U of L reports 38 new COVID cases in first week of school Tuesday, Aug 25 2020 

By Joseph Garcia —

The University of Louisville had 38 new cases of COVID-19 last week.  Of 2,615 new tests, 38 came back positive.

This brings U of L’s cumulative total of positive cases to 90 out of almost 5,000 administered tests over the past two weeks. The positivity rate is now 1.83%.

This number does not include the 85 positive cases in the athletics department. Those numbers won’t be updated until later this week said Kenny Klein, associate athletics director.

Since Aug. 17, the university has switched its stance on at-will testing and has now made testing mandatory for all students, faculty and staff who come to campus. In an email sent Aug. 25, the Pivot to Fall Committee reported that more than 1,400 people – almost one third of the total who participated in the previous two weeks – were tested Aug. 24. Evening hours for all Belknap testing locations have also been added from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

“We are pleased to see the positivity rate decline but even more pleased to announce that we have greatly increased the number of contact tracers in our employ to 8 FTE,” the committee said. “We remain hopeful that the combination of testing, tracing and good hygiene will enable us to continue normal operations.”

U of L Director of Communications John Karman said the change to mandatory testing came to better see how the university is doing in preventing the spread of the virus.

“We need more comprehensive data to ensure we are controlling any spread on campus, allowing us to continue to offer classes as designed for the duration of fall semester,” Karman said.

Individuals who refuse to get tested before Sept. 4 may face disciplinary action from the university Karman said.

“Students who don’t comply will be subject to discipline under the Student Code of Conduct. Similarly, faculty and staff may be subject to discipline under the Redbook,” he said. “The dean of students’ office, department heads and supervisors will receive notification of who has been tested.”

Online, students have criticized the university for their transparency on reporting COVID cases.

Since launching the testing dashboard, U of L has released data on how many tests have been administered and how many have come back positive. This information is updated by Campus Health every Tuesday. Students are saying that’s not enough.

Nick Beeny, a senior music education major, is one of those criticizing the university’s actions. He said weekly testing doesn’t give students enough time to make informed decisions on how they should take their classes.

“I honestly think the bare minimum should be daily updates,” Beeny said. “We are expected to make decisions on whether or not we feel safe and whether it would be better to take remote classes, however we really aren’t given enough data to make informed decisions. Before a week is up, case counts could spike dramatically and we wouldn’t know about it until later.”

Student Government President Sabrina Collins said she and other Top 4 members have expressed their concerns to university admin and asked to begin posting daily updates.

“We have encouraged the administration to provide the most up-to-date testing information to the student body as they receive it,” Collins said. “We were told they would ‘pass it on.'”

Karman said the numbers aren’t released daily because they can “greatly fluctuate.”

“Think about it this way: What if we had 35 cases on a Monday and zero cases the other four days? If we released information daily, the Monday figures would badly skew the data and probably create undue concern,” Karman explained. “By having a week’s worth of numbers, we have a better indication of the real positivity rate on campus.”

Beeny, like other students on Twitter, isn’t buying it though.

“The state has been doing [daily updates] for the entire pandemic,” he said. “Concern and due diligence are warranted in a pandemic as dangerous as this one. The students here are smart and know how this works. Governor Beshear has been a calming voice throughout all of this and has been working together with experts to make sure the public understands what is going on – I would expect the same from the university.”

In a survey Beeny did, out of 400 responses, more than 80% agreed or strongly agreed updates should be daily. “When it’s weekly, it almost feels as if something is being hidden and students are being kept in the dark,” Beeny said.

One fear lingering in Beeny’s mind is that the university is putting tuition money above student health.

“I hope this is just the cynic in me, but it’s hard to look at what has happened these past few days and not consider that as a possibility,” he said. “The sudden switch from voluntary to mandatory testing right after the add/drop and tuition deadlines. Tuition insurance seems like a half measure at best. Transparency on processes and decision making would certainly help in this regard and would bring peace of mind to many students.”

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L makes COVID testing mandatory effective immediately Sunday, Aug 23 2020 

By Joseph Garcia —

In an abrupt shift, the university is now requiring all students, faculty and staff be tested for COVID-19, effective immediately.

In the email cosigned by members of the Pivot to Fall committee, they say more than 4,000 people have been tested in the past two weeks. However, the testing dashboard, last updated Aug. 17,  still sits at 2,621 administered tests.

Testing is required for:

  • Faculty who are on campus, or come to campus on occasion.
  • Anyone who works as staff on campus, or those staff who frequently come to campus.
  • Students living in residential dorms, campus-affiliated housing or who attend in-person classes.

The new mandatory testing will also require people who have tested negative to be re-tested by Sept. 4, which is when the recent extension for free testing is scheduled to end.

While walk-ins are welcome at all testing locations, the university still recommends that people register an appointment beforehand.

Testing Locations (available Monday-Friday):

  • Student Activities Center: 8 a.m. to noon, 1-5 p.m.
  • Cardinal Stadium Purple “A” Lot (drive-through): 8 a.m. to noon, 1-5 p.m. (Closed Sept. 3 and 4.)
  • Student Recreation Center: 8 a.m. to noon, 1 -5 p.m.
  • Abell Administration Building (HSC): 7-11 a.m., noon to 4 p.m.

This story will be updated.

Graphic by Joseph Garcia // The Louisville Cardinal

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University of Louisville reports 53 positive COVID-19 cases Saturday, Aug 22 2020 

By Madelin Shelton — 

The University of Louisville reported 53 positive cases of COVID-19 during its first week of testing. This number was out of a total of 2,621 administered tests, a 2.02% positivity rate.

This number does not include the 85 recently confirmed COVID cases within the athletics department.As of now, the university has a total of  138 confirmed cases.

The numbers were released on Aug. 18 on U of L’s new webpage dedicated to testing statistics, it will be updated every Tuesday by Campus Health Services.

Only tests done on the Belknap and Health Sciences Center campuses will be reported to the dashboard.

U of L administration has been strongly encouraging every member of the campus community to get tested, although the current numbers are low, the number of tests given are a fraction of the total number of students enrolled this semester.

Paige Workman, a junior, expressed great concern with the very low percentage of tests administered relative to the total number of faculty, staff and students closely affiliated with the university.

“I was genuinely shocked that the university did not require everyone returning to campus to get a test,” she said.

Workman went on to express her disappointment in her fellow U of L community members who are choosing not to be tested despite the free access provided by the university. “It is an ignorant and arrogant choice to willingly forego COVID-19 testing prior to returning to campus,” she said.

Testing on the U of L campuses was recently extended until Sept. 4. Those who test positive are contacted by Campus Health to conduct contact tracing, report symptoms and begin a period of self-isolation.

 

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Interim A&S Dean appoints Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Wednesday, Aug 19 2020 

By Madelin Shelton —

Cherie Dawson-Edwards has been named as the new Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. David Owen, interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, made the announcement of Dawson-Edwards’ appointment in an email Aug. 8.

“Dr. Dawson-Edwards brings to the role a deep commitment to belonging, equity, and social justice, along with considerable administrative experience, and a track record of engagement with our local community,” Owen said of the new appointee.

Dawson-Edwards’ prior experience includes being the acting director of the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research at U of L, working with Jefferson County Public School district to conduct professional development training, and consulting others on restorative justice practices.

She has served as the chair of the Department of Criminal Justice since 2018, directs the Social Change program and serves on the national board of the ACLU.

Owen said Dawson-Edwards is an “accomplished scholar,” with four published book chapters, 13 peer-reviewed journal articles and an assortment of other publications. Over the span of her career, she has received over $500,000 in grants.

Dawson-Edwards’ appointment to this position comes at a historical moment at U of L, the city of Louisville and the country. With a global movement calling for racial justice taking place, in part sparked by Louisville’s own tragic loss of Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, discussions of diversity, equity and inclusion are increasingly prevalent.

In response to concerns about structural racism, U of L President Neeli Bendapudi recently committed to making U of L the nation’s premier anti-racist metropolitan research university.

Speaking on Dr. Dawson-Edwards’ ability to lead at such a critical time, Owen said, “Dr. Dawson-Edwards brings the wisdom, compassion, expertise, and experience to lead us as we all work towards becoming a community where all feel they belong.”

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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President Bendapudi’s anti-racist agenda to reshape U of L Tuesday, Aug 18 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi announced U of L’s anti-racist agenda on July 28. The agenda is a part of U of L’s plans to establish itself as a premier anti-racist metropolitan research university.

“We serve a more racially and socio-economically diverse student population than most research universities in the country, and we have a unique, abiding and pervasive relationship with the City of Louisville,” Bendapudi said in an email to the university community.

“But we must do more. In higher education, we have the great good fortune to be able to aspire to the highest ideals of society. In our exploration and growth, I believe universities can be models for the communities in which they exist.”

Bendapudi went on to discuss what the U of L administration has done in the past to promote anti-racism and diversity, what they are currently doing and what can be done in the future.

Bendapudi summarized the university’s past by pointing out that U of L integrated in 1951, making it one of the first universities in Kentucky to do so. U of L was also one of the first universities in the country to create a Pan-African Studies program, which was started in 1973.

She then continued by discussing the current initiatives in place that promote anti-racism and emphasize diversity.

“For instance, half or more of all new faculty hires in the last year in the College of Business, the College of Education and Human Development and the Brandeis School of Law were people of color,” Bendapudi said. “This intentionality on the part of these unit leaders and their teams demonstrate a commitment to anti-racist action in our hiring.”

She also pointed to the on-going construction of the new Cultural and Equity center and a recent study that listed U of L as one of the three most selective universities in the country that provide equal access for Black and Latinx students.

Bendapudi went on to address the new initiatives U of L would be taking on to remain committed to anti-racism.

“Throughout the past seven weeks, I have been fortunate to have engaged in countless conversations with leaders, activists and friends throughout our Louisville Black community and across the nation,” she said.  “From those conversations, it is evident there is an array of perspectives on what must be done to achieve racial equity and there is no quick solution.”

She then discussed the Anti-Racist Agenda, which has it’s own webpage on U of L’s website. The website includes articles about the commitment U of L is taking anti-racism and articles about the current things the university is doing to make progress.

Bendapudi then invited U of L community members to visit the website and share their thoughts on new steps the university can take going forward.

Some students, however, think that U of L has a lot of work to do before they can claim to be an anti-racist university.

David Echeverria is a junior at U of L, an MLK scholar and the former president of the Latino Student Union. Echeverria urges the university to take actions that aren’t just performative.

“We are past the time for panels and discussions, it is time for action from the university,” Echeverria said.  “The responses from the University throughout the summer have been very disappointing and upsetting.”

Echeverria believes that there are several anti-racist actions U of L has to commit to in order to be an anti-racist university. These actions include cutting ties with the Louisville Metro Police Department, giving students of color a platform outside of SGA, prioritizing retention of students, faculty and staff of color and moving towards being precautionary towards racial issues rather than reactionary.

“If the university aims to be an Anti-Racist university, and actually perform as one rather than just acquiring another accolade to recruit ‘diverse students’, then there is a lot of work to be done,” Echeverria said.

“And that work should not be labor put on Black and Brown students, and if their input and work is needed then they should be compensated for the skilled labor, as it is clear those in administration at the university do not have the skills that are needed to move the university towards that goal.”

Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences David Owen also responded to Bendapudi’s announcement. He responded with excitement and said that anti-racism has always been his focus.

“My vision for A&S is one of a community grounded on discovering and sharing knowledge and understandings, where all feel at home and recognized as equals,” Owen said.

“A&S can only enact this vision if we address the systemic problems of justice and equity that are embedded in individual practices and institutional structures. Thus, a primary strategy for achieving this vision is to strive together to build the nation’s premier anti-racist university.”

Owen went on to detail how A&S has the advantage of being able to pull from their numerous diverse academic programs as they proceed with the anti-racist agenda.

Owen said that A&S planned to complete their search for Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within the next few weeks. He also said that he has asked members of A&S leadership to come up with one or two changes that can be made within their department, program or area to promote anti-racism. Owen has also proposed an anti-racist curriculum requirement that will be developed by a committee in the coming weeks.

“Additional areas of work may be identified as we engage our students, faculty, and staff in the university conversation about what the Cardinal Anti-Racism Agenda should mean in practice,” Owen said.

“To that end, please help us build a robust plan of action by visiting the Cardinal Anti-Racism Agenda website and providing your input on historic UofL initiatives that provide an anti-racist foundation upon which we can build; current and ongoing initiatives that represent steps U of L is taking to achieve our anti-racism goal; and ideas for new initiatives that foster equity and celebrate diversity. ”

File Photo//The Louisville Cardinal

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University of Louisville student government against return to campus Sunday, Aug 16 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville Student Government Association sent a letter to the U of L administration expressing their concerns with the return to campus for the fall 2020 semester.

The letter was signed by the SGA ‘top four’ Student Body President Sabrina Collins, Executive Vice President Lexi Raikes, Academic Vice President Ben Barberie and Services Vice President Henrietta Ransdell.

“The original plan to return to campus in the fall was founded in optimism. In the early planning stages, our committees planned in the hopes that the COVID-19 situation would improve by August; however it is clear that the pandemic has only worsened,” the letter said.

“With this in mind, it is essential to reevaluate our original plan with student, faculty and staff safety as the top priority.”

The letter went on to detail the concerns that SGA has heard from students. They claim that many students are untrustworthy of U of L and some worry that U of L is waiting for the billing period to pass before changing the in-person instruction plan.

Other concerns include the cancellation of the IBM Watson Health Project, that residents will not be informed of positive cases in their buildings and the inability of the university to fully put a stop to parties.

The SGA ‘top four’ then explained that re-opening campus would put certain minority groups who are already more vulnerable to COVID-19 at further risk.

The letter also acknowledged that another mid-semester shift to online-only courses isn’t fair, as many students struggled with the transition last year.

“We hear from students daily who view another mid-semester shift as a ‘worst-case scenario.’ Our constituents constantly ask us to ‘rip the bandaid off’ and tell them if we think classes will be online. Unfortunately, we have no answers to give,” they said in the letter.

The letter concluded by reiterating that SGA is no longer in favor of in-person classes for the fall semester.

 

University Response

Several members of the U of L administration responded to SGA’s letter, including Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Boehm, Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation Kevin Gardner, Executive Director of Campus Health Services Phil Bressoud and Chief Operating Officer Mark Watkins.

“We know this is an extremely difficult time for students, faculty and staff at U of L and higher education institutions across the country,” they said in the letter. “In this letter we want to respond to the concerns you have expressed.”

They recognized that the original plan was made in a different time as far as COVID-19 cases in Kentucky but said that they were constantly working to update the plan as new information came out.

The university’s letter went on to remind students that they had the option to take all of their classes online if they were uncomfortable with returning to campus.  Administration said that while U of L has a plan for mass testing and contact tracing, they are not in favor of mandatory testing because it can lead to students becoming complacent and engaging in high-risk behaviors.

They addressed the concerns with the cancellation of the IBM Watson Health Project by saying that the product was not necessary and they have used the money they would have spent on it to hire more contact tracers and buy a product that would help students check their symptoms daily.

The letter also addressed the concern of not notifying students of infected people in their dorms, citing that HIPAA constraints keep them from publicly sharing health information of students.

They went on to list several precautions that will reduce COVID-19 risk on campus such as devoting $150,000 monthly to campus-wide disinfection, limiting the amount of in-person classes and providing rooms for quarantine both through campus housing and hotels if necessary.

“We have a critical mission to serve. Whether through in-person, online or hybrid courses, we are committed to providing the best education possible despite the obstacles presented by COVID,” the university said. “We are committed to offering that outstanding educational experience while creating and maintaining the best possible environment for our students, faculty and staff.”

They concluded the letter ensuring SGA that they discussed all of the concerns within their letter, but that their discussions led them to believe that they were prepared for a return to campus for fall semester.

Collins, a senior, told the Cardinal that SGA appreciated that the administration took the time to respond to their letter and address their concerns. She said that she also believed the meetings that she had with administration during the days following the letter response were helpful even though she still has concerns.

The biggest concerns Collins has heard from students were related to being unsure of what this semester would look like.

“A lot of the concern stems from the uncertainty of the moment and if we are going to switch online mid-semester,” she said.

Collins also wanted to tell students to check their emails regularly for COVID-19 updates and remind them that they can reach out to general@uoflsga.org if they need a template for requesting to take a hybrid-course online or any further help with that process.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L sociology department leads anti-racism push on campus Friday, Aug 14 2020 

By Madelin Shelton —

The University of Louisville’s sociology department sent a July 7 letter to leadership raising concerns of systemic racism at U of L. Signed by more than 700 faculty, staff, students and alumni, it challenged the university to implement changes to become an anti-racist university.

The letter detailed several examples of unfair treatment of Black faculty at U of L, including biased student evaluations, marginalization of their teaching and research, a lack of opportunity to move into leadership positions and other instances of discrimination.

“The time and energy spent navigating these experiences greatly inhibit Black faculty’s ability to engage in the scholarly production of the currency of our institution – grants and publications,” the letter said.

The letter went on to explain that Black faculty’s classroom commitment to social justice often negatively impacts their careers in the form of unsuccessful retention, tenure and promotion reviews.

“Addressing structural and systemic racism at U of L will require all administrators, faculty, staff, and students to take responsibility and actively engage in anti-racist policies,” the letter stated. It went on to include a series of questions the university must respond to through action to move forward as an anti-racist university.

Both U of L President Neeli Bendapudi and University Provost Beth Boehm read and responded to the open letter.

Bendapudi said the letter and questions raised were thoughtful and necessary.

“This will be an engagement of the entire campus community to recognize the successes of the past, draw attention to the current anti-racist work being done on campus, and to chart a course for how we can establish ourselves as the premier anti-racist metropolitan university in the country,” Bendapudi said of the university’s recently announced Anti-Racism agenda.

Provost Boehm addressed concerns over lack of diversity among faculty by focusing on deans and faculty administrators’ roles in making diverse hires when able.

“We must work together to figure out how to change the way faculty and unit administrators make their choices about who will join their faculty ranks,” Boehm said.

Boehm also discussed the balance between incentivizing department deans to make diverse hires and not overreaching the authority of the provost position in selecting new faculty.

She said that the provost does not hire faculty and therefore does not have a direct hand in increasing the diversity of departments.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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New year, new look: Ville Grill to receive major renovations by end of 2020 Wednesday, Jul 29 2020 

By Madelin Shelton and Joseph Garcia

One of campus’ dining staples, the Ville Grill, will look much different this fall. As part of a long-term partnership with Aramark, the Ville Grill is getting a major update–its first since opening in 2009. The first phase of the $2 million renovation is set to complete this summer.

The project will be entirely funded by Aramark using the remaining funds from a $32 million commitment Aramark made in 2016 to add and renovate existing venues.

The overhauled Ville Grill will come with new food options for students, an updated aesthetic and a second floor with additional seating. The renovation will be divided into two phases.

“Phase one will be an upgrade to the first floor, which includes expanded offerings, such as an allergen-free Worry Free Zone, a smoker that will feature different meats daily, and an updated look and feel within the space,” Mark Watkins, chief operating officer at U of L said. This phase is set to complete August 15.

Watkins said the second phase, which will include the additional seating, will be completed by the end of October. This will increase the maximum seating occupancy from 400 to 600. However to maintain safe social distancing, maximum capacity will be temporarily capped at 200.

Photo by Joseph Garcia // The Louisville Cardinal

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President Bendapudi appoints new vice president for University Advancement Friday, Jul 24 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi announced on July 22 that Jasmine Farrier has been appointed as the vice president for University Advancement. Farrier will begin in this new position on Aug. 1.

The vacant position was left by Bradley Shafer who announced that he would resign in order to move closer to his family.

“In looking to fill the position, I sought someone who would be authentic in telling the UofL story, who would build important relationships with all members of the Cardinal family, and who had established a proven record of delivering positive results,” Bendapudi said. “Dr. Farrier meets and surpasses all these criteria.”

Farrier is a political science graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned her Ph.D. in government from the Univesity of Texas at Austin. She has been a part of U of L’s political science faculty since 2002 and became chair of the department in 2018. She believes that her experience as political science chair will guide her in her new role.

“Being POLS chair showed me that our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters want the same thing – across partisan lines, generations, and geography — a vibrant community that knows how to collaborate for our beloved U of L,” Farrier said.

“Our alumni and community partners want to help all U of L students build their resumes as they earn degrees. That’s how we build social capital for every student regardless of background.”

The University Advancement Office is responsible for fundraising, marketing and alumni relations.

Farrier has experience working with alumni because of the Political Science Alumni Council, which she helped establish. “The Council worked to support current students internships in Washington, D.C. and these experiences will propel those students toward future employment opportunities,” she said.

Farrier’s vision for the university is a future where the university supports and nurtures its students who will in turn graduate and become successful alumni who will make it possible to recruit and support more students.

“I also want to help our University grow closer to all economic facets of the city, Commonwealth, and region. Across the US, economic development is often tied to University expansion and a well-educated/high-skilled population,” Farrier said.  “The University of Louisville plays an essential role in the economic success of the city, region and Commonwealth.”

Farrier looks forward to beginning this new position and expressed gratitude towards the university, “This university took a chance on me straight out of graduate school with just a promise of future success. I am motivated by this gratitude every day and eager for this expanded opportunity to give back.”

Photo Courtesy//The University of Louisville

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Bradley Shafer steps down from University Advancement Vice President position Friday, Jul 24 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi announced that Vice President of Advancement Bradley Shafer will be stepping down from his position and leaving U of L on Aug. 1. Shafer is choosing to resign in order to move closer to family.

According to Bendapudi, Shafer rebuilt the University Advancement program during his two years in the vice president position. The office of University Advancement is responsible for making progress in the university through improving fundraising, donor and alumni relations, recruitment, and marketing.

“Some important changes include leading a two-year increase in fundraising dollars (reversing a three-year decrease), creating and implementing goals and metrics for development officers, creating a donor portal to ensure transparency and raising $129 million in FY 2019-20, 34 percent above goal,” Bendapudi said.

“I am tremendously pleased with the significant progress made in the Advancement Office during the last two years,” Shafer said. “Specifically, I am proud of the turn-around in absolute dollars committed, installing several processes/policies based on industry best-practices and creating measurable increases in donor engagement, board giving and signature fund-raising projects.”

Shafer became the interim vice president in July of 2018 and was placed in the position permanently in April of 2019.

“Personally, we look forward to being nearer to our families as I take the next step in my career,” Shafer said.

Bendapudi concluded the email announcement by wishing Shafer well and hinting that a replacement vice president of the advancement program will be decided in the coming weeks..

Photo Courtesy//The University of Louisville

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