Gary Ransdell

WKU

The president of Western Kentucky University is announcing several initiatives following a pair of incidents on campus involving hate speech.

Gary Ransdell told faculty and staff in an email Tuesday that the school will create a President’s Committee on Diversity and Embracement.

The group will focus on strengthening “campus civility and respect” and deal with any issues on campus involving racial intolerance.

An African-American WKU student found a racial slur carved into her car last month following a dispute over a parking space. An African-American assistant dean reported earlier this month finding three threatening messages containing racist language in her office.

Both incidents are being investigated by WKU Police.

Ransdell also said in his email that the school will increase the number of campus events it holds that center on the themes of "civility, respect, and the embracement of everyone in our campus community."

Here is the full text of Ransdell's email:

Lisa Autry

The process is moving forward to find the next president for Western Kentucky University.

Consultants with Isaacson, Miller, the firm hired to help in the search, have been on campus this week meeting with university leaders.  They met Friday afternoon with members of the search committee on what qualities they are looking for in the school’s next leader.

The firm will begin submitting names for consideration to the search committee in September.  Members then plan to send three to five finalists to the full board of regents by December 1.  Chairman Phillip Bale says the finalists’ names will not likely be made public.

"If it's someone that says 'Look, if I'm not the person that's selected, I'm going to lose my job, so you either maintain confidentiality or drop me out,' then we're going to maintain confidentiality," Bale told WKU Public Radio.  "Our objective is to find and get the best person we can, and anything that jeopardizes that, we will avoid."

The board is expected to make its presidential selection by March 2017.

Dr. Ransdell’s retirement is effective June 30, 2017. 

WKU

Western Kentucky University president Gary Ransdell says the state’s universities have reached a compromise with Governor Matt Bevin and House and Senate leaders over cuts to higher education funding.

In an email to faculty and staff Saturday, Ransdell said schools would get back some of the state funding that Bevin recently cut from the last quarter of the current fiscal year. The governor had enacted a 4.5 percent cut, saying the money was needed to help bolster the state’s public pension systems.

Under the plan described by Ransdell, that cut will be reduced to 2 percent. For WKU, that means a one-time loss of $1.49 million, instead of $3.35 million.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has challenged Bevin’s authority to unilaterally enact such cuts to the current fiscal year support for universities, and has said he’ll sue the Governor over the issue.

Ransdell says the deal negotiated Friday also spells out cuts for universities over the next two fiscal years.

WKU

Governor Matt Bevin wants to influence any performance-based funding model used by Kentucky universities.

The leaders of the state’s public schools and the Council on Postsecondary Education have been working for 18 months on a proposed formula for any new funding they receive.

But not only are universities not in line to receive new funding in the next state budget, they’re facing significant cuts.

Western Kentucky University Vice President of Public Affairs Robbin Taylor says Bevin has indicated he wants any such model to be based largely on how well schools help address workforce development needs.

Taylor says she thinks schools now have to re-evaluate what they’ve been working on.

"I don't want to say this negates all that, but it sort of puts all that on hold. As the Governor has indicated, he didn't think it went far enough, and he'd like to be a part of making those decisions, and has indicated his desire to work with the university presidents and the Council on Postsecondary Education to come up with those measures."

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell announced at Friday's Board of Regents meeting in Elizabethtown that he is retiring effective June 30, 2017.

He said he wanted to give the school ample time to find a successor. He will have served as WKU President for 20 years by the time he leaves the post.

Ransdell said picking the right time to step aside has been something he and his wife, Julie, have been discussing for a while.

"We want to do this on our terms, and this has been an incredible 19 years so far, and will be an incredible 20 years," Ransdell told WKU Public radio.  "We just felt like our health is good and I've seen so many people in this job retire and not have the best of circumstances with their health."

In an email to faculty and staff,   Ransdell said he believes he has fulfilled the commitment he made in 1997 to transform the university. 

"WKU is a dramatically different institution today than it was 20 years ago – financially, physically, intellectually and attitudinally.  Serving my alma mater has been a dream come true," said Ransdell.

WKU

In an e-mail to faculty and staff late Wednesday afternoon, WKU President Gary Ransdell said Governor Matt Bevin's proposed budget cuts to higher education present a substantial challenge to the university.

Bevin's proposal calls for a 4.5 percent budget cut this fiscal year. That translates to $3.3 million out of WKU's budget by the end of June. Nine percent reductions would go into effect after that.

"There are many details of this plan that are yet to be understood, and with regard to performance funding, those details have yet to be defined," Ransdell said in his message. "So we are a long way from fully knowing how WKU will be impacted by these proposals.  I am confident, however, that WKU will fare well in any measure that is outcome or performance based.

Ransdell says the budget contains at least one bright spot for WKU. Gov. Bevin's budget proposal contains an equity funding appropriation for both WKU and Northern Kentucky University. Ransdell says the appropriation would held "level the playing field for our students who are paying a disproportionate share of their education in comparison to students at other Kentucky universities."

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell believes a White House plan to make community college free has little chance of becoming reality.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Obama announced a plan to offer two years of tuition-free community college to students who maintained certain academic standards.

The effort would cost about $60 billion over ten years, with the federal government picking up three-quarters of the cost, and states paying for the rest.

Speaking to WKU Public Radio during a break in Friday's Board of Regents meeting, Ransdell said that’s an unsustainable model. 

“There’s no way I can be advocate for Kentucky putting money into that and continuing to cut higher education for the public universities."

Ransdell said he understands that the technical and associate’s degrees that many community college graduates earn help drive the manufacturing sector. 

“But the reality is, it’s bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees that drive the economy, and those are the people who are the decision-makers with the intellectual skills that go into driving the economy.”

Before kickoff of the November 15, 2014 matchup between Army and WKU Football, WKU President Gary Ransdell delivered the game ball from 13,500 feet above Houchens-Smith Stadium in a tandem jump with the US Army Golden Knights.

President Ransdell jumped in tandem with SFC Chris Acevedo and SFC Noah Watts provided aerial videography.

Thanks to WKU PBS and the U.S. Army for sharing this behind-the-scenes video with us!

WKU Athletics

The pregame entertainment prior to WKU’s game with Army this weekend will come from above.

The U.S. Army Parachute team, known as the “Golden Knights” will be performing along with a special guest – WKU president Gary Ransdell. 

Ransdell is scheduled to do a tandem jump while holding on to the game ball.

“This is one way that I think we can highlight the importance of military service, not only to this university, but certainly, most importantly, to our nation and what those young men and women mean to our freedoms and their efforts to protect those freedoms,” said Ransdell.  “So that’s the primary reason I’m doing this.”

And while Ransdell doesn’t regularly jump out of planes, he’s no rookie either.

“I’ve done this once before, this is not my maiden voyage,” said Ransdell.  “I did it at Fort Knox with the Golden Knights a few years ago and it was an amazing experience.  There were 8-10 people standing around watching that one, so this one will be a little bit different.”

Clinton Lewis/WKU

WKU is one step closer to offering a doctorate in Applied Psychology.

The school’s Board of Regents approved the degree program at its quarterly meeting Friday. The new Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) would be offered through the Department of Psychology in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences.

The Council of Postsecondary Education must now OK the program before the school could begin offering classes in the fall of 2015.

Clinton Lewis/WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell says it’s every employee’s job to help the school retain as many students as possible.

Addressing faculty and staff at Friday morning’s convocation at Van Meter Hall, Dr.Ransdell cited examples of academic progress, including an increase in the average ACT score of first-time baccalaureate students.

But he added that the school is still allowing too many students to leave campus without finishing their degrees.

“We are graduating just over 50 percent of our students in six years and we are still losing 25 percent of each freshman class within one year of their initial enrollment. So, for our students’ sake—if not for our own financial stability—please become part of the solution to keeping our students at WKU until they graduate.”

The WKU President said he was concerned about the value of the school’s remedial courses that many freshmen take. Ransdell added he’s worried the school is losing students who return home after their first semester with only three to six credit hours.

Just below Cherry Hall, one of WKU's grandest buildings, sits nearly 200,000 square feet of new student housing, built at a cost of $24 million. There is also a 30,000-square-foot, $10 million alumni center, and a 72,500-square-foot, $14.5 million Hyatt Place hotel scheduled to open in 2015. The New York Times profiled the partnership between WKU and Bowling Green that has impacted both campus and community.

WKU

The WKU Board of Regents is delaying a vote to privatize the campus Health Services Center.

At a meeting Thursday morning, board members requested that the university provide them with more information about the proposed agreement with Graves Gilbert Clinic. Regents specifically asked for copies of the “request for proposal” that was submitted to those interested in bidding on the health services contract.

The university announced earlier this year it would seek to privatize its health services operation, in an effort to save nearly $1.1 million in the 2014-15 operating budget.

Regent John Ridley of Bowling Green says today’s move by the board should not be seen as a vote of no confidence in either the proposed contract or the school’s administration. Instead, Ridley says the regents want to make sure they’ve had time to thoroughly review the proposal and have any questions answered before a vote is taken.

“The issue is that we have a board responsibility when we’re about to enter into a contractual arrangement, and if anyone has a question we need to get it answered, and then everybody’s happy,” Ridley said after the meeting.

Faculty Regent Dr. Patti Minter said it’s important that the regents make sure any and all concerns are addressed before conducting a vote on such an important matter.

Photo Gallery: WKU's 175th Commencement Ceremonies

May 19, 2014
Abbey Oldham

About 2,000 undergraduate, master's and doctoral students at WKU were honored at commencement ceremonies in front of a packed E.A. Diddle Arena this weekend. Graduate candidates donned lavishly decorated hats, listened to a speech by President Gary Ransdell, had their names read as they walked across the red carpet, and posed for photos in their caps and gowns.

This weekend marked WKU's 175th commencement ceremony. Photojournalist Abbey Oldham gathered these images of the weekend's events.

WKU

The President of WKU says he’s not counting on a big tuition increase to help offset a proposed cut in state funding for universities.

Dr. Gary Ransdell says he believes the Council on Postsecondary Education will cap the next round of potential tuition increases at about three percent.

That’s the increase the CPE set last April for in-state undergraduate students beginning this fall. President Ransdell told WKU Public Radio that it’s probably not realistic to expect anything more than that.

“Even if the CPE would allow a higher number, we’re not likely to go there,” Dr. Ransdell said during a break in Friday’s Board of Regents meeting. “So we’re going to have a modest tuition increase. Every year there’s going to be a tuition increase. It will simply cover our fixed-cost increases. These other items are going to have to be funded in some other way—probably through redirection of funds within our budget.”

The proposed budget announced by Governor Beshear this week includes a 2.5 percent spending reduction for state universities, which amounts to a loss of $1.8 million for WKU in fiscal year 2015.

Kentucky minimum wage increase?

A proposed increase in Kentucky’s minimum wage would add an estimated $419,000 to WKU's current payroll obligations. Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo is sponsoring legislation that would boost the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, up from the current $7.25 an hour.

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