Building Trust

September 21, 2010

KU Faculty, Staff, and Students:

Trust — and the integrity it is grounded on — are the most important non-tangible assets an institution can build. At KU and any other great university, trust can and should be part of our common fabric: trust in the dedication of our faculty and staff to serve our students and the state of Kansas, trust in our mutual commitment to excellence and the diversity of ways in which we contribute to it, and trust that the decisions of the university’s leadership team will be informed and promote the greater good.

Trust is built over time with a commitment to transparency and communication. It will depend upon broad participation and grassroots efforts that engage all relevant stakeholders in an open and clear process. Depending upon the situation, such stakeholders could include KU faculty, administration, staff, students, parents, alumni, and key partners — such as our local communities, businesses and corporations, school systems, government, and other universities.

No administration can make decisions that everyone will always agree with. I do however believe strongly in the importance of dialog and seeking mutual understanding, which typically lead to consensus, even if we may sometimes have to agree to disagree.

In the spirit of open communication, I’d like to devote this issue of Provost eNews to three items: our pending administrative reorganization, a strategic planning update, and a personal note.

Administrative reorganization

In response to a thorough examination of our offices by an external review team in June, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and I are initiating some administrative restructuring, taking effect in October. I’d like to outline some of the primary changes for you. First, the chancellor will be initiating a national search to fill a new position, vice chancellor for public affairs, to bring a strategic focus to university communications, government interactions, and community relations.

Second, the following changes are underway in my office:

  • In the past, the vice provost for scholarly support had oversight responsibilities for operations like parking, public safety, facilities, and space management. I agree with the external reviewers who recommend that the important operational services should be handled in the administrative and financial realm. Diane Goddard, vice provost for administration and finance, will assume responsibility for the bulk of the units that reported to the former vice provost for scholarly support, Don Steeples. Don has served with distinction in several roles and is returning to the Department of Geology to resume his distinguished professorship activities in teaching and research. I would like to thank Don for his many years of service to KU and to our office. Under his leadership, many valuable new initiatives were implemented that resulted in better use of space, new construction, and optimization of class scheduling. And if you ever wondered who made the rounds on campus at 5:30 a.m. after a night of snow and ice in order to determine if classes should be held, it was Don.
  • To handle the operations part of Don Steeples’ former duties, there will be a search for a new associate vice provost for operations, reporting to Vice Provost Goddard. Barry Swanson, director of purchasing, will serve in an interim role until a full search can be done. The operations area will include Facilities Management (Facilities & Operations/Design & Construction Management), Parking, Purchasing, Environmental Health & Safety, and Sustainability.
  • Tracy Horstman, director of space management, will now report to Barbara Romzek, interim vice provost for academic affairs.
  • Richard McKinney, who currently serves as associate vice provost for finance and administration, will now be associate vice provost for fiscal services, reporting to Diane Goddard. Fiscal Services includes the Comptroller’s Office, Budget Office, and the KU Card Center.
  • Human Resources & Equal Opportunity, Information Technology, and the Public Safety Office will report directly to Diane Goddard.
  • The vice provost for academic affairs position is being expanded and retitled senior vice provost for academic affairs; additional responsibilities for this role include space management and strategic planning. Barbara Romzek currently serves in an interim role; an internal search will start later this semester.
  • Steve Warren’s title will be changed from vice provost to vice chancellor of research and graduate studies to recognize the scope of his role. His reporting line will remain as is to me as provost. In addition, Steve will join Vice Provost for Student Success Marlesa Roney as new members of the chancellor’s cabinet.
  • Chris Haufler, professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology, has assumed the additional role of special advisor to the provost dealing with curriculum, retention, and graduation issues. Sarah Crawford-Parker has moved from the University Honor’s Program to be special assistant to the provost for academic affairs and learning initiatives, working closely with Barbara Romzek and Chris Haufler.
  • And finally, Linda Luckey has shifted roles to be my executive assistant — to help keep me and my office moving along!

A more detailed organizational chart will be posted on the provost’s website in October, once the final details of the reorganization are put into place.

Strategic planning

In the inaugural issue of Provost eNews on September 13, I wrote about the process for creating a strategic action plan and announced the good news that Mabel Rice will join me as co-chair of the steering committee. Thanks to Mabel’s campus stature and leadership experience, we’ve been able to attract a great team of co-chairs for the three main work groups:

  • Driving discovery and innovation: co-chairs Kristin Bowman-James, University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and Steve Warren, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies;
  • Energizing the educational environment: co-chairs Ann Cudd, associate dean of the college and professor of philosophy, and Chris Haufler, professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology and special advisor to the provost; and
  • Engaging scholarship with public service: co-chairs Jeff Aubé, professor of medicinal chemistry, and Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett, director of the university honors program and professor of clinical child psychology.

The work group chairs will join the steering committee. The remaining members and those of the work groups will be chosen from the nominations collected over the past several weeks. We will also include KUMC participants on our work groups and vice versa to create a coordinated plan for the university.

I hope you were able to respond to or will respond to Chris Haufler’s survey request on General Education learning goals. Once the results are coordinated and disseminated, I look forward to invigorating discussions within departments and programs to prioritize them. More details can be found on the strategic planning web page.

On a personal note

As I said at the beginning of this issue of Provost eNews, it takes time and transparency to build trust in an organization. I have noted a recent Chronicle of Higher Education story about the Texas A&M University System’s proposal to determine the net dollar worth of faculty. Since I came to KU from Texas A&M, I can only imagine that some KU faculty are wondering if such a program is my intent as well! The answer is no. I strongly disagree with the Texas A&M approach. I know that someday the KU community will have a better sense of my vision and values. Until then, be assured that I am firmly committed, like you, to recognizing and promoting excellence at KU in the context of its mission as a broad comprehensive research university.

Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

This issue of Provost eNews as well as past ones can be found on the Provost eNews web page.

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