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RCCC placed on probation

AHOSKIE – Roanoke-Chowan Community College faces a higher level of disciplinary action from the agency that oversees accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in 11 Southern states.

Last month, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Board of Trustees voted to place RCCC on probation. In its Disclosure Statement, the SACSCOC says that short of loss of membership, being placed on probation is its most serious sanction.

The probation sanction covers a period of six months and is based on the SACSCOC’s findings that RCCC failed to comply with Core Requirement 1.1 (Integrity), and Standards 4.2 b (Governing Board), 4.2 g (Board self-evaluation), 5.2 a (CEO control), and 5.5 (Personal appointment and evaluation) of the Principals of Accreditation.

In its ruling, the SACSCOC Trustees did not authorize a special committee to visit RCCC.

Their Disclosure Statement further explained that probation can be imposed on an institution for failure to correct deficiencies of significant non-compliance with the Core Requirements and Comprehensive Standards of the Principles of Accreditation of the Commission; failure to make timely and significant progress toward correcting the deficiencies; or failure to comply with Commission policies and procedures.

The maximum consecutive time that an institution may be on probation is two years. Additionally, the maximum consecutive time an institution may be on monitoring is two years.

By the time the SACSCOC Trustees meet again in December of this year, RCCC will have been on probation for six months and on warning for the previous 12 months. Consequently, the institution will have been on monitoring for 18 months.

The move to probation status comes on the heels of the SACSCOC Trustees placing RCCC on warning status in December of last year. At that time, SACSCOC stated RCCC was in non-compliance of the following four areas of its Principles of Accreditation:

Failing to demonstrate compliance with Core Requirement 4.1 (Governing board characteristics), which states the institution has a governing board of at least five members that: (a) is the legal body with specific authority over the institution; (b) exercises fiduciary oversight of the institution; (c) ensures that both the presiding officer of the board and a majority of other voting members of the board are free of any contractual, employment, personal, or familial financial interest in the institution; (d) is not controlled by a minority of board members or by organizations or institutions separate from it; and (e) is not presided over by the chief executive officer of the institution.

Standard 4.2.b (Board/administrative distinction): The governing board ensures a clear and appropriate distinction between the policymaking function of the board and the responsibility of the administration and faculty to administer and implement policy.

Standard 5.2.a (CEO control): The chief executive officer has ultimate responsibility for the institution’s educational, administrative, and fiscal programs and services.

Standard 5.5 (Personnel appointment and evaluation): The institution publishes and implements policies regarding the appointment, employment, and regular evaluation of non-faculty personnel.

RCCC President Dr. Stanley Elliott, responding to questions posed by this newspaper, said he’s not sure what led to the question of integrity in the June report.

“The standard of integrity was not a standard we were asked to address in December 2018. The institution (RCCC) is still awaiting additional documentation (from SACSCOC) to give additional details on the status of the report,” Elliott said.

When asked what transpired at RCCC between January and June to cause the SACSCOC to level a more serious sanction, Elliott responded, “the Board of Trustees, President, RCCC SACSCOC Liaison and select consultants met several times to revise policies/practices and evaluate the institution to ensure that all standards would be met. The process of ensuring that these standards are met is not prescriptive, the process is one of continuous evaluation and improvement.”

Elliott again stressed the need for the SACSCOC to forward all documentation in order for the college to move forward to resolve the issues at-hand.

“Once all documentation from SACSCOC has been received, the institution should be better positioned to address all alleged areas of non-compliance,” he stated. “Prior to receiving the additional documentation from SACSCOC, the Board of Trustees, President, staff from the NC Community College Systems Office, and SACSCOC Team at RCCC have begun the process of reviewing and planning for the next report that is due (to the SACSCOC) in September 2019.”

While Elliott remains confident that the pending arrival of the documentation should provide further details and clarity that will assist in the planning and execution for the new report, he’s unsure of the exact date of its arrival from the SACSCOC.

“I do expect to have the documentation before the end of July,” he said. “Once I have received all the information, I will be able to assess the timeframe (to meeting the follow-up report’s deadline in September) and needed action items.”

In the meantime, Elliott wanted to make it clear that the SACSCOC has removed RCCC from monitoring status for the standards of Program Faculty, Program Coordination and Physical Resources.

“It should be noted that the quality of programing, finances, faculty and facilities at R-CCC is not on a status of monitoring. RCCC has resolved the previous concerns of the SACSCOC as it relates to the aforementioned. The process of fulfilling SACSCOC Standards is an on-going and continuous process of self-evaluation and improvement,” Elliott noted.

As for what lies ahead, the SACSCOC Board of Trustees, at its December meeting, will consider RCCC’s accreditation status following review of a monitoring report submitted by the institution addressing the standards cited for non-compliance. At that time, SACSCOC’s board will have the following options: (1) remove the institution from probation without an additional report; (2) continue probation, request a monitoring report and authorize a special committee visit; or (3) remove the institution from membership for failure to comply with the standards.

Commission staff will not speculate on what decision might be made by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees in December 2019.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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