UofL’s Staff Senate opened its March 13 on the HSC campus by passing a resolution recognizing Physical Plant for “going above and beyond” to restore power on campus in early February. The resolution in its entirety can be found online

Interim President Dr. Greg Postel addressed the senators about a number of issues, including:

  • UofL’s current SACS accreditation probationary status

Postel said Senate Bill 107 is expected to pass the House week and its passage will address some of the foundational concerns raised by SACS that led to UofL’s current probationary status. The administration also responded to SACS with a 550-page document addressing some other questions related to the audit being conducted by the state. The document will be made available in full on the president’s web page

UofL will “more than likely” provide a presentation to SACS at its June board meeting. SACS could lift probation at that time, but Postel said that type of action is typically done in December. A site visit will take place at UofL in September.

Postel said the probationary accreditation status does not seem to be affecting applications, which are up 6 percent from this time last year.

  • UofL Foundation forensic audit

A forensic audit of the UofL Foundation, conducted by an external firm, is currently underway.

“They discovered this is more work than they initially thought because (the foundation) is such a complicated entity. They discovered lots of sub-corporations and real estate holdings and organizations that roll up into this organization that need to be looked at,” Postel said. “Nevertheless they feel confident they’ll get it done first or second week in May.”

The report will then go to the Board of Trustees. Postel said the audit is not causing donors to give up on UofL, but is causing some to “take a time out, see what the audit shows, regroup and then go forward.”

“The public simply wants to know what’s out there and move on past it,” Postel said. “We’re all anxious for this process to conclude.”

  • Donors

Postel spent last week in New York City for the ACC Basketball Tournament and had the opportunity to meet with a number of donors, potential donors and alumni.

“In talking to those donors, this is how I feel so confident right now. These people still love UofL. They have not allowed negative publicity to change their impression,” Postel said. “They’re still there for us, but they’ve been a little stingy about writing checks until they’re sure that everything’s OK. I understand that.”

  • Presidential Search

The 16-member Presidential Search Committee, appointed by Board of Trustees, has started meeting regularly. One of its first tasks will be to put out an RFP and select a search firm.

Then it will undergo a campus-wide surveying process, talking to various groups to get a sense of what students and employees want in their next president. These tasks will take place through the spring and summer. Postel said he expects to be in the interim role for up to a year and a half.

  • UofL Hospital

The board voted to disassociate itself with KentuckyOne Health and that process is underway.

“An army of people are involved in this process. It’s a very well-coordinated function and it’s going well and we feel confident that hospital will be restored to UMC management this summer,” Postel said.

  • Brandeis School of Law dean search

Postel addressed some of the recent new stories about the Brandeis School of Law, including rumors about closing the school. 

“I have never talked about closing the law school. I would never think about doing that. That is not something an interim president would ever suggest. And there’s no reason for it. The law school can be fixed. Its problems, while significant, are not that different from problems with other schools that need to be addressed; we need to look closely at the budget, generate more revenue, look at student selection, and make sure we’re hiring best staff and faculty. It’s not really rocket science but it’s a lot of work,” Postel said.

He also added that there is still an ongoing search for the Law School dean.

  • Budget

Postel addressed the budget last, stating, “The bottom line is this school is a little too big for its current income.”

“The state budget went down about 32 percent over a 15-year period and there were never major adjustments to accommodate that. At the same time, we kept growing, hiring, and putting buildings up and adding more research. We started to outgrow the revenue stream,” he said. “When that happens, you start spending money from reserves. The UofL Foundation was used to cover shortfalls. We got to the point where there was no more money to spend. The foundation money is now down to nothing but restricted funds – donors who gave money for something specific. We can’t use it to fix a leaking roof. All of the fungible money is all gone.”

On the UofL side, cash reserves are too low to tap into in case a real emergency were to happen, Postel added.

“This is what I walked into. It has been a shock and people are mad,” he said.

To balance the budget, it will take $48 million. Postel said the administration is looking at ways to make adjustments that “cause the least amount of pain,” and has taken hundreds of ideas from faculty, staff and students.

“We are looking at every conceivable thing. My goal is to find as many ideas as possible that are non HR-related, such as the cost of our heating and air conditioning systems. There are ways to do that much cheaper. We are looking at the way our loans are financed, at our building projects,” he said. “My hope is that these things will be a substantial part of that $48 million. We’ll know what they are by May.”

Jeanell Hughes, AVP for HR, also provided an update from her department, stating that they have placed a bigger focus on customer service. To work on this objective, representatives are making themselves available via campus tours and sessions on retirement. Also, a 24-hour response time has been implemented. Hughes admitted HR has “taken a beating” because simultaneous projects caused delayed response times and they are working to rectify these issues.

HR is also hoping to have a revised website before summer.

COO Lee Smith said his department is still working on some repairs from the early-February power outage, and another two weekends of shutdowns are planned to fix lingering issues. Smith also said there will be some email updates coming and those who use Outlook will experience “virtually no changes.” More communication about this initiative will be shared soon.

Smith said one of his department’s goals is to highlight campus employees “in their element.” He has a new Twitter account to share some of these stories – @uoflcoo – and encouraged everyone to follow him and share stories from their areas.

Committee reports and other reports:

The Chair, Will Armstrong, gave his report. It is available online.

Vice Chair Vickie Tencer attended a number of meetings with the COO, AVP of HR and other administrators.

Credentials and Nominations Committee: All senators have been asked to complete an update form to assess what units have expired seats. The full report is online

Policy, Economics and Development proposed a revision to the Reduction in Force policy. Senators voted to send the revisions to HR. The redlined version and clean version are both available online

Services and Facilities did not meet.

The Staff Grievance Committee reported that no grievances were filed.

Morale and Outreach is creating a pamphlet and exploring other communication opportunities, such as social media. The report is available online

SHARE did not meet in March but is coming up with a marketing plan, including a postcard for employees on campus. Bonnie Dean also encouraged senators to donate and mentioned a possible fundraiser in the spring.

The Treasurer’s report shows that the current balance is $8,180.89. The SHARE balance is $13,326.47, and the technology budget is $4,174.

Dr. Bob Staat read the Faculty Senate report, which is available online. Guests at the March meeting included Dr. Dale Billingsley, Dr. Postel and Dean David Jenkins from the Kent School of Social Work, which is starting a new program that includes oncology care.

The Academic Technology Committee report is online

The University Police Advisory Committee report is online. Also as a reminder, April is Sexual Assault Month and there will be various events, such as Take Back the Night, scheduled.

The next Staff Senate meeting is April 10 in the Chao Auditorium at 2:30 p.m.

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Alicia Kelso
Alicia Kelso is editor of UofLNews and UofL Today. She joined UofL in 2015 as communications director of the Brandeis School of Law. Prior, she was the editorial director of foodservice media for Networld Media Group, where her work was featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Bloomberg, The Seattle Times, Good Morning America and Franchise Asia Magazine. She continues to serve as a contributor for many publications, including QSRweb.com, FastCasual.com and Innovation Leader.