Norfolk State University was placed on probation by its accreditation agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), this afternoon at its annual meeting in Tennessee. This is a decline in status for the troubled University. It was placed on warning last December.
One year ago, Tony Atwater, the president of NSU, was abruptly fired after a meeting of the Board of Visitors following a summer of bad press for the University. He was dismissed a few days into the fall semester with a 7-4 vote on what he called “subjective reasoning.” The beleaguered school’s problems began after it failed to complete financial aid audits for two years in a row. The SACS penned a letter in July of 2013 discussing extensive problems with NSU’s finances, administration, and the management of the University. Among other serious problems, a significant number of the University’s two year nursing students were unable to pass national certification exams. The Virginia Board of Nursing actually banned the University from adding students to the associate nursing program because of the poor scores. Atwater took over for another dean who had been pushed out, and was followed by Eddie Moore Jr. who replaced the interim president Sandra DeLoatch.
Moore protests the decision to downgrade Norfolk State University’s standing from warning to probation. He doesn’t feel that the new status accurately reflects the year long efforts of the University under his guidance to turn itself around. Atwood had protested his termination, claiming that he inherited a great number of the University’s problems, and it seems that Moore may be feeling some of the same pressure and injustice. Belle Wheelan, president of SACS’s Commission on Colleges gave only a vague explanation as to why Norfolk State University’s status was taken down a notch.
“The concerns have escalated. More concerns have been raised.”
The SACS accredits not only the Norfolk State University, but over 13,000 public and private education institutions, all the way from preschool to colleges in eleven southern states. After Atwater’s termination, a SACS team spent several days on the campus evaluating the situation. They gave Norfolk State University a year to correct the problems they found and submit a report detailing the corrections made by the University. The SACS was clearly unimpressed with the results that that Norfolk State turned in. The next level of punishment within the board’s power is to pull the overall accreditation from the University. President Moore is eager to make the changes.
“I am confident that we will work this out in the time that’s given, but it’s going to take radical changes. And hopefully, everyone on campus is willing to cooperate at this point.”