New and revamped positions contribute to cardinal anti-racism agenda Friday, Apr 16 2021 

By Madelin Shelton —

As part of U of L’s goal of becoming a premier anti-racist institution, the university has detailed its efforts to create new and revamped diversity-focused positions.

The varied positions have a variety of responsibilities, including creating an inclusive culture on campus, improving retention and graduation rates among minority students, recruiting minority faculty, creating better opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses to work with the university and more.

These revamped and new positions include the following:

  • Brigitte Burpo, assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, College of Education and Human Development
  • Valerie Clay, coordinator for diversity, equity and inclusion, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Crystal Rae Coel, assistant dean for student affairs and diversity, Brandeis School of Law
  • Cherie Dawson-Edwards, associate dean for diversity, engagement, culture and climate, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Marc D. Ellis, assistant director of procurement diversity and inclusion, Office of Procurement Services
  • Audra French, assistant director of student affairs and diversity equity and inclusion, School of Dentistry
  • Amalia Gomez, Latinx admissions counselor, Office of Admissions
  • Leondra Gully, director of Black and multicultural initiatives, Cultural Center
  • Anna Hinton, assistant dean for administration and diversity, equity and inclusion, School of Dentistry
  • Trinidad Jackson, assistant dean for culture and liberation, School of Public Health & Information Sciences
  • Emma Sterrett-Hong, associate dean of equity and inclusion, Kent School of Social Work
  • Nakia Strickland, associate director for diversity engagement, U of L Alumni Association
  • Morgan West, new student financial aid advisor, Office of Financial Affairs

In addition to the above, the university also said that the Cultural Center will be filling a director position for Hispanic, Latino and Indigenous initiatives, and new positions are being considered in other U of L departments.

When discussing these positions and how they fit into the Cardinal Anti-Racism Agenda, U of L President Neeli Bendapudi outlined that anti-racism is about believing that skin color does not confer any inherent inferiority or superiority to anybody else and that these positions help advance that idea.

“Being an anti-racist university means that on the individual level and the structural level, we examine what we are doing to see if we have conditions in place to make it possible for every human that’s here to achieve their full potential and not have their race be a factor in that,” she said.

Bendapudi explained that these new and revamped positions indicate that these ideals aren’t happening in one place, but that every school and every unit are taking it seriously.

For how these positions foster a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion Bendapudi said that these positions will ensure that U of L is trying to stay diverse. In addition, they will help foster equity by being close to problems and being able to argue and advocate for equity.

“Having all these people visible in each unit is an invitation to others and hopefully makes them feel more included,” Bendapudi said.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L basketball legend now serves as university ambassador Monday, Feb 8 2021 

By Madelin Shelton —

Darrell Griffith, legendary U of L basketball player, has come back to U of L to serve as a university ambassador. Griffith will be working out of the President Neeli Bendapudi’s office, specifically on her diversity, inclusion and anti-racism efforts. He will also work with the University Advancement office to help cultivate donors and will coordinate on legislative issues important to U of L, among other duties. Griffith began on Nov. 16.

When asked what he was most excited for in his new role, Griffith said, “Reconnecting with the university, doing my part to make the university better and to make a change.”

Griffith also discussed what kept drawing him back to U of L and the city of Louisville.

“I was born and raised here. I played ball here at the University of Louisville and got my degree here, and I just want to see the university do better,” he said. “I want to have a part in helping kids get their education. The university has a footprint in the community. There are so many good things it can do, and it has done, and I just want to further that mission.”

In regard to the university’s anti-racism agenda, Griffith discussed what was most important. “The main thing you have to do when dealing with an anti-racism agenda is to have open ears. You have to listen to the pain and the concerns that people have when it comes to racism. That’s the first step.”

He went on to describe the importance of having an inclusive campus. “It’s good to have an inclusive university from all angles and to make feel everyone feel welcome,” he said.

Nicknamed “Dr. Dunkenstein,” Griffith was the leader of the 1980 Cardinal basketball team that won a national championship. He was also a first-team All-American and national collegiate player of the year. Following his collegiate career, Griffith was drafted into the National Basketball Association as a member of the Utah Jazz. During his NBA career, he earned the rookie of the year award. Following his 10-year career, the Utah Jazz retired his jersey in 1993.

Upon retirement, Griffith returned home to Louisville to pursue a successful business career.

Griffith was previously associated with U of L from 2006 to 2017 as special assistant to the president and director of community relations but was let go due to a reduction in force.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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Board of Trustees votes to increase contributions to employee retirement accounts Tuesday, Jan 26 2021 

By Madelin Shelton — 

The University of Louisville will be increasing the university’s contribution to employee retirement accounts to six percent of the employee’s salary effective Feb. 1 through June 30.

“The additional optional university contribution of 2.5 percent that matches voluntary employee contributions will also continue through this period,” U of L President Neeli Bendapudi said in an email.

This increase comes as the university had to implement several budget saving steps last spring in response to the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these steps included eliminating the university’s contributions to individual retirement accounts. 2.5 percent of employer contributions were restored in August 2020, along with the full restoration of the 2.5 percent match for voluntary employee contributions, after the university found it financially feasible.

“This recent increase to 6 percent is possible because of savings incurred through sound and responsible financial planning and management, which included not only the retirement reduction but also a campus-wide program that reserved 5 percent of unit General Fund budgets to fund possible reductions in revenues,” Bendapudi said. A portion of the reserved General Fund budgets will now go directly to units with the discretion of vice presidents and deans.

The university will have to reevaluate the university retirement plan contributions in Summer 2021, but hopes to maintain the current level of contribution.

“We value you, our faculty and staff, and the important work you have continued to perform so well under less than ideal circumstances. We thank you for your efforts and promise to do our best to reward you for your dedication to the University of Louisville,” Bendapudi said.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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A&S Dean search put on hold after candidate declines offer Monday, Jan 18 2021 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville announced last week that it would be putting the search for a new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences on hold. This decision comes after the candidate who was selected for the job during the first search declined the offer.

“Given the current complexity of the Arts and Sciences role and the need for a leader with a demonstrated history of success in a similar role, we have made the difficult decision to conclude this search process, to recalibrate and to restart a new search sometime after Provost Gonzalez begins her new role this spring,” U of L President Neeli Bendapudi and Provost Beth Boehm said in a Jan. 13 email.

David Owen, the current interim A&S dean, will continue in his role until the search is able to resume again and find someone long-term for the position.

The announcement concluded by thanking the members of the search committee for their efforts during the first search.

In an interview on Jan. 13, the Editor-in-Chief of The Louisville Cardinal Joseph Garcia asked Bendapudi if the decision to pause this search would be good in the long-term for the university community.

“I think so, and I’m 100% on that,” Bendapudi said. “Because leadership is something where it’s not about a good person or a bad person, it’s about best. And I really believe that. Meaning, that at any given point in time making sure that the person we get aligns with our priorities and where we need to go.”

File Photo//The Louisville Cardinal

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University leadership responds to sociology department’s July letter Tuesday, Nov 17 2020 

By Madelin Shelton — 

The University of Louisville recently issued a statement in response to the sociology department’s July 7 letter that brought concerns of systemic racism at U of L to university leadership. The statement, sent out Oct. 15, was signed by U of L President Neeli Bendapudi and University Provost Beth Boehm.

The sociology department’s letter addressed inequitable treatment of Black faculty at U of L, including the marginalization of their teaching and research, biased student evaluations, and a lack of opportunity to move into leadership positions. It also challenged the university to go into further detail about its efforts to uplift Black members of U of L and to ensure the fair treatment of Black students, faculty and staff.

The statement reiterated that the university is currently developing the Cardinal Anti-Racist agenda with faculty, staff and student input. This agenda includes many objectives, including recruiting and retaining more students, faculty and staff of color, building intentionally anti-racism curriculum across all disciplines, ensuring boards, committees, and the search and hiring processes are intentionally diverse developing institutional and unit-level budgets that reflect the priority of diversity and equity and more.

Addressing the original concerns the letter brought up, the university detailed how its leadership is working to mitigate disparities among Black faculty by highlighting their scholarly contributions via social media, printed publications, advertising and marketing prowess.

“The provost’s office is currently reviewing how we execute teaching evaluations, and promotion and tenure reviews to identify systemic shortfalls,” the statement said.

In regards to the letter’s accusations of a lack of promotion among Black faculty to leadership positions, university leadership detailed recent efforts to provide leadership training to Black faculty through the VP Faculty Affairs and the Delphi Center.

The statement detailed several other elements of its efforts to ensure a more equitable U of L for Black community members including diversity trainings and university-sponsored minority support groups and associations.

University leadership repeated their commitment to dismantling racism at U of L throughout the statement. They said that they will demonstrate their success in dismantling systemic racism at U of L by replacing old policies with new anti-racist policies, increasing the number of faculty and staff of color, increasing the student of color population and retention rates and by expanding diversity and inclusion efforts, outreach and influence.

University leadership was clear that U of L still had a lot of work to do in this area.

“In closing, it is certainly the case that our beloved university has a lot of work to do to become the premier anti-racist metropolitan research university,” the statement read. “We owe it to our students and our community to create opportunities, break glass ceilings and be bold in our actions to be anti-racist.”

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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University to host drive-in movie night for employees Wednesday, Oct 28 2020 

By Victoria Doll —

The University of Louisville is hosting a free Employee Appreciation Drive-in Movie Night at the Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass in Simpsonville, KY. This is the first time the university has hosted this event.

The university views it as an opportunity to show their appreciation and support for their employees during these difficult times.

The drive-in will take place over three nights, Oct. 23, Oct. 30, and Nov. 1., all at 7:00 p.m.  The movies Zootopia and 42 will be shown.

“The animated movie Zootopia and inspirational film 42 were carefully selected not only because they are entertaining, but also because of their focus on diversity and inclusion – an important Cardinal Principle,” U of L President Neeli Bendapudi said.

Health precautions will be enforced to abide by COVID-19 guidelines. For example, tickets will need to be ordered ahead of time to ensure adequate space for social distancing between attendees. Masks are also required while sitting outside the vehicle.

There will be hand sanitizing stations located by the public restrooms and concession, no cash will be accepted on site, and all purchases must be made via app purchase.

Attendees may bring lawn chairs to sit in but will be required to maintain physical distancing from others. Food will be able to be purchased at the Outlet Shoppes via app and individuals are allowed to bring their own food and drink.

Furthermore, kids are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes along with their Cardinal gear to show team spirit.

“We appreciate you,” Bendapudi said in the email to employees. “And can’t wait to see you under the stars…from our cars. Go Cards!”

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U of L receives $11.5 million grant to advance cancer research Friday, Sep 18 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville has received an $11.5 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The grant will be used to advance cancer research in immunotherapy by establishing the Center for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy.

“One of the university’s Grand Challenges is to advance the health of all people,” said U of L President Neeli Bendapudi. “Through this center, our cancer researchers will grow the field of immunotherapy, saving the lives of many more patients with cancer in the future.”

U of L Health’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center is already a valued resource for cancer treatment.

The Brown Cancer Center is nationally recognized and boasts the largest cancer trial program in the region. With this grant, U of L Health will be able to establish the Center for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy as a National Institutes of Health-designated Center of Biomedical Research Excellence.

One of the main goals of the grant is to help establish the next generation of cancer researchers. Young researchers will be provided with funding and mentorship and then cycled out once they are able to obtain their own funding. This will allow for a new wave of researchers to receive support from the center.

“It’s my obligation to bring in and encourage more junior investigators to work in this area,” said Dr. Jun Yan, director of the Center for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy. “We can work together and build this center.”

Yan also explained why it’s so important to get the next generation involved with cancer research. “Immunotherapy takes a long winding road to get where we are now. Just to give you one example, one drug that is widely used now in clinics was developed 20-25 years ago. Developing and discovery take a really long path to get where we are now. So you really need generations and generations of scientists to work in this area,” Yan said.

Dr. Paula Bates, an investigator for the Center for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy, agrees that supporting young researchers is incredibly important. She will works as a mentor for these investigators and helps them with their grant applications.

Bates also doesn’t underestimate the effect that this grant could have on cancer research as a whole.

“The big picture of what this grant is about is figuring out what are the mechanisms that cancer uses to avoid being destroyed by the immune system. So that we can come up with new immunotherapies,” Bates said.

“We are looking to really get answers to those questions. And some of those will be longterm answers, you know if we find a new type of therapy, t might take 5-10 years before it is generally available. But there is the potential in the shorter term to have a real impact. ” According to Bates, some of those shorter-term projects will include research on combinations between existing immunotherapies and other drugs that aren’t normally used for cancer treatment.

The grant is currently set to last for five years but can be extended for two more five-year periods.

Photo Courtesy // University of Louisville

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U of L apologizes for vague RAVE alert Friday, Sep 11 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

A vague RAVE alert sent campus-wide at 2:19 a.m. Sept. 10 potentially endangered students and resulted in an almost immediate apology.

The alert said: “A black male wearing a red hoodie ran from Clark County Indiana Police and is possibly on campus. If you see someone matching this description- call ULPD or LMPD.”

Faculty and students said the vague description was potentially dangerous to black students on campus.

Three U of L officials released statements the morning after the alert went out to apologize for the incident.

“This morning a RAVE Alert went out asking our campus to be on the lookout for a Black male in a red hoodie, ” President Neeli Bendapudi said in her statement. “That is not an anti-racist statement. While the description may have been true, it is too vague to be of any help and it perpetuates negative stereotypes (especially on a campus whose colors are red and black and whose student population is proudly more than 12% Black) that make some members of our campus community targets. There is no excuse for that.”

Bendapudi apologized to those who were negatively affected by the alert and promise that the university would do better in the future.

ULPD Chief Gary Lewis took responsibility for the mistake and said the alert was unapproved and did not fit the criteria for a RAVE alert.

“The lack of oversight in approval of the message, the tone and the ambiguous wording all potentially contributed to making some individuals on our campus that already suffer from the trauma of racial stereotyping less safe and not more,” Lewis said. “Further, our policy is to use RAVE Alerts for law enforcement updates only when there is either 1) a serious crime, or 2) an immediate threat to our campus. This situation did not meet either criteria.”

Dr. Kaila Story, a professor of Women and Gender Studies and Pan African Studies at U of L, posted her frustration to Facebook.

“These vague RAVE alerts have always put marginalized groups on our campus at risk. BIPOC faculty, students and staff on our campus already have to navigate racialized and gendered microaggressions in almost every space on our yard, and when alerts like these come through our phones and emails they inevitably invite more scrutiny and harm to these already vulnerable groups,” Story said.

“It wasn’t just Black male bodies that were put at risk, it was also Black bodies that registered to onlookers as masculine, non-binary and/or masculine as well,” Story said. “So many folks were put at risk.”

One student who was hurt and disappointed when he saw the RAVE alert was Torien Miles, a senior at U of L. “I’m in the marching band and we had just had a performance the day before and I was on campus, as a black male wearing red. I wear red all the time,” Miles said.

“So I fit the description just a couple hours before that RAVE alert went out. And if had gone out, instead of 2 a.m. at 8 p.m. or something I would have been on campus fitting that description.”

Miles believes that if the university is going to stay true to their anti-racist ideas, there needs to be actions taken, and not just apologies after the fact. “That email is a good step in the right direction but it takes a lot more visible action and a lot more workable action to make these things right,” he said.

Faye Jones, senior associate vice president for diversity and equity said, “As the mother of children that fit the description of the RAVE Alert that went out this morning, I am sitting with the enormous weight and frustration of yet another example of how our systems can fail our young Black and Brown students, faculty and staff. The system unquestionably failed this morning.”

Jones said she would be working with her colleagues and university stakeholders to prevent this issue from happening again. She also apologized and offered support to anyone who was hurt by the mistake.

Story agrees that this mistake goes against the anti-racist goals the university has.

“If U of L truly aims to be seen and regarded as a premier anti-racist institution these types of incidents cannot continue to happen. Their needs to be structural changes behind those aims. I also think that financial allocations need to be adjusted within the University to prioritize departments, programs, and initiatives that have always been invested in teaching anti-racist praxis,” she said.

The Student Government Association ‘Top Four’ also believes the university needs to be held accountable for this incident. In a statement posted on social media they said,  “The Student Government Association shares your frustrations regarding this RAVE alert incident as well as the repeated alerts that went out a couple weeks ago regarding protests in the area. Campus safety includes all of us, and we cannot achieve that when we put our Black students at risk.”

“Please know that SGA has been working with ULPD and university administration on this issue. We are committed to holding university leadership accountable to this repeated issue.”

Graphic by Joseph Garcia // The Louisville Cardinal

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A timeline of U of L’s COVID-19 response Tuesday, Sep 8 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

The outbreak of COVID-19 has led to changes in many aspects of everyone’s lives.  Universities have been some of the environments most impacted by this change, so the University of Louisville has made numerous adjustments over the past few months to protect students, faculty and staff.

Spring Semester

Governor Andy Beshear confirmed Kentucky’s first case of COVID-19 on March 8. The patient was from Harrison County and received medical treatment in Lexington. By March 10, the confirmed cases had risen to eight and the first case was reported in Louisville.

On March 11, U of L President Neeli Bendapudi announced that spring break would be extended until March 17 and when students returned to classes, they would do so remotely until at least April 5. She also took that time to announce that all international travel by the university would be canceled immediately. On March 18, Bendapudi announced that U of L’s remote learning plan would remain in place until the end of the semester, April 28.

Later that week on March 14, Bendapudi announced that all campus events would be canceled or postponed. She also informed U of L faculty and staff that anyone eligible should switch to working remotely.

Provost Beth Boehm announced on March 20 that the university would give students the choice to switch any of their classes to pass/fail. This decision came after students expressed concerns over adapting to the online environment. Switching to pass/fail means that as long as the student earns a D- in a course that class will count as a pass and will not affect their grade point average. A failing class will still affect their GPA negatively.  Students were able to change the classes at any point before the last day of classes through ULink.

Because the campus never fully closed due to the pandemic, businesses on campus had to adapt to meet the needs of those still on campus while prioritizing health and safety. Restaurants on campus switched to carry-out only on March 16. The campus bookstore closed to the public on March 24 but continued to process online orders in the store.

Summer

Bendapudi announced on March 27 that classes for the summer term would be held online only. Students could take online courses for a reduced tuition rate if those classes were supposed to be offered as in-person classes.

Fall Semester

The fall 2o2o semester began on Aug.17 with new precautions put into place. The university gave students three options to choose when registering for fall classes: in-person, hybrid and online-only. More than 50% of classes are being taught with a hybrid model, which means the classes are partially taught online and partially taught in-person. During in-person classes and any other public spaces on campus, students, faculty and staff are expected to wear face masks and social distance at least 6 ft when possible.

U of L plans to hold in-person classes until Nov. 25, there will then be a five-day break for thanksgiving and when classes resume on Nov. 30, they will be held online. This schedule will not affect fall break which will be held on Oct. 5-6 as originally planned.

Originally, U of L offered optional COVID-19 testing for two weeks and maintained that they would not require mandatory testing due to CDC guidelines, U of L then abruptly switched to mandatory testing. All students and faculty planning to attend in-person classes would be required to be tested for COVID-19 before Sept. 4.

U of L  set up a website dedicated to COVID-19 results from the university’s testing. The webpage was updated once a week, but after students demanded on social media for the university to release more frequent updates, U of L decided to change its stance, now updating the dashboard three times a week..

As of Sept. 4, U of L has a total of 280 positive COVID cases, excluding 92 positive cases in the athletic department, out of almost 18,500 tests.

This story will be updated as more information is released.

Graphic by Eli Hughes//The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L responds to protest concerns Tuesday, Aug 25 2020 

By Eli Hughes — 

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi and Provost Beth Boehm sent an email to the U of L community Aug 25 responding to concerns over protests that could potentially interfere with campus operations.

The protests are in response to the killing of Breonna Taylor by police officers in March and have been organized by Until Freedom, a social justice organization based out of New York.

The protesters plan to march from South Central Park to the Louisville Metro Police Training Academy from 2-5:00 pm. This path has the possibility of intersecting with roads near U of L’s main campus.

“University leadership has been monitoring the news surrounding potential upcoming protests in our city, including a planned demonstration today at 2 p.m. near Taylor Boulevard which may cause traffic concerns for some near Belknap Campus,” the pair said in the email.

“We’ve been in close touch with local officials and, based on the information we have at this time, U of L operations will continue as normal unless individuals have received other instructions from their dean or supervisor. ”

All businesses in the Student Activities Center closed at 11:00 a.m. due to protest concerns.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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