Paine President Goes Full Donald Trump on SACS Accreditation Lawsuit Defeat

Being technically correct is not a thorough standard when it comes to where students should spend tuition money, donors should invest, and if the federal government should guarantee an institution as a reputable training and learning resource.

But here’s Paine College President Jerry Hardee after a federal judge upheld a decision by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges to revoke the school’s accreditation.

Dr. Hardee’s message is clear. Paine College is still accredited. But left unsaid in his remarks is that the 30 days in which Paine has to respond to the judgment likely won’t reverse the decision by the court or the accrediting body, and all but seals the finality of Paine being expelled from SACS membership.

The appeal process can be costly in time and money, and last for years. The school can maintain accreditation throughout the process, but officials will have to decide if it is worth spending resources on legal defense in a case created largely by Paine’s financial instability.

There’s also Dr. Hardee’s angle on Paine earning accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACCS). In August, TRACCS officials visited Paine to determine if the school should be admitted into its association, a process which can take from one to five years to complete.

With about two weeks until TRACCS announces Paine’s status at its annual conference, Dr. Hardee is promoting the idea that the school could be accredited by two oversight bodies. With that outcome being virtually impossible to achieve without the school mounting the costly appeal strategy, why is Dr. Hardee so drawn to publicly focus on Paine’s SACS saga while TRACCS membership is, according to him, all but guaranteed?

This kind of misaligned, misinformation strategy is something we’re all too familiar with from another president, and it does little more than pique the media to dig deeper to discover facts and to uncover how purposeful leaders can be in avoiding or omitting them from the public record. Students, alumni and other stakeholders deserve to know where accreditation will be granted and when; not a boastful vision of Paine having its choice of accrediting options in the wake of a public disclosure on its infrastructure, finance and compliance challenges.

“The bad news for you is that it’s hard to get a story when there is no story to get,” Dr. Hardee said in chiding the local media on its Paine accreditation coverage. In actuality, the bad news is that Dr. Hardee is being less than upfront about the challenges and opportunities awaiting Paine in the critical weeks and months to come.

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