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.



WAVE 3 has positive approach for Jim Ramsey & UofL trustees

Long overdue.

Finally, a voice of reason from someone in the local media addressing the criticism of Jim Ramsey and recognizing what he has accomplished at the University of Louisville.

In an editorial aired Tuesday, Ken Selvaggi, news vice president and general manager at WAVE 3, recognized some of the issues and accusations directed at Ramsey. There are more than a few issues, some of them real, others manufactured by a handful of board members with questionable motives.

Addressing constituent concerns head on in a straightforward, forceful manner would be welcome

Selvaggi acknowledges some concerns, such as “administrators who departed under questionable circumstances and received ample payments, academic deficiencies even with some impressive improvements.” He also includes Ramsey’s decision to impose a post-season ban on the basketball program.

Unlike some others, Selvaggi doesn’t jump on a contrived bandwagon seeking Ramsey’s scalp. He actually offers some constructive criticism and possible paths to solutions.

“The body of work of the President is exemplary in many ways, as the university has transformed itself under his leadership and business acumen,” says Selvaggi. “He certainly should step down as chairman of the [University of Louisville] Foundation’s Nominating Committee, but stepping down as President [of the university] may be a bit premature.

“Addressing constituent concerns head on in a straightforward, forceful manner would be welcome. There are a number of valid issues causing consternation. Acknowledging them and focusing attention on how to fix them is definitely needed.”

Selvaggi may be on to something.

Here’s a link to the WAVE3 editorial.

Doug Proffitt off base calling for Jim Ramsey’s job

Witnessing Doug Proffitt in an editorial blasting Jim Ramsey and the University of Louisville at the end of Thursday’s WHAS 11 News was discomforting. As a UofL fan and a former news editor, I was embarrassed for everyone involved, especially for the anchorman making an ill-advised rant.

Doug Proffitt, WHAS 11
Doug Proffitt, WHAS 11

I thought it was odd that a UofL story about a silly classified job posting with a racial slant was the lead story on the broadcast, especially on the day when an arrest was announced in the case of a missing Nelson County woman. Turns out that the positioning was not coincidental, setting the viewers up for Proffitt’s concluding editorial. The tirade lasted for about three minutes, an eternity on TV news.

Rarely on a TV station does an anchorman do editorials. Those are generally reserved for station management. For Proffitt, as an anchor with a big say in news coverage, to personally attack the leader of an institution constantly in the news was misguided.

In his opinion piece, Proffitt attempts to link the various thefts in different university departments, the sex scandal in the basketball program, the phenomenal growth of the campus, and continuing increases in tuition costs in order to paint a picture of a school more interested in profits than students, not caring what the public thinks.

Based on a lot of unrelated developments and unfortunate coincidences, Proffitt concludes that a change at the top is necessary, saying it is time for Jim Ramsey’s tenure to come to an end. Having not received a satisfactory response to station inquiries of the university, Proffitt concludes that the university (i.e., Ramsey) doesn’t care what Louisvillians think.

I don’t think it’s an anchorman’s place to be vilifying individuals they cover. Viewers should expect anchors to remain objective, and I said so in a text to Proffitt.

Proffitt responded:  “Hi, Charlie. Love your work and thanks for the note. I disagree with you (respectfully) This is my hometown, as it is yours, and I care deeply about U of L and its image. That has been lost. There needs to change. Many UofL loyalists agree and have been responding. Nothing personal, just my view after growing up here and now entering my 29th yr covering UofL at WHAS.”

The station doesn’t provide an embed code on its web site but here’s a link to the editorial and The Proffitt Report. I have to seriously question whether Proffitt can be objective about Jim Ramsey’s leadership in future coverage.