The president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has expressed concern about “the potential for undue political influence” in Gov. Matt Bevin’s overhaul of the University of Louisville’s governing board.
SACS President Belle S. Wheelan said in an Aug. 18 letter to acting University of Louisville President Neville G. Pinto that “there is evidence of significant accreditation-related issues” involving Bevin’s changes at U of L that are being challenged in court by state Attorney General Andy Beshear.
Assistant Deputy Attorney General Mitchel Denham presented the letter Friday during a conference with Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd to set a hearing date for the attorney general’s lawsuit challenging Bevin’s authority to change the board. The hearing was set for 9 a.m. Sept. 15.
Last month, the judge granted Beshear’s request to temporarily block Bevin’s changes, and Bevin has appealed that ruling.
Bevin’s attorney, Steve Pitt, said Friday he was not concerned about the letter from Wheelan.
He said it did not raise any issues with the University of Louisville’s compliance with the association’s core accreditation standards.
Pitt added that the accreditation issue will be discussed in the Sept. 15 hearing.
Bevin issued an executive order on June 17 that abolished the U of L board and announced at the same time the imminent departure of President James Ramsey. After several years of financial and athletics scandals, the governor said the U of L board was no longer functional and must be reorganized to improve efficiency and “frankly, to improve the administration of the university.”
In her letter, Wheelan said it appeared Bevin interfered with the university’s board authority to make decisions about former President Jim Ramsey’s employment. Ramsey has resigned.
Wheelan also said Bevin did not follow established procedures to dismiss board members.
SACS’s Committee on Compliance and Reports is to consider Wheelan’s letter during its Dec. 2-4 meetings.