Sanctions might be lifted at UWA

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 9, 2004

LIVINGSTON – After a year on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) for governance issues, the University of West Alabama is up for review, and officials say they are confident the probation will be lifted.

“The probation will be lifted,” President Richard Holland said. “We’ve already done the necessary work to address the issues in that report that put us on probation.”

Three years ago the accrediting institution began an investigation of UWA that resulted in 14 questions UWA administrators were asked to address, two of which were specifically related to the board.

In the SACS report, which issued a 12-month probation, the board of trustees was accused of micromanaging the university and of not acting in concert. The board had in recent years split between two factions, one led by Preston “Mann” Minus and the other by Tom Umphrey.

UWA Provost David Taylor said with a little help from Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and a lot of help from new board of trustee members, including John Northcutt of Demopolis, the board has come a long way and is ready to face the SACS team.

“This is a special visit by a special team that has one goal in mind and one goal only – to review our governance issues,” he said. “Our probation had to do with our board of trustees, none of the SACS issues that put us on probation had to do with academics.”

He said one of the first steps toward correcting the problems identified by SACS was taken when Riley appointed three new board members Feb. 17 to fill vacant seats.

“One of those members was a Demopolite, John Northcutt. He’s been an extremely productive member of our board,” Taylor said. Other new board members were Thomas Ballow Jr. and Margaret Lovett.

The next step, again initiated by Gov. Riley, was in the form of a board meeting that the governor chaired, putting in place during that session a nominating committee to nominate officers for the board.

“Those officers were elected in June,” Taylor said. The new measures were just the beginning, as the board began to adjust its roles and the roles of its committees.

“The board began operating as one entity and began following the role of a policy-maker rather than implementing policy, which should be the administration’s job,” Taylor said. “That’s the way it should be and it hasn’t been for many, many years.”

Committee meetings were another problem, as committees had met seldom or not at all over recent years.

“Committees are meeting regularly now,” Taylor said.

Holland said the school and the board have worked hard to have the blemish removed, and he said the school will overcome this setback.

“The school is still fully accredited. We’ve been here 170 years, and this is a hurdle we will cross,” he said. “But it will be easier to go to work without this shadow over us.”