Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series regarding the issues at Kentucky State University. 

Since Dr. M Christopher Brown II resigned, several people have expressed opinions about Kentucky State University’s problems and solutions. I graduated in 1994 and represent a group that consists of alumni and many former faculty, staff and administrators. None of the issues being presented surprise us because we have been discussing them for the past few years. That is why hearing the Board of Regents chair claim that they did not know about the problems seems so disingenuous. I have, more than others, publicly asked questions about the finances since spring 2019. Some have asked even longer. 

Lacy L. Rice Jr.

Lacy L. Rice Jr.

Several in the media asked two essential questions which many of us have asked. One, how could the board be oblivious to the spending while KSU had low enrollment? Two, how did the board not know the financial reports that it should have received? That lack of knowledge concerning easily observable actions and generally acceptable reports points to either apathy, incompetence, or both. Reading the responses by and witnessing the board chair in action has caused many questions to be asked among various stakeholders and the media and none have been impressed. As a result, many have questioned the re-election of the board leadership, the same one whose fiduciary duty to the university failed, and the selection of a board member to be the secretary, the only compensated position according to the Gold Book, Section 8.3. Brown served as secretary before his resignation. Before Brown’s selection, the position was traditionally filled by a university employee, most often the general counsel. The main question many around the country ask is “why is this board still intact?” 

I respectfully disagree with Ed Powe ("Guest columnist: An open letter to Gov. Andy Beshear," weekend Oct. 1-3). Two Frankfort residents oversaw this mess. One who he mentioned was chair of the board’s finance committee and should have seen this problem coming. He betrayed his fiduciary duty of loyalty when he resigned. He initially earned my respect because I thought that he was holding himself accountable for his part in the crisis. That quickly changed when he withdrew his resignation to “help right the ship” that he took part in misguiding. A third person who works in Frankfort is newly appointed to the board. While having more support for KSU by the community for KSU activities, especially as a key stakeholder, more on the board is not the answer.

Since the late 1990s, KSU is the only public institution whose board never consisted of more than half the appointed regents being alumni. Only two of the current appointed regents are alumni. Many people want to privately complain about and publicly criticize the leadership of the university without realizing the composition of the true leadership. Most of the people who are appointed have no prior stake in KSU, including one of the current Frankfort residents. The reasons KSU has its problems may be a disconnect and those who are most familiar with Her not having a say. Additionally, some politically connected alums have the ears of various leaders, but they might not be tuned in to the overarching will of the alumni, who are represented by various organizations and groups. 

Another interesting fact is how the governors have handled this problem. I have personally contacted the office of each governor since Ernie Fletcher about the need to place more alumni on the Board of Regents. I encourage everyone to research the appointments since then. 

All KSU Kentucky alumni should make this one of their major issues during gubernatorial and legislative elections. The University of Louisville had one trustee position opened to one who was elected by its alumni. The state legislature made changes to postsecondary boards during Gov. Matt Bevin’s tenure. Due to past inadequacies in appointments, would it be too much to ask that Kentucky’s Legislature allow KSU’s alumni to elect four members to the Board of Regents? There should be two men and two women, and the political parties should be represented in accordance with state statutes. Though this would not solve the main problem, it would still allow the governor to do what is right and appoint more alumni to be regents. This also removes complaints that may land on the governor’s desk. 

Lacy L. Rice Jr. is a 1994 graduate of Kentucky State University who leads the advocacy group The Thorobred Stables. He is the Executive Director of Rice FAME Group, a Kentucky minority-owned and veteran-owned nonprofit. He can be emailed at lacyrice2@yahoo.com

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