Congratulations on your appointment to become the next president of UofL. Your position and leadership come at a crucial time for the university.
While you bring years of experience and perspective to the office, there are unique undercurrents that you should be aware of as you wade into this community.
Quite frankly, it would be wise to do the opposite of how your predecessor operated.
President Bendapudi, your background as an educator is already a positive sign for the university’s direction. It’s an important signal to the faculty and students that you understand the core purpose of the institution. This may sound obvious, but it was not the practice of the previous administration.
First and foremost: emphasize education.
Above basketball, football, fundraising, developing, growing the endowment, making real estate and risky financial investments… make education the top priority. Prioritize your students, the faculty and improving building and classroom conditions.
Do what you can to lower tuition for students, as well as graduating these students in a timely manner, so they leave with less debt.
You know… the opposite of your predecessor.
Similarly, break the old, higher education model that took advantage of teachers, especially adjuncts. Adjunct teachers deserve to be compensated fairly.
Next, don’t worry about the appearance of success. We understand that your background is in marketing, but your immediate advantage is your experience as an educator. Plus, the previous administration used marketing to create a facade to lie about progress and leadership, which nearly tore apart the university and community.
Again, do the opposite.
The former president and his cronies were most adept at enriching themselves by exploiting the sports fandom of Cards nation. Think I’m exaggerating? The UofL Foundation once used donor money to buy a full-page ad in Courier Journal, worth nearly $13,000, to defend your predecessor — well, to defend himself.
The promise you have made to “a culture of openness” is crucial to this community.
Finally, it’s been reported that you are a skilled fundraiser. Since the previous administration left the UofL Foundation in shambles — using the endowment as a piggy bank for risky investments, inside dealings and personal profit — there’s no doubt this will be important.
However, there are a few loud, wealthy donors and alumni who feel entitled to power within the university. Don’t let them convince you that you need them more than they want to use you.
When someone shows you who they are and what they really care about, believe them. These are not allies to your duty to help lives students and faculty, or improve the quality of education at UofL.
Your predecessor leaned heavily on these sycophants. Let them follow him out the door and out of town.
Similarly, you might be asked to join a group of Louisville’s donor-class who are trying to improve Louisville’s public school system. It’s called SCALA, the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda.
Don’t do it.
It might seem like a good idea. The members of this group are mostly good people who are important to the city and could potentially help with your fundraising efforts. But there are personal and political motivations underlying some of the groups’ efforts. Joining this group would signal to some that the new UofL president is on the side of Louisville’s elite. It would imperil your promise of openness from the beginning. It would immediately and unnecessarily make you a controversial figure.
It’s because of this that JCPS’s new superintendent, Marty Polio, declined his invitation to join.
Above all, the community is on your side. We’re rooting for you. And, hey, you’re in the perfect place to be the savior of this institution. It’s like being president after Trump — we’ll love you for just being a decent, honest person.
Best of luck,
P.S. Pick up LEO every Wednesday in the library to help you get to know the town and where to get your Cardinal tattoo. •