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Campus Community,

Today was a remarkable day in the life of our university. Our Board of Trustees gave approval to two items that speak to our commitment to partnership and the idea that now is the time for us to accelerate our progress in advancing this state.

First, our Board of Trustees authorized UK to move forward with the acquisition of St. Claire Hospital, an essential community health provider in Morehead, Kentucky. 

For more than 60 years, we have partnered with St. Claire to provide advanced care services in areas such as oncology and pediatrics to Rowan County and other communities in northeast Kentucky.

We also for more than a decade have worked with St. Claire and our sister institution, Morehead State University, on the Rural Physician Leadership Program, an effort to train medical students to be physicians in rural communities throughout Kentucky. We’ve trained more than 100 young physicians through this vital program to provide healing in so many medically underserved areas.

St. Claire sought us out and selected us because of our longstanding work together and the fact that our sense of mission and values align. We both care about Kentucky and the Appalachian region. We both feel we are being called to do and be more, to extend the healing and hope that we provide to more people in need. And we both believe that we can do even more together.

We hope to finalize this transaction on or before July 1. You can read more about it here in PR 4.

Second, the Board gave initial approval, following a first reading, to a series of revisions to our Governing Regulations (GRs). It is part of a process of revising our rules and regulations to better position our community to accelerate our progress in advancing Kentucky.

You can read more about these actions here, as well as PR 6 and the revised regulations.

The revisions are the product of months of dialogue and discussion in our campus community. I’ve heard from hundreds of you about ways in which our current rules and regulations — the GRs and daily operating rules called the Administrative Regulations (ARs) — are often confusing and lack clarity.

They don’t engage all the expertise that is available across our campus, among students, faculty and staff. And they don’t enable decisions to be made locally, at the college and unit level, closest to those often most impacted.

Together, the revisions approved by the Board underscore the idea that we can do better together. As much progress as we have made in the last decade — with historic growth in every facet of our mission — there is more we can and should do to meet the needs of our state.

Kentucky, right now, is recruiting and generating billions of dollars in economic development and growth. But we don’t have the skilled workforce to seize these opportunities and meet these challenges.

This university — Kentucky’s university — must be part of the solution. And that means being responsive and ready to make progress possible. Our rules of the road are an essential part of that equation.

I heard excitement from so many students, faculty and staff about how we can create sustainable change that will better position our community for growth and progress. Our Student Government Association (SGA) and Staff Senate, in fact, strongly endorsed the process and principles we’ve established for change, recognizing that more voices at the table and involved in the life of this community can only be beneficial.

I heard from scores of faculty as well — many supportive and eager to embrace change; others apprehensive and opposed about what revisions will mean for those things we value most and for how they impact important processes that must continue without interruption.

I respect these voices — both those that are excited and those that have expressed concern. A vibrant university is one that is unafraid to engage in debate.

I believe we are a vibrant university.

But one of the exciting things to me about this prospect for renewal through revision is that, in so many ways, our work is just beginning. With the Board’s initial approval of these changes, and in accordance with our regulations, we will now get additional feedback from our shared governance bodies — students, faculty and staff. Then, the Board at its June meeting will give final consideration to these proposals.

In an important sense, the real work will have just begun. Together, as a campus and with the Board’s final approval, we will undertake a multi-month process to review our ARs, the daily management and operational rules that determine so much of our work.

There, we will refine and revise — and, importantly, codify — the work we do and how we do it together, in collaboration. In fact, to put aside a myth about this process, it has been suggested that if the Board approves these revisions that the following day will be one of tremendous uncertainty because of all the changes.

The truth is that many of the concerns that have been raised — about the definition of grades, student rights and what constitutes an excused absence — will simply be folded into our ARs. Other key principles — such as the primacy of faculty in determining the curriculum and our steadfast commitment to academic freedom — are stated more explicitly than ever before in our revised GRs.

In other words, our operations will proceed as they did before and we will take the time as a community, as we should, to review and revise these rules of the road together.

But the truth, too, is that if we are to live up to our promise and to our potential, we must be willing to evolve with the world around us. I know you care about this place and its people.

I know you believe in the legacy we’ve upheld for 160 years that serves all 120 counties across four inextricably linked missions of education, research, service and care. 

That’s why our Board challenged us to find ways to accelerate our progress on behalf of the state we were created to serve. That continues to be our north star — our purpose. Today, we have an opportunity to ensure that together. Thank you for being a community so passionately committed to that work.

Eli Capilouto