Update 3:50 pm: Florida A&M University is no longer on accreditation probation and the lifting of the school’s sanction means it can continue to operate without much of the uncertainty that had surrounded its future.
FAMU was placed on probation last year after the hazing death of a school band member, and discovery of more than a dozen missing or incomplete audits performed by a former audit director. Monday evening the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS, lifted its probation sanction—to the relief of the school’s interim president, Larry Robinson:
“You could say it was a dark cloud, but at the same time, as I’ve stated we’ve been working to address these issues, and the university continues to do great things," he told reporters Tuesday afternoon in a conference call.
While FAMU is no longer under probation, that doesn’t mean SACS doesn’t still have concerns. Shortly after a September site visit, accreditation officials noted while progress has been made, they still had concerns whether many of the steps taken would remain in place when a new president is named. FAMU is in the midst of a national search for Robinson’s replacement. The decision to lift the probation means the university will continue to be eligible for federal financial aid--a key source of assistance for nearly all its students. Loss of accreditation has become a death sentence for other institutions, such as Morris Brown College in Atlanta.
Update: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has lifted it's probation sanction against Florida A&M University. FAMU Officials delivered the news to the school's board of trustees during a conference call Tuesday.
“We are extremely pleased with the decision by SACSCOC to remove the probation sanction, which signifies that Florida A&M University is in compliance with the standards of the regional accrediting body,” said FAMU Interim President Larry Robinson in a statement sent out by the university.
“As a member institution of SACSCOC, we fully appreciate the peer review process and we are committed to continuing the work needed to maintain the high standards of the commission.”
The move means FAMU will continue to be eligible for federal financial aid-- a source critical to many of its students who qualify for the tuition assistance.
Florida A&M University officials are in Atlanta today, waiting on the group that accredits the university to decide whether to lift the school's probation status.
FAMU was placed on accreditation probation last year following more than a dozen missing or incomplete audits and the hazing death of one of the school band's drum majors. SACS officials cited a "lack of institutional integrity" and school safety as the driving factors to put FAMU on probation.
The December 2012 decision marked the second time in a decade the university has been in trouble with its accreditation council.
The first probation status came back in 2007 following a series of unsatisfactory state audits, problems paying university employees on time, and a lack of a response to SACS inquiries by the then-president Castell Bryant.
The probation status was later lifted after James Ammons was named president in 2008. However, Ammons resigned in June 2012 following the hazing death of 'Marching 100' band drum major Robert Champion, and allegations he knew of hazing in the band but failed to stop it. The university was already dealing with more than a dozen missing or incomplete audits that had been done under the school's former audit director, Charles O'Dour.
FAMU officials, now under the direction of interim school President Larry Robinson, say they've addressed both the audit issues, and hazing on the school's campus.
FAMU has a new audit director and has cracked down on hazing in school clubs by hiring a hazing czar and instituting a policy where students can report hazing anonymously.
Check back later on for more updates to this story. Follow Lynn Hatter on twitter @HatterLynn