RCCC remains on probation

Published 5:37 pm Friday, December 20, 2019

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AHOSKIE – Six months after being placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges Accreditation (SACSCOC) Board of Trustees, that level of disciplinary action remains for Roanoke-Chowan Community College (RCCC).

However, two of the five sanctions lodged against RCCC in June were removed during the SACSCOC Board meeting held Dec. 8.

SACSCOC continued RCCC’s probation for another six months for failure to comply with Standard 4.2.b (Board/administrative distinction), Standard 5.2.a (CEO control), and Standard 5.5 (Personnel appointment and evaluation) of the Principles of Accreditation.

These standards expect that (4.2 b) the institution’s governing board ensures a clear and appropriate distinction between the policy-making function of the board and the responsibility of the administration and faculty to administer and implement policy; (5.2 a) the institution’s chief executive officer has ultimate responsibility for, and exercises appropriate control over the institution’s educational, administrative, and fiscal programs and services; and (5.5) the institution publishes and implements policies regarding the appointment, employment, and regular evaluation of nonfaculty personnel.

Two sanctions against RCCC were removed from the June report – Core Requirement 1.1 (Integrity), and Standard 4.2 g (Board self-evaluation).

The SACSCOC Trustees also authorized a special committee to visit RCCC. That reverses a decision they made at their June meeting.

In its Disclosure Statement, the SACSCOC says that short of loss of membership, being placed on probation is its most serious sanction. Interim RCCC President Dr. Audre Levy said she is working to tackle that issue head on as well as dispelling any rumors that the college is either on the verge of closing or in the process of merging with another community college in the local region.

“The conversation surrounds providing them (SACSCOC) with documentation that we are addressing those sanctions,” Dr. Levy stated in a telephone interview this week. “The items they need, in my mind, have been completed, but we may not have provided or kept ongoing documentation they need. That’s something we’re working on now to provide.”

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. When the SACSCOC Trustees meet in June 2020, RCCC will have been on probation for one year and on monitoring for two years.

“That’s not a concern at this time for us,” Dr. Levy noted. “Again, the issue here is the documentation. That’s a concern if we were not providing that. We are fulfilling our requirements, but I feel we have not done the best with our documentation to provide to them that, yes, we have done what we need to do.”

Levy stressed that SACSCOC wants to see some sort of progress.

“For instance, if you say that the president has complete control of the college, there are some things – a newsletter, a memo – to demonstrate that the president does have control,” she stated. “Under my leadership, we have done much more with documentation, keeping the campus involved and informed. When the time arrived for the (SACSCOC) report to be due was before I arrived here. That report was written before I got here.”

Dr. Levy arrived at RCCC in August, but it wasn’t until Sept. 4 that she completely took the reigns of the college. When asked if the SACSCOC sanctions had resulted in a loss of student enrollment or a decline in campus morale, Dr. Levy stated, “I haven’t seen that. There are people who have asked questions from time to time, but we have always shared with them where we are in this process and what will happen.

“Enrollment is about the same as it was; this issue has not impacted our enrollment,” she continued. “We remain an educational opportunity for the communities we serve. Our goal is to keep it that way.”

Dr. Levy noted that accreditation for any college or university should always be ongoing, not just during the few months leading up to that process.

“A college needs to always be measuring itself against the standards set forth for it to follow,” she said. “And we need to have ongoing documentation to prove that we are in compliance and are meeting those standards. There are times when a (review) team will note certain things they don’t see and want the college to focus on. They want to make sure that if you aren’t doing something that you do, and if you are doing it then you need to have it documented.”

As far as the pending visit from the SACSCOC special committee, Dr. Levy said she expects them to arrive sometimes in the spring of 2020.

“There’s no alarm button to press here (with their visit),” she stressed. “The team comes to look to see if we have evidence of what we said we are doing. Sometimes that’s paper evidence, but they will also ask people what’s going on at the college.”

Dr. Levy closed by saying she isn’t aware of any plans to close RCCC or merge it with another community college in the northeast region of the state.

“If that were to occur, it’s a very long process, several years,” she said. “I feel this college is not in that type of situation. Of course that’s not for me to decide, but none of that has been discussed with me. The state system has been very proactive that RCCC will remain a viable institution.”

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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