A few random thoughts about the Courier-Journal’s coverage of University of Louisville issues …
In case you missed it, Joe Gerth has a new column in the Courier-Journal, switching from political to a generalist approach, taking on the hot topics in town. He’s working hard in his new role as the newspaper’s “resident expert” on everything Louisville.
Or maybe it’s just that he chooses to ignore them. That would be the easier path for a writer at a publication that fancies itself to be a statewide newspaper. The CJ’s News side provides tons of coverage on UofL problems but only a bare minimum, usually wire coverage, on University of Kentucky issues — totally opposite to Sports coverage where equal coverage seems the goal.
Somewhere in Florida, Jim Ramsey is catching up on his golf game, hopefully recovering from some of the controversy that surrounded his departure as President of the University of Louisville last year.
Some additional perspective on Ramsey’s compensation at UofL was recently provided by Margaret Handmaker when she submitted her resignation from the UofL Foundation to Diane Medley, the new Chairman of the Foundation.
Ramsey was sharply criticized by some former members of the University Board of Trustees for what some believed was excessive remuneration. The annual compensation in his IRS returns between 2012 and 2014 was confusing because his reported income apparently included deferred payments.
The criticism, not surprisingly, came from Trustees who were not around when the University Board in 2005 adopted a Deferred Compensation Plan — a practice employed by universities to attract and retain key leaders through competitive levels of total compensation and deferred vesting.
In her letter of resignation,Handmaker noted that the UofL Foundation would “be faced with a significant shortage of institutional memory” moving forward with a new Interim Executive Director, all new University Trustees, and all new UofL Foundation board members.
She also noted that “as with other complex boards, the University relies on a committee structure to report information to the full board. Any suggestion that Trustees do not know what is going on at the Foundation is not well informed.”
She attached a memo in which she stated:
— “President Ramsey was recruited by the University of Tennessee, and the UofL Trustees felt strongly that they wanted to do “whatever it took” to keep him at the University of Louisville.
— “In discussions with President Ramsey, the Chair of the Trustees learned that the President did not want a higher salary, but a supplemental retirement benefit would be attractive to him.
— “Once again, the Trustees asked the Foundation to pay this benefit.
— “The same person chaired both the Board of Trustees and the Foundation Board (as was often the case), so the “ask” was a bit of a formality. The grant and the ultimate payout of the retention plan was reported in the Foundation’s IRS Form 990, which is available to the members of all boards and to the public.”
Ramsey also came under attack for retention bonuses for some of his staff, including Kathleen Smith, who served his chief of staff at the University and for the UofL Foundation.
Handmaker notes in her memo that “when (the late) Chester Porter was chair of both boards, he said that it was critically important to discourage Kathleen Smith from electing early retirement. A retention plan for Kathleen was designed by Chester and implemented by the Foundation.” Smith was placed on paid leave last fall.
Handmaker was among four directors who resigned from a group that also included Dr. Salem George, Joyce Hagen, and Dr. William Selvidge.
They were around when Jim Ramsey was in the midst of transforming the University from a commuter school to a member in full standing in the Atlantic Coast Conference, significant improvements in the GPA average of incoming freshmen and higher graduation rates, unprecedented growth in the University’s endowment, unparalleled growth of the physical campus and a boom in student housing.
They saw the best of times under Jim Ramsey and, in recent months, some of the most challenging days ever for UofL.
Governor Matt Bevin has his 10 names for the newest University of Louisville Board of Trustees, wants to get everything lined up, and will announce the appointees on Tuesday.
Keep thine fingers crossed that he has the right people and the board is motivated and ready to go. Tons of ground to make up. And hope that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) becomes just another acronym.
A SACS executive said this week that “it appears” state lawmakers “are working to address the concerns” that landed the university on probation.
Members of the current University of Louisville Board of Trustees didn’t need to show up for the board meeting scheduled for Thursday morning. Nor for any other meetings in the future for that matter.
The board meeting was cancelled, along with with the finance meeting, and the individuals serving as board members have effectively been removed. The second time in a year they have been relieved, this time for keeps.
With urging from Governor Matt Bevin, the Kentucky Legislature has passed legislation effectively abolishing the current board and the one that temporarily replaced it last year. The Governor really had no choice because the squabbling had continued and led to the school being placed on accreditation probation.
The current board was unable to conduct a search for a new President because of a settlement of lawsuit challenging the minority composition. Former Governor Steve Beshear had ignored racial and political guidelines, making the board effectively illegal, creating major conflicts while also ousting former President Jim Ramsey.
State Representative Jerry Miller (R-Louisville), who chaired a hearing on House Bill 12 on new procedures, believes the legislation will get UofL off probation as quickly as possible. In a communication to this constituents, Miller wrote, “the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has never questioned the power of legislatures to act in such matters. SB 12 does the following:
Addresses the probation status.
A newly established board will be transferred powers, ensuring the University will not go without a board of trustees.
The Council on Postsecondary Education’s Nominating Committee will be required to submit 30 nominations, from which Gov. Bevin must appoint 10.
Requires Senate confirmation of all appointments to the board, (SACS was surprised KY didn’t require this already), sets terms for members, specifies how to determine proportional minority representation on the boards and provides procedures for vacancies.”
Some faculty and student leaders had suggested that the Governor’s best course of action over time would have been to appoint seven Republican members, including two minority members.
Not an option since the terms of at least three of the more contentious members of the existing board did not expire until 2019 or later. Too many venom between board segments. Communications were strained and no significant action was possible. Similar circumstances over the past three years made the board dysfunctional.
These circumstances have been given short shrift by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), ignoring the rancor that existed, choosing to focus on Governor Bevin, accusing him of removing the board without due process. The reality was that the only options available to Bevin was to let a bad situation continue to fester or to take decisive action on behalf of the University.
By ignoring the reality of the situation and placing the institution on probation, SACS has clumsily embarrassed the University and damaged the school’s reputation. Further, SACS has exposed itself as an association influenced by political ideology and political posturing.
A real concern is that SACS may have relied more heavily on media coverage in the Courier-Journal than independently investigating the situation or interviewing board members and other affected parties. The organization has ignored the negative impact of the actions of the previous Governor, Steve Beshear, who consistently violated guidelines on board appointments, willfully disrespecting the process and ensuring conflict.
SACS should be fair and accountable to the 22,000-plus students, faculty and staff at the University of Louisville, and the even larger number of alumni, and their families, respecting all that had gone into putting UofL on an unprecedented trajectory. The Governor and the Legislature have taken the appropriate steps on behalf of the University, and those actions should be recognized and respected.
An awestruck 8,586 fans witnessed an historic performance at the KFC Yum! Center on Thursday — a keeper they will store in their treasure box of University of Louisville memories.
They were there the night when Syracuse looked almost unbeatable in the first half, jumping out to an 11-2 starts, owning 12-point leads over Louisville in the second quarter. UofL considering itself lucky to trail by only seven points at the half.
Things had not gone well for Asia Durr in the first half, looking apprehensive, tentative, afraid to shoot. And for good reason, missing all five of her field goal attempts. She would eke out two points during the first 20 minutes, making two free throws.
What happened in the second is the stuff of legend. Asia scoring 18 points in the third quarter with UofL outscoring Syracuse 29 to 4 to own a 20-point lead. She wasn’t done yet, tacking on an additional 16 points in the fourth quarter to lead Louisville to an epic 91-76 win over the visitors.
Yes, 34 points for Durr in that second half. She would wind up with a career high 36 points for the game, making 10 of 18 field goal attempts, including seven 3-pointers, and 9 of 12 free throw attempts.
“The first half was tough,” she said afterwards. “I gained a lot of confidence in that second half. I’m not the type of player who if things don’t go well is going to shut down. I love this game too much. It’s how you bounce back.”
Nobody was happier than Coach Jeff Walz about that mesmerizing second half. “We didn’t start the game well,” he said. “Asia wasn’t really looking to score in the first half. It’s kind of hard to score if you don’t shoot. She looked scared.
“I told her at halftime she was wide open at times and she wasn’t looking to score. She’s a scorer. That’s what she has to do for us. The second half she finally started to attack. Credit her teammates for getting the ball to her.”
Memorable night, too, for Mariya Moore and Myisha Hines-Allen. Moore coming through with a triple-double, with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Hines-Allen contributing 18 points and six rebounds. Those two keeping UofL close in the first half, setting the stage for Durr’s milestone performance.
A significant win over a quality opponent, with Coach Jeff Walz describing Alexis Peterson and Brittney Sykes of Syracuse as “two of the best guards in the country.” They would wind up with 31 and 21 points, respectively.
The win improved UofL’s won-lost record to 13-2, getting the Cardinals off to a good start in ACC play. Next up is Duke at Durham, N.C. on Monday.
Durr’s confidence builder couldn’t have come at a better time.