By Kyeland Jackson —
Faculty members voiced worries during Wednesday’s faculty senate meeting.
It is the first meeting since state legislators passed Senate Bill 12, abolishing the board of trustees in lieu of members vetted by Gov. Matt Bevin and the state government and Senate Bill 107 which grants Bevin power to dissolve dysfunctional institution boards. Senators worry what passage of SB 12 and SB 107 means for future institutions. One tenet of SB 107 mandates a board is dysfunctional when it cannot reach a consensus to carry out primary functions.
Acting Provost Dale Billingsley said the tenet is “a real problem” for boards of educational institutions. Philosophy Chair David Owen said both bills threaten academic freedom for institutions, asking Billingsley how faculty could help maintain academic freedom.
“I believe you’re right, but, we have to be careful not to paint the present state of the law,” Billingsley said. “We haven’t been in exactly in a place without any danger to academic freedom for all of these years.”
Billingsley said he and other administrators talked to legislators through winter break, and students and faculty effectively represented the university in Frankfort. With the passage of SB 12, U of L’s Board of Trustees will be removed once appointments are vetted and appointed.
The bills endanger U of L, currently on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges on Schools. SACS said the university violated accreditation standards, blaming SACS non-compliance specifically on Gov. Bevin’s executive acts Wednesday. Bevin’s orders were previously struck down by Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd, but the Kentucky Supreme Court agreed to hear Bevin’s appeal. Meanwhile, SB 12 remains in effect and SB 107 could pass in February.
“I believe that it’s probably highly likely that when senate reconvenes it will attend to Senate Bill 107 in due pace. I don’t believe we have that much time to talk about this,” Faculty Senator Reg Bruce said. Faculty Senate President Enid Trucios-Haynes invited concerned faculty senators to a faculty senate executive committee meeting next week.
Acting President Neville Pinto gave possibly his last faculty senate report before leaving to be president at University of Cincinnati. Pinto took steps to ease the burden of his departure, filling three vacant administrative positions Wednesday.
“It’s been a tremendous honor to be in a leadership position at this university,” Pinto said. “It may seem like there’s turmoil more than ever now – the air is clearing.”
Pinto stressed the need to persevere, asking faculty promote diversity on campus and retention for students. He received a standing ovation when finishing his report, and Trucios-Haynes thanked him for his service at the university.
Photo by Bryce Mansfield / The Louisville Cardinal