Kentucky editorial roundup
The Associated Press
Oct. 25, 2017
Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:
Lexington Herald-Leader on the firing of the University of Louisville's athletic director and men's basketball coach:
The firing of Tom Jurich as the University of Louisville's athletics director has sparked consternation in some quarters.
Three of the 13 trustees voted against the action, and many Cardinal fans have said the firing is shabby treatment for an AD who over two decades built Louisville teams — women's and men's equally — into college sports powerhouses, thus elevating the university's national profile.
The FBI's allegations of criminal wrongdoing in the recruiting of basketball players are, after all, just allegations, yet to be tested in a court of law or considered by the National Collegiate Athletics Association.
We agree with U of L Interim President Greg Postel's assessment, in a letter to Jurich, that the FBI investigation has already exposed "a scheme of fraud and malfeasance" that is unacceptable. Likewise for Coach Rick Pitino, who was fired by U of L's athletics board.
But if you're still not convinced, flip back a few pages to the recruiting violations that resulted in NCAA penalties against Louisville and the vacating of the men's basketball team's 2013 national title.
In particular, consider that teenagers making campus visits were entertained by strippers and prostitutes, arranged by a member of the athletics department staff, at a U of L dorm for athletes. The youngsters were hoping to earn a scholarship and, reasonably enough, wanted to make a positive impression on the adults to whom they had been entrusted.
Under those conditions, what the recruits experienced was abuse, perpetrated under U of L's imprimatur. A fraternity that made sexual performance with a prostitute part of its initiation rites would be disbanded and kicked off campus, probably for good.
Granted, U of L's former president James Ramsey, whose own administration became a cauldron of self-dealing and greed, was not providing much in the way of institutional oversight.
But Jurich and Pitino should have known what was going on, and if they didn't, they were falling far short of their duties. The "rogue assistant" alibi was shaky the first time and won't fly again. Accountability up and down the line is not too much to demand from an AD and head coach who were richly compensated for their work.
Jurich's taxable income as AD in 2016 was $5.3 million, according to an audit released in June. That included net pay of $1.9 million; an annuity of $1.8 million, to be paid out annually at $200,000, and the payment of taxes on the annuity in the amount of about $1.6 million. Jurich, 61, also was in line to collect $3 million in incentive pay if he remained on the job until age 65 and another $3 million if he stayed until 70.
Not surprisingly, Jurich and Pitino are contesting their firings, no doubt in hopes of contract buyouts commensurate with the lofty standards to which they've become accustomed.
The trustees did the right thing. U of L sports needs a major housecleaning, no doubt about it.
Daily News of Bowling Green on a protest over a Western Kentucky University lecture series about Civil War Gen. Robert E. Lee:
Academic freedom should be the cornerstone of every university, which means that many different points of view should be expressed freely without fear of censorship.
The recent protest by a very small group of community members and WKU students and faculty of a lecture series about Civil War Gen. Robert E. Lee amounted to attempted censorship at the one place we would least expect it, a college campus.
The four-part series, presented by retired Bowling Green obstetrician and lay historian Dr. Ron Hatcher, is titled "Robert E. Lee: Soldier, Educator, and Example in Life and in Memory." It's being offered to members of Western Kentucky University's Society for Lifelong Learning, which offers non-credit educational programs for those 50 and older.
A group of concerned community members organized a protest against the series and sent a letter to the society's board asking that the series be canceled and the course removed from the society's website.
Teachers should not fear that their interpretation of class material or historical figures will be censored or the class canceled because it is upsetting to someone else.
WKU history professor Rich Weigel, who attended Hatcher's lecture, said he was impressed with Hatcher's knowledge of Civil War history and saw the protest before the lecture began.
"I think the demonstration is unfortunate," Weigel said. "The question of slavery is a very serious issue and the people out there make some interesting points and valid points about the horrors of slavery. But I believe to have a protest just about the idea that Robert E. Lee can be seen positively is a mistake because we have the right to have differing opinions about historical figures.
"We shouldn't demonize historical figures ... because of the fact they were slave owners. There were 12 presidents who owned slaves. Washington, Jefferson and Madison stand out."
Protester Jasmine Banks, a WKU senior from Louisville and member of the Association of the Study of African-American Life and History, said she felt the lecture series was like "taking a bandage off of a wound we are trying to heal and reopening it."
"And it just makes people remember things that as a country we should not be proud of," Banks said.
People who try to suppress what doesn't conform to their own worldview undermine the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech that may or may not be popular with individuals and groups. This newspaper, for example, finds people who burn the American flag and Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the national anthem despicable, but we understand that it's their constitutional right to take those actions.
History is not something that should be censored. People who have differing viewpoints on history or historical figures should never be prevented from speaking about their views.
Hatcher is a well-respected citizen in Bowling Green, and people who attack his character for simply presenting his interpretation of Lee's life are engaging in character assassination.
The Society for Lifelong Learning said it best in the statement it issued to the media, and we echo its comments: "We believe that free speech should bring the opportunity for more free speech. Free and civil discourse, rooted in a historical context, can often lead to a better understanding of issues we face today."
The State Journal of Frankfort on reactions to pension reforms proposed by Gov. Matt Bevin and legislative leaders:
Knee-jerk reactions to Gov. Matt Bevin's and legislative leaders' proposed pension reforms will be plentiful in the days ahead. Amid the "hot takes" by commentators and interest groups after Bevin's Wednesday press conference, we appreciated the measured response of the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association.
The organization, while questioning the long-term math used by Bevin and lawmakers, said it appreciates "that policymakers have listened to our concerns and have indicated their willingness to keep their commitment to retired educators."
KRTA emphasized that it "has not taken any position on any possible reforms" and that "once a full proposal emerges, we look forward to working with lawmakers to provide our input."
Indeed, Republican leaders have given Kentuckians much to digest in a package of changes designed to shore up badly underfunded public pensions over the next 30 years. To his credit, Bevin didn't immediately set a date for a legislative special session in which lawmakers will consider the proposal. We hope he and lawmakers will provide plenty of time for public input.
Retired government workers, current state employees and taxpayers — in other words, all Kentuckians — should use the coming weeks to carefully consider every facet of pension reform and tell their senators and representatives what they think about each proposed change.
Our early take is that current retirees would emerge relatively unscathed in the package of changes, that pension reform could be much worse for current state workers than what Bevin and legislative leaders have proposed, and that retirement saving and planning will be dramatically different for future state workers. But we look forward to scrutinizing the details, educating readers on our news pages and offering constructive thoughts in this space in the days and weeks ahead.