Penn State receives accreditation warning

By Rachel White

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education issued Penn State President Rodney Erickson an accreditation warning on Aug. 8, according to a press release issued by the university.

According to the release, the warning came as a result of the findings of former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s investigative report and the binding consent decree between the university and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Accreditation is the act of granting credit or recognition, especially regarding an educational institution that maintains suitable standards. The Middle States Commission is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, according to the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs website.

The Commission’s warning states there is “insufficient evidence that the institution is currently in compliance with the Requirements of Affiliation 5 (compliance with all applicable government policies, regulations and requirements) and 9 (institution’s governing body responsibility for the quality and integrity of the institution, for ensuring that the institution’s mission is being carried out and for making freely available to the commission accurate, fair and complete information on all aspects of the institution and its operations) and with Standard 4 (Leadership and Governance) and Standard 6 (Integrity).”

“We must be clear about what this warning means so there are no misunderstandings,” said Blannie Bowen, vice provost for academic affairs, who also is the University’s accrediting liaison officer, according to the release. “This action has nothing to do with the quality of education our students receive. Middle States is focusing on governance, integrity and financial issues related to information in the Freeh report and other items related to our current situation.”

The Commission has required Penn State to submit a monitoring report no later than September 30, and Erickson said he is “confident” Penn State will meet that deadline.

“We are a University that is fully committed to its core values of honesty, integrity and community. We are a University that will rebuild the trust and confidence that so many people have had in us for so many years,” Erickson said, according to the release.

According to its website, the Commission is an association “that defines, maintains and promotes educational excellence across institutions with diverse missions, student populations and resources. It examines each institution as a whole, rather than specific programs within institutions.”

The Commission has been a voluntary, non-governmental membership association since 1919.

Erickson has said that Penn State is already working toward implementing the 119 recommendations that the Freeh investigators outlined for Penn State.The Penn State Board of Trustees hired Freeh’s group of investigators in November to look into how some university officials handled reports that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was abusing boys.

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