University leaders hold virtual forum with community Thursday, Jun 11 2020 

By Joseph Garcia —

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi held a virtual forum with U of L Police Department Chief Gary Lewis and Criminal Justice Department Chair Cherie Dawson-Edwards on June 9 to answer community questions on the relationship between ULPD and the Louisville Metro Police Department.

Lewis began by explaining the current relationship ULPD has with LMPD and how it goes back to the 1970s.

“Following the Kent State incident, many universities felt it important to create and develop their own police force,” Lewis said. “Many may not know, but this organization started with a Louisville Metro retiree.”

Lewis said that when he arrived to U of L two years ago, ULPD had about 98% retired Louisville Metro police officers working for ULPD. “To date, we are at about 40%,” Lewis said.

Lewis said that ULPD is a state accredited police department with less than 50 sworn officers, about 30 security officers and travel escorts.

Bendapudi also explained there is no formal partnership agreement between the two police departments that U of L can divest from.

Dawson-Edwards told students: “We hear you.”

“I realize that people think that training and education as just a reform thing, not a divest, but I want to argue it’s both,” Dawson-Edwards said. “We have to do training and education, and we need to do it better. We need to hold the police accountable, we need to hold ourselves accountable for that education and training.”

Like Bendapudi said in her response to BSU, Dawson-Edwards has committed to doing equity audits for all criminal justice academic programs, including the police executive leadership development certificate.

“I want to make sure that we are infusing equity, inclusion, diversity, social justice, all types of things in our curriculum,” she said. “It is not enough for us to just teach people how to be police and not teach people what they should expect from the community in this society that we’re living in.”

She anticipates the Southern Police Institute, a 60-year old officer training program located and taught at U of L, will do the same. This could include more activities, training and education about these particular issues with current police officers.

During the Q&A portion of the forum, Bendapudi was asked why U of L could not do what the University of Minnesota did in choosing to dissociate from their local police department.

“The reality is that we are an urban campus as you’ve heard,” Bendapudi said. “Our streets and roads, and Louisville’s, are intertwined. So we definitely need to work together–that’s the concurrent and overlapping jurisdictions you’ve heard about.”

Dawson-Edwards further explained that what is coming out of Minnesota is because people have been researching and doing the work to understand the problems for a long time.

“They are primed for it,” Dawson-Edwards said. “They have a 150 year history document on performance review for their police called ‘Enough is Enough.'”

“You can’t just take one city’s or one university’s blueprint and lay it on top of ours without making sure that our stuff matches theirs,” Dawson-Edwards said.

Bendapudi ended the forum by reiterating the actions U of L is taking, including now doing background checks for any officer who works at university events.

“As mother and leader of higher education, who has always cared for her students, I am telling you that we are going to work together on this,” Bendapudi said. “There is so much to learn.  I catch myself all the time when I forget all the privileges I have and you as young people, you’re educating us.”

She then committed to an anti-racist agenda moving forward. Bendapudi said there will be more forums in the future to continue discussion on broad, difficult topics.

“Let’s not forget this moment, this is not performative. This is not just until the news cycle changes. It’s important,” Bendapudi said. “I will do my best and I give you my word. My job is to do the very best I can for you, and that’s what I intend to do.”

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal 

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President Bendapudi responds to U of L BSU’s letter Monday, Jun 8 2020 

By Joseph Garcia —

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi responded to the Black Student Union’s demands that were released on May 31. In the letter addressed to BSU President Maliya Homer on June 3, Bendapudi addresses the student union’s demands, which included a severance between the U of L Police Department and Louisville Metro Police Department, and for U of L to rename its Overseers Honors House given the word “overseers” tie with slavery.

“I have pledged since I arrived at U of L to do my best always to celebrate diversity, foster equity, and strive for inclusion,” Bendapudi said in the letter. “I want to address each of these issues and explain how I intend to move forward.”

She explained that she spoke with Chief Diversity Officer Faye Jones, Chief of ULPD Gary Lewis and Criminal Justice Department Chair Cherie Dawson-Edwards for their perspectives on the issue of cutting ties with LMPD.

“Your request for us to immediately terminate our relationship with LMPD would not make our campus or its constituents safer, and it would be an insufficient answer to a very complex problem,” Bendapudi said.

Bendapudi said that its difficult to fully cut ties because of overlapping jurisdiction with U of L being in the middle of Louisville.

“We have an intricate relationship with LMPD that touches many parts of our campus and virtually all of our faculty, staff and students,” Bendapudi said. She said that U of L is home to the Southern Police Institute that provides training and courses taught by Criminal Justice faculty for officers.

“This is not to say there are not significant issues within the police force that must be addressed. This is true and they must, but our relationship with LMPD is necessary to the University for these reasons and more,” she said. “I believe the harder approach and the one we will commit to is evolving and molding our partnership with LMPD so it clearly reflects our commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, our Cardinal Principle.”

The commitments U of L is taking include: ensuring ULPD is the lead law enforcement agency when dealing with a member of the campus community, performing an equity audit on all criminal justice academic programs, reducing the need for external law enforcement support at athletic events, providing de-escalation and cultural sensitivity training for officers working university events or hired by ULPD, and leveraging the SPI as a catalyst for change.

“To reiterate, this is neither the beginning nor the end of the work we will do,” Bendapudi said. “We are actively assessing our partnerships and working to ensure they reflect the values of our institution and support the success of our students, faculty and staff.”

With regards to the Honors house, Bendapudi said that if U of L is committed to being an equitable anti-racist environment, then the term “overseers” should not be used at U of L.

“I take responsibility for this issue not being addressed earlier,” she said. “This sign has likely caused incalculable and unnecessary pain to many of our students, faculty and staff over the years. I am sorry that it was not addressed sooner, but it is done now.”

The word has been removed from the sign as a temporary fix. A new sign will replace the current one sometime before the start of the fall semester. Bendapudi said she also has a team removing all digital references of the term from U of L owned websites.

Bendapudi also said in her response, that moving forward she will require leaders to include more student representation on all change initiatives.

“Whether it is on the criminal justice academic programs equity audits, the development of officer training programs, or other measures that arise from our ongoing conversations, I will require our leaders to include student representation, particularly the Black Student Union, to ensure the approaches we take are informed by the lived experience of our most fundamental constituency,” Bendapudi said.

BSU Vice President Ni’Kerrion McDonald said that he doesn’t believe these decisions are enough, however.

“Coming out of the meeting with Dr. Bendapudi, the board and I felt as if they had already made up their mind regarding the predetermined ‘list of solutions,'” McDonald said. “We are obviously not satisfied with the outcome of our demands not being met. While the university takes gradual, but persistent action, we will continue to implement our own call to action.”

Maliya Homer, the BSU’s President, released a statement on June 6 informing the community of the actions U of L has taken. Alongside announcing the creation of the Breonna Taylor Memorial Scholarship, Homer called on the Louisville community to direct calls to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s office urging him to cut funding from LMPD’s budget of $189 million, as reported in fiscal year 2018-2019.

“We need the community to make it so that a partnership with LMPD is no longer a crucial piece,” Homer said. “The revolution will not stop because the university cannot immediately divest from LMPD,” Homer said. “At the end of the day, the university is a business. Businesses aren’t going to lead the revolution–young people are.”

McDonald said the BSU plans to hold the university accountable to its commitments. “Without follow-through and results, these incremental steps are just not enough,” he said.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L Health creates scholarship in honor of Breonna Taylor Saturday, Jun 6 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

U of L Health, a health provider affiliated with the University of Louisville, is creating a nursing scholarship to honor Breonna Taylor.

Taylor, an African American woman who was killed by police in March, was an EMT at U of L Health Medical Center East. The scholarship was announced by U of L’s Black Student Union on June 5, in honor of what would have been her 27th birthday.

“Breonna was a member of our U of L Health family,” said U of L Health CEO Tom Miller. “We grieve her loss, but we are hopeful her legacy can inspire meaningful change. This scholarship is part of an overall commitment to ensure diversity in our workforce and develop ongoing plans to eliminate racial inequality in health care.”

The Breonna Taylor Memorial Scholarship Fund in Nursing will be a 4-year renewable scholarship and will cover full tuition and fees. Preference for the scholarship recipient will go to a Black, female Kentucky resident.

“I am so appreciative that the University of Louisville, in partnership with the Black Student Union, will honor Breonna’s life through the creation of the Breonna Taylor Memorial Scholarship,” said Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer.

“Breonna is smiling down knowing that there will be a path for students to pursue nursing degrees without accumulating student loan debt. Thank you to the university and its students for ensuring that Bre’s legacy will continue for generations to come.”

Those who wish to donate to the fund can do so on U of L’s donation website. 

Photo Courtesy// University of Louisville

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Louisville-area university presidents pledge to do better for their African-American students Friday, Jun 5 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

Louisville-area university presidents co-signed a letter to their students and community members on June 3, addressing the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

“We, as leaders of higher education institutions in greater Louisville and Kentuckiana, are aware both of the promise of higher education as a transformative force in society, and of the problematic history of these very institutions in perpetuating racial inequity,” the presidents said in the letter.

They went on to pledge to five actions that they could take as leaders of their institutions:

  1. “We pledge to educate ourselves and our own college and university communities to recognize and work against structural racism.
  2. We pledge to work together to improve access to higher education for our African-American and other students of color.
  3. We pledge to create pathways for African-American and other students of color to meaningful and high-demand jobs and careers and acknowledge the need for more Black professionals in healthcare and education and engineering and law as in many other spheres.
  4. We pledge to engage fully and meaningfully in the life of West Louisville.
  5. With our institutional privileges of knowledge, reach, resources, legacy, and more, we pledge to consistently demonstrate our commitment to the objective fact that Black Lives Matter.”

The eight university presidents that signed the letter were University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi, Bellarmine University President Susan Donovan, Ivy Tech President Travis Haire, Jefferson Community and Technical College President Ty Handy, Sullivan University President Jay Marr,  Spalding University President Tori McClure, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary President Alton Pollard III, and Indiana University President Ray Wallace.

The same day the letter was sent out, Bendapudi joined some of the other university leaders at a protest in downtown Louisville to stand in solidarity with the protesters.

Photo by Joseph Garcia // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L releases draft of plan for students’ return to campus in the fall Thursday, Jun 4 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

University of Louisville Provost Beth Boehm sent out an email to the U of L community on June 1 addressing concerns about the fall semester and releasing a draft of the plan for a safe return to campus.

“I want to acknowledge that many of you are anxious and want answers to all of your questions at once,” Boehm said in the email. “I understand your anxiety about ‘reopening’ campus, even as I ask your patience as we methodically work toward something resembling a final plan.”

Boehm went on to clarify that U of L never completely closed during the COVID-19 outbreak. She pointed out that many students remained in on-campus housing, Ekstrom library stayed open and many dining options on-campus were still in operation.

She went on to explain that U of L is working to maintain a balance between giving students the best education possible while also keeping the U of L community safe.

Boehm then linked to the draft of the plan for the return to campus this fall. The plan includes guidelines for personal protective equipment, social distancing, changes to food service areas, testing, required flu shot, class guidelines and changes to the academic calendar.

Masks will be required in all public areas on campus, including classrooms. Professors will be allowed to take off their masks when lecturing as long as they maintain an eight-foot distance from the rest of the class. Students will be given a washable cloth mask at the beginning of the semester, but they are encouraged to bring their own backup masks.

Social distancing will also be expected in common areas on campus. Floor markings and table spacing will be used in high-density places to encourage distance.

In addition to socially distancing in dining areas, hand sanitizer use will be required for entrance to those areas. Barriers will also be installed between food service employees and customers.

U of L will also make COVID-19 testing available to all faculty, staff and students. The testing will be focused on those showing symptoms and those believed to have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. Students are encouraged to get tested before returning to campus.

In an effort to reduce flu-like symptoms on campus, students, faculty and staff will be required to get a flu shot at the beginning of the fall semester. U of L will provide free flu shots, but those who wish to get their flu shot elsewhere can do so as long as they provide U of L with evidence of getting vaccinated.

The guidelines also indicate that all classes, except for online-only classes, will be taught as hybrid classes. This means that 25%-75% of the class will be taught in person, with the remaining 25%-75% being taught online. Instructors will also be asked to post required assignments and lectures online to increase accessibility for those unable to attend class.

The academic calendar has also been adjusted to accommodate concerns related to COVID-19. The semester will begin as planned on Aug. 17, but face-to-face instruction will end at the beginning of Thanksgiving Break, Nov. 25. The remaining two days of instruction and finals will take place online.

Other calendar concerns include fall break, which will continue as planned Oct. 5-6, and the Kentucky Derby, which is expected to take place on Sept. 5. Sept. 3-4 will be online instruction days in order to address traffic concerns related to Derby festivities.

Members of the U of L community are encouraged to read the full draft plan and share their thought through a feedback form by June 5. Boehm will also be holding an online forum for students, faculty and staff on June 5 at 2 p.m.

File Graphic//The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L’s Black Student Union addresses demands in letter to university officials Tuesday, Jun 2 2020 

By Joseph Garcia —

The University of Louisville’s Black Student Union released a statement on May 31 calling for U of L and the University of Louisville Police Department to discontinue its partnership with the Louisville Metro Police Department. This comes after days of protests in Louisville for the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.

“The relationship between ULPD and LMPD was described as ‘fruitful,’ and while that may be the case in regard to ‘safeguarding the assets of the university’–that is not the case when it comes to students, faculty and staff,” BSU President Maliya Homer said. “Nothing about being in closer proximity to state sanctioned violence makes us any safer.”

ULPD Police Chief Gary Lewis said the relationship between the two departments has gone back as far as the 1970s.

“As the years have gone by, the personnel strength of ULPD has grown which has enhanced the ability to handle all law enforcement related duties on our campuses,” Lewis said.

One of the resources Lewis said the partnership with  LMPD provides is the Real Time Crime Center, or RTCC. “Information gathered can be shared with law enforcement agencies across all of Jefferson County, to include ULPD,” Lewis said.

The student union is also calling for the university to rename the Overseer’s Honor’s House. Homer told the Cardinal she called for the renaming because the word “overseer” was once used as a term to refer to the middleman in plantation hierarchy.

U of L Director of Communications John Karman said the word is being removed from the building’s name.

“The University changed the name of its Board of Overseers last year to the President’s Council for the same reason,” Karman said. “Overseers is being removed from the Honors House name.”

“We’re demanding that the university respond with the same swiftness that they protected the ‘Free Speech Zone’ for people not affiliated with the university to taunt and harass students, staff and faculty for hours on end,” Homer said.

U of L has yet to respond to the BSU’s demands; however, Karman said the university and ULPD are aware of the BSU’s demands and are currently reviewing them.

“We will not settle for a flippant response filled with superfluous excuses and platitudes–we deserve so much more than that. Breonna deserves so much more than that,” Homer said.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal 

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U of L President Neeli Bendapudi: “Our Cardinal Family of color needs your help. Our society needs your help.” Monday, Jun 1 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

President Neeli Bendapudi announced in an email on May 29 the actions the University of Louisville plans to take after the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.

“At the University of Louisville, Diversity and Inclusion is one of our core Cardinal Principles,” Bendapudi said.

“This university strives to be a home and safe haven for our students, faculty and staff of color just as we strive to do this for all of the many rich and diverse identities held throughout our campus community.”

Those actions include updating the Bias Incident Response Team, which is responsible for responding to incidents of racism, microaggressions and bias. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion will also update their programming and will reach out to students who need support during this time or want to be educated on racial topics.

Another action the university will take is creating a new education program for faculty and staff that will cover diversity and inclusion. The educational series will be developed by the Department of Education Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development in the College of Education and Human Development, and the Office of Diversity and Equity.

Bendapudi also stated the University of Louisville Police Department is committed to keeping campus safe for all students and is involved in discussions surrounding race. “The Department continues to be actively involved in open forums discussing critical racial issues that impact our campus and local community,” Bendapudi said.

U of L has also created a resource page that can be found on the Diversity and Inclusion website. The website provides information on the history of racism and slavery for those interested in learning more about these issues.

Bendapudi concluded the email by acknowledging that these actions are not a solution by themselves but do point to progress the university is making.

“It will take all of us acting collectively with informed intention and empowering care to start to see the change we need, “Bendapudi said.

“I ask each of us to please take an intentional step today to be better and to do more. I need your help. Our Cardinal Family of color needs your help. Our society needs your help.”

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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Survey: U of L students concerned about potential return to campus next fall Thursday, May 28 2020 

By Joseph Garcia —

Earlier this month, University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi announced the university plans to return to in-person classes for the fall semester. But one Student Government Association survey is finding that more than half of the 214 responses received in the first two days of its launch are concerned with the potential return.

SGA posted a three question survey to its Twitter on May 16, allowing students to voice their concerns about a potential return. SGA’s Top 4 also posted the survey to their personal social media pages. The questions included in the survey were:

  1. What are your concerns about the fall semester?
  2. What resources do you need to be successful in the fall?
  3. Anything else you want us to know?

A response to any one of the questions would be considered a completed survey.

“Many of the responses expressed concerns about having to make an emergency, mid-semester transition in the fall (similar to the one we did in the spring),” SGA told the Cardinal. “A lot of the feedback expressed concerns about safety, social distancing on campus and safe access to University services.”

The student government cautioned that the survey was conducted over social media and is not a representative sample of the student body.

In an email sent May 18, Academic Vice President Ben Barberie provided College of Business professors with “a few notable early trends from the first question.”

54.39% of the responses included some concern about the safety of a return to campus. 19.30% showed concern about plans relating to online classes. 14.91% included some concern about money or expenses related to an in-person fall semester.

“University faculty, staff, administrators and students have been hard at work behind the scenes deliberating many different potential scenarios that could arise this fall,” SGA said. “Throughout the process, SGA has been careful to make sure student concerns are heard and that any approach to this fall is rooted in equity for all students.”

SGA’s survey is ongoing and will remain open throughout the coming weeks.

“We appreciate [student’s] feedback regarding finances, safety, academics, and extracurricular activities. SGA will continue to share these hopes and concerns with the University administration as we advocate for innovative solutions to a wide variety of student concerns,” SGA said.

Graphic by Alexis Simon // The Louisville Cardinal

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President Bendapudi gives summer update to U of L community Monday, May 25 2020 

By Madelin Shelton–

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi sent out an email on May 21 regarding U of L’s decisions through June and July amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These months are expected to be a transitional period for the pivot to the fall semester. This transition will include various policies to help protect the health and safety of faculty, staff and students. 

Among them, Bendapudi announced that the university has “extended the remote-work policy through June 30 for those employees who can continue performing their duties off campus.” 

In addition, June 1 will mark the first day that certain units may begin to bring some employees back to campus who provide critical on-campus needs. June 1 will also be the first day that small meetings and events of up to 10 people can begin. 

The other policies of the transition include a confirmation that pay reductions and furloughs scheduled between now and June 30 will continue as planned and “some research labs and clinical research programs will begin to open following strict health and safety guidelines.”

Bendapudi said that the university would continue to evaluate the evolving situation and update the U of L community on further developments before July 1. 

She also pointed to the work Provost Beth Boehm is doing to craft a smooth transition for the fall semester, including the formation of three separate committees comprised of faculty, staff and student representatives. 

These committees include a coordinating committee in charge of developing plans for “campus operations, student services and other key functions,” a safe return to campus committee with the responsibility of planning necessary COVID-19 testing for the U of L community, and an academic scenario committee “to address delivery of academic programming.”

In response to much uncertainty regarding the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bendapudi said the university and its leadership “are working diligently to ensure that the University of Louisville will be prepared for any eventuality.”

File Graphic// The Louisville Cardinal

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Bendapudi announces classes will return on campus in the fall Thursday, May 7 2020 

By Madelin Shelton–

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi announced in an email on May 3 that the University of Louisville is expected to return to regular campus operations for the fall 2020 semester. This includes students living on campus and attending in-person classes.

Bendapudi said that U of L never did close during the Spring 2020 semester and that it continued to serve the 2,700 students who remained in campus facilities or affiliated housing.

She also said that U of L’s research and healthcare infrastructure and recent experience of moving swiftly from in-person to online classes has well prepared the university to respond to future rises in COVID-19 cases.

Bendapudi said that the principal concern is the health and wellbeing of the Cards community.

In preparation for the fall semester, U of L is employing several strategies, including having the Executive Vice President for Research, Kevin Gardner, work with U of L researchers and Campus Health Services to ensure quick testing of students, faculty, staff and contact tracing.

In addition, Executive Vice President and University Provost Beth Boehm is leading a work group to help U of L students get the best education in the fall and to support faculty and staff.

Bendapudi said that the university will continue to consult with local and state health officials and U of L experts as the situation progresses. She also addressed the still-present uncertainty with a situation like this.

“We know there are many questions that we need to answer between now and the start of the Fall semester. We will be providing a more comprehensive update on our path forward by the first week of June,” she stated in the email.

U of L Executive Director of Communications John Karman said that the university will be prepared to switch back to online only instruction if there is another spike in COVID-19 cases.  But he also made it clear that there will be measures taken to try to prevent an outbreak at U of L.

“The university will have significant health and safety protocols in place for students returning to campus this fall. Details of those measures should be revealed in early June,” Karman said.

Bendapudi ended her announcement with words of encouragement.

“What I have seen of our U of L family is that we are uniquely able to rise to a challenge and overcome it. This global health situation is no different. I have full confidence that the U of L students, staff, and faculty I interact with each and every day are ready for anything, and that is true in this situation as well,” she said.

Graphic by Alexis Simon //The Louisville Cardinal

 

 

 

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