Faculty Members’ Statement on Attorney General Beshear’s actions of 6/22/2016

[This statement represents the position of a large ad hoc group of faculty members, facilitated by the UofL chapter of the American Association of University Professors. We do not claim to speak for the faculty as a whole, for any standing committee of the faculty, or for every individual faculty member.]

We are gratified that Attorney General Andy Beshear has intervened in Franklin Circuit Court to i) rescind Governor Matt Bevin’s extraordinary wholesale dismissal of the UofL Board of Trustees, and ii) prevent the Governor’s appointed three-person “interim Board” from carrying out the duties of the Board of Trustees.

Governor Bevin’s unilateral actions are not a benign attempt to enhance the Board’s harmony and “economy.” Rather, by attempting to replace 17 duly appointed members serving staggered six-year terms with 10 persons whom he has directly appointed and could again replace at any time, he would make the Board of Trustees dependent on his good favor. This imperils the academic freedom of students and faculty. Academic freedom is the bedrock of higher education, essential for effective teaching and cutting-edge research. Bevin’s actions threaten not just UofL, but every institution of higher education in the Commonwealth. Further, because the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – UofL’s accrediting body – requires that boards of trustees be free of “undue political influence” and that their members be insulated from summary dismissal, the Governor’s actions also imperil the University’s accreditation. If the University should lose its accreditation, its courses would be meaningless and its degrees, worthless.

In acting to prevent these irregular executive actions, the Attorney General is defending the statutes that constitute independent boards, regulate their membership and functions, and prevent them from being brought under the sole control of a single governor.

It is essential to emphasize that the present crisis of governance at UofL has two precipitating causes: the series of administrative scandals that threw President Ramsey’s leadership into question, and Governor Bevin’s failure, since March, to do his job of appointing two minority members to the Board of Trustees. As it happens, the Governor appointed three African Americans to his “interim board.” The Governor could thus resolve this crisis right now by simply appointing two of them to the Board of Trustees, allowing the Board to continue its work as statutorily constituted and required.
The University cannot wait for a budget, for personnel decisions, or for other matters that require Board action. The crisis is ongoing because the Governor fails to act in accordance with the law.  

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