UK Board of Trustees approves major changes


The June 2016 meetings of the UK Board of Trustees began at 8:00 a.m. on Friday.

McKenna Horsley

The UK Board of Trustees approved several changes Friday that will affect the future of the university.

The university will focus on improving the graduation rates of students. The Board of Trustees approved plans to build a new baseball stadium on South Campus and affirmed their support for the Schnatter Institute for Free Enterprise.

UK announced the UK LEADS initiative, or Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success. Under the initiative, the university will move from awarding 90 percent of its aid on academic merit to awarding most of its funding based on financial need.

The scholarship changes will not affect current students but future students beginning in fall 2017. 

“We have made tremendous strides in the last five years in improving academic quality and diversity while growing the number of students we educate to meet the needs of our state and region, but that’s not enough,” UK President Eli Capilouto said via press release. “We must move more quickly and dramatically to impact student success. Unmet financial need is one of the – if not the – biggest obstacle to graduation and to being debt free.”

On Friday, the board heard a $49 million proposal to build a new baseball stadium off Alumni Drive. In addition to the project, the board heard a $2 million proposal to move and upgrade the soccer practice field. During the upgrades, UK will make other upgrades to green spaces, recreational areas and parking on South Campus for all students. 

A panel of Title IX experts also addressed the UK Board of Trustees Friday about how the university’s sexual misconduct investigations work. 

Related: UK adds requirement to hiring process to avoid sexual misconduct

Board Chairman Britt Brockman said the experts were invited to continue “an important dialogue” that started at the Sept. 9 meeting of the Board of Trustees. 

The university has recently come under fire for refusing to release documents to the Kentucky Kernel in a sexual misconduct investigation of former associate professor of entomology James Harwood. 

The panel included UK’s General Counsel William Thro, UK’s Deputy Title IX Coordinator and Compliance Officer Martha Alexander, Intervention Program Coordinator at the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center Ashley Rouster Rigby and law professor Peter Lake, who joined the meeting via video conference. 

“As a public university, we too must respect the twin values of equality and freedom, which requires a careful coordination of activities and respect for the rights of everyone,” Brockman said.

Lake began the conversation with discussing the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which ensures education opportunities “through vigorous enforcement of civil rights in our nation’s schools,” according to its website. 

Lake advised the board on OCR’s four areas of operation: proper management of investigations, due process of all parties in the investigation, providing support while assisting those impacted in the investigation and changing the culture around sex discrimination.

“I’d like to take this opportunity in this, perhaps, dark moment before the dawn, that the light of the end of the tunnel that is Title IX, is to not allow ourselves to be too overly focused on just one area of Title IX operations,” Lake said.

Alexander spoke on how the Title IX process works. She said the process has very specific time frames for different steps.  

Related: Provost discusses changes to the Code of Student Conduct

Alexander’s office investigates the incident and tells the victim and the accused of their rights during the investigation. She said the process is “difficult” for all parties involved and her office “tries to make it as easy as possible.”

Royster said that she helps victims through the investigation process and makes sure students can function academically and socially at UK after the process. 

She said that since the Harwood investigation was reported on, less students have been coming to the VIP center. 

“Because of a lot of media attention that our process has gotten and the way that the media has chosen to report on that, unfortunately we have seen a chilling effect … We have seen a decrease in the amount of walk-ins at the VIP Center and that is a concern of us,” Royster said.

Following the panel, the Board of Trustees moved to closed session to discuss pending litigations.