SACS to Come in April for ‘Special Visit’

A regional accrediting body is returning to Florida A&M next month to review financial aid, student records and general procedures.

A special team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools will conduct the “special visit” from April 12 to 15 according to Maurice Edington, director of the FAMU Quality Enhancement Program and SACS accreditation liaison.

The visit, which is supposed to happen every decade, comes after a graduate student in the School of Allied Health and Sciences issued a complaint to SACS about grade changes.The student wrote a letter to the accreditation body after she encountered issues with the school concerning grade changes that she felt were not processed in a timely manner.

After the university responded and addressed the student’s complaint, SACS identified certain concerns regarding three areas of the university: financial aid, student records and general procedures. SACS immediately notified the university of its concerns and announced the special committee’s visit to review those internal areas in December, Edington said.

The team will be evaluating whether the three areas are in compliance with expectations and guidelines. Policies and procedures must comply with SACS’s regulations for the university to remain accredited.Edington said although the visit will concern the university as a whole, the team will take a particular interest in the School of Allied Health.

“I’ve been helping to coordinate our efforts to look at each program to make sure they’re changing grades in a timely manner,” Edington said.

This is now causing a concern for students who are awaiting grade changes.

“It puts students at the edge of their seats when they really need the I (incomplete) not only for medical reasons or if they have family issues that they’re going through,” said Brittany Jalori McKay, a fourth-year health care management student from Tallahassee.

McKay said she has an incomplete for one of her classes and will need a grade change. However, getting a grade change does not look promising for the senior as a result of the recent changes in university policy, which prohibits professors from granting the “I” to failing students or those who withdraw from the university.

Grades can only be changed when the original grade was recorded in error, when removing an “I” or a student appeal.

The School of Allied Health will now be headed by former provost Cynthia Hughes Harris, who instituted an internal review of all grade-change procedures and policies in December.

According to Edington, the university’s accreditation is not in jeopardy.

“FAMU is in compliance with SACS, we’re in perfect standing and we’ve addressed all of the issues that they’ve asked us to address,” he said.When SACS announced the special visit, a committee was immediately established to address the issues and it has been working diligently, Harris said.

“We have a very complex committee ensuring that we’re able to respond to SACS concerns,” she added.Harris dismissed claims that the decision to reassign her as dean of Allied Health, a position she held until she was promoted to provost in 2008, is related to the accrediting team’s visit