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Archive for Saturday, February 1, 1992

SATURDAY COLUMN

February 1, 1992

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Two well-known Kansas University faculty members announced this week they were leaving for positions at other universities with better pay the primary reason for their moves.

In these times of tight state budgets, with Kansas legislators and the governor cutting back on funding for university salaries, it is not uncommon to hear university faculty members or their spouses say something such as:

"I read about the millions of dollars being contributed to Campaign Kansas, but I (or my spouse) haven't seen any of that money. You'd think if the drive was so successful, they could help with faculty salaries. We're going to be losing more and more of our top-flight and young faculty members."

It is understandable why many at the university, as well as perhaps some alumni and friends of the school, may wonder why Campaign Kansas funds are not being used to supplement faculty salaries. Such sentiment is likely to increase if the university continues to lose a growing number of top faculty members.

ALTHOUGH KU, KU Endowment Association and Campaign Kansas representatives have tried to explain the goals and purposes of capital campaigns such as Campaign Kansas, there still is some confusion. It might be that this misunderstanding is magnified in the present Kansas economic climate with the state cutting back on funding for salaries.

There are a number of facts that should be made clear about Campaign Kansas and the use of money contributed to this record-breaking solicitation of funds.

Historically, contributions to the KU Endowment Association have been made for the purpose of helping to build a greater university than the state alone can build.

Endowment association funds are not designed to relieve the state of its responsibilities.

Prior to the start of the campaign, university and endowment association officials visited on numerous occasions with state legislative leaders and members of the Kansas Board of Regents to explain Campaign Kansas. They stressed it was the goal of KU and endowment officials to use the fund in a joint effort with the state to build KU into an even more outstanding academic institution.

TIME AND time again, it was emphasized Campaign Kansas was not being conducted to relieve the state of its fundamental responsibilities. They pointed out the Margin of Excellence program should not be compromised in any way by Campaign Kansas.

The three-year Margin of Excellence was a program by which faculty salaries at the state's regents schools would be brought into line with those of their peer institutions. It was to help make Kansas higher education competitive with other forward-looking states in the 1990s.

The first two years of the Margin of Excellence were funded by the Legislature, with the support and backing of the governor. Due to what some thought were more pressing needs, the third and final year of the Margin was postponed or delayed and now has become nothing more than a fond dream. Some may differ on who is responsible for this failure to complete the funding, but it's safe to say both the governor and the Legislature share the blame.

IT SHOULD be pointed out that alumni and friends of KU were at their most enthusiastic level of support for Campaign Kansas when the state was funding the Margin. Alumni and friends noted that if the state was fulfilling its obligation to the university, then they (the alumni and friends) were eager to do their share in support of the school.

Private fund-raising became more difficult when the state reneged on its support of the Margin's third year.

CAMPAIGN KANSAS has indeed been a grand success. Current contribution figures now total more than $240 million, and chances are good this figure will top $250 million when the campaign comes to its official close on June 30.

It should be remembered, however, this does not mean there is, or has been, $240 million in cash on hand and available for distribution.

A good percentage of the $240 million is in deferred giving, wills, insurance policies, trusts and other such arrangements.

Also, a sizable amount of the funding has been earmarked for specific projects at KU or at the KU Medical Center. A good number of donors stipulated that their contributions be used for specific purposes, thus making "unrestricted" funds extremely precious.

However, and in response to those who say they have not seen any funding from the campaign, it should be noted more than $26 million already has been committed to teaching professorships and chaired professorships. Add to this more than $1 million in "faculty support," plus faculty prizes, funds for faculty travel, research library journals, laboratory equipment and other university needs, which should aid and enrich faculty members in their teaching and research efforts.

PRIOR TO the start of the campaign, when needs were being assessed, all KU deans were asked for their ideas and for their individual "wish lists." They were encouraged to note the most pressing needs of their various schools and departments.

The original goal listed in the "academic support" category called for $22 million and so far, more than $38 million has been given or pledged for this program to help faculty development.

It is only fair to point out some deans, faculty and alumni and friends of some schools or departments have been far more active than others in encouraging contributions to the campaign and to their own particular school. They have been active and successful in their "constituency" fund-raising and, consequently, these schools will have greater funds to use within their academic areas.

ALTHOUGH IT is unfortunate to lose a single top-flight faculty member, it is unrealistic to think there won't be continual losses or churn within the faculty. This is particularly true if KU has high-quality faculty. Other schools are going to want to upgrade their faculties by attracting top KU teachers and researchers.

It is unfortuante if this churn or turnover is triggered primarily by the lure of higher salaries. Kansas and KU should be able to retain a good percentage of their talented faculty rather than to have an alarming drain of able teachers and researchers.

As noted at the outset, it is understandable that many may wonder why Campaign Kansas funds could not be used to make up for the cutbacks in state funding for salaries. Such a policy, however, would be wrong and set a dangerous precedent in that legislators and lawmakers would be quick to cut back on KU funding, knowing their actions could be, or would be, covered or made up by the KUEA. Endowment funds are not to be used to relieve the state of its obligation or to supplant state funding.

What is needed is a genuine, enthusiastic partnership arrangement. The state should provide adequate funding for a top-flight, state-assisted, comprehensive research university. Private fiscal support would provide the funds to elevate the university into a true national leader.

Such a partnership, or combination in funding, would pay dividends for the entire area and would provide the young men and women of Kansas with an outstanding educational opportunity.

KU alumni and friends have met their responsibilities in such a partnership arrangement for the betterment of the university. Campaign Kansas has been a tremendous success.

Now it is up to state legislators and the governor to show how much importance they place on higher education and the development of excellence at KU.

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