and staff, interim UofL President Greg Postel said UofL provided the commission with a copy of the audit and is “committed to addressing issues that have arisen in recent months.”

Harmon said Friday he was pleased UofL officials chose to provide his audit to the commission for its review.

“I applaud the leadership at the University of Louisville for providing our governance examination of the UofL foundation to their accreditation agency as they work to bring trust and transparency back to the university and the foundation,” Harmon said.

UofL spokesman John Karman said the university had no further comment outside Postel’s brief letter.

UofL’s new board of trustees chairman, J. David Grissom – who has been highly critical of the foundation’s “poor governance” and management of the university’s endowment of about $700 million – also declined to comment.

Diane Medley, the foundation board’s new chairwoman, said she believes UofL is on track to resolve any concerns of the commission, also known as SACS.

“The SACS letter does not raise new issues,” she said in a statement. “The foundation plans to file its response to the state auditor’s report in the very near future, and I am confident we are on the right path to fulfilling our mission to support the University of Louisville.”

Officials with the accrediting commission had no immediate comment, a spokeswoman said Friday.

UofL wound up on accreditation probation in December following Gov. Matt Bevin’s attempt to abolish the university board he had called dysfunctional and appoint a new one, an effort struck down in Franklin Circuit Court. The commission deemed Bevin’s action to be improper external influence on the university’s independence.

In January, the legislature enacted a law abolishing the UofL board and allowing Bevin to appoint a new one, subject to confirmation by the state Senate. UofL officials said they expected that might allow the university to be removed from accreditation probation.

But the probation remains in effect pending further review by the commission and it may add the audit findings to that review, Wheelan’s letter said.

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