Governor Bevin's Statement: Just Ego, or Something Worse?

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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Yesterday (1/17), Governor Bevin appointed the ten members of the University of Louisville board. While the entire UofL board situation has been one mess after another, the latest concern is the Governor’s statement accompanying the appointments. Is his statement just his ego getting in the last word, or is it something more serious?

Here is the part of his statement that is concerning, from the video accompanying the press release:

“The people responsible for the University of Louisville, for all of our public education institutions, are the people that you, the voters and you the taxpayers hired through your votes to actually do this job: the Legislature and the Office of Governor. This is how it works. We don’t answer to editorial boards. We don’t answer to self-serving individuals who might have a political agenda. We don’t answer to the Attorney General or to any given judge. We don’t answer to accrediting agencies. We answer to you. We answer to you the voter.”

Why did he feel the need to add this part? Why did he feel the need to assert his authority over the University in this way? Why did he feel the need to take a shot at SACS?

There are two ways to view this statement:

It could be just the ego-driven statement of a man who must always have the last word, and cannot let a sleeping dog lie. If this is the case, it is possibly harmful – if SACS sees it as continual political interference with the University – but mostly it is just annoying. Gracious people know when they have won, and don’t need to point it out.

On the other hand, it could be a statement of a man who is determined to have his own way and assert his authority over everything in his domain, even if doing so is harmful to others. If Governor Bevin continues to push SACS by saying “Respect my authority!” they may have no choice but to make the reality painfully clear to him that they have the last word on accreditation, and act to pull it from the University. As has been pointed out, that would be an unmitigated disaster for the school, the students, the city, and the state. This possibility that Governor Bevin does not understand this, even at this late date, is truly alarming.

Even more alarming is his comment that “we don’t answer to any given judge.” Is Governor Bevin now putting himself above the law? Is he asserting that his administration can do whatever it wishes, law and judges be damned? Has the Governor decided to follow in the steps of Richard Nixon, who famously said “if the President does it, it’s not illegal”?

We have all known persons who had to have the last word. At some point, you learn that that is how they are, and you just ignore them. If the Governor’s statement is just his ego having to get in one last dig, then we’ll just ignore it, like we ignore the ego-driven statements of others.

But, if the Governor is truly asserting that he is the final authority on accreditation, and on the workings of our institutions, and on what is lawful itself, then we have to say in no uncertain terms:

Governor, you are not a dictator, and this is not your kingdom. You are not above the law, nor are you able to impose your will unilaterally. Put some humility and perspective in your morning coffee, and put your ego on the shelf.

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