Topeka The latest bid to link Washburn University to the state university system falls short.
Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, may have taken money from the pockets of Kansas University faculty by helping kill a bill that would make the capital city's municipal university a state Board of Regents' school.
Praeger risked alienating constituents with ties to KU by voting Wednesday to block state affiliation for Washburn University. The tally was 13-23.
"This could potentially make some people very mad," she said.
With this vote, the Senate also placed in peril the pending Partnership for Excellence bill, which would appropriate large pay hikes to faculty at KU and other state universities.
"It certainly suggests that the partnership is in trouble." Steve Jordan, regents' executive director, said today. "Nonetheless, I think it's incumbent upon us to keep making our case."
He said legislators shouldn't ignore the fact that faculty at the six regents' universities receive no better than 91.5 percent of the wage paid faculty at "peer" universities in other states. KU faculty salaries are 87.9 percent of peers.
Even if the Senate and House passed the partnership, Gov. Joan Finney pledged to veto the partnership if state affiliation was denied Washburn, her alma mater.
KU Chancellor Gene Budig said today that he hadn't given up on the partnership, which would combine tuition and tax dollars to raise salaries of teaching faculty.
"The battle is far from over," he said. "Our chances for success are not what they were, but we will redouble our efforts on behalf of the partnership.
"There is widespread understanding among key legislators on the importance of adequate faculty salaries."
Praeger said she was philosophically opposed to adding Washburn to the regents' system without first developing a long-range plan for Kansas higher education that includes regents' universities, community colleges and Washburn.
"Why are we not looking at this comprehensively?" she said.
David Monical, special assistant to Washburn President Hugh Thompson, said today that he felt the key Senate vote Wednesday was the one that turned back a motion to delay the WU debate until next week.
He said the vote on the Washburn affiliation bill would have been more favorable to WU supporters had the measure been considered the same day the partnership was acted upon.
"In the minds of many who wished to support the package, it was essential that the Washburn vote and the partnership vote be tightly coupled," he said. "That's why our opponents worked so hard to defeat the motion."
Although the Washburn bill was struck from the Senate calendar, Monical said state affiliation for WU could resurface as an amendment to another bill.
Under the defeated bill, the nation's last municipal university would have been brought into the state system in 1997.
Most of Washburn's 6,500 students are undergraduates, although WU has a law school. The average age of WU students is 28, and most are employed.