University of Louisville, SACS deny statement by Bevin's lawyer - WDRB 41 Louisville News

University of Louisville, SACS deny statement by Bevin's lawyer about accrediting issues

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The University of Louisville's Belknap campus The University of Louisville's Belknap campus

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  The University of Louisville’s accrediting group will soon provide assurance that Gov. Matt Bevin’s recent abolition of the university’s Board of Trustees poses no risk for the university’s accreditation, Bevin's top lawyer told a judge on Wednesday.

But the statement by Steve Pitt, Bevin’s general counsel, was immediately denied by the accrediting group -- the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – and by the university’s accrediting liaison.

“Our information from the University of Louisville, as of yesterday, is that a letter is on its way from the Southern accreditation group stating that there is no accreditation in jeopardy,” Pitt said at a hearing in Frankfort Wednesday, according to court video obtained by WDRB. “So we anticipate having information to that effect within a day or two.”

But Assistant Provost Connie Shumake, U of L’s point-person on accrediting issues, said SACS has provided no such assurance.

Shumake said U of L recently received a letter from SACS requesting more information about Bevin’s changes and their effect on the university’s compliance with SACS standards.

She said the letter was merely a “request for information” in which SACS communicated no judgments on the issue.

Pamela Cravey, a spokeswoman for SACS’ Commission on Colleges, said SACS officials have no record of providing any assurances about the university’s accreditation – assurances that could come only from SACS’ board and not from its staff members.

“There is no way we could have said that because that would be a board decision,” Cravey said.

Last month, Bevin abolished the 20-member Board of Trustees and created a 13-member board in its place. Bevin then appointed 10 new members to the re-worked board, who will join U of L’s faculty, staff and student trustees.

Attorney General Andy Beshear has cited the potential effect on the university’s accreditation as a reason a judge should grant his request for a temporary injunction blocking Bevin’s changes.

SACS requires that universities have independent boards whose members can be removed only for cause by a fair process.

RELATED: Bevin's dismissal of trustees may affect University of Louisville's accreditation

In an email, Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper did not address the discrepancy between Pitt’s comments to the court and the information from U of L and SACS.

“We are confident that U of L’s accreditation is not at risk,” Stamper said. “The only reason this is even an issue is because of the Attorney General’s politically-motivated lawsuit.”

Stamper cited an opinion last year from the office of Beshear’s predecessor, Jack Conway, which suggested that then-Gov. Steve Beshear could use the same authority Bevin has cited to reorganize the U of L board.

“The September 2015 Attorney General’s advisory opinion recognizing the Governor’s power to reorganize the U of L board did not even raise the accreditation issue,” Stamper said. “The Attorney General should read his own legal opinions more closely.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, Frankfort Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd set deadlines over the next three weeks for Bevin and Beshear’s offices to file legal briefs, with the next court hearing likely July 20-22, according to Beshear’s spokesman Terry Sebastian.

Shepherd has not yet ruled on the temporary injunction, while the newly appointed U of L board has not set its first meeting date. 

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