I was traveling out of the country the first part of this month. When I returned, I expected, or more perhaps accurately hoped that some progress has been made in restoring the governance and oversight responsibilities of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees. Unfortunately, last week the Board was forced to meet once again for “informational” purposes only. Alas, as far as I am able to determine, nothing has come out of the Governor’s Office or the newly constituted Governor’s Postsecondary Education Nominating Committee indicating an intention to resolve in a timely manner the deadlock that has placed the Board in limbo. I can find no required public notice that a meeting of the Nominating Committee has been scheduled. An email inquiry yesterday morning to the Governor’s office has not been answered, nor was a phone message earlier in the month requesting notice of a date.
Based on what I have observed, I must assume Governor Bevin’s higher priority is to protect an embattled and increasingly desperate-appearing President James Ramsey. By delaying the appointment of an African-American trustee further, Governor Bevin will have an opportunity to appoint a larger and controlling block of additional trustees as existing terms of office expire thus effecting political capture and control of the University. Surely such a potential goal must not be perceived as delaying the resolution of a matter of social justice which is in my opinion now being used as an excuse to sideline the current Board of Trustees. In my 36 years at the University, now is the worst possible time to allow the University to flap ineffectively in the breeze.
Still broken– including the Nominating Committee itself.
Governor Bevin sidelined the Board over a claim that its membership was illegally constituted, lacking sufficient minority racial representation. Ironically, the Postsecondary Nominating Committee the the Governor recently appointed fails the same test of legitimacy, including the lack of even a single minority member. By the Governor’s own logic, his Nominating Committee is illegally constituted with regard to minority status, gender, and political party. I believe that the Office of the Attorney General should examine whether the membership of the Nominating Committee and its current activity pass statutory muster. This committee serves an important public function. The Nominating Committee names candidates to the governance boards not only of Kentucky’s comprehensive public universities, but also its Community and Technical College System, the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television, the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, and the Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation. Our community deserves to know that the legitimacy of this critical Committee is unassailable. I do not believe that it is.
What should the Nominating Committee be doing now?
“In making its nominations, the committee shall consider the needs of the respective institutions, locate potential appointees, review candidates’ qualifications and references, conduct interviews, and carry out other search and screening activities as necessary.” In simpler words– function like a head-hunting organization. What will happen? “The Governor’s office staff shall provide support services for the committee.” I attended a meeting of the Nominating Committee last year, perhaps the first visitor to have done so in a while. Based on what I observed and learned from interviews of Committee members, the committee will meet a single time in person or telephonically to consider a list of potential candidates submitted by the Governor’s staff. There will have been no systematic attempt to assemble a panel of candidates, let alone fresh candidates. No interviews of any potential candidates by the Committee will have been attempted. Candidates will have been drawn from a preexisting pool of individuals. Representatives from the Governor’s office will be in attendance and participate in the discussion.
Is there any wonder that a sceptic like myself might reasonably believe that a Governor will get a list of nominees for appointment that contains a preordained name? As a test of my lack of confidence in the nominating process, or alternatively as an act of atonement for any lack of faith, I offer a modest wager I used to make in these pages. I have written down the name of the individual who I predict will be appointed to fill at least one vacant Trustee slot promised for a racial minority. A more fervent supporter of President Ramsey cannot be found. I will reveal my prediction individually after the matter– as it must be– is settled. If I am wrong, I will buy the Martini or beverage of choice as we toast together our wishes for a brighter, less embattled, and successful future for the University of Louisville.
Peter Hasselbacher, MD
Emeritus Professor of Medicine, UofL
26 May 2016