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Sojourner-Douglass continues fight to reinstate accreditation

Sojourner-Douglass College (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Sojourner-Douglass College (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

One year after losing its accreditation over financial difficulties and then unsuccessfully suing to get it back, Sojourner-Douglass College is appealing a federal judge’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the accrediting body.

In a brief filed Friday in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the college claims U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz should not have ruled in favor of Middle States Commission on Higher Education because a genuine dispute of material fact remained regarding whether the school’s due process rights were violated during the administrative process.

A phone number for Sojourner-Douglass was disconnected Tuesday afternoon and John H. Morris Jr., the attorney representing the school did not return a call seeking comment.

Sojourner-Douglass’ accreditation was withdrawn on June 30, 2015 after a nearly four-year process with the commission, which found the school lacked institutional financial viability. Without accreditation, the East Baltimore college cannot receive federal funds; at least 80 percent of the college’s tuition revenue comes from federal grants and loans.

A motion for a temporary restraining order, filed the day before the school lost accreditation, was denied in July and a motion for a preliminary injunction was denied in August. The commission moved for summary judgment in November, and the motion was granted in early May.

Motz ruled there was no new evidence on the merits of Sojourner-Douglass’ claim that the accreditation commission “moved the goal post” throughout the process by changing its requests for information and refused to allow additional evidence at an appeal hearing that would have shown the school’s projections to pay off its debts.

In Friday’s appellate brief, however, the college alleges a “near undeniable” conflict of interest occurred because an attorney who represented the commission then advised the body overseeing the administrative appeal, which adopted her logic for not permitting Sojourner-Douglass to submit new financial analysis.

“In this case there was an undeniable instance of an attorney having represented two parties in a related proceeding where the interests of the parties were purportedly adverse,” the brief states.

The case is Sojourner-Douglass College v. Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, No. 16-1673.


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