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Louisiana College probation ends; president predicts growth

PINEVILLE, La. (BP)–Louisiana College will remain fully accredited, according to a decision announced during the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Dec. 6 meeting in Atlanta.

The Baptist college was placed on probation in December 2004 after a visiting SACS team cited concerns over academic freedom and governance at the school.

The college since has worked to address the concerns and has involved administrators, faculty and trustees in the process.

If SACS had not removed the college from probation at the meeting, it either would have faced another year of probation or had its accreditation removed.

Tim Johnson, chairman of the college’s trustees, said, “With God’s help and by His grace, Louisiana College has found favor with the SACS review team and now the 13-member review panel.”

In seeking to achieve compliance with SACS requirements, Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard said, “We deliberated over it, we worked toward it, we talked about, we struggled with policies over it, we prayed about it, and now SACS has removed our probation status and found us in compliance.

“Not only has SACS lifted the probation after a mere 11 months,” Aguillard said, “but they have endorsed the actions of the trustees, the integrity of our consultants and the policies and procedures that we have developed in the area of academic freedom.

“In short, the visiting committee recommended compliance to [SACS’] Commission on Colleges, and they have endorsed everything that we have done since last January and now fully expect us to wholeheartedly follow up in the same direction and manner that we have charted over the last 11 months,” Aguillard said.

Aguillard told the Baptist Message, the newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, “Today, we have emerged as an institution very much aware of our roles in that there is a wall of separation between the role of the board, administration and faculty,” he continued. “We have affirmed each of those roles and are fulfilling those now. We’re not bleeding over into one another’s responsibilities.”

The steps that resulted in the college’s removal from probation, according to Aguillard, included:

— Trustees rescinded a hiring policy adopted in September 2004 that gave trustee representatives earlier involvement in the process. Some saw the move as trustee encroachment on the responsibility of the school president to hire faculty members.

— Trustees rescinded a textbook screening policy adopted in December 2003 that required all classroom materials to be approved by department chairs and the vice president for academic affairs. Previous policy had given faculty members the responsibility for selection of classroom materials. The change elicited protest from faculty and others.

— Task forces were established to address the areas of academic freedom, the faculty handbook and the selection of textbooks and curriculum materials.

— Trustees approved resolutions on the board’s commitment regarding accreditation findings, on undue influence of the board, on the faculty handbook, on textbook policy and on academic freedom.

— A faculty workshop was held under the guidance of a national consultant regarding the role of the faculty, board and administration in the accreditation process. A particular focus was academic freedom within a Christian institution.

— The Louisiana Baptist Convention executive board adopted a resolution spelling out the relationship between the convention and the college.

“To hear Louisiana College’s name called [during the SACS meeting] as having been removed from probation was a monumental moment,” Aguillard said. “We are very happy and we first of all want to give all the glory to God because it was His doings, His leadership, His hand.”

Aguillard said he believes the college will be much healthier and more focused as a result of the probation.

“We are soundly and firmly secured in what this institution stands for, which is honoring Christ through our institution,” he said, emphasizing that the college’s faculty, administration, trustees and staff will “deliver to our students a national model for integration of faith and learning.”

Applications for admission to the 2006-07 school year have increased 45 percent compared to the 2005-06 academic year, Aguillard said. “And now that the cloud of probation has dissipated, we believe our enrollment is going to be exponential,” he said. “We’re the only Baptist college in the state and we’re perfectly situated for growth.

“I’d like to tell Louisiana Baptists that they should have confidence in their college, in its future,” he continued. “Our focus will continue to be placing Jesus Christ above all others. We will give them reason to look upon Louisiana College as the sign said back in the 1950s, ‘the pride of Louisiana Baptists.’”
Compiled by Art Toalston, with reporting by Brian Blackwell.

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