There may be many differences of opinion among Lawrence area residents on a wide range of subjects, but there is one situation that probably rates almost 100 percent agreement among local residents: There are so many good events, programs and activities in Lawrence that it is almost impossible for residents to attend or participate in as many of the events as they might like.
Every day, seven days a week, the activity calendar for Lawrence, Kansas University, Baker University, Haskell Indian Nations University and many other associations and organizations in the Lawrence area, is jammed. There is an overabundance of good, informative, enjoyable activities in the area, something suited to almost anyone's tastes or interests.
Perhaps this is one reason, or maybe an easy excuse, why attendance was so poor at two recent, important KU events: the university's Opening Convocation last Sunday and the KU Faculty Convocation the following day.
Both of these events focus on the university and should be of particular interest and importance to all those associated with the school in one capacity or another. And, even though the two programs deal with university-related matters, the gatherings should be of interest to a wide range of residents who have no formal association with the university.
The Opening Convocation had a generous attendance figure of "about 800," and the KU Faculty Convocation had approximately 200 in attendance.
There was a great deal of interesting, timely information discussed at these convocations, and it is a shame -- no, wrong -- that there was not greater attendance.
At the Monday faculty convocation, for example, Steve Jordan, executive director for the Kansas Board of Regents; interim Chancellor Del Shankel; T.P. Srinivasan, presiding officer of the University Council; Ed Meyen, executive vice chancellor; and David Shulenberger, vice chancellor for academic affairs; all made remarks, and several distinguished faculty members were recognized and honored.
Among the topics covered in the various presentations were qualified admissions standards for KU students, the role and importance of good teachers, the selection of a new chancellor, questions about KU's policy or attitude toward "nontraditional" lifestyles, the error in judging the success or value of many academic disciplines and teachers in practical values and results, faculty evaluation, the Regents Center in Overland Park, the level of success of technology transfer at KU, and the public's understanding of a Regents' university.
In addition to a discussion of the above-noted subjects, new members of the faculty were asked to stand and be recognized.
It was a most interesting program, enlivened by the comments of Srinivasan, who was direct and to the point in his positive assessment of the current executive director of the Regents, compared with the former executive director.
Chances are, attendance at next year's faculty convocation might be standing room only if there was the assurance Srinivasan would be a speaker.
Regardless of whether a program calls for a speaker who is refreshingly frank in his or her comments, attendance should be much better at many university convocations. Granted, there are many competing events, almost at all hours of every day, but it often is embarrassing to have such small crowds at many university events. University representatives make arrangements to have interesting, timely speakers invited to the campus to address students, faculty and the public, and time and again, there are far too many empty seats in the hall or auditorium.
In many cases, it is difficult to understand why faculty members do not assign papers or reports from their students based on the presentations of the guest speakers.
What must the new faculty members who were at Monday's faculty convocation think about the small turnout of KU teachers? Does this show a lack of interest by returning, longtime faculty members in becoming acquainted with new teachers? On the other hand, how many of the new teachers at KU this fall were in attendance for the convocation? Maybe they were told it wasn't important to be there because, "hardly anyone shows up."
There are all kinds of excuses as to why it is difficult to draw large crowds to many KU convocations, but perhaps it might be time well spent by KU officials to give serious study to how to attract larger attendances at such events.
Is it a matter of dull, uninteresting programs, bad timing with many conflicting activities, poor promotion and publicity, or what?
The Monday faculty convocation would have been of interest to most faculty members as well as to many students. And yet, there were only about 200 people in attendance. The subjects discussed were extremely important to the future of the university.
Granted, this was one of the more interesting, lively faculty convocations of recent years, and maybe the sameness or dullness of past such gatherings had placed a damper on building any interest or enthusiasm to attend the event.
Whatever the reason, it is a shame not to have greater interest and attendance at many KU convocations. Consider what a tonic it would be for new, incoming students to be part of a packed house for their first convocations and introduction to KU. Likewise, consider the impression on all new faculty members, as well as those distinguished faculty members who are honored if there was a capacity crowd at the KU faculty convocation? And what better advertisement for KU and the interest and enthusiasm of its students and faculty than to have visiting speakers leave Mount Oread eager to tell others throughout the country about the exceptional academic environment at KU, as evidenced by large, interested and knowledgeable audiences of students, faculty and townspeople.