- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A defiant Gov. Matt Bevin has re-appointed a new board of trustees for the University of Louisville, using a new state law to resurrect an earlier proposal that had been blocked by a state judge and threatened the accreditation of one of the state’s largest research institutions.

Bevin, a Republican, first abolished and replaced the board last summer using an executive order. Kentucky’s Democratic attorney general sued, and a state judge blocked Bevin’s order. The school’s accrediting body then voted in December to place the school on probation for one year, saying Bevin had interfered with the board’s decisions and did not use a fair process to dismiss its members.

But the state legislature, controlled by Republicans for the first time in memory, passed a law earlier this month abolishing the university’s board and directing Bevin to appoint a new one, subject to confirmation by the state Senate. Bevin used that law to reappoint nine of the 10 people he appointed last summer, including Papa John’s CEO John H. Schnatter and former UofL basketball standout Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman.

“We don’t answer to accrediting agencies,” Bevin said in a video posted to his YouTube page.

The accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, indicated last week that Kentucky lawmakers appear to be “working to address” its concerns. Commission spokeswoman Pamela Cravey said Tuesday that “nothing has changed” in regards to Bevin’s appointments. She said the school is still on probation and must show the agency how it has complied with the commission’s standards.

The commission will make a decision regarding the university’s accreditation in December. Losing accreditation could have many repercussions, including making UofL’s students ineligible for state or federal financial aid. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who has sued Bevin over his decision to replace the UofL board, called Bevin’s behavior “reckless” because the new board is nearly the same as the board created “under Gov. Bevin’s illegal executive orders.”

“The governor should stop playing political chicken with the future of our universities,” Beshear said.

Bevin says the university needs a fresh start after a series of problems in recent years. The old board was made up of mostly white Democrats, despite a state law requiring proportional political and racial representation. And the board was criticized in a report from Republican Auditor Mike Harmon for its cozy relationship with the University of Louisville Foundation, the school’s investment arm.

“The legislature has acted definitively,” he said. “The opportunity before us is great and we are going to move forward with a sense of purpose.”

Dale Boden was not reappointed, replaced by James M. Rogers of Prospect. While Bevin also appointed Doug Cobb to the board last year, Cobb declined the appointment after being criticized for some messages he posted on Twitter calling for the firing of men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino. Bevin chose Brian A. Comer to replace Cobb last year, and appointed him again on Tuesday.

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