December 13, 2016

Editorial: My degree is more important than a political agenda

Remember this past summer when Governor Matt Bevin took it upon himself to dissolve U of L’s Board of Trustees? Many of us focused on Bevin’s more immediate call for former U of L President James Ramsey to step down, and treated the issue surrounding the board as something that would eventually pan out as the year progressed. Obviously, this wasn’t the case.

Bevin’s move of dissolving the entire BOT was destined to be challenged one way or another. Attorney General Andy Beshear vowed to oppose Bevin’s move and took it to Franklin Circuit Judge Philip Shepherd for further review. Shepherd, in return, blocked Bevin’s order of dissolving U of L’s BOT and said Bevin’s executive powers didn’t apply to public universities. However, Bevin has since begun the fight to appeal Shepherd’s rebuke.

It’s easy to pick sides on the matter, but it’s important to remember through the process of Bevin and Beshear duking it out over their elongated egos, the real victim in this situation is us.

While no one can seem to figure out what to do with the BOT, The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, U of L’s accrediting body, had a field day with U of L. They’ve placed U of L on a one-year probation due to issues regarding our BOT instability. The probation could extend to two years, and calls for U of L to fix this issue as soon as possible.

This means that as long as Bevin and Beshear continue to hash things out through litigation, U of L students and faculty alike find themselves in a situation where their relationship with the university could change for the worse.

A loss of accreditation is nothing to scoff at. This means that our degrees go from accolades, acknowledging all of our hard work throughout our time here at college, to pieces of paper that represent nothing but student debt and a waste of time.

SGA President Aaron Vance expressed his views on the matter in an op-ed he wrote to The Cardinal.

“Unfortunately, his (Bevin) insistence on being right and ignoring both the rulings of Kentucky courts and the guidance from the University’s accreditation agency, has now put the University’s existence at risk. In fact, Governor Bevin is putting the accreditation of the entire Kentucky public university system at risk; if the Governor can unilaterally change the composition of U of L’s board, what stops him from doing the same at another state school?”

Vance isn’t alone – there’s an online petition circulating with over 500 signatures to express dismay towards Bevin’s actions. The petition states, “Governor Matt Bevin’s undue political influence on the board of trustees and dismissal of trustees without appropriate reasons or fair process has resulted in a one-year probation period for the University of Louisville. This means that U of L could potentially lose its SACS accreditation as an institution, affecting thousands of students and Kentuckians.”

The petition, which has a goal of 1,000 signatures, will be sent to Bevin in an effort to convince him his political agenda is less important than the degrees of U of L students.

Acting U of L President Neville Pinto had a more optimistic outlook towards the matter, saying, “We fully expect to resolve these issues. The university’s accreditation will continue – I can say that confidently- will continue without interruption, because this is a very important institution to the state and to the city of Louisville.”

Unfortunately, optimism doesn’t guarantee our degree’s importance once we graduate – accreditation does.

Once you look beyond the partisanship and start to focus on what really matters, it’s obvious what needs to be done. Bevin has an obligation as our governor to not only expedite the process of appointing new BOT members for the university to dodge this bullet of accreditation loss, but an obligation to avoid ego-driven battles with Beshear altogether.

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