Rejection of appeals ends scholarship hall trust case

The final appeals by plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Kansas University and Bank of America over the operations of Watkins and Miller scholarship halls have been denied by a Douglas County District Court judge.

At issue was a trust fund established by Elizabeth Miller Watkins for maintenance of the halls, both on Lilac Lane on the KU campus. Bank of America oversees the trust. A lawsuit filed in March 2001 accused KU and the bank of not spending the interest from the trust for maintaining the buildings.

In 2003 the students abandoned all of their allegations and claims against the bank and KU, but pursued a request that KU establish a committee, including students, to oversee maintenance planning at the halls.

The court has now dismissed the students’ petitions at their cost.

In a decision dated Feb. 26, Judge Jack Murphy ruled that the student plaintiffs “do not have a right to control day-to-day operations, maintenance, renovations or improvements made to the halls.” That responsibility belongs to the university, and the trustee has the duty to review KU’s use of the trust income for appropriate expenditures, Murphy ruled.

The judge also denied the students’ request that the court establish a committee of students and university administrators so that students would have direct input into decisions concerning hall maintenance and upkeep. Students have other avenues to voice their concerns through student proctors, the All Scholarship Hall Council and the Student Housing Advisory Board, Murphy said.

“The university has been confident all along that the trust has been managed appropriately for more than half a century and according to Mrs. Watkins’ wishes,” said Lynn Bretz, KU spokeswoman.

Attorney David Brown, who represented the students, said he would meet his clients to discuss what might be done next.

“My clients are disappointed, although it’s not really a surprise,” Brown said.