Johnson C. Smith University's reaffirmation denied, accreditation continued

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Johnson C. Smith University's accreditation was continued but its reaffirmation was put on hold. The university has been placed on probation.

"It's painful because you know Johnson C. Smith is more than just a club that we went to or somewhere we hung out and just passed through," JCSU The Guardian Darrell Roach said. "That's a place that formulated a lot of our lives and a lot of our relationships."

The Guardian is an advocacy group that keeps an eye on JCSU. The news of the probation has Roach and others looking for answers.

"Give us an opportunity to save our school," Roach said. "Tell us the truth."

According to school officials, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) continued the university's accreditation for "good cause" but denied the school's reaffirmation.

The association imposed a 12-month probation "due to a disclosure format" located on an audit report for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The disclosure did not appear on previous audits, school officials say.

JCSU leaders sent this statement of a detailed account of what went wrong in that audit.

"Included in our audit are footnote disclosures that provide additional details that support the presented financial statements. For the last two years, we have prepared one particular footnote in an identical fashion. This year, our auditors insisted on a change to this format with the inclusion of an additional sentence. The University cautioned that it was misleading, as it was contrary to the financials presented and a clean audit. Given the deadline to submit the audit to SACSCOC, the University had no choice but to submit the audit with the additional disclosure. This contradiction prompted a number of questions that could not be answered. Therefore, the SACSCOC board could not decide in favor of our reaffirmation of accreditation until a Special Committee can be convened to visit our campus to get the questions answered for themselves in Fall 2018."

SACSCOC officials say the school was placed on probation because the school failed to comply with rules concerning financial stability and control of finances.

JCSU was placed on a monitoring period for a year because of its finances. The monitoring period continued for another year and then the University was placed on probation.

Roach says the school being placed on probation confirms his suspicions about the finances at the school.  He isn't clear why the school says the probation is about the audit and the commission says it's about finances.

"How can you still try to spin this," Roach said.  "It's like we know now with certainty, the school is on probation with certainty because of the money and it you make it seem like a clerical error."

Officials say the board will appoint a special committee to visit the university's campus in Fall 2018 to review their status about the format change. That is when the board of trustees will vote on the reaffirmation of the school's accreditation.

"I think JCSU is in serious trouble," Former Member of JCSU Board of Trustees Talmadge Fair said. "It's no doubt about it. When your accrediting body prepares to write you up and put you on probation, they take their work seriously."

Fair graduated from JCSU in the 1960's. He has claimed in the past JCSU couldn't pay its bills and was spending more than it was bringing in. He is concerned JCSU won't be able to bounce back from this.

"What makes me think that anything is different than it was yesterday," Fair said.

The University believes that it will recover better than before. There is concern that a new president will be coming on board next year. Many want to know does he have what it takes to bring JCSU up to good standing.

"It all depends on the choices of the leadership, because at the end of the day, it's about money and the mismanagement of money," Roach said.

JCSU says it is not operating in a deficit and says it recently received a clean audit. The university also says despite the probation status, the school's accreditation is still intact.

Graduates are keeping an eye on how JCSU makes things right.  They want the university to be strong and remain healthy.

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