Louisville, Slugged

Assaults on academic governance at Kentucky's second-largest university.
By Susan Jarosi and Avery Kolers

In the future, everyone will be the University of Louisville president for fifteen minutes.

Within the last twelve months, the university has had three different presidents. It has also had four boards of trustees, two provosts, three directors of its endowment foundation, and six unconfirmed deans. The events that have unfolded at Louisville since last spring are not easily summarized, but these numbers provide a snapshot of the turmoil that has ensued since Kentucky governor Matt Bevin first paralyzed the university’s board of trustees when he failed to appoint required members and then, three months later, unilaterally dismissed the board and created a new one.

All three branches of state government have been involved: the governor with his executive orders and backroom deals, the legislature with two new laws touching not only Louisville but every public college and university in the state, and now the state supreme court with the attorney general’s court challenge. The events also have involved the university’s accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), which placed the institution on probation in December because of Governor Bevin’s actions. SACS cited violations of both core and comprehensive standards, including those relating to external influence, board dismissal, and evaluation and selection of a president.

How did it come to this? 

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Susan Jarosi is associate professor of art history and visual studies in the women’s and gender studies department at the University of Louisville, president of the AAUP chapter, and a member of the AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance. Her e-mail address is susan.jarosi@louisville.edu. Avery Kolers is professor of philosophy and director of the social change program at the University of Louisville and immediate past president of the AAUP chapter. His e-mail address is avery.kolers@louisville.edu.

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