LOUISVILLE, Ky. ― University of Louisville President James Ramsey’s status remained in limbo Wednesday when the embattled campus leader failed to immediately follow through on his pledge to offer his resignation to the school’s new governing board.
The reorganized board of trustees ― formed last month when Gov. Matt Bevin disbanded the former board amid turmoil over Ramsey ― met for the first time Wednesday. The meeting included a lengthy closed-door session to discuss personnel matters and potential litigation.
Ramsey left as the closed-door meeting continued and walked to his office. He didn’t return to the meeting and a university spokesman said he would not talk to reporters. When the doors reopened, grim-faced trustees ended the meeting soon after reconvening in open session.
Afterward, newly selected board Chairman Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman said Ramsey did not offer his resignation, nor did the board request it, at the meeting. Bridgeman said a decision on Ramsey’s status could be made as soon as August, when the board is scheduled to reconvene.
“Obviously, he’s already written a letter that he does not want to be here after a certain time,” said Bridgeman, a businessman and former UofL basketball standout. “He’s willing to do whatever the board asks him to do. So all those things were discussed with him. And so we’ll make a decision once we get more information, more knowledge on where we’re going as a board.”
Last month, Ramsey submitted a letter to Bevin saying he would immediately offer his resignation to the newly appointed board. Ramsey has led the university for 14 years.
Bevin attended the start of the board meeting Wednesday to thank the trustees he appointed for their service. He called it a “fresh start” for the university, but said it would require “”new leadership,” including in the school’s administration. Bevin left after his remarks and before the board took up mostly organizational and orientation matters in open session.
His remarks were interrupted by a protester who denounced Bevin and the board he appointed. The protester was peacefully escorted out of the meeting.
Asked later about Ramsey’s failure to offer his resignation at the meeting, Bevin’s spokeswoman, Jessica Ditto, said Bevin “fully expects President Ramsey to honor the commitment he made in his letter to offer his resignation to the board. There will be future meetings.”
Bevin said he would defer to the trustees on the timing of Ramsey’s potential departure.
“Sometimes the best thing is that things are done on Day One,” Bevin told reporters after leaving the board meeting. “Sometimes it’s Week One; sometimes it’s Month One. I’ll let them decide what’s best for the University of Louisville.”
During his tenure, Ramsey has been credited with leading successful fundraising drives and helping boost the university’s academic standards for incoming freshman and its graduation rate.
But in the past two years, he came under increasing attack for embezzlement scandals and other campus embarrassments, including an FBI investigation of a top health care executive.
Ramsey’s status is among the uncertainties overshadowing the campus. Another is the legal status of the school’s new board of trustees.
Bevin’s decision to disband the school’s former board and appoint a new board has drawn a legal challenge from the state’s Democratic attorney general, Andy Beshear.
Beshear has said his aim is to block Bevin from wielding “absolute authority” over the school by dissolving the board anytime he disagrees with its actions. A court hearing is set for July 21 on Beshear’s request for an injunction to block Bevin’s reorganization of the campus board.
“Both the board and the governor should respect the authority of the court and wait for its ruling before making important or long-term decisions,” Beshear said ahead of Wednesday’s board meeting.
Bridgeman said the lack of action on Ramsey had nothing to do with uncertainty caused by the lawsuit challenging the board’s legitimacy.
The board turmoil also has overlapped budget and tuition decisions.
Meanwhile, UofL officials tried to deflect questions about whether the board skirted the state’s open meetings law when it took up Ramsey’s future in closed session. UofL spokesman John Karman said the school’s general counsel was confident the board complied with the law.
Associated Press Writer Adam Beam in Frankfort, Kentucky, contributed to this report.