There's a whole lot happening down in Frankfort, apparently.
Kentucky State University is seeing some chaos as university officials attempt to quell concerns and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear gets involved.
In an emailed statement Tuesday, Beshear called for an independent review of the university's finances. This comes on the heels of the Lexington Herald Leader reporting that several members of the institution's board of regents had approached Beshear with concerns about KSU's budget.
WAVE-TV seemed to confirm the Herald Leader's information, reporting this week that the board would discuss having an independent auditor review the school's financial status.
Inside Higher Ed, an education publication, also reported on the murky financial strife at KSU:
The public, historically Black university in Frankfort has not publicly disclosed any information about possible financial problems, but the Board of Regents’ recent actions suggest the university is not in perfect financial health. The Lexington Herald Leader recently reported that several unnamed regents approached Kentucky governor Andy Beshear with concerns about the university’s finances.
“Administration officials have been in contact with regents and the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education to gather more information about the issues they have raised,” Beshear’s office said in a statement.
Kentucky State University is a historically Black institution about 90 minutes south of Cincinnati. U.S. News & World Report ranks KSU as No. 36 in "Regional Colleges South" and says that the school's 2019 endowment was more than $18.5 million. Tuition runs about $9,100-$13,000, U.S. News says.
Beshear signed an executive order Tuesday afternoon requesting "a full, independent and transparent accounting of Kentucky State University (KSU)’s finances." A statement from Beshear mentioned collaborating with the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) and the Kentucky State University Board of Regents.
"KSU has been a unique and essential institution in the commonwealth for more than a century, serving generations of students as Kentucky’s historically Black land-grant university," Beshear said. "My administration is committed to getting KSU through this so that the school can continue to provide high-quality education to students for generations to come."
According to the statement, Beshear's executive order includes the following:
CPE shall provide an assessment of the current financial status of KSU, and shall provide a report to the Governor detailing its assessment prior to providing recommendations concerning appropriations for the next biennial budget.
To assist CPE in performing its assessment, KSU shall provide CPE access to any records CPE deems necessary to preparing its assessment.
CPE shall assist the KSU Board of Regents in developing a management and improvement plan with goals and measurable metrics, which shall be subject to the approval of CPE. The management and improvement plan shall be designed to assist with organizational and financial stability. The management and improvement plan shall provide for continuing oversight by, and reporting to, CPE concerning the implementation of the plan.
CPE shall make recommendations to the KSU Board of Regents concerning the KSU administrative structure and leadership.
Beshear's announcement occurred shortly after KSU president M. Christopher Brown II resigned Tuesday morning during a board meeting. The State Journal reports that Brown's letter of resignation was dated July 15 and addressed to Elaine Farris, chair of the board of regents. Per the State Journal:
"Dear Regent Farris, I have decided to tender my resignation as president of Kentucky State University to you and to the Board of Regents. I have recently learned I will be unable to complete the tenure of the third addendum of my present contract," the letter read.
No information was given as to why Brown couldn't complete his contract. Brown was present at the beginning of the meeting, but left before the board came out of closed session.
In May, Brown was awarded a contract extension to summer 2025. KSU is obligated, per Brown’s contract, to pay him the value of accrued but unpaid salary, unpaid vacation and unreimbursed business expenses.
Had the board elected to terminate Brown without cause, he would have been due a full year's salary. Without bonuses and fringe benefits, of which there were many, Brown's base salary was $270,000.
In addition to the leadership and financial woes, the Lexington Herald Leader reports that a number of lawsuits regarding KSU are in motion or have been settled recently, including suits involving wrongful termination, sexual harassment and nepotism.
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