More than 400 people attended the address in the Comstock Concert Hall, which also was streamed over the internet. Ramsey looked back over the accomplishments and disappointments of the past year and ahead at a future that is seeing the privatization of public education as a result of continued decreases in state and federal funding for higher education.
That future is vastly different from the one UofL faced 15 years ago when the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act mandated that it become a premier nationally recognized research university. Ramsey has asked Provost Shirley Willihnganz to lead campus discussion this semester on issues facing UofL and higher education. From that discussion will come recommendations he will take to the Board of Trustees “so that we continue our commitment to our mandate in the years ahead.” (Ramsey and Willihnganz will send more information to faculty and staff next week.)
The past year, Ramsey said, was one of much accomplishment — including significant research grants, a record graduation rate and community partnerships to address issues ranging from brain injuries in soldiers to providing education to underserved areas of Louisville.
Among the disappointments were continued state budget cuts that limited UofL’s ability to meet some of its goals in the 2020 Plan.
“We have not been able to invest in 40 new faculty positions a year as called for in our 2020 Plan,” he said. “We have not been able to build a new Belknap classroom building and meet the other space needs of our campuses. We have not been able to provide instructional support for our faculty. … We have not been able to provide recurring salary increases for our faculty and staff.”
The core of Ramsey’s talk, however, centered on people whose resilience and determination impressed him — children at J.B. Atkinson Academy for Excellence in Teaching and Learning who wrote stories of losing a parent to cancer, violence and prison; national spinal cord injury rehab patients who participated in the Derby Mini-Marathon; and student athletes with a 3.0+ cumulative GPA who won a conference championship and made it to the Final Four. They taught him some valuable lessons:
- To be resilient as are the Atkinson students who have their sights set on graduating from high school and attending college.
- To seek out people who are there to help us and support us and never lose hope.
- To remember the impact we have on students who look to us for more than the best classroom experience.
- To remember the impact we have every day on people in the community who need us and “who depend on the University of Louisville.”
In closing, Ramsey pledged to do a better job listening to faculty and staff and reminded them of upcoming listening forums. He also pledged “to better communicate, to do better keeping you informed and engaged in the budget process and in shared governance that we so cherish at the University of Louisville.”
Ramsey’s State of the University address culminated a week of activities focusing on faculty excellence, including the Faculty Gala concert, a symposium on the central role of faculty in the life of the university, and the annual Celebration of Faculty Excellence, at which he presents the President’s Distinguished Faculty Awards and other faculty honors. He further honored this year’s DFA recipients by having them onstage during his address.
Provost Shirley Willihnganz also received recognition for her decade of academic leadership as part of this year’s “Celebration of Faculty.” Earlier in the day Ramsey dedicated the Hall of Provosts in Grawemeyer Hall (see related article).