Dear Commons Community,
Earlier this week, the U of Louisville got a new interim president — its vice president for health affairs, Greg Postel. The appointment was among the first acts by a new Board of Trustees appointed just last week by Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin. However, the appointment has caused great concern at the school with claims of undue external influence on Bevin’s part. As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education:
“Those who have been following the complex situation at Louisville will recognize that Governor Bevin’s new board isn’t really new at all. Nine out of 10 of the “new” trustees were previously named to a board the governor sought to create last summer, when he used an executive order to dissolve the university’s old board and replace it with a smaller one.
Governor Bevin’s first effort is the subject of a continuing court challenge, but his recent appointment of a new board has been cleared by a new law passed this month that makes explicit his legal authority to appoint Louisville’s board.
Meanwhile, the university has been left in the uncertain position of proving to its accreditor that it has not been subject to undue political interference…
… While it is not unheard of for a governor to attempt to gain greater control of higher education in his or her state, Paul Gaston III, a professor at Kent State University who teaches about higher-education administration, said he thinks Governor Bevin’s actions are “unusual” in their aggressiveness.
A Senate bill due to be reviewed when lawmakers reconvene in February would take the powers afforded to Mr. Bevin at Louisville and extend them to every public college across the state.
Jay Todd Richey, a student at Western Kentucky University who is the chair of the Board of Student Body Presidents of Kentucky, said that he believed the new Senate bill would constitute “an undue burden on the institutional autonomy of universities, potentially jeopardizing accreditation for us all.”
This is an unfortunate situation for a venerable university and potentially all of the public colleges in Kentucky. It will be watched closely by other state university systems.