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April 05, 2005

Killing King’s College

King’s College is a small school, over 40 years old, that lived a quiet existence in the suburbs of New York City. No one took much notice of the small evangelical school, despite its reputation for excellence, until it moved into the NYC itself and took up residence in one of the city’s great icons – the Empire State Building. There it began to focus on politics, philosophy, and economics, seeking to prepare its students for positions in government and business. And now, suddenly, its accreditation by the New York Board of Regents is at stake.


King’s College has been accredited by the New York State Board of Regents for over 40 years, and all was on track for yet another renewal. After the college was scrutinized by the New York State Board of Education and an external site visit team, the Regents’ own Advisory Council recommended a five-year extension of King’s accreditation. So the stage was set for a fascinating experiment in higher education — an ultimate encounter of red and blue America.

That was until King’s College caught the attention of John Brademas, a quintessentially liberal politician, and one of the newest members of the State Board of Regents. Brademas had been a liberal Democratic congressman from Indiana, but was defeated in 1980 (according to this study with major opposition from the Moral Majority). After his defeat, Brademas went on to serve as president of New York University for a decade — a period during which NYU consolidated its reputation as a liberal bastion.

As soon as the question of King’s College’s accreditation came before the Regents, Brademas began to throw up a series of patently bogus objections, all of which were answered in the written material prepared by the Regents own Advisory Council. Brademas harped on the college’s small library — yet neglected to note that King’s is across the street from the Science and Business Branch of the New York Public Library, and seven short blocks from the library’s main building. That gives King’s a better library than all but a handful of colleges and universities in New York State.

But the silliest objection of all was the claim that the college has a misleading name. After all, said Brademas, King’s College was the original name of Columbia University. Wouldn’t that mislead prospective students into thinking they’re attending Columbia, instead of an evangelical Christian school? Trouble is, Columbia University changed its name from King’s to Columbia over 200 years ago — after the Revolution broke our ties with England’s king. And, of course, the King honored in King’s College’s name is God. New York’s Regents have accredited this college for over 50 years under the name of King’s. So why the problem now?

Frankly, it appears that there is no basis for the objection. The school has met the standards of the Regents for around half a century. More to the point, Joseph Frey, the state Education Department’s Assistant Commissioner of Quality Assurance, has stated that the school is in compliance. Now they have given the school only a single year’s accreditation – despite the fact that their own rules call for a five year accreditation, and provide for a shorter period (two years) only in the event that a school given conditional or probationary accreditation. The only folks who are out of compliance with the rules of the New York Board of Regents are the Regents themselves!

Now I won’t go quite to the lengths of those who have said that this is the case of religious discrimination, though I think that a prima facie case can be made that this unique abuse of a small evangelical college is religiously based. I’ll simply call it what it is – an immoral violation of due process. I won’t get into the question of whether or not the Regents should exist, or whether the state has any place doing accreditation when the private sector handles the process quite well through a variety of accrediting bodies. But I will say that there is a clear injustice here.

What can you do? Might I suggest writing to the Regents in protest? They can be contacted through the board secretary at djohnson@mail.nysed.gov.

Let’s tell them that they cannot kill King’s College.





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