Updated (4/3/2017, 3:50 p.m.) with comments from Johnathan Hill, student-government president and trustee.
The recent news-media attention at Morehouse College is a “significant event” that will trigger an investigation, Belle S. Wheelan, president of the college’s accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, told The Chronicle on Monday.
The attention follows several recent developments, including an email to the campus from Johnathan D. Hill, president of the student government at Morehouse, who said the college is in a “state of confusion.” In March, faculty members there voted to express no confidence in Robert C. Davidson, chairman of its Board of Trustees. The vote followed growing frustration toward the chairman, and many at Morehouse remain upset by the board’s January decision not to renew the contract of John Silvanus Wilson Jr., the college’s president, when it expires. The investigation is in response to the seeming unrest.
“Anytime something hits the media, it is considered unsolicited information” and will trigger an investigation, Ms. Wheelan said. An investigation is a standard procedure the accreditor takes to ensure compliance. The university will receive a letter from the Commission on Colleges this month, she said.
An investigation by the accreditor is not meant to punish an institution, said an email sent to the Morehouse faculty on Friday, but to help the college “get its practices in line” with its accreditor’s principles. The email, sent to colleagues by a faculty member who met with Ms. Wheelan last week, said it would be “good to be under this kind of formal scrutiny right now.”
Ms. Wheelan will visit the campus on Thursday, April 6, a day before Morehouse’s April board meeting, to meet the entire faculty after receiving a formal invitation from Mr. Wilson.
In an interview, Mr. Hill, who also serves on the college’s Board of Trustees, said the Morehouse community was optimistic about the coming board meeting because now there is a more robust conversation on student and faculty concerns. And he hopes, he said, that the full board is prepared to take those concerns seriously.
He also plans to be at the meeting with Ms. Wheelan, to represent students. The coming investigation, he said, is an opportunity to demonstrate, to the accreditor and to others, that Morehouse College has it together. “We’re in our 150th year, we should be celebrating,” he said.