It is time to step down gracefully.
Former UofL Archivist William Morrison has offered in the pages of Lousiville’s Courier-Journal a sober, reasoned and convincing argument why, for the sake of his University and its community, President James Ramsey should step down. I could not agree more. The question currently being asked at the national higher-education level is, “How much more has to go wrong at an institution before its top leaders are held accountable.” We need to answer this question here in Louisville.
In the current issue of The Atlantic, Jerry Useem quotes a prominent former corporate executive: “Culture starts at the top… but it doesn’t start at the top with pretty statements. Employees will see through empty rhetoric and will emulate the nature of top-management decision making … A robust ‘code of conduct’ can be emasculated by one action of the CEO or CFO.” These are the words of Andrew Fastow, former CFO of Enron following his release from a 5-year term in prison for corporate fraud. He would know what he was talking about.
Mr. Useem concludes: “Decisions may be the product of culture. But culture is the product of decisions.” Are we to conclude that the string of bad decisions made at the University of Louisville is independent of University culture – or in fact is it representative of University culture? Should President Ramsey be held harmless for things done out of his control, or has he set a standard which is being emulated to the University’s detriment?
At the time of his sombrero affair, President Ramsey was reported to have stated that he would not resign, at least until the scandal of providing sexual favors for potential basketball recruits was seen through. I don’t think that is the biggest problem facing the University of Louisville, nor that President Ramsey is the best or only person to represent the University before the NCAA. President Ramsey’s recent efforts to rid himself of pesky Trustees who ask too many questions or dare to disagree with him are patently self-serving, and are an example of the kind of decision-making that has taken UofL down this embarrassing path. I respectfully suggest that President Ramsey follow the lead of former President Tim Wolfe of the University of Missouri and step down – and for the same reasons. He is an embattled president who can no longer lead and there is no one else left to take the fall for him.
Peter Hasselbacher, MD
Emeritus Professor of Medicine, UofL