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Finding Solutions for Questions Posed in June

July 7, 2015

Updated July 7, 2015, 11:07 a.m.

Faculty and staff:

We will certainly remember the month of June 2015 for quite some time. Significant events occurred last month that sparked conversations in our halls, offices, and homes — raising both hopes and questions about our path forward. I’m writing today to reflect upon those events and their meaning for KU. Jayhawks always find a way to capitalize on opportunities and succeed.

Celebrated decision

The U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling on marriage equality affects University of Kansas faculty and staff, as well as our families, friends, and neighbors. Recent news reports highlighted that all 105 counties in Kansas will now issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Today, we received the very good news that state agencies involved with revising policies are reaching out to clarify how and when benefits will be extended to spouses and dependents of state employees affected by the decision. Human Resources Management will share detailed information with faculty and staff as soon as it learns the date of implementation from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Division of Health Care Finance.

Legislative hurdles

All of us were deeply concerned by the risk of furloughs in early June. Furloughs would have led to great hardship in the lives of many in the KU community. Although the days and hours leading to the legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 11 were quite trying, your essential contributions and dedication to this institution were never in doubt. I appreciate your patience, resolve, and your voice during this stressful time.

The longest legislative session in state history ended with restrictions on tuition and fee increases. We all want to minimize impact on students and their families. At the same time, these regulations create some challenges that limit KU’s ability to plan for the future or launch initiatives that benefit students. The state’s revenue shortfall is still in question, and possible cuts to higher education funding continue to hold our attention. There are no quick solutions. We are closely watching developments in Topeka and emphasizing KU’s unparalleled contribution to the Kansas economy and quality of life. 

National conversations

On a more somber note, the African Methodist Episcopal church shootings in Charleston, S.C., a spate of church fires, and debates about the Confederate flag have rekindled worries nationally over diversity, acceptance, and inclusion. On the local front, however, we have reaffirmed KU’s commitment to diversity and a nurturing environment for all. The KU climate study task force is making good progress, and during the year we will distribute a campus-wide climate survey to assess the work and learning environment at KU. These activities augment resources and services already in place to aid and educate the KU community. Staff members in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Human Resource Management, and Counseling and Psychological Services are available to address concerns and provide information, training, and care.

Exciting days ahead

As we work to find solutions for the issues raised in June, we can take comfort in the rich and ever expanding Jayhawk community. In seven weeks, we will start a new academic year — rejuvenated by our summer respite and the infectious energy of incoming students. We will welcome 65 new faculty to KU during the coming year, including the six recently hired Foundation Distinguished Professors.

KU truly has exciting days ahead. As we continue the university’s sesquicentennial festivities to mark the achievements of the past 150 years, we will march dramatically into the next 150 years with the launch of Innovation Way — the centerpiece of our Campus Master Plan. This pioneering project ushers KU into a new era — with structures and spaces to serve students and faculty. Funded largely from efficiencies created by Changing for Excellence, these crucial buildings and infrastructure will greatly enhance the university and allow us to continue to attract creative people to KU for years to come. Look for additional news of Innovation Way later this summer and fall.

KU has many success stories in its repertoire. Innovation Way will be one that transports this institution boldly into the future. As the faculty and staff of KU, you are the fuel common to all these success stories, propelling us forward every hour of every day. Thank you for your hard work and commitment!

Provost's Message Signature: 

Have a great summer!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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