Todd ignores pleas of those who make up UK

Guest column by Taylor Shelton

If you’ve been keeping up with my writing the last few weeks, you probably have a good idea about my beliefs regarding our university’s lack of regard for students. As of yet, I still lack contrary evidence to show that my rebukes of UK are ill-informed or misplaced. Last week’s letter to the editor by David Lautzenheiser, a UK employee, highlighted an equally important problem on our campus — the administration’s disregard for its employees.

The university should take a lesson from its cross-state rival’s current predicament. Former University of Louisville Dean of Education Robert Felner is currently being investigated by the FBI, Secret Service and US Postal Service on a number of charges — primarily those regarding the misuse of several million dollars of funds received from a federal No Child Left Behind grant. This investigation has shown, however, that administrative incompetence is not exclusive to UK. Apparently, it is a statewide epidemic. Accusations against Felner have included intimidation of faculty and staff, sexual harassment and unfair hiring practices. These charges have been known for years to those within the university administration and yet, they allowed him to continue to manage a large college within the university and continue his heavy-handed tactics to maintain personal power. And now, because of another misstep, the rest of the public is learning about Felner’s long history of impropriety — dating back to his stints at the University of Illinois and the University of Rhode Island.

So why would the U of L administration cover up the wrong-doings of one of its own at the risk of the current debacle with the federal authorities? I won’t even venture a guess. Regardless, it seems UK President Lee Todd has taken a play out of U of L’s book — just ignore any wrongdoing and act like everything is fine, take a 50 percent bonus and half-heartedly thank students and staff for their willingness to sacrifice. Does President Todd not recognize that such behavior only exacerbates the problem? Does he think that his wrongdoings will be forgiven if only he continues to create the appearance of improvements on our campus? When, in reality, UK has made few tangible improvements in the last few years toward its ‘top-20’ goal — unless you count the never-ending construction site that is our university’s campus as progress on those goals — while continually forcing faculty, students and staff who don’t work in the more lucrative academic disciplines to make significant cuts in their real wages and personal lives in order to make the university function.

President Todd has been too wrapped up in building new facilities and taking home one of the largest bonuses per year of any American university president to worry about the people that make UK work. Perhaps President Todd doesn’t recognize that without 27,000 students and 11,000 paid employees that he is forcing pay cuts and tuition raises upon, the university would not only cease to function, but would lack any purpose whatsoever. We, the students and the workers, are the reason that this university exists. And yet, the university administration continues to ignore the complaints of the everyday student or worker — from the past efforts of UK Employees United to create a staff union that were blockaded by the administration and ever-unreliable staff trustee Russ Williams to the long-lasting and unfruitful efforts by UK Greenthumb to make the campus more sustainable.

The moral of this story is that, while it may seem expedient to do so, ignoring the pleas of people who make it possible for you to pull in a handsome six-figure salary and bonus isn’t such a good idea. Robert Felner and the rest of the U of L administration thought it was okay to intimidate and force out any ‘troublemakers’ who didn’t buy into their ideas, or to ignore the vote of no confidence taken by faculty against Felner in the past couple years. What goes around comes around.