University of Louisville’s president and its entire governing board are out.
With scandals mounting and dissent growing, Gov. Matt Bevin announced the major shake-up at the University of Louisville Friday morning. U of L President James Ramsey agreed to resign, the governor said, and Bevin used an executive order to dissolve and reconstitute the state-appointed Board of Trustees that oversees the institution.
What is going on at U of L?
Ramsey and his governing board have been at odds for months.
The U of L board has been floating a no-confidence vote for Ramsey, but a legal battle over the racial composition of the board prevented them from taking any action.
Among the scandals that have simmered in the last year:
- The NCAA is investigating the basketball program after a former escort alleged an ex-coach paid for strippers and sex for players and recruits.
- Last October, Ramsey apologized after he and his senior staff posed for a photograph at a university Halloween party wearing stereotypical Mexican garb.
- The FBI is investigating David Dunn, who is on leave as the university’s executive vice president for health affairs.
- Ramsey drew $2.8 million in compensation from the University of Louisville Foundation, where he also serves as president, in 2014, a dual role that he has called pioneering and others have deemed problematic.
Can Gov. Bevin do what he just did?
This is a question that is far from settled, but Bevin’s administration believes he can. The governor has used executive action to change the makeup of several state boards.
Bevin abolished and reorganized the Workers’ Compensation Nominating Commission twice in just over a month, even as a court decides whether he has the power to do so.
Franklin Circuit Court Judge Philip Shepherd temporarily blocked Bevin’s initial reorganization, forbidding the governor from appointing any new judges unless they were nominated by the old commission. But Bevin maintains that there’s precedent for governors to reorganize commissions and says the move helps alleviate “pay-to-play politics” in the organization.
He also scrapped and reconstituted the Kentucky Racing Commission and the Kentucky Horse Park Commission, though those moves haven’t been challenged in court.
In May, state police attended a Kentucky Retirement Systems meeting to ensure a member Bevin removed from the commission didn’t participate. Attorney general Andy Beshear has issued opinions saying Bevin can’t make such moves; his spokesman, Terry Sebastian, declined to comment on the U of L issue.
What happens next?
Bevin reconstituted an interim board with just three members: Junior Bridgeman, Bonita Black and Dr. Ron Wright.
Ramsey has offered his resignation to the new board.
Assuming they accept, Ramsey will step down as president as soon as the new board wants him to, according to his letter to Bevin.
But that’s not the whole picture, since Ramsey is also president at the University of Louisville Foundation. There was no discussion about his role there during the press conference on Friday, and Ramsey makes far more at the foundation — about $2.8 million, including deferred compensation, in 2014.
Ramsey’s foundation contract gives the board the right to terminate it if Ramsey were to step down as president.
But even if that were to occur, Ramsey may remain on the university payroll: His U of L contract allows him a tenured faculty position if he resigns at the request of the Board of Trustees. As an economics professor, he would be paid 75 percent of his base presidential salary, which is currently about $350,000.
Disclosure: In October 2014, the University of Louisville, which for years has donated to Louisville Public Media, earmarked $10,000 to KyCIR as part of a larger LPM donation.