SENATE PRESIDENT STIVERS ON SENATE BILL 12, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE ACCREDITATION

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Contact: John Cox 859-492-2963
John.Cox@LRC.KY.GOV

The following was written by Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers in response to a recent article published in the Louisville Cardinal weekly independent school newspaper:

As a proud Louisville graduate with a long family tradition of matriculating at the university, I understand just how vital U of L is to the development of the city of Louisville and to our Commonwealth as a whole. My support of recently enacted legislation reorganizing the Board of Trustees springs from my desire to do what is best for my university and its students, alumni, faculty and staff.

It was beyond dispute that the U of L Board was illegally constituted. The Board, as appointed by former Governor Beshear, did not meet statutory requirements for racial representation. The Louisville-based Justice Resource Council even sued Beshear to force the appointment of more racial minorities to the Board.  A lawsuit Beshear attempted to have dismissed. Kentucky law also required that at least seven of the 17 board members should be registered Republicans, reflective of Kentucky’s voter registration statistics. There were no Republicans on the Board as appointed by Beshear.  I doubt even Attorney General Andy Beshear would dispute his father’s appointments created a Board out of compliance with the applicable laws.

We have been without a President since July of last year and the Interim President is leaving us in February. In June of 2016 Governor Bevin attempted to eliminate the well-known dysfunction of the Beshear-appointed Board by appointing a new board through an executive order.  This action was opposed by Attorney General Beshear in court and U of L is now mired in a series of court orders – one of which prevents the University from beginning the search for a new president until the board issue is finally settled.

So to be clear, time was of the essence to enact legislation to resolve the university’s continued leadership crisis.

SB 12 did not codify or ratify Governor Bevin’s executive order, nor did it address the legal issues pending before the Kentucky Supreme Court. It does reduce the number of Board members from 17 to 10 and allows the State Senate to utilize its Constitutional power to confirm gubernatorial appointments to public university boards in the future. If this oversight had been in place, the Senate would never have confirmed the Beshear appointments taking the U of L Board out compliance with state law. It should be noted that no individual previously appointed to the Board is prevented from being considered to serve on the new Board soon to be appointed.

Based on the timing of new appointments to the U of L Board, the Senate should be confirming these appointments when the Senate convenes again in the first week of February.

Most significantly, Senate Bill 12 does not place the university’s accreditation at risk. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has never revoked a university’s accreditation because a state legislature abolished and recreated a university board.   SACS took no adverse action when in 1992 the Kentucky General Assembly, under Democrat leadership, abolished and recreated every public university board in Kentucky (including U of L) and provided the then Democrat governor with the power to appoint all new members.  Democrats who voted in 1992 to disband ALL university boards are among the loudest critics of SB 12.

SACS did not revoke the accreditation of a university on probation in 2000 when the Florida Legislature took a similar action nor did they in 2015 when the South Carolina Legislature reorganized a university board. Dr. Robert King, president of Kentucky’s Council for Postsecondary Education, has written to the General Assembly that he does not see any provision of Senate Bill 12 as a violation of the SACS requirements and standards.

U of L has given much to Kentucky and to my family, and I would never propose the General Assembly take any action injuring the University or its community. SB 12 is similar to board reorganizations in 1992 in Kentucky, and to actions in other states. Ultimately, the General Assembly and the Governor took the necessary actions to preserve the interests of a state institution dedicated to educating our people, conducting world-class research, and bettering the Commonwealth.

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Robert Stivers, of Manchester, Kentucky, is the President of Kentucky’s State Senate. For a high-resolution .jpeg of President Stivers, please visit http://www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/Senate38.htm

 

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