Six men and one woman with an enormous amount of clout and responsibility in shaping the future of higher education in Kansas soon will be asked to account for themselves.
They are the chief executives of state universities, plus the executive director of the Kansas Board of Regents.
Starting next month, they will line up before the regents for annual job evaluations. It will take five months to complete all of the evaluations, with one or two done each month.
Based on the results, in June the regents will announce any hiring, firing, pay raise or pay cut decisions for the heads of all six institutions and the regents.
A recently enacted higher education reform law has given the regents control of a larger number of universities.
Regent Fred Kerr, who leads the subcommittee that developed the evaluations, doesn't foresee any shake-ups.
"No one is in trouble," he said, adding that he thought the evaluation process would "be a very positive one and one based on mutual benefit."
Kerr said the evaluations would be more rigorous than last year, when many board members were new.
"It's a very important part of the regents' responsibility," he said. "In regards to the regents universities, you could argue that this is the most important job the regents does. We are the boss for the CEOs."
In Kansas, Kerr said, university chiefs are given a lot of room either to succeed or fail. Each one, including Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway, will be judged in a number of areas.
Kerr said he wanted to gauge the performance of the universities, the success of faculty and student objectives, and how well the universities have dealt with the recent reconfiguration of higher education in Kansas.
Regents Chairman Clay Blair III said the most important categories of evaluation were the leaders' visions, effectiveness in carrying out these visions and ability to work with each other and the board.
"It will be a very frank give-and-take process; a very positive opportunity," he said.
Blair said the university chiefs regularly receive feedback from the regents because they communicate frequently between monthly meetings. Therefore, he said, there should be no surprises during the evaluation process.
Hemenway said he views the evaluation as a chance for himself and other university leaders "to talk openly and frankly about what they want to accomplish." He said being a chancellor is like being in charge of a "marketplace of ideas."
"You are constantly getting feedback and challenged to defend your thinking," Hemenway said.
In the coming months, each regent anonymously will fill out a one-and-a-half-page evaluation on each university head, who will receive this evaluation. The university leaders then will be allowed to deliver a 20- to 30-minute public presentation to the regents, after which the board will meet briefly in private and then will invite the executives in for discussion.