If the school's accreditation is not restored in the immediate future, the complaint warns, its survival "will become impossible."
"You can't reason with them," said Dr. Benjamin DeSpain, Life's president, referring to the CCE in an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "They're trifling with us. They have no intention of providing any immediate attention that would allow any source of relief."1
Life officials had hoped to receive a decision from the court by Friday, Jan. 10. However, on Jan. 9, a spokesperson for Life said the school would have to wait at least three weeks before federal judge Charles Moye, Jr. would rule on whether to reinstate Life's chiropractic accreditation.
Students also apparently anticipated an injunction by Judge Moye the week of registration for Life's winter term. Jan. 10 was the last day students could register for classes during winter quarter, and because of the controversy surrounding the university, many students had decided to wait as long as possible before registering in hopes that Life's chiropractic accreditation would be reinstated by the court.
According to the lawsuit, the number of chiropractic students enrolled in Life was less than 300, down from nearly 700 in December 2002 and almost 2,600 last spring. Based on an estimate in the Marietta Daily Journal, the drop in enrollment would amount to a loss of $37 million, based on tuition costs.2 The result of the winter quarter registration reportedly brings the enrollment in the chiropractic program up to approximately 450 students.
"We are gratified that students have returned in significant number - over 1,000 - of which over 450 are chiropractic students," said Dr. DeSpain.
Among those waiting until the last minute was Mike Barzo, a 12th-quarter student who helped with orientation and gave tours during registration. In a Jan. 7 article in the Daily Journal, Barzo told reporter David Burch that while he stood behind Life, he would transfer to another school in California if the court decided in the CCE's favor.
The CCE stripped Life of its chiropractic accreditation on June 10, 2002, pending appeal. During the appeal, Life retained its accreditation, but on Oct. 20, 2002, the appeal was rejected and the school's accreditation was rescinded.
The suit alleges that the CCE:
- Violated its own policies by sending representatives of competing chiropractic schools to review Life's accreditation. According to the complaint, review team members from schools in Texas, California and Missouri "aggressively solicited" transfer students from Life, and a representative of Logan College of Chiropractic was on an appeal panel that revoked Life's accreditation. Within days of the appeal being denied, the lawsuit claims, the chair of Logan's board of trustees made an offer to purchase the university.
- Adopted standards for doctoral programs and institutions that favor a more "liberal" branch of chiropractic philosophy than the approach emphasized at Life.
- Refused to reconsider Life's application for reaccredidation in a timely manner, and violated Life's rights to due process by conducting a flawed and biased process for reaffirmation. During its most recent attempt to regain accreditation in January, the CCE Agenda Committee denied Life's request to discuss a rule change requiring chiropractic programs to operate for two consecutive years before reapplying for accreditation. The rule change was adopted during the same meeting that Life's reaffirmation was denied.
"By denying our request to discuss the recent rule change at the meeting this month, CCE confirmed their position of inflexibility and left Life with no other option but to seek judicial intervention," said Dr. DeSpain in a statement on the university's Web site.4 "Our suit is based on the university's fundamental right to a fair and impartial review of the chiropractic program and the fact that CCE is not willing or capable of this basic element of due process by law."
In a separate statement to Dynamic Chiropractic, DeSpain added he and the school remain hopeful that the process for obtaining an injunction will proceed in a timely manner.
"Our efforts for a preliminary injunction remain on track. While the judge did not rule immediately - which would have been highly desirable and highly unusual - he did treat us fairly and is moving swiftly toward a resolution. We remain optimistic that Life University will regain accreditation within a short period of time."5
Also named in the suit is Paul Walker, CCE's executive vice president. According to the lawsuit, the loss of Life's accreditation can be traced to Walker's animosity toward Dr. Sid Williams, Life's founder and former president.
Should Life prove victorious against the CCE, its financial future is still by no means secure. Although the university has cash assets of approximately $13 million and properties valued at approximately $70 million, it is also facing a series of lawsuits by approximately 550 former and current students. In several of the suits, which are seeking class-action status, the students are asking for damages in excess of $100 million for tuition, relocation costs and other expenses. A $32 million bond issue for improvements to Life's campus also recently fell into "technical default."
- MacDonald M. Life U. sues to recapture chiropractic accreditation. Atlanta Journal-Constitution Jan. 3, 2003.
- Giltman P. School hoped for judge's decision by today. Marietta Daily Journal Jan. 10, 2003.
- Burch D. With suit to regain accreditation in works, registration for winter quarter goes slow. Marietta Daily Journal Jan. 7, 2003.
- Life files suits against CCE. Jan. 3, 2003. Available online at www.life.edu/newlife/luevents/newsreleases/010303lawsuit.html.
- E-mail message sent from Dr. Benjamin DeSpain to Dynamic Chiropractic, Jan. 13, 2003.