Bevin’s premature acts threaten U of L

By on July 5, 2016
Student Opinion

By Kyeland Jackson —

Since Governor Matt Bevin dissolved the former board of trustees and appointed his own, the University of Louisville has been thrown into upheaval. Faculty scramble for answers, the university’s leadership remains a mystery and Attorney General Andy Beshear has filed two lawsuits against the governor. Did Bevin make the right decision replacing the board? The short answer is no.

Bevin claimed the board of trustees was dysfunctional. Referring to scandals and controversies under President James Ramsey, U of L’s governance did need a critical look.

The university has suffered unprecedented negative publicity. Administrators stole money from the university, Ramsey’s compensation was questioned, a photo of Ramsey in stereotypical Mexican garb drew national attention and allegations of escorts paid to have sex with recruits and players led to a postseason ban for the men’s basketball team. Trustee behavior mirrored campus tensions, as they engaged in strident public quarrels over the university and Ramsey’s leadership.

But Bevin jumped the gun. Replacing U of L’s entire governing body was a radical and unnecessary step that brings more problems than solutions. The new trustees’ nominating process was haphazardly rushed by a nominating committee Bevin organized. An operating budget was not adopted before the board was abolished, leaving the university to use a “spending plan” the previous board had rejected. The new board also endangers the accreditation of the university, since it appears to violate a Southern Association of Schools and Colleges rule that undue political influence be avoided.

The decision could have been tempered with measured changes. Bevin could have appointed the required minority representatives to add opinion to university matters. A Council on Postsecondary Education hearing on any “dysfunctions” could have determined what was amiss with the previous board then determined how to fix it.

Instead of a measured approach, Bevin swept away U of L’s governing board based on what he has heard during his short tenure as Kentucky’s governor.

And while the governor may claim “absolute authority,” Beshear filed two motions saying otherwise.

Former trustee Bob Hughes agrees with Bevin, saying the board was not functional and Beshear is “wasting the taxpayers’ money.” Former Student Government Association president OJ Oleka said the board was dysfunctional, too.

“Whenever you’ve got members of a body that holds fiduciary responsibility sniping at one another in public through social media and traditional media, you’re not functioning as you were designed,” Oleka said.

But discussions behind closed doors is not governance. Neither is collective agreement on all matters. Public discourse and disagreement reflects critical thinking, transparency and community involvement. Without transparency, good or bad, the gap between students and administration would widen further.

Rudy Spencer, another former SGA president, said Bevin’s acts “stink” and hurt the university.

“This has been a flawed process created by an unprecedented use of executive power,” Spencer posted on Facebook.

“It will destabilize the future of the University of Louisville and other academic institutions across the Commonwealth,” Spencer said.

Student welfare matters. Outgoing SGA president Victoria Allen and SGA senator Brandon McReynolds the focus should be on students.

“I hope that going forward everyone will stay focused on all the great things students, faculty, staff and alumni are doing to make U of L a premier metropolitan research university,” Allen said.

“Students are not interested in the politics. Either you are with us or against us,” McReynolds said.

Bevin’s power should have been more thoughtfully used. He erred in reforming the governing body of U of L. Because regardless of bad publicity, U of L has excelled during Ramsey’s tenure. We joined the Atlantic Coast Conference, raised $1 billion for the university, became a top producer of prestigious Fulbright awards, attracted top faculty and staff, upgraded campus grounds, created the Student Recreation Center, raised average ACT scores, created a new scholarship program for low-income students and nearly doubled the six-year graduation rate.

Bevin’s actions may “stink,” but only because they were not in the university’s best interests. With campus faculty, staff, students and the attorney general up in arms against him, maybe Bevin will realize his decisions were too haphazard. But compromise does not seem to be in his vocabulary.

About Kyeland Jackson

Editor-in-Chief at The Louisville Cardinal.

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