Interim President Greg Postel spoke to faculty senators June 7 on the HSC campus, providing the senate body with updates on a number of issues, including the forensic audit of the UofL Foundation, the budget, and UofL’s SACS accreditation status.

Postel opened his presentation discussing the long-awaited forensic audit which, at that time, had not yet been released. He has since released a new statement, available online

The audit, he said, was expensive and comprehensive, but “we knew it’s what we had to do to move forward.”

“A lot has changed so we won’t have to worry about recurrences. We have done a lot of preparatory work to prevent this from happening again, that is the good news,” he said. “We will continue to be transparent on what did occur and how we are making sure these do not recur.”

In addition, this week (Thursday), Postel anticipates the board will approve the 2017-18 budget. There is one change to this work and that is an immediate 3-month hiring freeze. The decision on this was abrupt because we fell short of enrollment projections and attrition expectations.

“We projected a 400-student increase for retention and enrollment and it looks like we’ll be closer to 200,” Postel said, adding that we are losing second- and third-year students.

He also received a new letter from SACS noting that the site visit in September will be expanded. SACS wants to fully understand the nature of the relationship between the UofL and UofL Foundation, which is “no surprise,” according to Postel.

“They have a lack of understanding of $67 million in transactions that happened without the board’s approval. That’s the bad news. The good news is that large portions of this have been paid back and we have documents in place to prevent this from happening again,” Postel said. “But they want to see that.”

Another issue brought up in the SACS letter that “concerns Postel the most” is the university’s ability to demonstrate financial stability.

“This is the biggest reason institutions get in trouble with SACS,” he said, noting that UofL had an operating loss of $21 million in 2014-15 and of $46 million in 2015-16.

“SACS made it clear their intent is to study other revenue (in addition to unrestricted cash). But the foundation is tapped out and revenue next year is a fraction of what it was,” he explained. “To continue to take operating losses is not an option for us. There are times we have to do things to protect the university and the best way to deal with this is to hit the brakes and clamp down on hires and show we’re being overly conservative.”

Postel said shared governance will remain a priority through continued budget work.

Postel also said the NCAA ruling about the basketball program is expected this week.

“We have been honest. We have apologized. We have tried not to make excuses,” he said. “We’ll see if they accept our self-imposed penalty or if they add to it.”

Finally, UofL Hospital is transitioning from KentuckyOne Health to UMC, with a July 1 completion date. Postel said the hospital is busy and the nursing shortage is getting better and “people are in very good spirits about this (transition).”

Postel closed by talking about his recent trip to Washington, DC, where he was able to meet with all of Kentucky’s elected officials.

“They showed me uniform support and it was encouraging to establish dialogue with them,” he said. “They all wanted to talk about the sustainability of the university and are interested in the research and other work we’re doing.”

Interim provost Dale Billingsley also spoke to the Faculty Senate. He said there are exceptions to the hiring freeze: the ombudsman role, as it is required in the Redbook; and the Speed and Nursing dean searches. He stated that the Budget Advisory Committee will review additional requests for exceptions.

He also talked briefly about the QEP program that was developed as part of the re-accreditation process to help second-year students find their major.

“The intention is to address that group of students across the board through a range of student services and to keep them in an area where they both have the capacity for and interest in,” he said.  This program is designed to assist these students and address retention issues.

A report was provided by Dr. Bob Staat, interim ombudsman. UofL hopes to have someone permanently hired in that role by July. During his stint, Staat reported 185 interactions – 60 percent faculty; 40 percent staff. The only two units without an interaction with his office were SPHIS and law. Staat’s full report is available online

Cedric Powell, law professor and Faculty Grievance Officer, also provided a report, outlining the dispute resolution process. He noted that from September 16 through June 7, there were 12 faculty grievances, including three “type 1” disputes and one “type 2” dispute. His full report is also available online

Enid Trucios-Haynes provided the Chair’s Report, including the announcement that the Faculty Senate Executive Committee will focus on addressing the issues before the Board of Trustees’ new ad hoc committee on tenure and nepotism. She also introduced a proposed statement of the Faculty Senate, unanimously adopted, to reiterate the importance of shared governance in light of this new committee. It reads:

“The Faculty Senate of the University of Louisville asserts that it is critically important to have broad faculty input, consultation, and advice on all matters related to tenure and promotion. Faculty primacy in this area is long recognized as vital to protect academic freedom.

“On May 18, 2017, the Board of Trustees created an Ad Hoc Committee on Tenure and Nepotism Policy to review current tenure policies and practices. The principles of shared governance require a process for wide faculty involvement, recognizing the summer workload for faculty on ten-month contracts who engage in research, scholarship and related work during June and July, often away from campus. Additional faculty groups should include tenured, tenure-track, term and part-time faculty, representing a wide range of programs from basic sciences to fine arts, as well as the AAUP chapter at UofL. We propose that the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, comprised of elected representatives from nearly all of these groups, provide this essential consultation.”

Trucios-Haynes said the chair of the Board of Trustees has assured her there will be an opportunity for all constituencies’ input for next steps.

Staat also provided an update on the Council of Postsecondary Education, as he serves as part of the tuition work group. He gave a PowerPoint presentation on the cost of tuition, which has remained relatively unchanged throughout the years even as state support has decreased. Kentucky is one of only seven states that has decreased its state support for higher education.

The only other report provided at the June 7 meeting was by the executive committee and it is available online

The next meeting is July 5 at 3 p.m. in the Chao Auditorium of the Ekstrom Library.