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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The Cardinal interviews incoming University Provost, Lori Gonzalez Tuesday, Jan 19 2021 

By Madelin Shelton — 

Dr. Lori Gonzalez, the newly selected executive vice president and university provost (EVPUP), was recently interviewed by The Louisville Cardinal and outlined her upcoming position at the University of Louisville.

“The things that drew me to the University of Louisville are some of the initiatives around anti-racism and improving retention rates to keep our undergraduate students enrolled and to ensure that they graduate on time,” Gonzalez said. She also enjoyed reading U of L’s Strategic Plan because it succinctly presented the university’s goals of making itself a great place to learn, work and invest.

Gonzalez further noted President Neeli Bendapudi’s involvement with students as a pulling factor.

“When I saw President Bendapudi and her videos to students, her writing to students, I just thought this was a president who cares about higher ed, cares about the students and is going to be sure that the institution is a student-first place for people to learn,” she said.

Gonzalez said that her leadership in education has prepared her best for her new role as university provost.

“I started out as a faculty member and moved into administration at the college level. I’ve been a dean, I’ve been a provost, and now I’m a vice chancellor,” she said. “I think the thing that prepares you best for leadership is enjoying the mission of the institution and believing passionately about the mission, and then enjoying working with people.”

When asked how she has worked to uphold the Cardinal principle of diversity and inclusion in the past, Gonzalez first elaborated on how she came to appreciate diversity and inclusion in her own life. Being from a small town in eastern Kentucky, Gonzalez said she didn’t have experiences with those who were different from her until she got to college.

“I started my own quest to understand my own bias that I brought from where I was raised and focusing on learning more about diversity and inclusion,” she said. “When I became dean, I brought in training opportunities for our faculty and staff around diversity and inclusion. As provost I worked really closely with the equity and diversity office to make sure programming was going. I did small things like meeting every semester with transgender students.”

When she officially takes on the role of provost, Gonzalez said she wants to help foster an environment where undergraduate students come into U of L and study their respective subjects while also learning their civic duty as citizens.

“That’s a personal passion of mine to make sure that students become more than whatever their discipline is because they’re going to be the ones to change our world for the better and I think the university has to give you the tools to know how to do that,” she said.

To specifically improve the student experience for U of L students, Gonzalez wants to work with Bendapudi to expand the experiential learning strategy that is under the “Great Place to Learn” component of the Strategic Plan. She believes focusing on this component will further help with cultivating civically engaged learners.

Gonzalez will begin serving as the EVPUP starting April 1.

Photo Courtesy // The University of Louisville 

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The Louisville Cardinal launches new interview series with campus leaders Thursday, Jan 14 2021 

By Madelin Shelton — 

The University of Louisville’s student newspaper, The Louisville Cardinal, kicked off its “Louisville Cardinal Conversations” series Wednesday with U of L President Neeli Bendapudi and Cardinal Editor-in-Chief Joseph Garcia. The series will consist of live interviews by the Cardinal’s student editors with high profile individuals on the university’s campus.

Garcia and Bendapudi talked about a range of university issues over Facebook Live including the university’s anti-racist agenda, the NCAA allegations, the A&S Dean Search, COVID-19 and tuition.

When discussing the university’s anti-racism initiative, Bendapudi detailed what anti-racism is and what it looked like in practice.

“Anti-racism is the premise that nobody is superior or inferior to another person just because of the color of their skin,” she said, “One way for us to think about being anti-racist is doing everything we can to allow each person to succeed.” Bendapudi went on to convey the importance of investing in and fostering equity to ensure the success of everyone.

In relation to COVID-19, Bendapudi expressed her praise of the tenacity of U of L students during the pandemic. “All of you as students, I am so appreciative of all of you and I am so grateful for the resiliency you’re showing,” she said.

Bendapudi then relayed that by the end of next week every healthcare worker in the U of L system will have been given the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. She also said that, with authorization, the university hopes to give every faculty member, staff member and student the opportunity to receive the vaccine by the end of the semester. However, U of L is not legally allowed to require the vaccine since it was given provisional emergency use.

Garcia also asked Bendapudi whether students should expect another tuition hike in the upcoming academic year. She was not able to give a definitive answer but pointed to the competitiveness of U of L as compared to other state institutions in terms of student debt. According to her, U of L students have the lowest college debt as compared to students from every other public university in the state of Kentucky. She mentioned that any rise in tuition would be offset by trying to develop more need-based aid.

The recording of the full interview can be found here. Be sure to follow The Louisville Cardinal on social media @TheCardinalNews to be informed of the next “Louisville Cardinal Conversations” interview.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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University releases Strategic Plan progress report Wednesday, Nov 25 2020 

By Madelin Shelton — 

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi recently announced U of L’s progress on their Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan, released in fall 2019, was launched to make U of L a great place to learn, to work and in which to invest. According to the progress report, “the three-year plan focuses on key initiatives, gauges the effectiveness of specific actions and measures the university’s progress toward achieving its overarching goal.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of Breonna Taylor at the hands of LMPD, which both required significant attention from the university, U of L was able to make necessary changes and make great strides on the goals it originally set in 2019.

“These challenges meant some of our strategic plan goals had to be paused or reworked, but our determination to overcome never wavered,” U of L said in the progress report.

Most notably, the university’s total enrollment reached above 23,000, a milestone it has not reached in over 20 years.

Graduation rates also peaked during this time and research funding hit a record-breaking $152 million. The university doubled the percentage of need-based aid for first-time freshman and increased the number of patents awarded to U of L for its innovation.

The report also highlighted the university’s response to COVID-19, pointing to U of L’s swift move to online instruction, addressing the significant financial ramifications and providing U of L health care workers and researchers with necessary resources.

It also mentioned the potential of the Co-Immunity Project, funded in part by U of L as an effort to learn how COVID-19 moves through populations.

“Results from the study will help Kentucky restart its economy and create safe plans to return to work and school,” the report said.

In addition, the report detailed the university’s Cardinal Anti-Racism Agenda, which serves to advance U of L’s goal to become the nation’s premier anti-racist metropolitan research university.

The university included initiatives to further this effort, including, but not limited to, developing an educational series for faculty and staff focusing on diversity and inclusion, providing a list of resources to help the campus community learn more about the legacy of slavery and racism and having the U of L police department host open forums discussing racial issues that impact U of L and the broader Louisville community.

Finally, the report incorporated information on its three Grand Challenges of empowering communities, advancing health and engineering the future economy.

These challenges are being used by the university as priorities to dedicate its research and scholarship towards. Progress has been made by U of L on these challenges through the convening of the Grand Challenges subcommittee and recruiting researchers and scholars to join the challenge.

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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RAVE Alerts show administrators lack racial sensitivity Thursday, Sep 24 2020 

By Zachary Baker-

Over the past couple weeks, the University of Louisville’s administration has made several mistakes when it comes to racial sensitivity on campus.

From the conflicting language when it came to the Black Lives Matter protests around campus on Aug 25., to the dangerous and irresponsible vague RAVE alert, the university has been failing its students of color. 

On Sept. 10, a RAVE alert went out at 2:20 a.m. warning students about “A Black Male wearing a red hoodie” on the run from the police and possibly on campus. 

In a time where the danger of a Black student to possibly be killed in a misunderstanding by police is high, it seems downright reckless to send out a vague text early in the morning to a student body that is made up of 11% Black students

There are thousands of Black students on campus at a university where the schools colors are red, black and white. Sending out a text which only includes vague descriptors was either completely ignorant of current events or dangerously negligent of the consequences that could come from doing so. 

This is no new issue from the university, problematic RAVE alerts have been around for a while. 

Student Body President Sabrina Collins commented on the incident and who should be held accountable.

“The Sept. 10 RAVE alert is only the most recent incident in a longer history of problematic RAVE communications that put people of color on our campus at risk,” Collins said. “Having served on Top 4 for multiple years, I know this is not the first time SGA has advocated for substantial change in the way safety concerns are communicated with campus.”

Collins said that the university “must back their words up with anti-racist action if we ever hope to come close to the ideal of a ‘premier metropolitan anti-racist university.'”

“The University is correct that we must do better; however, students must keep pushing our administrators and police department to follow through on that promise,” she said.  

It is painfully obvious to the student body that the university can do better to protect them. The danger is not limited to the student body either. People across Louisville have talked about how it seems better to avoid U of L than risk arrest or injury due to the negligent behavior of the administration. Is that the university we want to be? 

Do we want that same message to go to potential incoming students seeking a better life through higher education? 

Dangerous and reckless behavior by the administration in how it communicates is correctable only by the administration itself. U of L needs to do better in both protecting its students of color and by promoting true change and accountability within the system.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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University Alumni Association hosts anti-racism webinar Tuesday, Sep 22 2020 

By Victoria Doll —

The University of Louisville Alumni Association recently hosted an event in response to widespread racial unrest titled “Anti-Racism, Justice and Safety: Compatible or Conflicting Concepts?”

The event was moderated by College of Arts and Sciences Dean David Owens, and included Cherie Dawson-Edwards, associate dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Aishia Brown, assistant professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences; and Keturah Herron, a policy strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.

The conversation began as Owens asked how to reshape our community to make it safer and more humane for all.

Brown advised people to study history. She encouraged people to examine how polices already in place could be racist or have outcomes that have harmed the black and brown community.

Dawson-Edwards said her goal in educating people about anti-racism is to engage in deeper conversations about race despite the discomfort it sometimes brings.

The conversation around racism played into the discussion of the settlement between the city of Louisville and Breonna Taylor’s family. The settlement, which included $12 million paid to the Taylor family, included building community relations between the LMPD and the communities they police.

Herron, who was instrumental in the passing of Breonna’s Law, was excited and hopeful about this part of the settlement but remains hesitant and skeptical about how the policies are going to be implemented.

“It’s imperative that we take community engagement seriously,” Brown said, adding that there needs to be a way to hold people accountable. She said there needs to be guidelines to begin engagement between black citizens and police.

The panelists all agreed that there needs to be emphasis on the idea that the Breonna Taylor case is a race issue, not just an accident.

“To say her death isn’t about race is wrong. The aftermath has been about race. There needs to be awareness around the fact that Black women are treated differently by the state and in society,” Herron said.

The webinar ended with a conversation about how white people can be allies and promote accountability. Dawson-Edwards said that people need to learn from their missteps.

“Trust black women. Don’t try to explain it away. Listen, it will be uncomfortable, but you have to listen,” she said. “Own what you did, tell us how you aren’t going to do that again, don’t do it again, get in line and let’s move on.”

At the end of the event, the panelists encouraged people to educate themselves on instances of police brutality in America and to listen to the people of color in their communities.

“Acknowledge that there has been change, but we still need to push for more. This same thing can happen again if something is not done,” Dawson-Edwards said.

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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