University of Louisville

J. Tyler Franklin

If the University of Louisville lost its accreditation, it would likely shut down — or at least cease to exist as you know it. Only the wealthiest students would remain because unaccredited institutions don’t get Pell grants and federal student loans. An exodus of talented faculty would likely follow as enrollment dropped.

J. Tyler Franklin

A collegiate accreditation agency has placed the University of Louisville on probation, citing interference with its board of trustees.

The announcement follows months of speculation over the school’s accreditation status and comes on the heels of several moves by Gov. Matt Bevin that university administrators feared would be viewed as a loss of independence. Bevin disbanded and reconstituted the U of L board of trustees in June, and at the same time delivered word that then-president James Ramsey would step down.

A judge restored the old board in September.

In its decision, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges cited issues with board of trustee membership, standards related to selection and evaluation of the university president, external influence and board of trustee dismissal.

U of L Acting President Neville Pinto said in an emailed statement that the commission’s decision doesn’t reflect academic problems.

J. Tyler Franklin

After Gov. Matt Bevin appealed a ruling that blocked his overhaul of the University of Louisville board of trustees, Attorney General Andy Beshear has requested that the case be fast-tracked to the state’s highest court.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled in October that Bevin’s reorganization of the U of L board was illegal, saying that the governor didn’t have the authority to unilaterally dismantle a public university board and remove all of its members in the process.

Bevin’s appeal would send the case to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, but Beshear asked that the case go straight to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

In his motion, Beshear said the case needs to be resolved because Bevin has refused to fill vacancies on the board while the case is on appeal. He also cited concerns that U of L could lose its accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for “undue political influence.”

Jacob Ryan

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's office says a controversial Confederate monument near the University of Louisville is being relocated to Brandenburg.

Fischer and former U of L President James Ramsey announced seven months ago that the monument would be dismantled and moved.

The Courier-Journal reports that Fischer said the 121-year-old monument's new location will offer people the chance "to remember and respect our history in a more proper context." He also said the approximately 45-mile trip will make it possible for people in Louisville to visit the monument.

About two dozen people, some as far away as Virginia, told Louisville's arts commission they would welcome the monument as a piece of history.

Brandenburg Mayor Ronnie Joyner told the commission in July that the city has a re-enactment every two years and would provide a good home for the monument.

U of L

United States Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was in Louisville Monday to accept the Brandies Medal, awarded by the University of Louisville.

It’s named in honor of Louisville native, Justice Louis Brandeis, who began serving on the high court a century ago.

Kagan says she’s long admired Brandeis, especially the prescience of his judicial opinions.

“He really had a sense of like, what was coming down the pike,” she said. “Sometimes decades away. The best example of this is his dissent in ‘Olmstead,’ where he basically, there he is in like 1920 or something, and he’s foreseeing the surveillance state that we’re now thinking about.”

Kagan was also interviewed by two U of L law school professors, but did not discuss any specific cases from her tenure on the court.

J. Tyler Franklin

A judge has denied Gov. Matt Bevin’s request to vacate a ruling against the governor’s overhaul of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees.

The governor’s office requested the modification earlier this week, saying that the court had misinterpreted facts in the case and made a “manifest error of law” in its legal analysis.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled last month that Bevin didn’t have the authority to abolish the U of L board because trustees couldn’t be removed without cause. On Friday, Shepherd ruled that “there is no reason to re-open this case, or to delay its finality, with additional arguments.”

Bevin argued that he didn’t “remove” board members but instead abolished the board in its entirety, which the governor says he had the authority to do.

In the decision from Friday, Shepherd once again ruled that abolishing the board amounted to removing its members.

J. Tyler Franklin

The University of Louisville has asked a judge to overrule an Attorney General’s opinion that it wrongly refused to release records related to its basketball scandal.

U of L filed suit Friday in Jefferson Circuit Court against a blogger who sought documents related to then-president James Ramsey’s decision in February to remove the men’s basketball team from postseason contention. The attorney general’s office ruled the documents were wrongly withheld.

The attorney general’s decision on Sept. 1 stated that U of L improperly denied a request from Peter Hasselbacher, who typically covers health and research issues on his blog, the Kentucky Health Policy Institute. The university’s suit seeks attorney’s fees and names Hasselbacher the defendant, as required by Kentucky law.

“I anticipated this was coming but when you’re hit with a lawsuit that wants you to pay legal fees and other damages, that makes you sit up and take notice,” Hasselbacher said Tuesday afternoon.

John Karman, U of L spokesman, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

J. Tyler Frankin

A judge has ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin cannot unilaterally reorganize a public university’s board of trustees and dismiss all of its members, calling it an “unprecedented assertion of executive power.”

In June, Bevin issued an executive order abolishing the University of Louisville’s board of trustees, citing dysfunction on the board. He later created a new board and appointed all new members. Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Bevin over the move.

Though state law allows governors to unilaterally reorganize state boards, the power had never been applied to a public university board.

On Wednesday, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled that the governor can’t remove public university board members without cause.

“Governors, who have not been shy about asserting executive powers, have dealt with these situations by requesting (and obtaining) resignations of board members, or have allowed the disputes to be settled through the normal administrative and judicial processes,” Shepherd wrote in his opinion. “No prior Governor has ever attempted to invoke the re-organization power…to address problems in the governance of public universities.”

James Ramsey Resigns From U of L Foundation

Sep 16, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin

The embattled former president of the University of Louisville stepped down Friday from his second job as president of the university’s foundation.

James Ramsey said in a letter distributed by the foundation board that he voluntarily resigned as university president — “although my contract allowed me to stay in that position until 2020” — because he and his wife have been considering retirement for some time. Ramsey stepped down in June via a $690,000 buyout but signaled no intentions to leave his foundation role.

The letter stated that Ramsey would also leave his foundation role to pursue retirement on a date convenient to the board, “no later than Jan. 1, 2017,” but board chairman Bob Hughes said the resignation is effective Friday — and with no additional payments.

Ramsey’s resignation and a few other actions are enough to hold off any lawsuit for now, said U of L board chair Larry Benz. Benz had threatened to file suit against the foundation for withholding records he sought but laid out a “pathway to restored confidence” he said would prevent that lawsuit.

Ryland Barton

Students at the University of Louisville could lose federal financial aid and the ability to transfer class credits if the school loses its accreditation. That’s what the attorney general and an expert witness warn will happen if Gov. Matt Bevin is allowed to unilaterally overhaul the school’s governing body.

The governor’s office argues that U of L is not immediately at risk of losing its accreditation and that a lawsuit over the matter will be settled by the time the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools could impose any sanctions, settling whether the governor has the authority to abolish and restructure a university board without legislative approval.

Steve Pitt, the governor’s general counsel, said there’s no legal reason the school has to be accredited, but he still downplayed worries that U of L could lose its accreditation

“There is no statute in Kentucky, oddly enough, that even requires public universities to even be accredited,” Pitt said. “I think you’ll see that there’s a lot more smoke here than there is fire.”

J. Tyler Franklin

WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has filed a lawsuit against the University of Louisville Foundation, the latest step in an ongoing public records fight.

The Foundation, led by former U of L President James Ramsey, manages the university’s some $700 million endowment.

The suit, filed Thursday in Jefferson Circuit Court, seeks an injunction to force the Foundation. to release ethics and disclosure forms, along with payroll and financial documents first requested by KyCIR in February.

The Foundation has resisted releasing the documents, saying the records requests were burdensome because they were “overly broad and blanket in nature.”

J. Tyler Franklin

A state judge has denied Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's request to block an expert witness' testimony about the University of Louisville's accreditation.

Bevin abolished and replaced the University of Louisville board of trustees earlier this year. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued him, saying the order was illegal. Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd temporarily blocked Bevin's order, but asked both sides to present testimony from expert witnesses about how Bevin's order would impact the school's accreditation.

Bevin attorney Chad Meredith declined to present an expert witness, and asked Shepherd to block a witness called by Beshear. He said the testimony was not relevant to the issue of whether Bevin has the authority to replace the board.

Shepherd called Bevin's request a "dramatic change in direction" and denied it. The hearing is continuing Thursday.

J. Tyler Franklin

Facing growing scrutiny from donors and its own university, the University of Louisville Foundation is paying $11,500 a month in retainers alone for external public relations firms.

In contract proposals submitted in July, the firms shed light on strategies they intended to employ to combat rampant criticism of the Foundation.

The documents, obtained by WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, suggest the Foundation is gearing up to try to counter negative stories in the press and highlight achievements of its president, James Ramsey, during his 14-year tenure.

Last month, Foundation staffers signed contract extensions for two Louisville firms: RunSwitch Public Relations, led by political strategist Scott Jennings, and Tandem Public Relations, led by Sandra Frazier. Both contracts were extended as of Sept. 1.

University of Louisville

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan will be honored this week by the University of Louisville law school.

Kagan will receive the 2016 Brandeis Medal. It’s named for Louis Brandeis, a former justice and law school namesake.

She’ll be in Louisville Thursday, when she’s scheduled to place a wreath at Brandeis’ gravesite at the law school.  Kagan will receive the medal at an evening ceremony at the Seelbach Hotel.

Law school dean Susan Duncan says that’s when Kagan will be interviewed by one of her protégés.

“The person who will be conversing with her, interviewing her is a professor named Justin Walker, who was actually her law student when she was the dean at Harvard,” says Duncan. “And he is a former Supreme Court clerk himself.”

J. Tyler Franklin

In an effort to clean up a “culture of secrecy,” the University of Louisville Board of Trustees voted Friday to potentially sue its own foundation.

Trustees authorized Chairman Larry Benz to work with outside lawyers to prepare and initiate a lawsuit against the University of Louisville Foundation if they don’t follow a “pathway toward restored confidence” Benz laid out after the meeting. With numerous members of the board and acting President Neville Pinto standing behind him, Benz said upwards of 70 donors have contacted the university to demand drastic change before giving another dime to the foundation.

“Their message has been convincing and consistent: Clean up the Foundation,” Benz said. “It is an eyesore for the community.”

Trustee Bob Hughes, who is also chairman of the Foundation, abstained from voting. The only vote against the measure was from Ron Butt, who called it divisive and said he would resign his seat, effective Friday.