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Chat about crumbling classrooms with KU student body president Jason Boots

December 6, 2006

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Jason Boots

Jason Boots, president of the KU student body, is spearheading a campaign to draw attention to $284.1 million in needed maintenance and upgrades to campus facilities. He takes your questions.

Moderator:

Hello and welcome to our chat with Student Senate President Jason Boots. I am Laura Berger and will be moderating. Lets start

consumer1:

Do you ever wonder why buildings don't last as long as they used to?? My thoughts are, they aren't maintained, yes they are mopped and the trash is emptied, but what ever happened to preventative maintenence? I know KU has a painting crew, construction crew, etc??? Don't they ever do anything to the buildings? Aren't the students tired of supporting inept management pracitces??

Jason Boots:

I wouldn't really call it inept management practice. It's more a lack of funding. Across regents institution, the maintenance needs are approximately $84 million...of that the state appropriated $15 million. These are state owned building and the state needs to be paying for the maintenance.

consumer1:

As student body president, shouldn't you be asking the administration some tough questions on maintaining buildings. I used to be a student leader at KU the first year Heminway was here. He didn't like me much. I felt my job was to support the student ideology, not the sell a bill of goods to the student body. What are you actually doing to make the admin accountable for maintaining the buildings from their OWN building fun instead of just asking for more money?

Jason Boots:

They are using all of the money they have. The unfortunate thing is that it isn't enough. The only other source of funds is raising student tuition. You might try to tell me we should be using endowment money, but the amount of unfettered endowment money is extremely lacking.

blessed3x:

With one of the largest endowments in the nation, couldn't arrangements be made for KU to come up with the lion's share of this maintenance money to relieve an already overburdened taxpayer?

Jason Boots:

The way most of our endowment is set up is that the money is specified for a certain use. This is set up by the donor, we don't control them. It is also importatnt to note that this isn't just a KU problem, this is a statewide problem. If higher education is important to a state, it needs to attedn to its state owned buildings. With this in mind, it wouldn't seem fair that KU pays for all of their maintenance while everybody else without strong endowments get the free pass from the state.

jfizell:

Jason, a related issue regarding non-crumbling, non-classrooms: the Kansas Union has always been supported generously by student fees, with numerous fees levied over its history for much-needed additions and renovations. The last time students agreed to tax themselves for the most recently completed renovations, Student Senate explicity made the fee extension/expansion contingent upon a reconfiguration of the Union Corporation Board requiring a majority of its voting members to be students. Why has this not been done, and what will you do to ensure that Senate's expressed will is respected so that the Student Union is, in fact, governed by students?

Jason Boots:

Wow, Jason...thanks for the question. Having not been around when that decision was made. I actually know nothing of it; howoever, students do have a majority on that board, its just split between SUA and Senate.

imastinker:

Jason -

284 million dollars is a lot of money. Where are you intending to get this money from? As a recent KU grad, I didn't find that the facilities were that bad. I would think one could nearly tear down Mount Oread and rebuild for that price.

Jason Boots:

Well, we are hoping that the state is going to do their duty to pay up for the buildings that they own. We don't expect this to be made in a lump sum, but hope instead that consistent work can be done over several years. The facilities aren't bad depending on where you are. Many classroom are in bad condition, but most of the costs are from infrastructure that is collapsing.

lazz:

Are you working with student leaders from other institutions? Have you received any feedback yet from lawmakers? Do you anticipate success in delivering this message?

Jason Boots:

We are working with the student governments at all of the other regents institutions. They are replicating our actions at each of their campuses. Actually, Barnett (losing governor candidate) has suggested that making a down payment this year with the estimated $300 million of increased state revenue is possible. I think we are poised to make quite an impact and get a good response.

Moderator:

Today,the Student Senate started a campaign to bring more attention to deferred maintenance within the government, specifically to Gov. Sebelius. What are your hopes with this campaign and do you think the lobbying will get the Gov. to make any changes financially?

Jason Boots:

Hopefully, across all of the regent institutions, we will have thousands of postcards to deliver to the governor's office. Governor Sebelius has been pretty responsive to the need of higher education in past budgets, so we hope that getting her attention before she sets the next budget will be affective.

Moderator:

How does the University make sure deferred maintenance or a backlog in repairs doesn't affect new construction or the future of KU?

Jason Boots:

Students have already taken some action on this. I think we have to recognize that as our campuses grow, that the state isn't always going to be able to maintain our buildings with that in mind. We need to start focusing on identify funding for the on going maintenance of our building when we make the capital expenditure. Students have already done this by insuring small portion of student fees to maintain our student purchased and maintained buildings. A lot of universities are now asking donors who donate for buildings to not only donate the capital cost but to also donate money that can be placed in interest earning accounts to pay for ongoing maintenance as well.

Moderator:

How are things coming along with the plan for a completely wireless campus?

Jason Boots:

Plans are moving along pretty strongly. We have identified all of the costs (including on going maintenace costs), and hope to identify the funding soon. Once that happens, a lot of the backend upgrades can be covered and we could see improvements as early as the end of spring.

Moderator:

What else can we expect as far as projects or legislation from the Student Senate in the next year?

Jason Boots:

One of the biggest things we will see over the next few months are possible improvements to our transportation system. Student Senate will vote tonight to have a special referendum election in February to increase transportation fees to include purchase of new buses and/or move to a fare free system.

Moderator:

Thank you Jason Boots for taking the time to stop by, we know you are busy. Good luck with finals. And thanks to all the chatters who posted great questions. Have a wonderful day, Laura

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