September 2, 2017

U of L’s Board of Trustees lacks transparency

Board of Trustees Chair David Grissom, Board of trustees, David Grissom

Board of Trustees Chair David Grissom, Board of trustees, David Grissom

By Megan Brewer —

U of L’s Board of Trustees met Aug. 10 to create a special committee for litigation. Of the 13 trustees, two voted against the special committee and one member abstained.

SGA president Vishnu Tirumala opposed the measure.

But after the meeting, Board of Trustees Chair David Grissom did all of the talking to the media.

As reported by Chris Otts’ WDRB story, “After the meeting ended, Grissom approached Tirumala and told him about a board policy that only the chairman speaks to the press.”

But there is no policy.

Sherri Pawson, U of L’s senior compliance officer, said, “To my knowledge, there isn’t a separate policy. BOT meetings are governed by Kentucky’s Open Meetings Law and are open to the public.”

This meeting isn’t the first time there’s been an issue with who on the board can speak to the media. The “policy” seems to come and go from meeting to meeting.

According to Cindy Hess, a U of L spokesperson, “The board members have agreed that the chair will speak on behalf of the board.”

Grissom’s statement to Tirumala makes it seem more like a policy than an agreement between board members.

When asked what his thoughts were on the “policy,” Tirumala said, “My understanding of the board policy is that its purpose is to allow the Board to speak with singular purpose on complex issues.”

His understanding of this “policy” is that it exists. Tirumala did say, “However, like previous student trustees, I will definitely speak to the media and students about any board decisions when appropriate.”

This is reassuring, but it’s not enough.

Under former President James Ramsey, overspending led to a lack of transparency. There were secrets kept, leaving students and faculty in the dark.

This new policy continues the lack of transparency. When Grissom says only he is allowed to talk to the media, everyone is in the dark about what happens in executive sessions.

Two trustees voted against the special committee Aug. 10, but their reason for voting no is unknown. That won’t be addressed unless Grissom discusses it.

There’s been nothing but empty promises of transparency from the board for a while now. In order for the board to gain back the trust of the students and staff, they’re going to have to be open and honest.

There shouldn’t be just one board member speaking to the media about what decisions were made and why. Every trustee should be free to speak about their personal decision, especially when it differs from the rest of the trustees.

If the board is really doing what they feel is best for the university, being completely transparent shouldn’t be an issue.

By choosing to put this new policy in place the board is leaving the impression that there are things to hide. This is not the way to turn the university around in a positive direction.

This agreement needs to be put to rest; board members need to talk openly about what decisions they made.

U of L’s students and staff deserve nothing less than honesty. It’s about time the board started fulfilling that promise.

File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal

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