All posts by Simon Isham

Editor-in-Chief @TheCardinalNews. Web developer @LMICon. I love linguistics, data visualization and investigative journalism.
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IT audit finds holes in disaster recovery plan

By Simon Isham—

One flood on U of L’s campus could erase your academic career. A recent university audit of IT’s disaster recovery plan raised serious questions about how recoverable the university’s data is in the event of an emergency.

U of L performs regular offsite data backups. But opinions differ on how long it would take to restore the information.

A current U of L IT employee familiar with the data center in Miller IT Center said there are flaws in the university’s disaster recovery program. Because the employee fears retaliation from IT leadership and is not legally protected from such retaliation, the Cardinal has chosen not to publish the employee’s name. Earlier this year, current and former IT employees accused the department of discrimination.

“If there is flooding (in the data center), certain software will not be able to be restored,” the employee said. “If there were a fire tomorrow, it would take a month at best to get your services running again.”

Blackboard and ULink, the employee said, could be back up and running in one week’s time. PeopleSoft, a human resources management system, would take a month minimum. There are also several other programs on these computers that would require restoration.

“Imagine if something happened in the middle of final exams. Wouldn’t you, as a student, be angry?” the employee said.

Vice President for IT Dr. Priscilla Hancock refuted this information.

“Since all university systems are replicated offsite, they are recoverable and will be recovered in the event of a disaster. The length of time depends upon the amount of data to be restored. We anticipate Blackboard and PeopleSoft to be restored within 72 hours. Student email would not be impacted because it is stored offsite so there would be no loss of service,” she said.

“I’d say (72 hours) is fairly typical for a full disaster recovery situation when a hot site strategy is not affordable. As I understand it, U of L contracts with a vendor to provide off-site (disaster recovery) services. This approach leverages the expertise of DR specialists and utilizes their backup data centers at a lower cost than maintaining our own hot site somewhere. This plan would only be executed under major disaster circumstances, however,” said Dr. Andrew Wright, assistant professor of computer information systems at U of L.

The university has a contract with IBM in Sterling Park, N. Y. to provide off-site disaster recovery services. “All servers and systems located in the Miller IT Data Center can take advantage of these disaster recovery capabilities,” the U of L disaster recovery site reports.

The last audit of IT’s disaster recovery plan was completed November  2013. A report of the findings was submitted to IT and university administration in March.  It was filed by Senior Auditor Barry Scott and Director of Audit Services Cheri Jones. The Cardinal obtained a copy of the report via FOIA request.

The audit says a member of IT staff present at the IBM backup facility could not access any of the data backups over the facility’s network. Scott noted that “This issue was addressed by alternative procedures, but will require resolution prior to the next recovery exercise.”

Of this issue, Hancock said, “The problem was fixed during the disaster recovery test. This is why we do the test.”

Scott identified two issues which he marked as “high priority” in the audit report.

The report said that in December of 2009, a prior audit noted the department was not reviewing and updating its disaster recovery plan on a regular, scheduled basis. In response, at the time, IT agreed to perform a review of the disaster recovery plan four times per year.

The 2013 audit found that the plan still included:

  • Mentions of a former backup facility, but no mention of the current IBM backup facility
  • References to technologies that the university no longer uses
  • No references to application upgrades or changes since 2009
  • Administrative contact lists containing the names and contact details of people who no longer work for the university, including the tax-evading former Dean of Education Robert Felner

“The lack of updated documentation suggests that a periodic review of the disaster recovery strategy and plan is not being performed as recommended in the December 2009 audit report,” Scott wrote.

When asked why the plan was not updated as scheduled, Hancock said, “Portions of the plan have been updated on a regular basis. However, there were areas that were not updated and should have been. We are currently updating those areas and expect to have this completed by September.”

The IT department responded in the report that it would update the information and review the disaster recovery plan by Sept. 30, 2014.

Scott also found that the tests performed in November were not extensive enough to ensure reliable data recovery.

“While it appears the exercise did achieve the objectives of the test plan,” Scott wrote, “the limited scope does not provide attestation to successful recovery of the university’s critical enterprise systems and applications during a disaster event.”

He recommended that disaster recovery testing strategy be expanded to include the most critical systems and applications, and should include a double-check by data-users to make sure the backup worked. The IT department should also prioritize the systems and applications that are most vital to the operations of the university.

The IT department responded that it would also address this issue by Sept. 30.

“This was an adequate test for it being the first disaster recovery test at a new site with a new vendor. We are expanding the number of systems that will be tested in our next annual disaster recovery exercise. Priorities were already in place and are now being reviewed on an annual basis,” Hancock said when asked about this issue.

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Construction at HSC to proceed despite funding cuts

By Simon Isham—

U of L’s medical school was recently denied funding for a new medical instructional building on the Health Sciences Campus, but Dean Toni Ganzel said this will not prevent the school from complying with the Liaison Committee on Medical Education’s verdict that the instructional facilities are inadequate.

“We didn’t depend on that to address our issue, because, quite honestly, when the LCME representatives left, they didn’t think our facilities were adequate to support a contemporary curriculum. And at that point, I said to our leadership group, ‘We are not going to get a new building in two years. It’s just physically impossible, even if they approved it today. So we really need to take a different approach. Let’s get our architects back in here and see if they can take a look at our existing building and see if we can do a major renovation in that building and accomplish the goals that we need to accomplish to really be able to support that kind of program,’” she said.

“It turned out that the whole north half of the building didn’t contain those load-bearing walls, and that allowed us to basically completely gut that on each floor, and build a wonderful new, contemporary educational space … The students had input into the design, and faculty had input, administration had input, and it was really a wonderful collaborative project. I think we are still going to need the other educational building, but I really see that now repurposed into an interprofessional educational building and conference center. But in order to meet the LCME requirements, the current renovation plan will do that.”

Ganzel said that the current renovation will be finished before students return to campus in August. The official timeline for the project has it finished by the end of July.

In March, the LCME informed the medical school that it would be placed on probation as a result of a visit by LCME reviewers in April 2013. The reviewers noted the following problems pertaining to the facilities:

  • “There were concerns with the student lounge and the library study environment. Upgrades to the student lounge were in progress at the time of the survey visit. There are plans to increase study space in the library.”
  • “… 22 percent of all students are dissatisfied with the library hours.”
  • “Both faculty and students note problems with the educational facilities. A significant proportion of the student body is dissatisfied with the lecture hall facilities due to the number of seats, an insufficient number of electrical outlets to support laptops, intermittent technology failures during educational sessions and environmental room control. Current auditoria seat 160 for (a first-year medical student) class of 164 … Faculty expressed concern about the adequacy of small group rooms.”
  • “… over 25 percent of third- and fourth-year medical students express dissatisfaction with storage space, with only 44 percent satisfied.”
  • “… only 57 percent of students were satisfied with the student lounge.”
  • “The main instructional building for the school was built in 1970 and last renovated in 2003. The team toured the facilities and concluded that the education facilities may not be adequate … The library was built in 1970 and has not been renovated since the initial construction.”
  • “The main instructional facilities for first- and second-year medical students are dated and do not provide adequate space to accommodate the entire current class size … Specific mention is made of crowding during examination situations and failed electronic facilities during class sessions. The ventilation of the anatomy laboratories is described as ‘substandard’ … The current audiovisual system frequently malfunctions.”
  • “The greatest collective concern, noted in the free text comments, regarding facilities, was the overall lack of cleanliness and maintenance, which includes excessive garbage, in study areas and restrooms, and poor maintenance of the hallways, labs, lecture halls and restrooms.”
  • “Several students expressed a desire that security surveillance cameras be placed in the instructional buildings for times of late-night studying.”

The Cardinal did not receive any of the many appendices to the report.

The Cardinal also placed an open records request with the university for any and all construction-related request for proposals for the Health Sciences Campus made the visit. An RFP is used to invite bids from contracting companies to complete specific jobs. The request yielded nine documents, two of which were related to classroom and study facilities.

HSC leadership plan to renovate the study rooms in Kornhauser Library and to construct classrooms in the School of Medicine Instructional Building. The Kornhauser RFP is dated Jan. 3, 2014. The Instructional Building RFP is undated.

In Kornhauser, the plan is to develop ”five new small group study rooms within the existing Kornhauser Health Sciences Library.” Prefabricated walls will be used to turn an open study area into the five rooms. Plans for electrical work for an 4,000 square foot open study area are also mentioned.

In the Instructional Building, the plan is to renovate “a portion” of the building. “This project will construct lecture halls and small group teaching space on the north half of the first and second floors. The total project is approximately 1,100 (net square feet) per floor.”

The RFP notes that the construction must operate on a tight timeline, from mid-May to the end of July, so that it coincides with summer class break.

Constructing an entirely new, 51,000-square foot instructional building on the HSC has been a high priority for the university for years. In its 2010-2012 plan submitted to the state legislature, the building was listed as the fourth priority and was estimated to cost $42.4 million, the full amount of which would come out of the state’s budget. The plan was denied that year, and the support requested from the general fund has only increased since.

In U of L’s 2012-2014 plan,  the building was listed as the second priority, and was estimated to cost $67 million. The size of the building had increased to 81,000 square feet, and the reason given for the increase in price was the addition of these 30,000 square feet and “inflation.” The summary of the construction, provided by the university, included:

  • The construction of two large lecture halls seating approximately 200 students
  • A series of smaller seminar rooms
  • Computer testing facilities
  • A new Gross Anatomy Instructional Laboratory, which will support an increase in class size in both the Medical and Dental schools, and will allow the display of MRI, computer tomography and x-ray images
  • An expansion of the existing instructional space, and renovation of smaller group spaces
  • “Modernization” of the Kornhauser Library

One planned renovation to the Kornhauser Library has already been completed.

Earlier this month, the most recent General Fund request said the project had grown to $71. 7 million, of which half would be provided from the General Fund and half would be provided by U of L. It was one of the first items cut from the budget by the Senate, though 166 other U of L-specific projects will be funded.

One of these projects was a new classroom building on the Belknap campus, the university’s top priority for funding. Ganzel hopes that the new HSC building will now be the top priority at the next biennial general fund budget session.

If built, the new building will be located between the current instructional building and Kornhauser Library. The building will replace some of the courtyard, with the fountain being removed.

Dr. Peter Hasselbacher, a former member of the U of L School of Medicine faculty, and a former member of its accreditation board, said he thought that the construction plans sounded as if they were heading in the right direction.

“The trend in medical education is going away from lectures to small group learning and self-instruction. And they just didn’t have the facilities for that. They need more places for students to study together, like law students do.  There’s a trend for that in medicine, and that’s another reason why the old facilities were inadequate, not just having enough seats for the behinds, not just having enough plugs for the computers. It’s a change in the way that medicine is being taught now,” he said.

Here are the links to the documents that the Cardinal obtained via FOIA request from the university, pertaining to the LCME’s decision to place the medical school on probation:

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Five quiet places to study on campus

By Simon Isham—

It’s finals season. You’re at the home stretch. For many of you, your ability to graduate is contingent upon you passing your finals. So we, the Cardinal staff, put our heads together, as well as our collective 64 years of college experience, to come up with a list of the best places to study on campus. We need you to pass your tests. And we need you to get out of here. Seriously.

5. Quiet Floors in the Library

This one’s a no-brainer — or it should be. In our non-scientific poll of U of L students, a discomforting number have not ever actually visited the library to study or research. Let us point out once and for all that the 3rd and 4th floors of the library are quiet study floors. There are desks and chairs around the periphery of the rooms, which are as great for studying as well as napping. Just be sure that if you are going to sleep in the library, you secure your belongings; put the strap of your backpack or purse around your leg before dozing off. We can’t tell you how much stuff gets stolen in the library because of inattention.

4. Bingham Poetry Room

Because who really likes poetry, anyway? No one — or at least, not many — which is good, because it means hardly anyone will be in there when you go in to study. Last semester, Cardinal writer Ginny Washbish lauded the Bingham Poetry Room as the best place on campus to take a nap when nothing is going on in there. From what we here, we imagine it would be pretty good for napping during the room’s regular programming, too. The room is located in Ekstrom Library, and is down the hall from the Media Desk, on the east side.

3. Music Library

The hustle and bustle of Ekstrom Library just too much for you? That’s because students from all majors tend to use it. Break away from the norm: check out your books from Ekstrom, then head over to the School of Music’s library. While you might think the audiophilic music majors might make this place a lot louder than it has to be, it’s actually quite peaceful. Then again, if music helps you study, you can probably check out some Brahms or Beethoven to make your study experience more enlightening.

2. Texas Roadhouse

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This is probably the most perplexing structure on campus. Modeled after the popular steakhouse, this shell of a restaurant does not actually offer food. Perhaps, at one point, it did, but I am too caught up in the bizarro mystery of it all to ask anyone who’s been here longer than I have. Texas Roadhouse is located in the basement of the School of Business, and is used by a few business students to study during the day. And this appears to be its sole purpose, besides perhaps subliminally hinting that you should go and get a cactus blossom instead of actually studying. And if you get the munchies or need to make some copies, there is a small room off to the side equipped with a microwave and a photocopier.

1. Speed School Spot

This took some shoe-leather reporting, because this started as a rumor. After walking through all of the accessible floors of the classroom buildings at Speed School, we determined that it probably referred to either the second or third floors of Vogt Hall. Largely populated by professor offices, this building is completely and utterly silent. In the third floor, just as you enter from the elevator there is a niche with a desk and two chairs that would work very well for a study session. In the hall, there is plenty of bench seating with beautiful views of campus. And — though we’re not sure if it’s available for student use, and assume no responsibility if it turns out it’s not — there is even a kitchen space at the far end of the hall. We can say that, on our visit, the door was propped open and nobody was around. Food for thought.

Bonus: The Louisville Cardinal Office

This is our personal place of choice to study for finals. Located in the basement of the Houchens building, it is just five minutes away from most of our classes, and from the SAC. Quiet? Check. Secure? Check. Count you in? Sorry, but you do have to be a writer or photographer for The Louisville Cardinal in order to use our office for study purposes. The good news? Anyone can write or take photos. We are always hiring, so feel free to drop us a line if you’d like more info about what we do.

Photos by Simon Isham

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‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ stars to appear at Headliners in ‘Battle of the Seasons’

By Simon Isham—

Did PINK at U of L whet your appetite for drag queens? Have you been hanging out at Play Dance Bar on Wednesdays? Then you’re going to want to keep reading, because the girls of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are coming to Louisville. I talked with Mimi Imfurst, who will be DJing the show; Michelle Visage, a “Drag Race” judge who will be host; and Pandora Boxx, a queen who will be performing.

Have you ever been to Louisville? What did you think?

MI: I have. I had a great time. I was there for Pride two years ago. Everybody was treating me like gold. I’m really looking forward to coming back. I remember that the food is great. I remember they took me to a really awesome kind of Southern hospitality barbecue place that was amazing. I’m going to try to find that. The last time I was there, I literally did a drag show in the middle of the street. I was doing a performance, and I ran outside. I literally had the DJ play “Car Wash.” I grabbed a balled-up rag and some Windex and ran out in the street and started washing cars. People were like, “What the hell is she doing?”

MV: I have been to Louisville, Kentucky. It was the very first stop on the Milli Vanilli Tour in 1990. I was very young, and so overwhelmed with the fact that I was doing a national tour and opening for the biggest act in the world at that time. I didn’t see much of Louisville; I was just like, “Someone pinch me!” I haven’t gotten to see any of your beautiful city!

PB: I have, actually. I was there a few years back. I loved it. I had a great time. One of the things I noticed is that people love to drink there! I do like to drink, but there were an obscene amount of shots.

You’re coming in just a few days before Derby. Do you plan to stick around?

MI: That’s what I heard. Of course, the Derby is all about the hats, but we drag queens are all about the wigs. That would be the real competition — who has the better dresses: the Derby ladies or the drag queens?

MV: Yay! So I should bring a hat, huh? And I got hats!

PB: As soon as you started talking about it, I remembered, because I was there around the time of the Kentucky Derby (last time I was in Louisville). I didn’t get to see it because it was such a quick visit. I wish I had been there longer. But it’s all about the hats, isn’t it?

What are the best and worst parts about touring with a group of drag queens?

MI: The best part is that you get to see so many great places. The worst part is that you don’t get to see so many great places. But you get to share it with a whole bunch of Drag Race girls who understand a really unique experience.

MV: What I like best about it is that we get to see the fans’ connections to these queens, up close and personal. And the other thing is, when you come to see them live, not only are you going to be floored at more impressed than you were before, even if you go, “Oh, I knew she  could do all that.” I guarantee there’s going to be a moment with another queen that maybe you didn’t like or didn’t know anything about. Your mind is going to be completely blown and opened … I just make sure everybody’s happy, especially the queens, so they don’t become irritable and awful. It doesn’t happen often, though. But a lot of them think, “Now I’m on TV, so now I’m a superstar.” We’re here to give (them) a wakeup call, because it ain’t like that! It’s pretty fun to watch … Some of these kids will complain about accommodations or mode of transportation. Like, have any of you ever toured? And they’re like, “No,” and I’m like, “Then you need to shut up, because what we’ve got here is an amazing situation. You have no idea what it’s like to share a room with five people. To ride around in a Ford Fiesta, like a clown car. You honestly have no idea what it’s like.” I’m there to be the mother, the reality check … We’re not just clowns — well, we are, but we’re talented clowns!

PB: It’s amazing, because I’ve been to all these cities that I’ve never been to before, and really big venues that we would probably never get to play by ourselves. So it’s really great. And the crowd responses have been incredible. It feels like being at a rock concert. I feel really blessed to be a part of it. The best part of it is getting to see all these amazing cities. The worst part is no sleep, and travel.

What am I going to see at the Louisville show?

MI: What’s great about the Drag Race girls in real life is that you get to see what we really do. You know, the show is fun, and there are crazy challenges, but you never get to see what we really do. You’re going to see drag queens doing knife juggling and eating fire and walking on stilts. You’re going to see drag queens singing their original songs and doing group numbers. You’re going to see all kinds of crazy things … the art form itself exists on breaking rules.

MV: Ivy Winters! She’s a full-on circus performer. That’s what she did before she got into drag. She eats fire, she juggles knives, she walks on stilts, she’s really quite breathtaking. She does something different at every tour stop. She doesn’t like to get bored with her stuff, and she changes it about. She’s also a really great singer and she doesn’t really do that because people get so enamoured by the circus performing.

PB: I’m still putting together some of my performance, so I don’t know exactly. I have a few more weeks before — I’m changing things up a little. You’ve got to keep things fresh because otherwise you get bored doing it. And I’ve been working on some new music, so I might incorporate that on this tour. You can expect to see something entirely new — but maybe the same penis jokes, but everything else will be new.

MI: Michelle Visage is so funny as a host. I think if we get her drunk enough, she’ll do a few songs.

MV: Mimi’s being funny because Michelle don’t drink. I’ve never drunk a day in my life. And yes, I sing on the tour. I only do one number because I feel like I’m there to host the event. I do perform.

PB: We all have this expression whenever she says something. We just go, “Oh Mimi.”

Other performers I didn’t talk to who will also be in the show are Jinkx Monsoon, Sharon Needles, Ivy Winters, Carmen Carrera, and Phi Phi O’Hara. This all goes down at Headliners Music Hall at 10 p.m. on April 27, with a VIP meet and greet before the show at 8 p.m. General admission is $30 and the show is 18+.

Asian studies hosts 4th annual Lang Seminar

By Simon Isham―

Four academics — three professors and one researcher from the United States Congressional Research Service — formed the panel for the 4th annual Lang Seminar, an initiative by U of L’s Asian studies department to promote discussion on topics related to modern Asia.

“We’re proud to have all these esteemed speakers from other universities and the Congressional Research Service with us to present their research,” said Dr. John McLeod, professor of history, who hosted the event. “We are also happy to have four faculty members from the University of Louisville with us to comment on the presentations.”

McLeod also thanked Helen Lang, founder of Crane House, an institute in Old Louisville dedicated to the study of Asia. It is after Lang and her late husband, Calvin, that the Lang lecture is named. The Langs also gave generously to the university to support their Asian studies department. The Center of Asian Democracy also provided resources to make the seminar possible.

Dr. Alice Ba of the University of Delaware specializes in Southeast Asia. Her presentation was titled “Asia’s Shifting Constitutional Landscape: ASEAN, China & the United States.” ASEAN refers to a conglomerate of independent southeast Asian nations that band together in order to increase their political impact against China, Japan and South Korea.

“The Southeast Asian is usually the last one on the panel,” said Ba, who presented first, alluding to the relative dominance of economically booming  countries in academic discussion.

Ba presented a comprehensive historical analysis of ASEAN from its beginnings to its modern place in the political landscape, in addition to its strengths and weaknesses.

Michael Martin, of the US Congressional Research Service, was the next to present. His presentation was titled “Regional Implications of the Globalization of the Chinese Currency, the Renminbi.”

“(It) is globalizing faster and farther than expected,” he said.

Martin’s presentation was the product of a very detailed analysis of the spending and banking habits of Asians — not just Chinese — who use the Renminbi as a currency, both inside and outside of China. He discovered that many millions of Renminbi are sitting in offshore accounts, indicating that people have confidence that the currency has resiliency and growth potential.

Rina Williams of the University of Cincinnati discussed the upcoming Indian elections by summarizing the platforms and recent history of the parties currently campaigning for power.

Williams noted that the Indian elections are the largest in the world, with over 814 million voters. Unlike in most countries, most of these voters are rural and uneducated.

Update: Williams successfully predicted the outcome of the elections, with Modi winning the vote on the BJP ticket, despite not having released a party platform until the day of the elections.

Dr. Samit Ganguly of Indiana University talked about “Indian Views on the Responsiblity to Protect,” or humanitarian intervention. He observed that it “has not always been unwavering,” but “at other times, it has been quite robust.”

The seminar was held today from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Ekstrom Library. Complimentary breakfast and lunch were provided to attendees.

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What a drag (show)!

By Simon Isham–

The most sickening spectacle on campus returns for its 17th year. And in this case — and only in this case — “sickening” is a good thing! Turn with me in your drag dictionaries to “S.” Sickening (adj.): incredibly amazing, excessively hot.

“We’re kind of like Lady Gaga in the LGBT Center: we live for the applause,” said Lisa Gunterman, U of L LGBT Center’s assistant director, who introduced the show. PINK, U of L’s annual drag variety show took place Friday night.

Typically, it is Director Brian Buford who introduces the show, but this night was anything but typical: Buford participated as a performer this year.

Buford was the winner of  the Making Change competition, in which students vote for the person they most want to see perform in PINK by dropping money in a bucket in the Intersection. In the production, Buford was one of a trio, along with PINK veterans Kimora St. James and Kashmere St. James. The three performed as The Dreams from the 2006 musical “Dreamgirls,” in a very dignified performance.

At the end of the song, the tip line was still so long that the show’s organizers called a 15-minute intermission in order to give Buford a chance to thank all his fans and collect the money. Buford will be donating all of the tips he received to the LGBT Center and to the Rustin Community, a social justice-themed living community comprising two floors of the University Tower Apartments.

The show was co-coordinated by two students, Johnathon Hockensmith and Alex Cooper. Hockensmith, a sophomore, also performed in the show as drag queen Jessica Silvers.

The “mother” of the House of PINK was Reva Devereaux, who has held the role for the past several years. In drag culture, a drag mother is an experienced drag queen who acts as a mentor and guide to less experienced queens.

“Let me fess up,” Devereaux said. “I almost couldn’t make it.”

She recounted the story of how, the week before PINK, she had hit herself in the face with the door of her car, which knocked out a tooth. Devereaux said she called  Buford, who told her: “Mothers can’t take off because they’re missing a tooth; you’ve got to get your butt in there.”

“All the performers tonight are donating their money to such good causes. All the proceeds (from my performances) go to my tooth fund,” Devereaux joked.

PINK 2014 included 23 performances by 18 acts. The entertainers ranged in levels of experience, from fresh-faced drag amateurs Cecil Saturn and Bebe Blaze, to Play Dance Bar playmates Spacee Kadett and Bianca Nicole. Miss Kentuckiana Pride Festival 2013, Vivica Heart, also made an appearance, wearing leopard-print leotard with a glittery bustle, and feathered hair piled high.

Music chosen for the show was Beyonce-heavy. I have included all of the tracks I could identify:

“It’s just always amazing how incredible this community is and how distinct the University of Louisville is compared to other universities,” said Keith Brooks, co-coordinator of the Fairness Campaign. Brooks attended the event, despite the fact that his organization didn’t reserve a table this year, as they usually do. “They are so supportive of LGBT students, staff and faculty. It’s really remarkable.”

When asked if he had any particular favorite performer, Brooks said, “They were all my favorites. But I was really impressed by Brian (Buford). I didn’t have any idea that he would perform. It was a very pleasant surprise.”

The event was followed by an afterparty at the recently opened Play Dance Bar, which also hosts popular drag shows.

Full disclosure: Hockensmith is a former member of the Cardinal’s advertising staff, but we’re guessing he made more money as a performer at PINK than he did as a salesman.

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U of L medical school placed on probation

By Simon Isham & Olivia Krauth–

The body that accredits U of L’s medical school last week placed it on probation, a step just short of withdrawing accreditation. Incoming and current medical school students told The Cardinal that it does not change their perception of the school.

“I am confident that our school will address all issues being cited,” said Matthew Woeste, president of U of L School of Medicine’s class of 2017.  “Our leadership will be very active over the next year working closely with the LCME to ensure we come into full compliance. Many of the necessary changes are already in place, which mitigates my initial concerns. This probation will be a catalyst for positive change at our university. I would choose my medical school again and again.

“The cost of medical education is undoubtedly high. I consider it one of the greatest investments I can make. I also realize our tuition is most appropriately invested into our educators and clinical experience. Both of which I would argue are the best in the state.”

One future U of L medical school student said she isn’t alarmed by the probationary status, despite the fact that the school may lose its accreditation in 2015.  “It reassures me that they’re going to be up-to-date on curriculum changes and they’ll have their new facilities,” said Megan Parker, sophomore psychology major and participant in U of L’s Guaranteed Entrance to Medical School (GEMS) program.

The medical school emailed admitted students about the probation and told them what changes the school plans to implement in response.

Dr. Toni Ganzel, dean of the U of L School of Medicine, says that the school is still a quality institution.

“If you look at our student performance and outcomes, oh, we have a great story to tell,” said Ganzel. “Our numbers are better than ever.” She said U of L medical students perform above the national average in several national medical licensing examinations, including a 99 percent pass rate on step one of the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination.

 

Administration knew of problems that led to probation

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which accredits all American medical schools, pointed out nine changes U of L must make within two years. Despite the probationary status, the university remains fully accredited.

A press release from the university said it will have to make nine policy changes to be restored to good standing. According to LCME regulations, medical schools are required to notify their students and faculty about probationary status, but not when given a warning. LCME does not comment on its warnings.

Ganzel said the school has two years to correct some specific areas that are part of the 131 LCME standards.

Specifically, the nine unmet standards were:

Not having enough active learning

Differing performance measures across sites

Needing more written feedback for students

Needing more integration across disciplines

Not having enough seats for students

Needing more reviews of their curriculum

The lack of academic affiliations with healthcare providers

A lack of lockers for all students at clinical sites

A need for more interaction between faculty across sites

The dean said the unmet standards boil down to two areas of concern:  the condition of the preclinical instructional building and pace of preclinical curricular change. The LCME noted overflowing lecture halls and cramped student study spaces.

Woeste explained that each lecture hall currently holds 160 students, with an “overflow room that streams live classroom events.” He also noted that many classes utilize Tegrity, leading to independent learning for some students.

More than three-fourths of medical students reported to U of L in April 2013 they are pleased with the study spaces available to them saying they were satisfied or very satisfied. LCME found issues with these study spaces, and Ganzel said they will be renovated soon.

The building was cited as a challenge in an April 2013 Institutional Self-Study Report, prepared by U of L for the LCME. The building was described as “adequate, but not state-of-the-art,” and it said that the lecture halls “have been updated as much as possible within the constraints of the physical structure and building codes…”

Ganzel told the Cardinal that the LCME had pointed out the inadequacy of the preclinical instructional building in earlier inspections. “They had cited us on that last time,” said Ganzel on the last LCME inspection in 2006. “We tried to make the case, at our visit a year ago, that although the building was not optimal, but it was adequate,” said Ganzel. “But the site visit team, in their judgment, felt that the building was not adequate.”

Two months ago, Ganzel gave a presentation before the Greater Louisville Medical Society in which she mentioned the inadequacy of the medical school’s facilities.

According to a U of L press release, the new building will have “two large interactive lecture halls, small group learning labs and classrooms, a new student lounge and private study areas” when completed. Architects were brought in to “completely redesign” the instructional space. Ganzel said construction has begun and the renovations are expected to be complete when students return to class this coming August.

The medical school was switching from a discipline-based curriculum to a more integrated one when Ganzel saw other schools being cited by the LCME on curricular matters.

“It’s a huge, time-consuming process,” said Ganzel about revamping curriculum. “Usually, it takes about three years and I said, ‘We’re going to have to blitz and really work to do this.’” The new curriculum will roll out this summer.

 

Timing of LCME report not to

U of L’s advantage

The LCME visited the university in April 2013. Ganzel, who was then interim dean of the medical school, said that many of the changes recommended in April of 2013 have already been completed, and that others are on the way.

“We are really disappointed with the probationary status, but I’m glad that the changes they are requesting that we make are things that we already implemented this year or are being implemented this coming year,” said Ganzel. Although she said several of the recommended changes were implemented in the time since LCME’s 2013 visit, LCME cannot consider them in a reevaluation.

The medical school will submit an official action plan in August, which will be considered at LCME’s October 2014 meeting. Ganzel anticipates a follow-up visit from LCME in July 2015, with a final decision on probation in Oct. 2015. A consultant from LCME will assist the medical school during the period.

“They’re holding schools to a level of accountability on the specific details of those standards that has really increased over the past few years,” said Ganzel.

When asked if LCME’s standards should reflect more on student performance, Ganzel said, “Outcome is really important. Process is important, but outcome is really key.

“They’re the ones that make the standards, and I, and other deans I know, share that vision of quality. Whatever those standards are, we will do everything we need to insure that those needs are met.”

Former professor speaks out

Dr. Peter Hasselbacher, president of the Kentucky Health Policy Institute and a former professor at U of L’s medical school, posted an entry on the KHPI’s blog the day after the school was officially placed on probation. In the post, he suggested that the nine areas of improvement Ganzel spoke about were not complete or specific.

“I have the greatest respect for Dr. Ganzel. I think she’s one of the more honest, good people at the medical school,” he said. “I think she outlined some of the major areas (from the LCME report), but most of the major areas can circumscribe everything that a medical school does … The LCME would not have pulled the trigger for minor things, things that were unimportant, so I’m assuming that there was more. It’s not her job to air all of the school’s dirty laundry.”

Hasselbacher said he believes that “the nine, not-too-terrible sounding” reasons detailed in the “Business First” article are not the sole reasons for the probation, and that there were many pages more to the report than the summaries shared with the media. He said he believes there is more to the story.

Hasselbacher said: “There are things that the school doesn’t like to talk about, like its relationship with Kentucky One Health and Catholic Health Initiatives. That was obviously a problem for the (LCME) reviewers. It’s a sensitive subject over there. When the reviewers read the contract, the affiliation agreement with Kentucky One, they thought that it invalidated many other affiliation agreements. But it may be that that agreement was rewritten, and I believe Dr. Ganzel implied that it was.”

The Cardinal has made an open-records request for the LCME report and letter, which is currently pending.

“I’ve sat on the accreditation committee for the medical school, years ago, and I know what a lot of the issues are,” said Hasselbacher. “I like to think that I can read between the lines and see just what it is that bothers the LCME.”

“I’m disappointed, ashamed, embarrassed. Members of my family went to U of L. I worked there for almost 20 years. But I must say, I’m not entirely surprised; things have not been going well for the medical school in the last few years. There have been many warnings. It may have lost its focus on the academic programs there. I think the school has denied that fact, but it’s hard to deny it now.”

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Funding the dream: A look at U of L’s student loan stats

By Simon Isham—

Almost half of undergraduates and a third of graduate students at U of L have taken out student loans to fund their educations, a report from the Office of Institutional Research and Planning finds. The Cardinal requested the report based on the most recent data available.

Of the 15,893 undergraduates who were enrolled at U of L in the fall of 2012, a total of 7,444 had accepted a federal or private student loan. This means that 47 percent of undergraduates at the university have taken out student loans.

These students accepted a total of $31.7 million in loans, with the average accepted amount at $4,156.57 for federal loans and $5,622.62 for private loans. Private loans made up only 7 percent of student loans for the fall 2012 enrollment group.

Of the 4,157 graduate students enrolled during the same semester, a total of 1,553 accepted student loans, meaning 37 percent of graduate students took on debt to finance their education.

U of L graduate students accepted a total of $13.7 million in loans, with the average loan amount of $8,843.83 for federal loans and $8,684.00 for private loans. Private loans made up only 4 percent of student loans during the fall.

Mike Abboud, associate director of financial aid, said that freshmen are eligible to receive up to $5,500 annually in loans, but graduate students are eligible to receive up to $20,500 annually. U of L’s yearly undergraduate tuition adds up to $9,750 for in-state students, whereas annual in-state graduate tuition is $10,788. Therefore, most graduate students do not need to accept 100 percent of their aid package in order to attend U of L, though many undergraduates do.

Between the fall 2012 and the spring 2013 semesters, enrollment statistics show an 8 percent decrease in enrollment, but a 13 percent increase in the total value of student loans accepted.

Assistant Director of Institutional Research Arnold Hook, who provided the data set, and Senior Research Analyst Linda Hou, who compiled it, said they were not sure why this might be, and that additional research would be required to determine the answer.

Abboud said that he would need to work closely and extensively with Hook and Hou for several weeks to be certain of an explanation, but his best guess was that student loan eligibility changed between the fall and the spring semesters, such that more students were eligible for more higher valued loans.

The data also showed a bigger gap between the average loan value accepted in federal and private loans for undergraduates than it did for graduate students.

Abboud said again that he would need to do a lot of research to be sure, but that “my gut tells me that if a student is a transfer student, especially from a community college, grant funding or KEES funding is enough to cover their cost. (At U of L), we offer them a loan package, but they don’t get that at a community college. So when a student transfers (to U of L), they have 100 percent of their loan eligibility in the spring term,” as opposed to having to divide their loans between the fall and the spring term. U of L receives more transfer students in the spring than in the fall.

The Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) is money that all Kentucky students have the opportunity to earn while in high school by achieving GPA and standardized test score benchmarks. It becomes available upon a student’s enrollment in college.

The report from Institutional Research also contained data on student loans taken out over the summer.

U of L students accepted a total of 1,056 undergraduate and 398 graduate student loans during the summer 2013 semester. This means that just 18 percent of students who attended school in the summer of 2013 were on a loan.

The summer data included data for federal and private loans, as well as institutional loans, which are loans offered by the university.

“Many universities do not offer institutional loans, because they don’t want to be in the business of collecting on the loans for a five or 10 year period,” said Abboud. Instead, institutional loans are offered through specific departments when there is money left over in the departmental budget, and the students requesting them can demonstrate proof of hardship. Only two students took out institutional loans during that semester.

“Chances are the reason why it only occurred in summer is because the majority of (departmental) funds are tied up during the academic year, and the student needs to take summer courses to continue to move forward or regain eligibility in the future,” said Abboud.

U of L’s School of Business is one of the few academic units that offers institutional loans, but even there, these loans are rare.

According to Citydata.com, in 2011, the median household income for Louisville was $33,175. Institutional Research has calculated that 44 percent of students enrolled in fall 2012 were from Jefferson County, but that 76 percent of that group were residents of Kentucky.

Garrett Nugent, a freshman sports administration major, took out a federal subsidized loan for fall and spring, valued at $3,500, though he was eligible for $5,500. He did not accept an additional unsubsidized loan because he said it accumulated interest throughout college.

Though he earned $2,600 yearly in KEES money for his performance in high school, he did not receive a scholarship from the university. He was told that he was qualified for the scholarship for which he applied, but that the university did not have enough money to fund him, and had to make some cuts. He said he was invited to apply again for the next academic year.

“I did look at an outside loan, but we were denied,” he said. “I have no credit, and my dad had ‘too much credit out there.’ My dad has gotten loans for a car and a house in the past year, so I think if I had credit it would have been approved,” he said.

Nugent said he was considering taking out a different type of loan next year, but wasn’t sure where it would come from.

“I’m honestly just going to apply to a bunch of places and make my decision based on how much I need,” he said. “There are student loans out there that offer no payments until after you graduate, so that’s what I’m really going to try to get.”

Nugent said the prospect of interest didn’t bother him: ”I’m not going to let it control my future or my education.” He is currently working as a desk assistant in the REACH center, but is not using his salary to pay down his student loans.

Alex Davis, a senior computer information systems major, took out federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans this year valued at a total of $10,000. He said that because the government was able to offer him the amount he needed to cover his education, he did not need to consider any alternative type of loan.

“Important factors for me were the grace period for paying off loans, and how I am going to pay it off. Long term interest concerns me, but I did earn KEES money while in high school. It was used for books and supplies, and it complimented my scholarship,” he said.

Davis said he is not currently working anywhere in order to pay off his loans, preferring to focus on his education.

Full disclosure: Davis is a former member of The Louisville Cardinal’s advertising staff.