Brewton-Parker placed on probation

While one Georgia Baptist Convention-affiliated college is making headlines with a mass exodus of faculty and staff, another is in danger of losing its accreditation.

By Bob Allen

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has declined to reaffirm accreditation of Georgia Baptist-related Brewton-Parker College and placed the school on probation.

Probation, the association’s most serious sanction short of loss of accreditation, gives the four-year liberal-arts college in Mt. Vernon, Ga., 12 months to clear up deficiencies in the number and qualifications of faculty, financial stability and oversight of business functions including compliance with rules for federal student aid.

Brewton-Parker President Mike Simoneaux, elected in 2011 after serving as interim president on loan from Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga., told a local radio station that he feels the probation status is unfair and that SACS refuses to recognize progress from 24 different recommendations made when the accrediting agency earlier issued a lighter sanction of warning to just nine that now remain.

With the recent election of a new vice president with a number of years of experience working with accrediting agencies, Simoneaux predicted that probation would be lifted by next June.

Founded in 1904, Brewton-Parker is accredited to award associate and baccalaureate degrees. It is the only accredited four-year Christian college in south Georgia and one of three colleges and universities – along with Truett-McConnell and Shorter University in Rome, Ga. – affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.

In 2010 trustees reaffirmed Brewton-Parker’s Christian and Baptist identity with resolutions requiring that all courses be taught from a “Christian worldview” and pledging fidelity to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. In 2009 the school put itself on an “academic diet” to cut costs, reducing the number of majors from 39 to 18 and closing most of its external campuses.

Brewton-Parker isn’t the only Georgia Baptist school currently facing trials. Forty-four of Shorter University’s 109 full-time faculty members have left -- in addition to 32 staff, including several high-ranking administrators -- since trustees there adopted a new doctrinal statement and “personal lifestyle” pledge requiring all employees to reject homosexuality.

Mercer University, once Georgia Baptists’ flagship institution and ranked one of the best colleges in the South, broke 176-year-old ties with the state convention in 2006 and runs a theology school in partnership with the moderate-leaning Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.