Archive for Saturday, August 17, 1991


August 17, 1991


The late Emporia Gazette editor William Allen White's writing about Kansas University seems as pertinent today as it was nearly 100 years ago.

"The same kinds of issues are brought up. The university wasn't getting enough money," said Del Brinkman, vice chancellor for academic affairs at KU.

Brinkman, as KU's chief academic officer, is responsible for trying to make financial and academic realities mesh at KU. He's also an authority on White's life.

"There will never be enough money to do everything people would like to see done," he said.

The 1991-92 state budget crafted by the Legislature and Gov. Joan Finney wasn't what KU hoped it would be. It was a case, he said, of politics coming before education.

"The circumstances in politics . . . got so mixed up this year that we suffered in ways that were not commensurate with the economy and the people's will about higher education," he said.

Brinkman said the state's tax-supported university system got "caught in the crossfire. If that is temporary and gets corrected, fine. My concern is that it won't."

MANY ACADEMIC opportunities will be missed because there isn't enough money, he said.

"At the same time there are people expecting more efficiency, more production more for less," he said.

"We've had growing enrollments and fairly steady if not diminishing resources," Brinkman pointed out.

And he said quality suffers without adequate funding to meet the needs of students.

"The day-to-day fight is to try to maintain some high level of quality in an atmosphere where enrollments are going up and resources aren't matching that," Brinkman said.

Over the next five years, Brinkman said he anticipates more coordination of academic programs and more cross-disciplinary courses at KU.

"Public universities will increasingly rely on private money, which has been the difference between having good programs and excellent programs at KU," he said.

One of Brinkman's goals is to improve teaching quality.

"Teaching is one of the hardest things to evaluate. You can't really create a mold for teachers," he said.

He said a good teacher can look at the needs of students and "relate to the time in life that a student is at and the atmosphere that student is working in."

Good teachers "open up students' minds quite well through a blend of their humanity and their expertise, their experiences and their knowledge," he said.

Brinkman wants to improve the classroom environment at KU. To start with, he said, there needs to be more and better equipment.

"In some areas teaching can be enhanced with computer, video and audio-visual kinds of things," he said.

On another level, Brinkman said, the academic affairs office is working to mentor young graduate teaching assistants and faculty.

BRINKMAN'S GOAL is to establish an Office for Faculty Development. He also wants to do more to develop faculty retention programs.

"That becomes difficult as our salaries continue to slip in competition with other places," he said.

If faculty sense the state doesn't appreciate their work, there could be fallout from the 2.5 percent raise the Legislature granted this year, he said.

"The fact is salaries are below most of our competition. Those schools know they can target here," he said. "The only thing saving us is other public universities are having similar kinds of problems."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.