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Accreditor Raises Questions About Developments at Mount St. Mary’s

[Updated (2/26/2016, 3:45 p.m.) with additional information.]

When faculty members asked Simon P. Newman, president of Mount St. Mary’s University, to resign over comments and actions that they said had damaged the Roman Catholic institution, he refused.

Now, a higher authority is making a request the Maryland university can’t afford to ignore. It’s coming from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the institution’s accreditor.

The commission gave Mount St. Mary’s until March 15 to answer questions about “recent developments at the university which may have implications for continued compliance” with four key standards: leadership and governance, integrity, student admissions and retention, and the faculty.

“We are in receipt of an inquiry from Middle States and will be providing a reply according to their timeline,” the university said in a statement to The Chronicle. “In June of 2015, Mount St. Mary’s University received the highest accolades when our accreditor reaffirmed our accreditation with no concerns. We welcome their recent request and are addressing it through the appropriate university channels.”

The campus has been in turmoil for weeks over Mr. Newman’s controversial freshman-retention plan and a violent metaphor he used to describe struggling students. The tension escalated when he fired two faculty members, one tenured, and demoted the provost. The president agreed to reinstate the professors as an act of “mercy,” but faculty members still asked him to leave. Meanwhile, a student poll showed widespread support for Mr. Newman.

The Board of Trustees, which has apologized for a “breakdown in compassionate communication,” has spent the past two weeks examining the recent turmoil, including small-group interviews with hundreds of students, administrators, faculty, and staff members.

The board has scheduled a meeting for Monday to discuss its initial findings, according to an email sent to the “Mount Community” on Thursday. It’s unclear whether the board will take any action after that meeting.

“It is the board’s goal to keep the entire community informed as we make progress in understanding the details and varying perspectives on our situation, and as we make key decisions moving forward,” the email said.

Read more coverage of the turmoil at Mount St. Mary’s here.

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