Corcoran Agreement Hearing Continues

Accreditation agency team report supports historic collaboration.

August 04, 2014

By Brittney Dunkins

The D.C. Superior Court evidentiary hearing that would allow the historic agreement among the George Washington University, the Corcoran and the National Gallery of Art to move forward will continue Monday, following a week of testimony.

On Wednesday, a report written to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)—the accreditation body for degree-granting colleges and universities that are members of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools— by the accreditation team reviewing the Corcoran was presented at the hearing in support of the agreement.

Excerpts of the report, read aloud during testimony, voiced the team’s unanimous support for the proposed collaboration that would establish the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at GW.  

“We commend [Interim Director and] President [Peggy] Loar and her leadership team for forging such an imaginative arrangement with GW and the National Gallery, one that preserves the core strengths of the Corcoran while relieving it of its financial burden,” the MSCHE team report stated.

The report was a key exhibit in the evidentiary hearing, which was granted by D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert Okun following his ruling that seven current students, one faculty member and one staff member of the Corcoran have a special interest and right to intervene in the approval of the Corcoran’s cy près petition.

A final decision regarding the petition, which is necessary for the agreement to move forward, will be made at the close of the hearing.

Accreditation status recognizes the quality of instruction and services provided by a higher education institution. MSCHE assesses colleges and universities in Delaware, D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and international locations. GW is accredited by MSCHE.

The evaluation was introduced one day after George Washington President Steven Knapp testified before the court, outlining his vision for the Corcoran School and the university’s commitment to ensuring the academic future of Corcoran students and faculty.

“We are excited about the prospect of having the faculty, students and legacy of the Corcoran become a part of our institution,” Dr. Knapp said during testimony. “This partnership is an opportunity to create a historic and powerful example of arts education in our nation’s capital and a true model of what arts education in the 21st century can be.”

Dr. Knapp was one of seven witnesses, including Corcoran Board of Trustees Chairman Harry Hopper III, philanthropist Wayne Reynolds, Corcoran Gallery of Art Chief Operating Officer Lauren Stack, Alexander Haas Partner Paul Johnson and Vice President and Partner of accounting firm Raffa Inc. Kathy Raffa, who were called to the stand last week.

University of Maryland (UMD) President Wallace Loh took the stand on Thursday in response to a subpoena issued by the lawyer of the intervening parties. Dr. Loh was called to discuss a previous proposal UMD had made to the Corcoran that the Corcoran rejected last February.  

He testified that though UMD would be willing to reopen negotiations with the Corcoran if the cy près petition was not approved, the university does not intend to disrupt the agreement among GW, the Corcoran and the National Gallery of Art.

Testimony for the remaining witnesses will begin Monday and is scheduled to continue through Wednesday.