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Organization Puts UVA's Board Of Visitors On Warning

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There's a new battle brewing over what happened at the University of Virginia last summer, with a Washington-based non-profit attacking an accrediting agency that put UVA's board of visitors on warning.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) warned the University of Virginia to clean up its governing act after the board tried to get rid of President Teresa Sullivan. Specifically, SACS criticized the board's failure to consult faculty, but Anne Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, says that's ludicrous.

"We have always supported the right and responsibility of boards to determine their CEOs," she says.

Neal is accusing SACS of exceeding its authority and requesting an investigation. "The attack on SACS I think is completely off the wall. I don't know where that came from."

"They are a kind of underwriters' laboratory for quality assurance," says David Breneman, a professor of public policy at the University of Virginia.

But Neal says quality of education at UVA is not at issue, and the Board of Visitors is already making changes to improve communications and transparency in the way it does business.

"I think it would be a step backwards if we allowed organizations that are empowered by the federal government to start second-guessing what trustees do," she says.

Neal complained that by putting UVA on warning for a year, SACS had damaged the university's reputation.

Breneman scoffs. "I think what's damaging to the university is what the Board of Visitors did!"

And he doubts SACS will be hurt by the ACTA attack.

The Department of Education says only that it received Neal's letter and could investigate SACS.

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