Provost's Message: A Push for Constructive Change
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 50 seconds
Dear staff and faculty,
At the end of May I informed the campus community of the need to reduce the Lawrence campus budget across the board by 5.87 percent. Amid the thorny discussions news like this generates, I want to offer you all a message of hope. This is an opportunity for the University of Kansas to be strategic, ditch what isn’t working, align our needs and resources, and, yes, even move toward a place of stability that lets us dream big.
I’m not oblivious to the discomfort a change of this size can cause. Instead, I know that our budget reduction comes with a giant reset button that allows us to decide what is important and to build a new budget that supports the foundations of who we are and what we want and need KU to be. This is good.
As we implement our base budget reduction, our deans and vice provosts are also working to develop a new budget model that considers not just how we support the work faculty and staff do every day, but also considers how we support bigger goals and strategic advances. We still have the opportunity to think big, even as we work to be fairly grounded. As we move forward with this process we will provide multiple opportunities for our community to provide feedback and share in the shaping of our final model. What we can share now is that the model will most certainly be designed to elevate our key university priorities including student success and investment in research.
In most cases we already know where we want and need to be. Many of our academic and administrative units have recently conducted planning and visioning exercises. The deans and vice provosts know the activities that drive advances for their units, they know which goals are worth pursuing, and they have plans to achieve great successes. We take our role as a flagship state university and a member of the Association of American Universities seriously and believe the work we are doing to reconstruct our budget will be the building blocks to thriving in these roles in the coming years.
KU’s vision can be a collection of all the things we do really well at the unit level. KU will rise when we are able to reset the budget at a sustainable level, and, through that new budget model, reset our decision autonomy. We have great administrators and leaders across campus, but we haven’t fully trusted them to make informed strategic financial decisions in the best interest of their unit and the university. Instead we’ve used an outdated revenue allocation system that forced these leaders to approach Strong Hall with outstretched hands in the form of proposals for funding commitments and investments. In Strong Hall, we have repeatedly dipped into centrally controlled strategic balances, picking winners and losers across campus. The practice had us heading toward instability. It is a system whose time must come to an end.
I want — and I hope you all agree — a budget system that prioritizes funding for campus-wide essentials such as deferred maintenance, inflation, and regular merit raises for faculty and staff, among other things. Our model must also set aside funds every year that, given sufficient time, allow the Chancellor’s Office and this office to support truly grand endeavors that make the university an even greater treasure to our students, the region, the state, and the nation. A change in fiscal approach this different may not be easy, but it is possible. I firmly believe we can achieve stability as we meet our budget constraints, keep tuition increases low, and accomplish big things.
Later today, I hope you’ll join me and Chancellor Girod at Eaton Hall for the next Monthly Budget Conversation where I will review our continuing efforts to reduce our base budget. I also will discuss the work to start developing our new budget approach and how together with the base reduction it can directly lead to prompt change that supports core areas such as the aforementioned raises, care for our existing buildings — including aging classrooms and labs — and limited tuition increases.
As I work with our deans and vice provosts on this important task, we will be in close contact with the KU community — from individual faculty and staff members, to students, to key leaders, including research center directors and governance representatives — to clearly articulate our priorities and ensure our resources become increasingly aligned to support these priorities. It is a complex challenge, but it is an astonishing opportunity when you believe as I do in KU’s faculty, staff, and students and the strength of our programs.
News and Notes
Chancellor Douglas A. Girod will open the Lawrence campus Monthly Budget Conversation with brief remarks. The information session, led by Interim Provost Lejuez, will be 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., today, Aug. 27, in the Spahr Engineering Classroom on the ground floor of Eaton Hall. All are welcome to attend. The event also will be live streamed and recorded for those who cannot attend in person.
Thank you to the staff at KU’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center and the more than 200 volunteers who assisted at Jayhawks Give a Flock, bystander education and training on Saturday, Aug. 18. More than 3,800 KU students, mostly first-year students, took part in the program which provided individuals with the skills to help them act when they see behavior that puts others at risk for violence, victimization or perpetration. KU is the first public university to require all its first-year students to participate in an evidence-based bystander intervention workshop in a single day.
The Common Book lecture featuring Edwidge Danticat, author of “Create Dangerously, The immigrant Artist at Work” will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, Lied Center. The event, one of many Common Book events this academic year, is free and open to all. First-year students are strongly encouraged to attend.
Faculty interested in broadening learning opportunities for their students through the Spencer Museum of Art are encouraged to schedule a class visit at the museum. The Spencer’s deep and diverse collection lets students from any field of study explore art and ideas from a range of cultures, time periods and perspectives.
The Office of Fellowships is holding satellite office hours from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. every Wednesday in the Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center. Involved undergraduate students in good academic standing are encouraged to stop by to learn if they might be eligible for a number of national scholarships.
On Aug. 6, the Provost Office announced a voluntary separation incentive program for tenured and tenure-track faculty 62 years and older on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses with at least 10 years of employment at KU or another Kansas Regents institution or office. Eligible faculty interested in applying must turn in their Notice of Interest form by 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5. Complete information is available online.
Student Union Activities is bringing Academy Award nominated costume designer Ruth E. Carter to campus at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, in the Burge Union Forum. Some of her work includes the movies “Black Panther,” “Selma,” “Do the Right Thing,” and “Amistad.”
The first Red Hot Research will be at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, at The Commons in Spooner Hall. The topic is “Human, Next.” Red Hot Research is designed to bring together scholars from different disciplines, speaking for six minutes each. Audience members are encouraged to connect with the speakers and each other during breaks.
The School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures cordially campus to its 4th annual convocation and to celebrate the creativity and achievement of KU alumni whose language majors made a difference in their lives and careers. The event will be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, in the Kansas Union Ballroom. Guest speakers include recent graduate Garrett Farlow and Patrick Woods, director of Talent Management & Diversity for Westar Energy. A reception will follow.
KU Libraries provide customized instruction support for courses, guiding novice or advanced students through the research process and facilitating hands-on learning. To request a session, please complete an instruction request form. Please make the request at least two weeks prior to the preferred course session date.
The School of Social Welfare will present “Moving Towards a More Responsive Addiction Continuum of Care” information gleaned from a comprehensive community needs assessment of the Kansas City metropolitan area on Sept. 5 at the BEST Building Conference Center on the KU Edwards Campus. The program will be led by Assistant Professor Nancy Jo Kepple.
Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor