Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren pulled out her sassiest, most impressive self in a Senate committee hearing last month on the role of accreditation in maintaining the quality of higher education. In the hearing—a portion of which Warren uploaded to Facebook and YouTube on Thursday—Warren questions Albert C. Gray, the president of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, on his judgment in allowing a for-profit college system to be accredited in spite of multiple allegations that it had committed fraud.
Corinthian Colleges—the giant for-profit college company that operated almost 120 campuses in North America and tumbled into bankruptcy in May—was under investigation by 20 different states for lying to students and defrauding them to get them to enroll.
“You were aware all of these investigations and suits had been filed? You were tracking it, and yet you continued to accredit?” Warren asks in the video. As Gray musters up a stuttering response about his organization’s special “methods,” Warren interrupts to ask: “I’m sorry, do your methods include—if students have been lied to and defrauded by one of your colleges—that that might somehow count as a negative in the accrediting process?" Gray gets increasingly flustered as Warren shoots off more questions, and the whole six-minute video is a testament to the senator's sharpness. It's both amazing and excruciating to watch.
- At 0:18, Warren rattles off a list of all the entities that were investigating Corinthian Colleges, asking “how many federal and state agencies need to file lawsuits” against a school before Gray’s organization takes a second look. Visibly uncomfortable, Gray nonsensically responds that he doesn’t believe the number of agencies “is the issue.”
- At 3:06, Gray tries to make a distinction between “evidence” and “allegations.” Warren isn’t having any of it. She presses him on the subject, and he eventually mumbles, “All the investigations you’ve mentioned are just that—they’re investigations.”
- At 3:26, Warren throws Gray’s own words back at him and asks how his organization could have possibly found no “evidence” of fraud. Gray tells her she has to “understand the accreditation process,” to which Warren sardonically replies, “Yeah. I’m trying to do that.”
- From 4:59 to the end, Warren delivers a speech so rousing and passionate it'll make you want to stand up and salute. Gray tries one last time to mount a half-formed defense, but by this point it's pretty clear he's lost.
This post has been updated to describe highlights of the video with time stamps.