The University of Maryland’s accreditation is being reviewed following the death of a student athlete and media reports of problems within the state flagship school’s football program.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education asked for more information in August after reading reports in the media about problems at the school’s athletic program, according to Brian Kirschner, a spokesman for the agency. The request is focused on two of the commission’s required standards, ethics and integrity, and the student experience, he said.
Accreditation is critical to universities, because it is the quality assurance that the Education Department requires for a school to be eligible for federal student financial aid funding.
The school, and the state university system, descended into turmoil in recent days. On Thursday afternoon, the chairman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents resigned after a controversial response to problems in the athletics department. On Tuesday, the board announced that the football coach and the athletic director would remain at U-Md., and the school’s president, Wallace D. Loh, announced he would retire, a decision that upset many campus and political leaders.
On Wednesday, Loh defied the regents by parting ways with football coach DJ Durkin.
On Thursday, the provost and deans at U-Md. wrote a public letter that included concern that the regents' actions could endanger the school’s reputation with its accrediting bodies. “We, the academic leaders of the University of Maryland, write to express our dismay and deep concern for the events and the process that has led to the forced retirement of President Wallace D. Loh,” they wrote.
“We have been extremely alarmed for weeks by the interference of the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents into University governance matters. It is the President who is responsible for personnel matters at the University, and it is within the President’s discretion and authority to decide whether to retain athletics staff. Through its intervention, the Board of Regents usurped the President’s authority and intervened in the ability of the President to carry out his full duties and responsibilities.” Neither the bylaws of the board, they wrote, nor state law give authority for such actions.
One of the Middle States standards evaluates governance of a school and requires it to have autonomy. The recent actions of the board, the deans wrote, could jeopardize that autonomy. The accreditation review was first reported by the Baltimore Sun.
U-Md. received a request from the commission in August and responded on Sept. 5, according to a university official.