UNC's accreditation reportedly under threat following School of Civic Life and Leadership launch

The accreditation board that monitors UNC Chapel Hill allegedly began investigating the school after it announced the creation of the School of Civic Life and Leadership.

Eight members of the North Carolina congressional delegation, including Rep. Virginia Foxx, have sent the accreditation board a letter probing into their investigation.

Eight members of the North Carolina congressional delegation are standing in support of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) after its accreditation was allegedly called into question in response to the university’s creation of the School of Civic Life and Leadership (SCLL).

UNC Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees announced in February their unanimous decision to create the SCLL as a mechanism to remove the “political constraints on what can be taught in university classes” and strengthen the spirit of free inquiry.

Although some members of the faculty were “flabbergasted” by the board’s heavy involvement in academic offerings, the move has also been deemed too partisan and compared to the DeSantis Administration’s vow to end wokeism in academia.

[RELATED: University of North Carolina eliminates DEI statements for faculty, students]

The same week UNC-CH made the public announcement, the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) allegedly began investigating the creation of the SCLL, according to a report from The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

At a meeting of the Governor’s Commission on the Governance of Public Universities in North Carolina, the report claims that the president of SACSCOC, Belle Wheelan, said that UNC-CH is “going to get a letter” from the organization because they created SCLL “without input from the administration or faculty.”

“[T]hat’s kind of not the way we do business,” she added, according to the Martin Center.

The report further alleges that Wheelan commented, “We’re gonna see the committee and talk to them and help them understand it and either get them to change it, or the institution will be on warning.” 

Universities are accredited by SACSCOC every ten years with a mid-term review. UNC-CH is currently undergoing this five-year review process.  

In response to these allegations, both senators and six congressmen from North Carolina sent a letter to Wheelan on March 1 to launch an official inquiry into the situation.

[RELATED: UNC Chapel Hill passes new free speech resolution for faculty]

Among the signatories is Chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Rep. Virginia Foxx.

“As members of the North Carolina congressional delegation,” the letter reads, “we expect accreditors not to prejudge actions of governing boards, follow normal processes, be attentive to such matters of public importance, and act in accord with federal and state law. We further expect SACSCOC to keep central to its decision-making the need to ensure public university campuses remain a marketplace of ideas.”

The formal request from the congressional delegation asked several questions of SACSCOC, including whether or not a letter was sent to UNC-CH. The signatories also explained the basis of their concerns about the problem.

Campus Reform contacted SACSCOC, UNC-CH, and Foxx’s office with request for comment, and this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow Gabrielle M. Etzel on Twitter.