LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Our Fight for Education

Andrew Henderson


Our university students and faculty have been through a lot.

For our students, higher education has never been more expensive.


For our faculty and administrators, severe budget cuts have led to more than 700 layoffs. That is 700 Kentucky families that lost a job that put food on their tables.

The mission of higher education is also under attack. Some top state officials are telling students that certain majors or studies are not valued, or even that a college education is unimportant.

University presidents who rightfully advocate for their communities have been unfairly and unprofessionally derided as “crybabies.”

And it took the Supreme Court of Kentucky to reverse the $18 million in blatantly illegal cuts the governor made to Kentucky’s public universities earlier this year. The Attorney General Office’s diligence in taking this issue to the state’s highest court means that $1,493,000 has been returned to the campus of WKU.

This was an issue worth my office’s time and energy because of its impact to students and their families.

And it shows how I value education.

For my office, our daily focus continues to be our core mission — helping to prevent child abuse, protecting seniors from scams and abuse, finding workable solutions to our drug epidemic and securing justice for victims of rape.

Unfortunately, there is still an issue that threatens every university — the governor’s attempt to remove the entire board of trustees at the University of Louisville. And it is not just U of L. The governor claims the power to dissolve every governing board, including WKU.

It is the greatest threat faced by the students and faculty at all of our public institutions.

Kentucky’s public colleges and universities receive their accreditation from a group called Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Its mission is to assure the educational quality and improve the effectiveness of its member institutions.

Accreditation is critical. Without it, students cannot secure federal financial aid.

SACS has indicated, in a letter to U of L, that the governor’s unilaterally dissolving of a university governing board violates accreditation standards. And when a university is not free from undue political influence, accreditation is placed at risk and can be lost if not remedied.

The loss of accreditation is a death sentence to a university. It could also lose research funding, athletic and academic programs and staff and students.

Accreditation issues and penalties are black eyes that take years to overcome.

I am not suggesting that the governor realized his actions would create this unacceptable risk when he took them. At this point, however, the harm is too great, and it is our students and faculty that will pay the price.

It is time for the governor to agree he cannot “dissolve” a university governing board, and he should begin to follow the law and do what every other governor has done: appoint trustees when vacancies become available.

A governor — any governor — that could dissolve a board for any reason, at any time would make our universities totally beholden to politics. Governors could control class offerings and even faculty hiring and firing.

We should all be against that, regardless of political party.

Our system of higher education should be above partisan politics. We owe that to our students and their families.