Keith Sherman, UofL Foundation’s interim executive director/COO, and Lee Smith, UofL’s interim COO, were the special guests during the Nov. 1 Faculty Senate meeting.

Sherman, who has been in the role for less than a year, provided an update about the foundation since the state and forensic audits were completed.

“Our problems were simple – the foundation spent more than it made. That is a bad equation for sustainability,” he said. “Our sole purpose is to fund scholarships and endowments for faculty and staff. The goal is to do this in perpetuity, but we weren’t doing that.”

The ULF has been under an audit for nearly 900 straight days.

“I assure you there is no granular of sand that hasn’t been looked at and we have a clean bill of health,” Sherman said.

Changes that have been made to clear the investigations and restore donor and stakeholder confidence include:

  • New leadership from top to bottom
  • Revised bylaws
  • A separation of the UofL president and the president of the foundation
  • Transparency and compliance with open records requests
  • New independent executive
  • Specific board resolutions
  • Established compliance process to ensure funding to the university is consistent with donor intent
  • A more robust conflict of interest policy
  • Changed auditors and law firms

“I know this has been painful for a lot of areas on campus. But if we didn’t reign in our spending, it would have further unintended consequences,” Sherman said. “We are looking at the next 200 years, not the next 24 months.”

In addition to reigning in spending, Sherman added that the foundation is looking at other ways to grow the endowment. This includes an end to the deferred compensation plan, an end to “tax gross up” payments to staff, the development of the first ever line-item budget, a review of all real estate holdings to determine their value, and more.

Sherman said the changes have been noticed and September marked the best month for donations in a year.

“Donors are starting to come back because they see the reforms,” he said.

Sherman’s presentation is available online

Lee Smith, interim COO, provided an update from his area, which includes about 800 employees across campus in facilities management, business services, public safety, IT, performance improvement and business analytics.

When the $48 million budget shortfall was announced, Smith’s area was tasked with saving $20 million in operations and procurement.

As of today, savings of $4.5 million in operations has been identified, and $3.4 million in procurement. These savings have come from energy, software/hardware licensing changes, reduction of off campus leases, improved contract negotiations and more.

“For example, for software, we found that products across campus in aggregate cost more than an enterprise system, so we’re continuing to look at these types of cost reductions,” Smith said.

Smith’s team has identified five goals to achieve across the unit:

  1. Optimize resources by maximizing cost efficiencies and strengthening fiscal controls. This means moving some systems online, for example, to save both time and paper.
  2. Increase revenue streams. There are three major RFPs underway to help: banking, managed print and wireless services.
  3. Improved customer service. More training and surveys will be put into place to achieve this goal.
  4. Protecting the university’s infrastructure. IT, for example, launched a new Phishbowl resource to identify phishing scams. This also includes improved disaster recovery capabilities and prioritizing deferred maintenance.
  5. Focus on data-driven decision making and, as a result, producing user-friedly reports.

Senate votes to suspend Paralegal program

In other Faculty Senate business, the Academic Programs committee put forth a proposal to suspend the university’s paralegal program, which is an associate’s degree program. The program is housed in the Political Science department, which has been affected by the budget crisis. The Paralegal program is the only associate’s degree program at UofL and it requires American Bar Association accreditation. This accreditation will be lost the program does not have a devoted director, which the department is unable to hire at this time because of the budget.

In consultation with the A&S Dean’s office and the Provost’s office, a 5-year suspension of the program was recommended. This was done to provide more time to see if any other departments want to pick up the paralegal program, such as Law or Criminal Justice. It is rare for this type of program to fall in the Political Science department.

Department Chair Rodger Payne said the impetus behind this proposal is completely driven by budgetary issues. There is a teach out plan that runs for the current students through 2018. The program averages anywhere between 11 and 28 students a year.

Joe Gutmann, who teaches courses in the program, provided a gentle rebuttal on why UofL should keep the paralegal degree. The program began in the 1980s, so UofL has a nearly 40-year investment, and there is strong job growth in this field, especially for women and minorities. The biggest competitor in the city is Sullivan and “their program is thriving,” according to Gutmann.

A motion was brought forward to suspend the program and that motion was passed.

Other reports

The Student Government Association report is available online. The group suggested that course fee evaluations be placed on syllabi or online so students know where their fees are going. 

Also, the SGA is looking at ways to centralize the advising system so it’s more consistent across campus.

Faculty Senate Chair Enid Trucios-Haynes provided the Chair’s report, noting that the presidential search discussion will continue in the next Board of Trustees meeting later this month. The presidential search process is expected to include listening tours at some point, and Trucios-Haynes said she has been ensured that the senate will be involved in that planning process.

She also released a general statement to some media outlets disagreeing with the lack of transparency involved in the presidential search.

“The concern for me is we are a community, not a business. But we have to let the process move forward and the process of doing this work is important,” she said.

The Provost report from Dale Billingsley is available online.

The President’s report from Greg Postel is available online

The Redbook committee held a first reading of new bylaws that included “cleaned up” language and clarifications. A second reading and vote will be held during the December meeting.

Additionally, the discussion item on the presidential forum and suggested priorities has been delayed until the December meeting, which is scheduled for Dec. 6, 3-5 p.m., Chao Auditorium.