Felner affects alumni giving

By on September 22, 2008

By Kara Augustine

Standing around a table, University of Louisville alumni Randy Reeves and Mark Ranall converse about every day topics like the possible outcome of the upcoming U of L football game.
When the name Felner is mentioned, however, the conversation becomes a little more serious.
“I guarantee that if anything comes out in the paper, the very first thing quoted will be from a UK fan saying, ‘See, they give their degrees away at that red school,'” said Reeves, a 1986 graduate of U of L’s Speed School, regarding the investigation into former College of Education and Human Development Dean Robert Felner.
Felner is under investigation for the alleged misappropriation of federal grant money and approving a CEHD issued Ph.D. for former U of L student John Deasy who, according to university records, only studied at U of L for nine credit hours, well short of the study time required for a doctoral candidate.
According to Jimmy Ford, Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations, the Alumni Association raised $86 million for the university last year, which was a record amount. In light of the investigation though, many fear the university will see a downturn in alumni contributions.
“The alumni will read about the investigations and they’ll be embarrassed by it,” said Bruce Meyer, a 1971 Business School Graduate. “Then that might affect their giving back to the university, unfortunately.”
Meyer explained that the alumni might become reluctant to donate because questions are being raised about the placement of funds.
“When I give my annual donation, I start to question in my mind,” Meyer said. “How do I know it’s being used and where is it going? Is it being funneled to other universities?”
Although questions have arisen about Felner’s wrongdoings, alumni are also wondering how he was hired to begin with.
Ranall, a U of L System Science graduate of 1992, explained that Felner did not hire himself, so he is not exclusively to blame.
“People can point fingers all over the place but unfortunately it comes down to who’s in charge of the whole place,” Meyer said. “I like Dr. Ramsey, but I do believe that he should be held accountable.”
For many alumni, the Felner case hasn’t tarnished their overall view of U of L, nor do they believe   that it devalues their degrees.
“The alumni were hopeful that the general public wasn’t going to let one isolated incident redefine the value of the degree of so many others,” Ford said.
“There are a lot of good things going on in the School of Education,” Carrie DeBold, 1998 Elementary and Special Education graduate, said, “and what Felner’s done has tainted the name and the good things the school has done.”
Along with CEHD, support for the administration remains.
“Dr. Ramsey’s going to take a lot of criticism, but think of all of the good things Dr. Ramsey has done, too,” Meyer said.
Meyer and Reeves said they  are proud to be associated with their alma mater and they just want to ensure that something of this magnitude will not occur again.
“You are never happy when something happens with the football program or somebody gets in trouble,” Meyer said. “I want that particular coach or head of a department to take charge of it. And, I think they have. It’s just unfortunate that it happened.” 

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