The administrators and trustees of the University of Louisville have perhaps the most difficult job in Kentucky education at the moment. They not only must cope with the residual effects of administrative, financial and athletic scandals of the James Ramsey era; they also must bring into line the $50 million operating budget shortfall facing U of L this academic year.
When I was a student at the university nearly a half-century ago, financial problems were equally dire, but U of L did not labor under clouds of scandal. At one point, the financial situation was so tough that professors were assigned to wash the campus bathrooms.
Still, the university’s venerable newspaper, the Cardinal, managed to come out on schedule and was supported by the administration and board of trustees even when things were tight.
The student newspaper, founded in 1926, was a vital source of information then, as now, on a busy and growing urban campus.
I read the Cardinal religiously every week. By my sophomore year, I was contributing to it. But this wasn’t the main journalistic endeavor in my young life. In the evenings I took the Fourth Street bus downtown to The Courier-Journal, where I wrote obituaries and did other clerking job like compile the international weather report, the Kentucky Zone weather Forecast and the River Levels for the Ohio.
Another U of L student, Rick Northern, edited the Cardinal and also became a Courier-Journal intern and later reporter before he went on to become one of the city’s top lawyers. Dianne Aprile and Carolyn Yetter, both editors of the student newspaper, went on to distinguished careers as writers and editors of both the Louisville Times and the Courier-Journal. There are many others I’ve failed to mention.
That’s continued to happen over the years. My current editor, Stephen George, who is executive editor of Louisville Public Media, worked at the Cardinal in the early part of the last decade and was news editor in 2002-03. The current editor-in-chief, Kyeland Jackson, is now an associate producer at Louisville Public Media.
Financial support for this wonderful campus newspaper has been shifting over the past 40 years. Not long after I graduated, the administration and the Cardinal parted company, although over the years subsidies in the form of advertising revenue have helped the Cardinal keep going. But even the modest $20,000 allotted in 2017 is being phased out by the end of this academic year as one of the many cuts the campus will experience.
In these times, the Cardinal remains as valuable to students as ever. Without it, the students at U of L, not to mention faculty and staff, would be deprived of a vital central source of information and commentary, as well as sports, entertainment and feature stories.
At the very time when a robust discussion of campus issues is most needed, the primary mouthpiece for that dialogue is endangered.
A solid campus requires an informed population. And the Cardinal provides that, sometimes with distinction. This U of L alumnus strongly encourages the members of the board of trustees and the administrative bean counters to consider whether this cut isn’t penny wise but pound foolish.
I think it is. And if they think about the Cardinal in light of its unique role, I believe they will change their minds.
Keith L. Runyon was a writer and editor of The Courier-Journal before his retirement in 2012. He regularly covered the University of Louisville as a reporter and then, for most of his career, as an editorial writer and editor. He was honored as outstanding alumnus of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1991, and a distinguished alumnus of the law school in 1994.