University of Maryland, College Park No Longer Under Warning for Lack of Transparency

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The University of Maryland, College Park’s accreditation was reaffirmed last week — a recognition required for students to receive federal financial aid.

The school had been placed on warning last year by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, months after the death of College Park football player Jordan McNair.

When the commission visited College Park for a review March 2019, they concluded that the University System of Maryland Board of Regents lacked transparency and leadership.

But after “a thorough review and in following the Commission’s multi-tiered peer evaluation process, Arcadia University, Daniel Morgan Graduate School of National Security, Rowan College at Burlington County, and University of Maryland, College Park, are now in compliance with the Commission’s standards of accreditation and requirements of affiliation,” James Sunser, chair of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, said in a statement.

Colleges and universities must be accredited by a recognized commission for students to receive federal financial aid. The commission sets uniform standards for quality at college campuses and reviews adherence to those standards on an eight-year cycle.

“All four institutions have now had their accreditation reaffirmed and will submit monitoring reports, as required by policy, to demonstrate continued compliance.”

McNair died in May 2018 after suffering heat stroke during an outdoor practice. College Park President Wallace D. Loh initiated investigations on what happened that day, as well as into the football team’s culture.

But Board of Regents Chairman James T. Brady announced the board’s recommendation to keep then-head football coach D.J. Durkin, which caused Loh to announce his retirement in protest.

In a turn of events, Loh fired Durkin the next day.

Brady announced that he would resign and was replaced, six days later, by Linda R. Gooden, who has served on several college executive boards, including at the University of Maryland, College Park.

In its review, the accrediting commission found that, between the board members and university administrators, there were significant differences about whether the board had authority to decide on university personnel matters.

The commission reported that university administrators expressed concerns that Brady had political motivations for recommending that Durkin stay.

The commission concluded that the university was out of compliance with Standard VII, which states that the university “operates as an academic institution with appropriate autonomy.”

So the commission put the university on warning that they could lose accreditation and required the university to submit a report by March 1, 2020, outlining a transparent governance structure that included accountability measures for decision making. The commission also required a periodic assessment of the effectiveness of university governance.

The commission approved College Park’s monitoring report last month, stating that the institution is now in compliance with Standard VII. The university hosted a virtual site visit for the commission due to limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The university must submit a monitoring report that demonstrates continued compliance with corrective measures and evidence of a transparent governance structure by March 1, 2021. The next evaluation visit is scheduled for 2025-2026.