Acting UofL President Neville Pinto says institution committed to mission despite legal uncertainty

08/04/2016 02:02 PM

LOUISVILLE — Acting University of Louisville President Neville Pinto sought to reassure supporters on Thursday that despite recent turmoil at the school, UofL will continue its progress as an institution.

Pinto, who had served as interim provost and dean of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, addressed media for half an hour on campus, touching on numerous subjects from the current state of the UofL Board of Trustees to ex-President Jim Ramsey’s legacy at the university.

Pinto, who said he learned of his appointment while vacationing in Hilton Head, S.C., said the past week has been “a whirlwind” for him as Ramsey resigned as 17th president at UofL on July 27, followed two days later by Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd’s temporary injunction blocking a newly reconstituted Board of Trustees from power.

Gov. Matt Bevin had said the previous panel had become dysfunctional and recently said its political makeup did not meet legal requirements.

“There is a flood of support for us to move forward,” Pinto said. “I’ve heard from many, many faculty, many staff, students, alumni, community members expressing their support for the university and for me to move it forward. That really encouraged me.”

The acting president said his focus is on the school rather than matters that will be decided in court, noting that he has remained in contact with both Larry Benz, chairman of the replaced board, and Junior Bridgeman, chairman of the panel appointed by Bevin.

He has not spoken with Bevin or anyone on the governor’s staff, he said.

Pinto, who declined to weigh in on the court battle beyond saying the issue will be decided in the legal system, said the board “can function well at this point and deliver on our mission.”

“Right now what I know from all of the board of trustees members and particularly the chairs, Chairman Bridgeman and Chairman Benz, is that everyone wants to make sure everyone is supportive of me moving forward and ensuring that on a day-to-day basis the university operates without interruption,” Pinto said. “They’re very supportive of that, so that empowers me to move forward on a lot of operational decisions.”

One challenge facing UofL is the lack of a budget for the current fiscal year. The university is operating under a spending plan that calls for a 5 percent tuition hike.

Pinto said trustees may eventually approve a budget that includes a smaller tuition increase, a potential boon for freshmen and returning students who will start their studies in the coming weeks. UofL is also working through the reaccreditation process, and Pinto said no one involved in that has expressed concerns regarding the tumult surrounding the school’s Board of Trustees.

He also declined to weigh in on whether Ramsey should remain on the UofL Foundation’s board, a point of contention for some after Ramsey received additional compensation from the nonprofit totaling millions in recent years.

Pinto called Ramsey “transformational for the university.”

“You look at where the university was when he came and where it is now, that’s the only conclusion I can come to, and I can tell you that when I worked with him both as interim provost and as dean of engineering, he was very creative,” Pinto said.

“He was very committed to the students, very committed to this institution, all the elements that transformed this university, and so that’s the record. That’s not going to change.”


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