June 12, 2017

Audit findings, hiring concerns overshadow Staff Senate agenda

The Louisville Cardinal News

By Shelby Brown–

Anger over the U of L Foundation audit extended the June 12 staff senate meeting by an hour as each discussion led back to the shocking report released June 8.

“It was really disturbing to me to read the audit report’s findings of $1.7 million in additional payments to select employees while we have gone without raises,” Senator Wendy Metcalf said.

Secretary Treasurer Sabrina Haug pointed out the fault rests with the prior administration. She said change and an opportunity would come this year to “rebuild broken trust.”

The audit revealed deceitful actions by former president James Ramsey and his administration. It reported excessive spending, poor investments, deliberate attempts to hide information from the media and more than $20 million in bonuses paid to Ramsey and other administrators over the past decade by the foundation.

Senator Alex McWilliams said the senate should sue. “As a body, we need to ensure… that this (the audit) is not quietly put to sleep,” he said.

“Every single individual mentioned in the cliff notes or the unabridged volume are held accountable not only legally but morally for every transgression that they have committed,” McWilliams said “If there is a legal path to take against any one of these individuals it should be explored to the fullest extent that we can.”

McWilliams suggested there be reparations to the university, calling the actions of the previous administration “artful concealment.”

“We cannot afford to go through life as though, ‘that’s our leader, let’s just do it, don’t ask questions, don’t push the envelope,'” Senator Marian Vasser said. “I just really hope this is a lesson for us.”

Dropping enrollments freeze budget 

Interim Chief Financial Officer Susan Howarth previewed the proposed 2017-18 operating budget.

“We’re fairly certain that we will end this fiscal year with a positive surplus,” Howarth said.

Howarth reiterated January’s findings of the university’s financial woes, ending fiscal year 2015-2016 in the red. She said SACS probation made balancing the 2016-2017 budget imperative.

“The probation that we’re currently on, basically for governance-type issues, would be very mild in comparison to a probation for financial issues,” Howarth said.

Howarth said an enrollment drop  created the $6 million deficit Interim Provost Dale Billingsley mentioned last week.

“Unfortunately the enrollment numbers are not tracking well at all,” she said. “We’re actually down about 200 students from last fall.”

Initially, administration hoped to see 400 more students for the fall semester. With enrollment numbers reflecting otherwise, the budget was adjusted.

Howarth said returning students are not enrolling after their first, second or third years. Vice Provost for Strategic Enrollment Management and Student Success Jim Begany will be working with deans to bolster retention.

Due to these reductions, Interim President Greg Postel renewed the hiring freeze at least until October.

Staff Senate reconvenes July 10.

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