Education Politics

The accrediting agency that put the University of Louisville on probation explained its decision in a letter Wednesday, saying actions by Gov. Matt Bevin to dissolve U of L’s previous board of trustees and replace it with new members of his choosing violated its standards of independence.

The letter does not address whether a new law approved by the General Assembly in support of Bevin’s changes would solve the problems.

It also does not suggest that academics played any role whatsoever in the probation.

U of L released the three-page letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges late Wednesday. In it, SACS president Belle Wheelan says Bevin’s actions made U of L trustees subject to outside political influence. She also says Bevin violated SACS standards by dismissing the previous board without cause.

And she suggests Bevin’s apparent involvement in negotiating former U of L President James Ramsey’s resignation was a violation of the accrediting agency’s standards.

“The governor’s actions demonstrate the board is functioning with considerable external control and influence and places in jeopardy board capacity to be ultimately responsible for providing a sound education program,” Wheelan wrote in the letter.

Bevin has insisted SACS’ decision to place U of L on probation was not the result of his board overhaul. In an email Wednesday, Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper suggested the letter was unremarkable.

“SACS letter comes as no surprise and offers nothing more than the same old news,” Stamper said. “The General Assembly remedied the situation with the passage of SB12, which Gov. Bevin signed into law. It’s time for the University of Louisville to move forward with a new board of trustees and begin its fresh start.”

On Saturday, state lawmakers approved a bill to abolish the previous board and replace it with a smaller version, just as Bevin did via executive order last summer.

SACS is giving U of L two years to address the problems, after which its accreditation could be revoked if it does not make progress toward correcting the issues.

U of L spokesman John Karman said in an email late Wednesday that university officials were reviewing the letter. He did not comment further.

Here’s the SACS letter detailing the violations:

Stephen George is Executive Editor of Louisville Public Media.