The chancellor sounds off on issues from student recruitment to faculty salaries to Y2K.
Editor's note: Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway sat down with Journal-World Writer Erwin Seba to discuss the first half of the academic year and the upcoming session of the Kansas Legislature.
Journal-World: Halfway through the year, what are the successes for KU so far?
Hemenway: We've had an excellent year so far in terms of recruiting. We've recruited a large number of very talented academic students plus our enrollment this year is up, so I think that's a positive. The average entering ACT score, which has been increasing for the last four years, held steady this year.
Our faculty have brought in more research dollars in this calendar year than they have in any previous calendar year, so we're very pleased with the about $147 million in external funds ...
That's from ... ?
I think it was less than $100 million four or five years ago. So I think that's a plus. We had a student who just won a Marshall Fellowship; I think that's the only winner in Kansas of a Marshall Fellowship.
I've been pleased with the way the students have responded to the alcohol awareness program. I believe students are making more intelligent choices about alcohol. That doesn't mean we don't have some continuing problems.
What are some of your disappointments for this year?
I'm disappointed in the fiscal situation the state finds itself in. It's quite clear, I think, to everybody, that we did not have to have this crisis; that if we would have been a little bit more far-sighted in our actions ... As (state Senate President) Dick Bond said when he spoke here that as a legislator he feels that the Legislature made a mistake, cut taxes too much, and it's important to correct it. We didn't provide a proper vehicle for funding education, and I'm hoping that can be corrected in the future.
Before we go on to the Legislature, you mentioned student recruitment, but there are still several dean searches going on.
I'm pretty pleased with the way the dean searches are going. My hope is we'll be announcing some new deans very shortly. I'm very pleased with the success of the dean's search in the School of Fine Arts, where we were able to hire our first African-American dean, Toni-Marie Montgomery.
You mentioned the state's funding problem. What are you hoping the Legislature will do?
I'm hoping the governor will make a positive recommendation that shows higher education is a priority for the state of Kansas. And I'm hoping the Legislature will act affirmatively on that positive recommendation from the governor.
Is there a dollar amount you're looking for?
I think what I mean by a positive recommendation is one that clearly shows that education is going to be a priority for this governor and for this state even though we all recognize this is going to be a fairly tight budget year.
The key for the future is going to be whether or not we fix structurally the Kansas budget so that education can be a priority this year and in subsequent years.
So you don't want to put a dollar amount there that you're hoping the governor ...
The (Kansas Board of ) Regents have made a formal budget request to the governor. I, obviously, would be extremely happy if that recommendation were adopted in whole. Frankly, I don't believe anybody thinks that's going to happen because one thing we asked for, for example, was an 8 1/2 percent salary increase ... We all know it's going to be a difficult year. But that does not mean there cannot be salary raises, and we hope that will be the case.
Are there other issues you hope the Legislature will address?
We're hoping they'll take a very close look at the Partnership for Faculty of Distinction. It provides an incentive for raising private funds to support endowed professorships.
It's a good bill and it's one, that in other states, where the state has made a commitment to match private funds that have been given to universities, it's made a significant improvement for the universities and for faculty salaries.
I will make a prediction and my prediction will be that we'll find Y2K does not mean an end to bureaucratic life as we know it, and we'll all survive into the new year and the next millennium in pretty satisfactory fashion.
-- Erwin Seba's phone message number is 832-7145. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.