Tue. Dec 18th, 2018

SGA President describes clean-up role of interims

By Joseph Lyell —

SGA President Vishnu Tirumala said frustration with U of L should be directed at past leaders, not the current ones. In an interview with The Cardinal, he said Board of Trustees Chair David Grissom and Interim President Greg Postel are trying to fix the problems caused by their predecessors.

“I’m a student here too. You guys think I’m not pissed about the transparency? Or I’m not pissed about the athletics stuff? I’m super pissed,” Tirumala said.

He said most issues people have with administration stem from the actions of former administrators.

Tirumala said when he came to U of L in 2014, no one would have thought many of the university’s most influential leaders would not be there a few years later.

“Dr. Ramsey, Tom Jurich, Rick Pitino. Who could’ve guessed? Right after a championship,” Tirumala said.

He said he can understand frustrations with the men’s basketball recruiting scandals, the self-imposed NCAA tournament ban and the firing of Jurich and Pitino because he experienced them as a student.

Those looking for accountability will have to be patient, however. Tirumala said litigation takes time and creates more transparency worries because legal matters are discussed in closed session to avoid revealing the university’s strategies.

Tirumala’s office in the SAC has a dry-erase board with “I love interims” written on it. He said this is because interims are new to the positions, and therefore open to fresh ideas about tackling problems in different ways than permanent staffers had tried.

Tirumala called the interims and SGA a “cleanup crew” tasked with fixing the problems left by former administrators. He said the university’s interim employees, like Postel, Chief Operating Officer Lee Smith and Athletic Director Vince Tyra have already taken steps toward improving U of L’s reputation.

He said other frustrations could stem from complicated legal issues surrounding the university and its former administrators, specifically ex-president James Ramsey.

“The guy wrote his own contract. If you write your own contract, you’re going to give yourself a lot of exits that provide you a lot of security. So in terms of accountability, that takes time,” he said.

Tirumala said in Ramsey’s wake, he has used his board position to advocate for more transparency.

He said trustees are encouraged to speak up in meetings, and he is always available for comments. Trustees can’t discuss some subjects publicly, such as legal proceedings.

There is no policy prohibiting trustees from speaking to the press, but Tirumala said the direction of the board is clearer when one member speaks for them. That role usually falls to Grissom.

“He generally speaks on behalf of the board. Now, sometimes David speaks on behalf of himself and it seems like he’s speaking on behalf of the board. That’s separate,” Tirumala said.

Tirumala said he has never felt a chilling effect in his role, and he is encouraged to speak out about issues that are important to him and the student body.

File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal

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