FRANKFORT, Ky. — Republican Gov. Matt Bevin says a scheduled court hearing on the University of Louisville’s accreditation is “pointless” and that he will not present expert testimony as requested by a judge.
Bevin abolished and replaced the University of Louisville board of trustees earlier this year. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued him, saying the order was illegal. Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd temporarily blocked Bevin’s order but asked both sides to present testimony from an expert witness on how Bevin’s order would impact the university’s accreditation.
Shepherd scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. Thursday. But Bevin’s attorney Stephen Pitt notified Shepherd this week they will not present testimony and have asked Shepherd to exclude testimony from an expert witness called by Beshear.
“The Governor objects to the very premise of this trial since it is pointless,” Pitt wrote. “The one and only issue in this case … is a purely legal issue that must be decided on the basis of the plain language of the relevant statute, not on the opinion of an expert.”
Beshear asked Shepherd to deny Bevin’s request, pointing out the court has already delayed the hearing once at the governor’s request to give them more time to find an expert witness. And he said accreditation is an important element of Kentucky’s colleges and universities.
“Multiple professions require an individual to have attended and completed her education at a regionally-accredited education institution,” Attorney La Tasha Buckner wrote on behalf of Beshear’s office. “It cannot be argued that there is any way UofL can meet the legislative goal under of becoming ‘(a) premier, nationally recognized metropolitan research university’ by 2020 if it is not even accredited.”
Shepherd has said the impact of Bevin’s order on the university’s accreditation is one of his “primary focus of inquiry.”
Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, has ordered a formal review of the University of Louisville’s accreditation. She wrote in a letter to the school’s interim president that there is “evidence of significant accreditation-related issues” as a result of Bevin’s order abolishing and replacing the board.
Wheelan said it appeared the University of Louisville was “out of compliance” with four of the association’s “comprehensive standards.” But Pitt has noted the letter did not mention the university had violated any of the association’s “core standards,” which he argued are more important.
Connie Shumake, assistant provost for accreditation and academic programs, testified in July the school was not in any immediate danger of losing its accreditation. Her testimony came before Wheelan sent her letter to the university’s interim president.