Monday, June 30, 2008

Preserving the Legacy: The Southern Association for Colleges and Schools Removes Florida A&M University from Probation

There were shouts of joy and the hisses from more than 300 Rattlers, board of trustees members, administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni, legislators, friends of the university, and the community as Florida A&M University’s Tenth President James H. Ammons announced that the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools (SACS) voted to continue FAMU’s accreditation and remove the university from probation. SACS has requested no further reports.

“We are very proud of and excited for FAMU for all of their hard work to come into compliance with the commission’s standards; and therefore, get off of probation,” said SACS President Belle S. Wheelan.

During its 112th SACS Summer Meeting, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (COC) announced its decision to remove FAMU from probation.

“This is a great day for FAMU and the state of Florida,” said Ammons. “We have been able to solve and address the critical issues that threatened the very existence of this university. Through our success, we have preserved this institution’s legacy for generations to come. Our intent was to restore the public’s trust in the university’s ability to handle its finances and I believe this entire process has sent a strong and clear message to the state and our stakeholders that FAMU is in good hands.”

Shortly before Ammons began his first workday, he learned that the SACS-COC had placed the university on probation for six months. Ammons quickly pulled his leadership team together to develop an action plan to address not only the SACS issues of non-compliance, but also the 35 findings in the 2005-2006 operational audit and the 13 findings in the 2005-2006 financial audit. For two years, FAMU had received qualified audits by state officials. During the first months of his administration, Ammons spent most of his time managing the implementation of the corrective action plan and trouble shooting university issues and concerns.

“Today is a remarkable day in the life of the University,” said Bill Jennings, chair of FAMU’s Board of Trustees. “It completes a great first year for President Ammons and his remarkable leadership team.”

Maurice Holder, president of FAMU’s faculty senate, applauded the faculty and administration for their efforts.

“The faculty has not lost sight of its responsibility to protect and advance the academic environment here at FAMU,” said Holder. “This is on the top of our commitments.”

In October 2007, SACS made its first site visit to review the status of the university’s financial affairs. At that time, the university had implemented the corrective action plan and prepared for a visit by the state auditor’s office in November. The weekend before the SACS Commission on Colleges (COC) was scheduled to make its recommendation, the final audit report was completed; however, there was not enough time for it to be considered by SACS. On December 11, 2007, the SACS-COC voted to continue to accredit Florida A&M University, but extended the university’s probation for six months.

The second SAC-COC monitoring report, which outlined FAMU’s progress in implementing the action plan, was submitted March 15, 2008. The SACS-COC sent a team to visit the campus to verify the work March 25-27, 2008.

In addition, the Board of Governor’s Task Force on FAMU Finances was established to provide oversight regarding the implementation of the corrective action plan. The task force hired Accretive Solutions, Inc. to validate and verify the work outlined in FAMU’s corrective action plan. The corrective action plan was designed to address the audit findings in the operational and financial audits as well as the SACS concerns.

In a meeting on Wednesday, June 25, 2008, the task force concluded that FAMU has implemented adequate and effective controls. The task force found that 72 corrective actions put into place by FAMU satisfactorily addressed 92 percent of the findings noted by the task force earlier. The task force found that FAMU had processes in place to address the remaining eight percent of the findings.

“After completing this process, FAMU is in a stronger financial position and has restored its fiscal integrity,” said Ammons. “Campus morale is high, sound financial planning and accounting practices are in effect, and policies and procedures governing finances are operating effectively. Additionally, qualified leadership is in place among the administration and the Board of Trustees.”

“We are thankful for this day and the leadership that President Ammons and his administrative team have provided,” said Alvin Bryant, president of FAMU’s National Alumni Association. “We also are thankful for the leadership Trustee Bill Jennings has provided as chair of our board of trustees through these turbulent times. Working collectively, the board and President Ammons have removed the last obstacle from FAMU's most recent darkest days. The National Alumni Association is grateful for their excellent leadership and competence.”

About the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is the recognized regional accrediting body in the eleven U.S. Southern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia) and in Latin America for those institutions of higher education that award associate, baccalaureate, master's or doctoral degrees. The Commission on Colleges is the representative body of the College Delegate Assembly and is charged with carrying out the accreditation process.

Photo caption: President James H. Ammons (at the podium); board of trustees members; members of the leadership team; student government association; and alumni give the “Rattler” strike in celebration of the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools (SACS) voting to continue FAMU’s accreditation and remove the university from probation.

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