Ramsey Insists ‘Business As Usual’ As Controversy Surrounds U of L

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James Ramsey

J. Tyler Franklin / KyCIR

James Ramsey

Despite widespread confusion over drastic leadership changes atop the University of Louisville, President James Ramsey said Thursday that operations are “business as usual.”

Ramsey told the University of Louisville Foundation board that he is moving forward with a university spending plan, which includes a 5 percent tuition increase, and he spoke of his efforts to reassure the campus community that all is well.

He said little about his own plan to step down as U of L’s president, and even less about whether he intends to continue to lead the institution’s nonprofit foundation, which is responsible for school fundraising.

Ramsey holds an unusual dual role as president of both the institution and its foundation. It remains unclear if he will stay on at the foundation when he is no longer U of L’s president. He is paid in both roles, but the vast majority of his income — $2.8 million in 2014, according to tax records — derives from his foundation job.

Board member Salem George told fellow foundation board members Thursday he wanted Ramsey to stay on as the foundation’s president, even when he is no longer at the helm of U of L. In a four-minute speech, he rattled off numerous statistics that he said showed improvements under Ramsey.

Asked about his future at the foundation, Ramsey called such a question hypothetical.

“I don’t know when I’m going to step down as president of the university,” Ramsey said. “It could be in a week, it could be in two months. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

(Read “U of L Gripped By Uncertainty Following Board’s Elimination“)

Ramsey wrote a letter to Gov. Matt Bevin last week and offered his resignation to a legally reconstituted university board of trustees, which governs U of L and supervises Ramsey.

Bevin dissolved and recreated the U of L Board of Trustees last Friday, a move that stalled several university functions and prompted a lawsuit from Attorney General Andy Beshear. In recreating the board, Bevin named three interim trustees.

One of those interim trustees, Junior Bridgeman, was elected to be the new chairman of the U of L Foundation Thursday. The foundation board governs the university’s nonprofit fundraising arm, and tradition dictates that its leader is also a university trustee.

Minutes into his new foundation board role, Bridgeman told meeting attendees that the foundation respects the authority of the governor — and supports Ramsey “as he has stated his intentions going forward.”

Yet neither Bridgeman nor Ramsey have elaborated on Ramsey’s intentions, most notably in regards to the nonprofit foundation.

“I think those are all the things he will decide depending on how everything unfolds,” Bridgeman said.

The close relationship between the university and the foundation led to a university Board of Trustees strongly divided into pro-Ramsey and anti-Ramsey camps. Before Bevin’s action last week, some trustees were pushing to take a no-confidence vote on Ramsey’s leadership.

Meanwhile, Ramsey has been under fire for numerous scandals over the past several years. 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.

On Thursday, Ramsey also provided details for students and staff waiting to learn how next year’s U of L budget will impact their wallets.

Since the now-removed Board of Trustees didn’t approve a budget for the new fiscal year beginning July 1, the institution will operate under Ramsey’s proposed spending plan. That plan closely mirrors his proposed budget that was rejected by the Board of Trustees’ finance committee earlier this month.

Although tuition will jump 5 percent, Ramsey increased a planned rebate for full-time students, from about $400 to about $526 toward future tuition.

The pool of money set aside for faculty and staff raises will increase by 2 percent under the plan. Meanwhile, administrative overhead will be cut by about $1.1 million.

Kate Howard can be reached at khoward@kycir.org and (502) 814.6546. 

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