University of Louisville Trustee Brian Cromer resigned from the board of trustees last week, UofL spokesman John Karman confirmed Thursday.

Cromer works at Stites & Harbison, the law firm currently being sued by UofL and its foundation. Cromer had recused himself in conversations about the suit but referenced the litigation in his resignation letter to Gov. Matt Bevin, Karman said.

Cromer’s term was slated to expire in 2020.

Cromer is the second recent resignation from the board. Former trustee John Schnatter resigned July 11 after confirming reports that he used the N-word on a conference call.

With two trustee spots open, board chairman J. David Grissom asked remaining trustees to send him recommendations to pass along to the Council on Postsecondary Education. The board can submit recommendations for trustees, but trustees are ultimately selected by the governor.

Grissom renewed as chairman

Grissom will continue as the chairman of the University of Louisville board of trustees for another year, the board unanimously decided Thursday.

Grissom has been in the board’s top spot since January 2017, when he was elected chairman pro tem. As chairman, he’s played a key role in pushing the university forward, including hiring President Neeli Bendapudi.

The rest of the slate passed unanimously, with the exception of abstentions from those on the slate. James Rogers will become vice chair, a spot previously held by Schnatter. Mary Nixon will be treasurer, and Bonita Black will be secretary.

UofL board of trustees chair J. David Grissom | Photo by Joe Sonka

Graduation rates going up

UofL’s graduation rates are going up across the board, Dean of Students Michael Mardis said in a presentation on retention.

In the most recent information, the four-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students is 37 percent — up by 5.2 percent from the year before. The five-year rate is at 53.3 percent (up by 2.4 percent) and the six-year rate is at 56.2 percent (up 1.8 percent).

Bendapudi said she hopes to share a detailed plan to boost graduation and retention by October. The university has a “moral obligation” to students that they are as successful as possible, she said.

Mardis said the school’s goal is to have the six-year graduation rate at 60 percent by 2020. However, ideally, he said the school should try to match other ACC schools, which see freshman retention rates “in the 90s” and graduation rates in over 80 percent.

The number of new freshmen each fall hasn’t grown tremendously, only going up a net of 35 since 2013, according to the presentation. But the school expects total student enrollment to go up around 2,000 students by fall 2021, according to the presentation.

In the 2017-18 year, UofL conferred 5,167 degrees across all programs, Mardis said.

Student code of rights protections expanded

The board passed multiple changes to the student code of rights, including expanded protections against a variety of forms of discrimination for applicants.

Applicants for admission and financial aid are expressly protected against being discriminated against due to “genetic information, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and expression,” the new code said.

The code initially only prevented discrimination on the basis of sex, signaling a more inclusive wording change.

Additionally, students now have a right to know how their course fees are being allocated, the new code says.

Residence halls refinanced

Four foundation-owned residence halls will be refinanced, foundation executive director Keith Sherman said.

By refinancing, the foundation would be able to repay the halls’ debt, Sherman said. The move, approved unanimously by the trustees, would save the foundation $400,000 a year, Sherman noted.