Archive for Tuesday, March 31, 1992


March 31, 1992


A Kansas University distinguished professor with expertise in Spanish poetry today was named vice chancellor designate for research, graduate studies and public service at KU.

Andrew Debicki, director of KU's Hall Center for the Humanities and a member of the faculty for 24 years, will take over the new job in July 1994.

"I look forward to being an advocate for learning, which includes research and its transmission in teaching," he said. "I also look forward to helping the university increase its research and grant-obtaining activity."

Debicki, 57, will first take a one-year sabbatical to use a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to write a book on 20th century Spanish poetry.

"It was important to me to finish that book before I step into a very time-consuming job," he said.

And beginning in July 1993, Debicki will serve as dean of the graduate school and vice chancellor designate.

ACTING VICE Chancellor Howard Mossberg will serve until Debicki takes over. Frances Horowitz held the job from 1978 until she resigned last year.

"The office will be in good hands now and in the future, and the team will provide for a smooth transition during the year when both will serve," said Del Shankel, executive vice chancellor.

Debicki said he appreciated the opportunity to work a year with Mossberg, dean of pharmacy. Mossberg has perspectives on the sciences that Debicki said he hasn't acquired.

"Anybody stepping into a position like this has a lot to learn," Debicki said. "My experience has been in the humanities."

Chancellor Gene Budig said he was grateful Debicki and Mossberg agreed to the unusual arrangement. He expressed confidence in both.

Debicki was selected by Shankel and Budig from among three finalists.

TOM BEISECKER, KU professor and chair of Senate Executive Committee, a faculty and student governance group, said Debicki would make a good vice chancellor.

"He comes to the position with extremely strong credentials as a scholar and a person capable of promoting scholarship," he said.

Diane Goddard, associate director of the Kansas Geological Survey and a member of the search committee which nominated the finalists, endorsed the selection.

"He carries a lot of respect on the campus," she said. "The work he has done with the Hall Center has been quite good."

Search committee member Ron Schorr, senior technician in the mechanical enginering department, said Debicki's biggest challenge would be developing KU's research programs.

"RESEARCH AT the university has fallen in quantity. It's more difficult to get funds," he said.

Beisecker said just getting more money for research wouldn't be enough.

"In a nutshell, what Andy has to do is increase the university's competitiveness in a climate where research dollars are becoming even more scarce," Beisecker said. "At the same time, he must not warp the university's perspective in a way that only emphasizes programs which are externally fundable."

On the issue of research funding, Debicki said there "was no magic answer."

"It's an ongoing process," he said. "There are no short cuts. It's very, very important for the university to be concerned about this."

He said university funds should be leveraged to increase the chances of KU faculty securing external grants.

Ted Zenzinger, Lawrence graduate student and search committee member, said Debicki must address problems in the graduate school.

"ONE OF HIS challenges is to revitalize the graduate school. The graduate school is in disarray," said Zenzinger, who favors formation of a graduate student union.

KU graduate teaching assistants and graduate research assistants have taken steps to form a union to demand better salaries, benefits and working conditions.

"Support for our graduate students is not as strong as at some universities," said Debicki, who declined to discuss the union issue.

SHERWOOD Thompson, director of office of minority affairs and search committee member, said Debicki would work well with new faculty.

"Dr. Debicki will bring to this post a serious re-examination of the need to cultivate new faculty, especially young faculty," he said.

Debicki, who earned bachelor's and doctoral degrees from Yale University, came to KU in 1968. He was named a distinguished professor of Spanish and Portuguese in 1976 and became director of the Hall Center in 1989.

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