By Kyeland Jackson —
U of L’s faculty is suggesting changes to a bill granting Gov. Matt Bevin sweeping powers to replace academic boards.
Senate Bill 107 affects public institutions in Kentucky by granting Bevin power to replace boards for educational institutions if they’re deemed “dysfunctional.” A board is dysfunctional when it cannot reach a consensus to carry out primary functions. Interim Provost Dale Billingsley has called that tenet “a real problem” for boards of educational institutions.
The faculty senate suggested SB 107 return U of L’s Board of Trustees to 17 appointed members, opposing the 10-member board appointed under Senate Bill 12. They explained the 10-member board places undue burden on trustees tasked to sit on multiple committees, and said other ACC research institutions, like U of L, have larger boards.
The faculty senate also suggested redefining due cause to remove members by a board’s inability to “effect action on one or more matters,” due process to include a hearing before the Council on Postsecondary Education, ask CPE annually review committees and report non-compliant boards to Bevin and balance CPE’s nominating committee by gender and partisanship.
University spokesperson John Drees did not know when the bill would be sent, but said the university will adjust to changes.
“The university continues to work with government leaders and with our faculty to ensure any law will not threaten our SACS accreditation. SB107 is a work in progress and we appreciate the input and support of the Faculty Senate as we continue to develop the university’s recommendation,” Drees said.
SB 107 and SB 12 are tasked to address governance at U of L, currently under fire by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. SACS, U of L’s accrediting agency, placed the university on probation in December and blamed Bevin’s executive orders for the school’s probation in a letter received Jan. 11. SACS Vice President Patricia Donat implied SB 12 and Sb 107 could move towards addressing accreditation concerns. SACS President Belle Wheelan said Donat’s opinion does not matter.
“It doesn’t matter what Donat or I think because the decision is not ours but the decision of our board,” Wheelan said after Donat’s comment.
Probation is usually the last step before a university loses accreditation. Loss of accreditation for U of L means academic degrees lose values, credits will not transfer, the school cannot participate in the NCAA and federal financial aid becomes unavailable. Since 2000, SACS has removed accreditation from 12 private institutions.
Bevin’s 10-member board, named Jan. 17, worked quickly to address concerns, naming Greg Postel U of L’s interim president and appointing a new U of L Foundation chair during their first meeting Jan. 21.
Board chair David Grissom announced oversight changes for the foundation as well, asking ULF refrain from contracts and sales above $400,000 without board consent as they await results from a forensic audit. Foundation members have not approved a formal resolution to halt contracts and sales, but have indicated they will refrain from doing so.
Kentucky’s General Assembly is due to meet in February. Discussion for reforms to SB 107, and possibly its passage, are expected.