I was greeted by this article on Twitter this morning. I'm incredibly upset by it.
The disclaimer is necessary. I do not know the facts of Brewton-Parker's case. For me to speculate on the particulars of Brewton-Parker's appeal, and whatever merits it might have, would be unfair. My reaction is simply a reaction to the decisions that SACS/COC has made in the Brewton-Parker matter, and Brewton-Parker's own handling of those decisions, and how the wider press has covered those decisions.
My reaction is "I can't ever trust SACS again."
The extent of grace that Brewton-Parker has received, leading up to the vote to remove them from membership in June, and then in the appeal of that decision, is both unprecedented and unfair. The process allowed Brewton-Parker extended time on probation that was not extended to other institutions, and a level of consideration on appeal that was not afforded to other institutions under similar circumstances and without a violation of SACS standards concerning federal financial aid on record (and for "other institutions" please feel free to read "Virginia Intermont". I'm not even going to pretend to be a neutral here).
The tone that Brewton-Parker has taken in the aftermath of their successful appeal (which was a statement from Brewton-Parker College on SEPTEMBER 30) was one of vindication and triumphalism. The tone that SACS takes nearly a full month later - after nearly a full month of letting Brewton-Parker project this tone in public - is one of their justification in voting Brewton-Parker out of membership and correctness - but, in light of this "new information" (which has never been clarified), that the final action should be delayed until the next SACS/COC meeting in December. I don't know who to believe, and the process comes across as vacillation.
It looks like an umpire who calls a strike, then asks for video review, and when video review calls it a ball, says "okay, but before we start play again give me a bit and I might decide it's a strike again." Oh, by the way, this umpire has scoffed at video review every other time he's been suggested he look at it.
Frankly - as disgusted as I have been by Brewton-Parker's triumphant response without any evidence that they had reason to declare triumph - the process is every bit as unfair to Brewton-Parker as it is to anyone else. The more back-and-forth progresses, the more the process appears completely arbitrary.
If I'm a lawyer working for a Brewton-Parker trustee or for the Georgia Baptist Convention, I'm taking careful notes at every step, and if SACS does vote a second time to remove Brewton-Parker from membership, I immediately file suit against SACS with the worlds "arbitrary" and "capricious" splattered all over the document. SACS/COC may have been justified in every decision they've made thus far, but their failure of clarity (especially when compared with decisions made concerning...wait for it...OTHER INSTIUTIONS) makes building a case for legal action against the accreditor easy.
And that's what worries me most of all. SACS/COC is supposed to be the final word on all of the decisions of academic propriety, financial propriety and governance propriety for all colleges and universities in the Southeast. SACS' decisions have been increasingly erratic as I've moved forward in my career, and I HAVE been personally impacted by them, as have many of my loved ones. If SACS' decision-making process can't be trusted, and is potentially legally actionable, and the major regional accreditor in the Southeast turns out to be at risk...
And all of this is going on WITHOUT A SINGLE GEORGIA NEWSPAPER OR MEDIA OUTLET GIVING THE MATTER ANY SERIOUS COVERAGE WHATSOEVER. With ALL due appreciation to the former Associated Baptist Press (long live Baptist News Global) for their consistent and quality work, there's a ton of story to be covered here, and it's not getting a lick of attention. It's journalistic failure of the first order.
I'm going to be inconsolable on this for a while. Sorry.