COLLEGE PARK – The University of University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) is at risk of losing accreditation as a learning institution and may lose out on federal financial aid after a higher education commission placed it under a warning status on June 27.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education announced that the university was given a warning due to its inability to show that it and the Board of Regents have a “clearly articulated and transparent governance structure.”
The announcement comes after the commission announced on Nov. 15, 2018, that it would review the university’s governance following the death of student-athlete Jordan McNair on June 13 and the decisions made by those in the position of power afterward.
A visiting team from the Middle State Commission visited the school in March. President Wallace Loh said in an April University Senate meeting that they expressed concerns on their autonomy, specifically regarding the role of the Board of Regents.
“To note that the institution remains accredited while on warning,” Commission Chair Margaret McMenamin said. “To note further that federal regulations limit the period during which an institution may be in non-compliance to two years.”
On Oct. 30, the University System of Maryland Board of Regents announced their decision to retain then-Head Football Coach DJ Durkin following an over two-month investigation into the school’s athletic department and football team was concluded.
The investigation showed that while there was no toxic environment in the department but that Durkin was responsible for not monitoring former Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Rick Court’s behavior towards players. The coach was reportedly harassing and assaulting players during workouts. He reached a settlement with the university before being let go by the program.
The decision to keep Durkin sparked a nationwide backlash, forcing Loh to fire Durkin the next day. Chairman James Brady, still supporting the board’s decision, announced his resignation on Nov. 1.
Loh, who had announced his decision to resign at the end of the 2019 spring semester, was asked to stay on as president for one more year by the Board of Regents in a meeting on Jan. 30.
“The board discussed with me having a smooth transition of leadership, and we mutually agreed upon a retirement date of June 2020,” Loh said. “With all of Maryland’s supporters, I look forward to what we will accomplish together.”
The commission also investigated the decisions by the board to take over the investigation that was initially headed by Loh. Maryland was one of three schools placed on warning, together with Arcadia University and Rowan College at Burlington.
In response to the monitoring report, current University System of Maryland (USM) Regents Chair Linda Gooden, Chancellor Robert Caret and Loh released a joint statement stating that they will demonstrate compliance to the report before their March 2020 meeting.
“USM Board of Regents, USM, and UMCP are committed to working together to ensure that the governance structure clearly specifies the roles, responsibilities, and accountability of each constituency and that these are in full alignment with MSCHE Standard VII,” the statement said. “…Progress towards full compliance is already underway and will be completed by March 1, 2020.”
Maryland’s leadership has also received more negative attention following its handling of an outbreak of the adenovirus on its College Park campus during the 2018 fall semester. Officials did not alert students about an outbreak until Nov. 19, one day after Olivia Paregol, an 18-year-old from Glenwood, Howard County, died after contracting the illness.
According to a Washington Post investigation, school officials knew of the outbreak on Nov. 1 as students began moving back to campus after a mold outbreak affected several dorms, making them unlivable. Gooden announced the start of a formal investigation by the Board of Regents, starting on June 11.
Since the investigation, the school’s athletic department recently announced that all athletic staff, including the head team physician, athletic trainers, nutritionists and mental health practitioners, we’re going to be employed outside of the department. They will be a part of the Division of Student Affairs in the University Health Center as part of 20 recommendations made to the department in an external safety review completed last fall.