January 17, 2017

Bevin names new U of L trustees

Grawemeyer Hall, U of L

By Kyeland Jackson —

Governor Matt Bevin named U of L’s new board of trustees Tuesday, continuing Senate Bill 12’s erasure of the current board.

The new board members are:

  • J. David Grissom, of Louisville – term expires Jan. 13, 2023.
  • John H. Schnatter, of Louisville – term expires Jan. 13, 2022.
  • Sandra Frazier, of Louisville – term expires Jan. 13, 2021.
  • Nitin Sahney, of Prospect – term expires Jan. 13, 2021.
  • Bonita K. Black, of Crestwood – term expires Jan. 13, 2020.
  • Brian A. Cromer, of Louisville – term expires Jan. 13, 2020.
  • Ulysses Lee Bridgeman, Jr. – term expires Jan. 13, 2019.
  • Ronald L. Wright, MD, of Prospect – term expires Jan. 13, 2019.
  • James M. Rogers, of Prospect – term expires Jan. 13, 2018.
  • Diane B. Medley, of Ekron – term expires Jan. 13, 2018.

All but two of Bevin’s appointments were on the board he hand-picked June 2016. Bevin’s nominees balance the board racially and politically.

“We’ve removed, now, the ability for this to keep being used as a political football by people who, frankly, do not have the university’s best interests at heart,” Bevin said in a video following the announcement. “We don’t answer the attorney general or to any given judge. We don’t answer to accrediting agencies. We answer to you. We answer to you, the voter. You have entrusted us with this responsibility, and by law this is the responsibility that we have taken. The legislature has acted definitively, and they – and only they at the end of the day – are responsible for appropriations for our universities.”

Attorney General Andy Beshear, locked in a legal battle with Bevin, questioned the governor’s powers.

“In his statements today, the governor claimed he and the legislature run Kentucky’s public universities. It’s this type of reckless behavior that led to the University of Louisville being placed on probation,” Beshear’s statement said. “While I respect each individual appointed today, the fact the ‘new board’ is virtually identical to the board under Gov. Bevin’s illegal executive orders may cause SACS to further question the governor’s undue influence on Kentucky’s universities.”

U of L spokesperson John Karman said U of L expects Bevin’s appointees to quickly name a new university interim president.

Dissolving the current board for fewer trustees stirred concerns by U of L faculty, worried how the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools would respond. SACS, the university’s accrediting body, placed the university on probation in December for violating accrediting standards. SACS blamed Bevin for the probation, questioning political influence imposed by his executive orders, which dissolved the board of trustees for his own hand-picked members and negotiated James Ramsey’s resignation as university president.

Probation is a serious charge, often the last step before an institution loses accreditation. Loss of accreditation for U of L would mean academic degrees would lose value, credits would not transfer, federal financial aid would become unavailable and the university could not participate in the NCAA. Since 2000, SACS pulled accreditation from 12 private institutions.

An email from SACS Vice President Patricia Donat implied Senate Bill 12 and Senate Bill 107, awaiting review, show Kentucky’s progress towards compliance. SACS President Belle Wheelan tempered Donat’s comment Jan. 13.

“It doesn’t matter what Donat or I think; because the decision is not ours, but the decision of our board,” Wheelan said. Donat later clarified her comments were misconstrued and did not imply positive or negative direction by state action.

While Franklin Circuit Court ruled against Bevin’s orders, calling it an overreach of power, the Kentucky Supreme Court agreed to hear his appeal against the ruling, continuing the case.

The Supreme Court requested documents be sent by March 23, allowing discussion and judgment on the lawsuit sometime after.

The state senate must approve Bevin’s nominees to officially appoint them. They do not meet again until February.

Photo credit Bryce Mansfield / The Louisville Cardinal

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