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U of L Put On Probation After Governor’s Trustee Changes

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.

“It is focused entirely on issues related to governance of the institution,” Pinto said. “Probationary status will have no impact on degrees, federal funding for student financial aid or research grants awarded to faculty.”

In a released statement, Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper denied that the governor’s moves resulted in accreditation issues.

“U of L’s accreditation is not at risk, nor will it ever be at risk because of any action taken by Gov. Bevin. Anyone who argues otherwise does not have U of L’s best interest at heart,” Stamper said.

A spokesman for Attorney General Andy Beshear released the following statement:

“In his pursuit of absolute authority, Gov. Bevin has inflicted great and substantial harm to one of our public universities. My office, U of L faculty, a circuit judge and even the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools advised the governor about the serious ramifications that could result from his reckless actions. Indeed, on Aug. 18, SACS specifically told U of L that the governor’s actions and executive orders appeared to move the university ‘out of compliance.’ The violations outlined in that letter by SACS are the very same standards and violations included in U of L’s announcement today. The governor has dug a very big hole and has only one choice – rescind his executive order, dismiss his appeal and announce he will not support legislation that would impact the university’s governance. Otherwise, he will bury the University of Louisville in that hole.”

U of L hoped to renew its accreditation following a site visit next April. Instead, that visit is postponed while the agency works with U of L to fix the problems.

A special committee will review U of L’s progress prior to a visit tentatively scheduled for next fall.

The accreditation probation comes at a trying time for the major public institution. Last month, the credit ratings service Moody’s downgraded the university’s rating, citing instability, a shrinking endowment and reputation risks. (Read “University of Louisville, Foundation Credit Ratings Take A Big Hit”) The school’s nonprofit fundraising arm, the University of Louisville Foundation, also suffered a downgrade.

The foundation manages a near $700 million endowment. A state audit of the foundation’s governance is expected to be released in the next few weeks, and the foundation has a forensic audit in the works.

The state institution has an annual operating budget of $1.2 billion. Nearly 19,000 students are enrolled at the school, which employed about 6,800 faculty and staff members in 2014.

This post will be updated. 

Kate Howard can be reached at and (502) 814.6546. 

Disclosures: In 2015, the University of Louisville, which for years has donated to Louisville Public Media, earmarked $3,000 to KyCIR as part of a larger LPM donation. University board member Stephen Campbell and former member Sandra Frazier have donated.

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