New U of L President Neeli Bendapudi says 'best days are ahead'
Promising the University of Louisville's best days are ahead, Neeli Bendapudi became the university's 18th president on Tuesday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Promising the University of Louisville’s “best days are ahead,” Neeli Bendapudi ascended the steps of Grawemeyer Hall on Tuesday morning, flanked by applauding faculty and staff, to begin her first day on the job as the university’s 18th president.
Bendapudi, who was hired in April from the University of Kansas, told the crowd of a couple hundred people that they ought to remember their first obligation to serve the university’s students and that she wants to celebrate diversity in “thought, life experience” and “what you study.”
“It gives me goosebumps to think about the opportunities ahead of us and what we can all do together,” Bendapudi said in brief remarks to the crowd.
Bendapudi, the former business dean and provost at Kansas, arrives at U of L following a two-year period that was among the most turbulent in the university’s 220-year history.
James Ramsey, the former president, resigned under pressure in 2016 and is now being sued by the university for alleged financial mismanagement.
Gov. Matt Bevin dismissed the board of trustees and installed a new group of appointees.
The university was placed on probation by its accrediting agency, and saw its 2013 national title in men’s basketball stripped after a recruiting scandal that ended the careers of Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino and 20-year athletics director Tom Jurich.
Addressing reporters on Tuesday, Bendapudi talked only in generalities about her priorities in the job.
She said the university “cannot lose sight of the students.” She said she also wants to give faculty and staff “a sense that we are all in this together.” She also wants to “rebuild trust (and) rebuild confidence” in the university’s donor community.
Bendapudi indicated she would not oppose hiking tuition by 4 percent, the maximum allowed by state law, for the academic year that starts in the fall.
One of Bendapudi’s first big tasks will be to finalize U of L’s $1.2 billion budget – including tuition rates – in the next two months, but she said much of the work on the spending plan has already been done, and she does not want to upset the apple cart.
“Candidly, for this year, the whole group has been working so hard, and if they have come up with something, I want to be supportive of the work that has gone on,” she said. “Next year I will obviously have an opportunity to really study and shape it.”
Asked what changes she plans to implement, Bendapudi said “nothing significant” because up to Tuesday, all of her information about the university has been from “second-hand” reports and conversations.
“I want to give myself a chance to immerse myself,” she said. “…I’ll probably try to make every single group more inclusive. I like to have lots of people at the table.”