Judge’s order no surprise to an amused Jim Ramsey

Jim Ramsey is going over some notes with his administrative assistant in the University of Louisville Foundation offices Friday morning when they are interrupted by the messenger.

Back at work before heading off for some R&R.
Back at work before heading off for some R&R.

“Have you heard the news yet?”

“I haven’t heard anything,” says Ramsey. “You mean about the court?”

“The judge has issued the injunction …”

A smile crosses Ramsey’s face, followed by spontaneous laughter. “So this board is prohibited from doing anything?”

That’s exactly what it means, the decision by Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd granting an injunction to Attorney General Andrew Beshear. The decision places Gov. Matt Bevin’s order restructuring the UofL Board of Trustees in legal limbo.

“Are you kidding me?” says Ramsey. “I know the judge and I am not surprised. This board was in a hurry to meet before the judge acted.”

Whether Ramsey’s resignation as President to the new board is final is anyone’s guess. The only thing certain is that there will be further judicial proceedings before anything is settled.

And, believe it or not, Ramsey actually had seven days from the day he signed the agreement to change his mind and rescind the agreement if he so chose.

If the courts declared Bevin’s order null and void, he could face the possibility of going back to work for the old board. Not likely that he would want to resign twice, or give some of the original trustees the satisfaction of seeing that happen.

Since his “resignation” on Wednesday, Ramsey has turned his full attention to the University of Louisville Foundation.  He intends to retain his position as ULF President, continuing to raise funds in support of the University.

For the time being, however, he intends to get some rest and relaxation. He and Jane Ramsey are heading out this weekend with the family for seven days at a resort in North Carolina.

“It will be good to get away for a few days,” he says in the understatement of the week.

Jim Ramsey’s legacy at UofL will dwarf the distractions

The Thinker is more alone today than ever on his perch in front of Grawemeyer Hall.

Jim Ramsey earned and deserved a farewell tour over the next academic year as President at the University of Louisville. But after six hours of negotiations on Wednesday, his offer to resign was accepted, effective immediately.

Jim Ramsey at last board meeting.
Jim Ramsey enters his final UofL board meeting.

The Jim Ramsey era, from 2002 to 2016, will be remembered as a time of unprecedented growth for the University. Great strides in all areas of endeavor, including academic, athletic, student enrollment, graduation rates, and physical facilities.

Under his guidance, the school experienced a metamorphosis of mammoth proportions, transforming from a small sleepy aging commuter school to a dynamic campus attracting thousands of campus residents. This was accompanied by beautification efforts that left no area untouched, ranging from the restoration of The Thinker to the addition of striking new entrances on all sides of the campus.

Jim Ramsey may have done his job too well to suit some people, some of them threatened by UofL’s incredible advancements. Among them Steve Beshear, the former Governor, who ignored laws concerning university boards, placing donors on the board who had questionable loyalties to UofL.

Among the board members were some developers who resented the competition from the University, which was expanding in South Louisville, on the downtown medical campus and on the Shelby Campus in the East End. This along with plans for a major research park in an area adjoining the Speed School and Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Born and raised in Louisville, Ramsey was a leader with inexhaustible energy, dedicated to the University, totally driven in desire to take UofL to plateaus that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. The legacy will continue to grow and flourish long after the President cleans out his desk on Thursday.

Coincidental to all the progress at UofL in recent years came some troubling issues that were neither his fault or remotely under his control. Trusted individuals helping themselves to federal grant monies, blackening the eye of the University, time and time again it seemed, tainting the administration.

A local newspaper fixated on the negative. Old money people wanting to exert their influence on a growing university. Developers resenting the University’s growth. Gubernatorial appointments clearly designed to create division on the board. The controversy continued to grow, eventually overshadowing all the good that had been accomplished.

Governor Matt Bevin forced to dismiss an entire Board of Trustees. Attorney General Andy Beshear filing a lawsuit to declare the appointments illegal and, in the process, leading to a circus atmosphere, creating uncertainty. The new board concluding that Jim Ramsey was becoming a magnet for controversy and that a new beginning was best for the University.

Jim Ramsey should have been riding on the shoulders of appreciative UofL alumni and supporters as he departed the campus on Wednesday. He leaves behind a legacy of accomplishments and respect that will be difficult to match. He also leaves a strong foundation that will make it possible for his successor to envision achieving the goal of becoming one of the nation’s premier metropolitan research universities.

Jim Ramsey was well on his way to making that happen.

 

 

Bridgeman: No discussions with Ramsey about his future at UofL

The nightmare continues for University of Louisville supporters, with little promise of the drama going away anytime soon.

The newly-appointed UofL Board of Trustees named by Gov. Matt Bevin last month is getting off to a slow start, taking its time to review the proposed budget and the future of President Jim Ramsey.

Junior Bridgeman in no hurry.
Junior Bridgeman in no hurry.

About halfway through a presentation on a $1.3 billion proposal Thursday, Chairman Junior Bridgeman surprisingly stated the the board would not be approving the budget. He indicated that a committee composed of board members would “dive deeper” into the budget before arriving at any conclusions.

Bridgeman also indicated that the Board of Trustees has not had any discussions with Ramsey about his future, though he had offered to resign during the previous meeting. “That’s a major issue, but we have other issues to discuss as well,” he said. “We hope to resolve the matter at our next board meeting.”

Jim Ramsey in no hurry either. (Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton)
Jim Ramsey in no hurry either. (Photo by Cindy Rice Shelton)

The chairman would not disclose how he was leaning, saying it was the board that would make the final decision on Jim Ramsey’s future at UofL.

As for the budget issue, it was unclear whether Bridgeman made the budget decision based on the presentation or whether he was reacting to complaints from a student and her mother who interrupted the meeting several times, protesting a proposed 5% increase in tuition.

Bridgeman was noncommittal after the meeting, indicating that he thought that dialogue with students was healthy. “That’s what a university is about,” he said. “It’s about open discussion, open thinking, the exchange of ideas, debating different ideas. If you’re not happy with something that going on, it provides a forum to address that.”

The chairman was being too kind, ignoring the disruptive nature of the feedback. The criticism appeared premature, the students calling the Bevin appointments illegal while assuming the board had already decided to approve the budget.

He promised students, however, that they would be invited to make comments during the committee meeting on the budget.

UofL supporters can only hope that the current board is allowed to continue to do its work. If a Franklin Court judge issues an injunction, the old members will be back, ensuring continuing chaos well into the future.

Jim Ramsey remains behind President’s desk at UofL

Jim Ramsey continued to preside as President of the University of Louisville following the first meeting of the new Board of Trustees on Wednesday. The new members not sensing any need to make any immediate change.

Jim Ramsey still in charge.
Jim Ramsey still in charge at UofL. (All photos by Cindy Rice Shelton.)

That was disappointing to a couple of people — Andrew Wolfson of the Courier-Journal and Chris Otts of WDRB-TV — who have been beating the media drums for a couple of years in support of recalcitrant members of the old board dismissed by Gov. Matt Bevin.

Wolfson and Otts, attempting to make news instead of reporting it, were taken aback that Ramsey was still around following a closed session on personnel. They sought to turn the private session into a violation of the open meetings law, threatening to have a court seek video or notes from the session.

Junior Bridgeman, who was elected Chairman of the Board, wasn’t taking the bait. “You can vilify me tomorrow,” he said. “We discussed a number of things with Dr. Ramsey but we did not agree to anything.”

There apparently was no discussion of Ramsey’s future. Nor did there need to be since board members were already aware of his offer to resign from his position if the board wanted him to leave.

“We felt like we needed to analyze things a little bit more since everybody is new,” said Bridgeman. “He’s willing to do whatever the board wants him to do.”

Gov. Bevin was on hand for the first meeting, thanking the members for serving, describing the board as capable of running any corporation in the country.

“I have already received and accepted his resignation and I think that speaks for itself. And I think the timing of that as he has said, he’s willing to stand down within a day or whatever period of time the board determines,” Bevin said. “I defer to their judgement. They will collectively decide.”

Bridgeman noted that other personnel issues, as well as litigation matters, were discussed during the closed session. Whether the law was violated or not is of little consequence and any repercussions would be minimal.

Just a couple of wimpy reporters, disappointed, wanting to sound tough, not getting their way again. Jim Ramsey heads back to his office continuing to preside over the University of Louisville.

UofL twists in the wind, waiting on decisions

As we near the halfway point in the Summer of 2016, there are some major uncertainties leaving the University of Louisville twisting in the wind. Very unsettling for UofL supporters who deserve better.

Responsible leaders at the University and in Frankfort have made all the right moves but the ultimate outcomes lie in the hands of others. Alumni and fans are forced to wait patiently.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 12.42.05 PMThe most pressing issue, of course, is who will lead the university. Governor Matt Bevin has dismissed the old Board of Trustees, which had become a deterrent due to his predecessor’s appointments. Bevin replaced 10 of them with civic and business leaders with no agenda other than to get the University back on course.

But Attorney General Andy Beshear, son of Steve Beshear, has chosen to proceed along his father’s pernicious path, challenging Bevin’s appointments in court. This unnecessarily drags out the process, making administrative decisions more difficult, and potentially exposing UofL to even more damage from political appointments in the judicial system.

Jim Ramsey, meanwhile, continues as President, doing what he does best, expanding the school in every direction one looks. While he intends to offer his resignation to the new Board of Trustees, he also has indicated he would be willing to stick around for at least another academic year.

The other big issue for the University is what punishment will be administered to the basketball program, the most profitable college basketball program in the country. UofL has admitted guilt, self-imposing a ban at the end of the 2016 season, reducing a couple of scholarships while giving up recruiting opportunities.

The investigation appeared to end about three months ago but there has been no word from the NCAA. No notice of allegations and no hint of when they will be announced. This keeps the program in a state of uncertainty, making it difficult for Coach Rick Pitino to put the issue behind him.

Another round of discomfiture lies ahead for UofL fans, with the repetitious and embarrassing allegations, the finger-pointing from the Calipari bootlickers, the inevitable herd mentality of the media, and the moralizing of sanctimonious sportswriters.

A far cry from a couple of years ago when the University was riding a crest of unprecedented physical and academic development, achieving a billion dollar endowment, celebrating its entrance into the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference, and savoring a third national championship in basketball.

Every year can’t be the Year of the Cardinal obviously. There are going to be some down years, some with more pitfalls than others. But this is one of the worst thus far, with the harassment of President Jim Ramsey,  the deterioration of the board, and a premature end to the basketball season. A baseball team destined for greatness blows a three-run lead in the bottom on the ninth inning. Not a good year.

The University community will ultimately be stronger for the experience, surviving and building on a series of events testing the resolve of everyone associated with the school. The board will have rid itself of some individuals who had little loyalty and some questionable motives. Jim Ramsey, hopefully, will have at least another year, helping with the transition to new leadership. And unless something new has surfaced in the NCAA investigations, Pitino can focus again on winning another national title.

The dark cloud that has hovered over Belknap Campus will find another institution to shadow. As unseemly as some of the events of the past year may appear to be, UofL loyalists have seen worst, including years of stagnant growth, directionless leadership and lack of support from state government.

The University of Louisville, despite the recent blowback, will be more strongly positioned than ever to build on the unprecedented success of the past decade. The hardest part is waiting for all the drama to be done.