The Higher Learning Commission will be conducting a review of Michigan State University’s accreditation following a complaint filed last month by the university’s faculty senate.
The commission, which is responsible for accrediting U.S. colleges and universities, said MSU may be out of compliance due to issues raised in a seven-page letter trustee Brianna Scott sent to the MSU Board of Trustees.
Losing accreditation would jeopardize MSU's federal funding and ability to offer financial aid.
In the letter, Scott claimed board chair Rema Vassar flew on a donor’s private jet to an MSU basketball game, appeared in an advertisement for a former trustee’s wealth management firm earlier this year and met with the mayor of Lansing to discuss university business without the interim president’s knowledge.
Those three allegations were outlined in faculty senate chair Jack Lipton’s complaint to HLC.
HLC, MSU’s accreditor, requires that a governing board must not be influenced by donors or those outside the university and must not interfere in the day-to-day business of the administration.
In its response to Lipton’s complaint, the HLC said the allegation “raises potential concerns,” and it will conduct a further review.
“Upon initial review of your complaint, HLC determined that the matter regarding Michigan State University raises potential concerns regarding the institution’s compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation,” HLC’s letter of response reads. “Due to these potential concerns, HLC will conduct a further review of the institution based on your complaint.”
HLC said it will forward the complaint to MSU for “formal review and response.” MSU will have 30 days to respond to the concerns. It did not say when the review would be completed.
HLC will then review MSU's response, and determine “what action, if any, is needed based on the evidence.” Those actions could include an “Interim Report, Focused Visit or other such evaluation.”
MSU addressed the notice from HLC this afternoon.
"The university plans to review and respond accordingly to the notice filed by the Higher Learning Commission," according to the statement. "Maintaining the university's accreditation is critical to the overarching success of the institution."
Vassar’s actions are now being investigated by the university’s Office of Audit, Risk and Compliance. That investigation would only find whether Vassar violated the board’s Code of Ethics and Conduct, not the university’s rules for accreditation.
Stacia Moroski-Rigney, MSU’s director of accreditation, curriculum and compliance said at the faculty senate meeting where they resolved to file the complaint that “HLC needs to see changes” to keep MSU within compliance.
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