By Kyeland Jackson —
Effective immediately, James Ramsey is no longer president of the University of Louisville.
Trustees accepted Ramsey’s resignation during a special board meeting Wednesday. Chair Pro Tem Junior Bridgeman read the resignation letter which detailed the conditions for Ramsey’s leave.
“I will offer my resignation as university president to the board today. My resignation will be accepted and it will be effective today,” the letter said.
The initial conditions were Ramsey be hired as the interim president until July 30, 2017. He would get the same pay and compensations he received as president, and remain interim president until a successor was found or the board removed him.
But after hearing Ramsey’s offer, trustees called a six-hour-long executive session to renegotiate the terms.
The board’s new terms settled Ramsey’s contract with a payout of $690,000. In return, he would not serve as interim president and relinquishes his position as a professor at U of L.
Ramsey left the meeting to teach a class Wednesday, alluding to his term’s end in a Facebook post.
“Many thanks to Dr. Glenn Gittings for inviting me tonight to teach my last class,” Ramsey said in the post.
The resignation ends a tenure accentuated by success and marred by controversy. Under Ramsey’s presidency, U of L entered the Atlantic Coast Conference, increased six year graduation rates and ACT scores and was a top producer of Fulbright scholars nationally.
Controversy surrounding Ramsey plunged the university into a negative light. Ramsey received $8 million in compensation from U of L’s endowment manager, photos of him in stereotypical Mexican garb brought racial accusations, an alleged sex scandal led to a controversial postseason ban for the university basketball team, two administrators were placed on paid leave amid an FBI investigation and a whistle-blower lawsuit alleged Ramsey ignored claims of foul play in the administration.
Ramsey originally promised his resignation to Governor Matt Bevin after U of L’s board of trustees were dissolved June 17. Two weeks ago Ramsey offered his resignation to the board during a questionable executive session. Reporters alleged the board broke open meeting laws, discussing personnel matters behind closed doors. Bridgeman later said Ramsey offered to resign and the board would accept the resignation Wednesday.
Answering questions after the meeting, Bridgeman said it was a sad day for the university.
“You can say there’s a lot of things that has been done…and anytime that ends for someone, it’s never happy,” Bridgeman said.
Ramsey’s future on the University of Louisville Foundation is still unknown. U of L’s $730 million endowment manager could keep Ramsey as its president, which one foundation member has spoken in favor of.
Ramsey has not clarified if he will stay with the Foundation, saying “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
While the search begins for a new president, Interim Provost Neville Pinto will be interim president. If Pinto steps down from the appointment, the position would fall to the Interim Executive Vice President of Health Affairs.
David Dunn, who served as the executive vice president for health affairs in November, is under paid leave by the university for an FBI investigation.
Citing Ramsey’s departure, the university sent a mass email applauding his presidency.
“The University of Louisville Board of Trustees today accepted the immediate resignation of Dr. James Ramsey as president of the university. During the past 14 years, Dr. Ramsey has guided the institution through a remarkable transformation. By any measure – student retention and graduation rates, research funding and successes, student achievement and fundraising – the University of Louisville is a different, far better institution because of Dr. Ramsey,” the email said.
“Interim Provost Neville Pinto will lead the institution pursuant to Redbook policy as we begin the presidential search. Dr. Pinto is an accomplished leader, and the board recognizes and appreciates his deep commitment to our institution. The board will begin the search for the next university president immediately.”
Pinto accepted the position and thanked Ramsey in a statement.
“It has been a privilege to serve as interim provost under Dr. Ramsey for the past 15 months,” the statement said.
“With your support, I look forward to ensuring that the transition is accomplished with a renewed commitment to our students, our core values, and our broader university mission.”
Pinto will appoint an interim provost in his stead. The interim provost will take charge of the University of the 21st century plan, a blueprint to improving U of L to set goals by 2020.
The initiative was started under former provost Shirley Willihnganz. A mandate by the Kentucky Postesecondary Education act prompted the plan, pushing to turn U of L into a premier and nationally recognized metropolitan university by 2020.