The Louisville Cardinal

A “yuge” year: TLC’s biggest 2016-17 stories

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  1. By Kyeland Jackson —

It was a long year for the University of Louisville. Controversial elections, erased boards and accreditation threats were some of many events on and around campus. The Cardinal ranks what happened and why it affects you, the student.

Accreditation under threat

Governor Matt Bevin’s executive orders restructuring the board in summer 2016 threatened U of L’s accreditation.

The Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, the university’s accrediting body, placed the U of L on probation in December and blamed Bevin for the probation, saying his actions could politically influence U of L’s governance.

U of L has until December 2017 to reform, or risk losing accreditation. Loss of accreditation spells disaster for U of L; university degrees would lose values, federal financial aid would not be available, credits could not transfer and U of L could not participate in NCAA sports if accreditation is revoked.

Since 2000, 12 private institutions accredited under SACS lost accreditation. U of L may be the only public institution to lose SACS’ accreditation if it’s taken. Worries plagued students; a February poll reported 70 percent of respondents worry about accreditation troubles.

Concerns escalated after state auditor Mike Harmon published a stinging review of university governance, finding dysfunction and questionable practices between U of L and the University of Louisville Foundation. SACS reviewed the audit results, adding U of L possibly violated three more accreditation standards.

The foundation manages U of L’s $835 million financial endowment, investing and allocating money for the university.

Kentucky legislators responded to worries, enacting multiple bills. Though U of L’s Board of Trustees shuffled multiple times in a battle between Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear, Kentucky’s General Assembly passed Senate Bill 12, enacting a new board. That new board, now requiring the governor and Senate’s approval, is nearly identical to the board suggested by Bevin in summer 2016.

The General Assembly also passed Senate Bill 107, granting Bevin sweeping powers to re-organize school boards which are deemed “dysfunctional.”

SACS reviews U of L’s progress December 2017, extending probation another year or revoking the university’s accreditation.

U of L $48 million short for 2017-18

Responding to a $48 million deficit in the 2017-18 budget, U of L made changes to its budgets and revenue options.

The deficit, partially created by low clinical revenues, inflated budget numbers and unabated spending, was discovered in February. To fill the shortfall, the university tightened budgets and school management, fired some university personnel and instituted a hiring freeze. U of L also considered new revenue, planning to eventually increase student enrollment by 8,000.

University administration said the deficit is manageable, though it expects $13.7 million less in foundation contributions.

Suggestions to increase revenue through parking rate hikes and siphoning distance education met resistance.

“We have nothing to do with the screw up of the central administration,” Communication Department Chair Al Futrell said in a budget forum. “If we cut arts and sciences … we’re going to cut everything about this university that’s important.”

The leaders’ shuffle

Changing laws, resignations and appointments kept U of L leadership in constant change through 2016-17.

U of L’s Board of Trustees shuffled three times during battles between Beshear and Bevin, finalized by the General Assembly’s passage of SB12. They weren’t the only administrators moved.

Following James Ramsey’s resignation as university president former Speed school dean Neville Pinto stepped into the interim role. Pinto said he would not consider remaining U of L’s president and return to the Speed School after his interim presidency ended.

Instead, Pinto accepted a job as president for the University of Cincinnati in February. Shortly before, U of L’s Chief Financial Officer Harlan Sands announced he would leave for the University of Pennsylvania.

Facing a widening leadership void, U of L’s Board of Trustees elected Greg Postel as interim president.  Serving as Executive Vice President for Health Affairs and U of L’s interim president, Postel’s promised transparency from the university, denying a deferred compensation package promised to his position. His health affairs position earns Postel $950,000 annually, not including a $1,000 monthly car allowance for gas.

Sands position was divided between Susan Howarth and Lee Smith.

Howarth, Smith and Postel all serve in temporary positions.

The university began a search for a permanent president, expecting to find a replacement within a year.

Coach Pitino under fire

Following revelations of a sex-scandal within the basketball team, coach Rick Pitino is defending himself.

The NCAA leveled notices of allegations against the university, finding proof former basketball staffer Andre McGee paid for dancers to dance and have sex with potential recruits and players. The NCAA accused Pitino of not actively monitoring the basketball program, prompting U of L to refute the allegation. But NCAA investigators reiterated their accusation, saying Pitino missed signs of foul play because he didn’t look for them.

Confederate statue shuffles off campus

After standing on campus for 121 years, the controversial confederate statue moved to Brandenburg, KY.

Controversy ensnared the statue since, drawing protestors, litigation to stop the move and verbal blows between advocates and detractors. Some called its removal an erasure of history.

Located between Third Street and the Speed Art Museum, the statue was donated to Louisville by the Kentucky Women’s Confederate Monument Association in 1895. It commemorates Confederate Kentuckians who fought and died in the Civil War.

Brandenburg is popular for Civil War sites and reenactments. A time capsule, supposedly embedded in the statue, was loaned to the Filson Historical Society.

File photo / The Louisville Cardinal