Program with Mexican sister school stays on hiatus

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    TCU’s Mexican sister school, Universidad de las Americas Puebla, remains on probation from accrediting agency Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, but one TCU official said the university is open to restoring a previous agreement if the probation is removed.

    David Whillock, dean of the College of Communication wrote in an e-mail that he believes the suspension of the dual degree plan will eventually be lifted and students from UDLA and students from TCU will again have the opportunity for a dual degree from both institutions.

    SACS placed UDLA on probation for the second consecutive year last December. The school failed to provide evidence of a sound financial base and stability to support the institution’s mission and programs, according to a statement from SACS’ Web site.

    Whillock said though UDLA experienced some hardships under new rector Luis Ernesto Derbez Bautista, he began to turn the situation around.

    “He is in the position to focus the university back to a respected academic institution,” Whillock said. “He has begun to hire academics that will return sound credibility back to UDLA.”

    Former UDLA rector Pedro Angel Palou resigned in November 2007 prior to being put on probation in December of the same year. Derbez Bautista began his first term in April of 2008.

    Whillock also said that TCU suspended a dual degree program between the two schools after attacks on UDLA’s student newspaper and the firing of faculty without due process.

    “The university felt it would be better to suspend our agreements until something changed and UDLA was progressing toward a more academic and democratic direction,” Whillock said.

    Chancellor Victor Boschini said the dual degree program allowed students to take some of the same classes at UDLA that can be taken at TCU.

    “What we do is just certify that the courses they offer there transfer here and vice versa,” Boschini said.

    Jane Kucko, director of the Center for International Studies, said some students are not aware that TCU has a sister school, and that it has been two years since TCU has had a student go to UDLA. Along with study abroad programs, there are exchange programs, such as the previous program with UDLA, she said.

    According to SACS’ disclosure statement, SACS will again consider the status of UDLA in December. The statement also said the commission will have the option of removing the probation or removing UDLA’s accreditation.

    UDLA was originally warned by SACS in January of 2007. Later that month, UDLA stopped publication of its school newspaper, La Catarina, for criticizing administrators, students said. However, publication resumed two weeks later.

    In April 2007, 15 faculty members and five Board of Trustee members were relieved of duty. In September 2007, TCU put relations between the university and UDLA on hold until both schools shared the same values, Whillock said.

    Maria Lopez Aguilar, UDLA spokeswoman, has not replied to an e-mail requesting comment.