KU chancellor takes part in online chat

Welcome to our online chat with KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway.

The chat took place on Thursday, May 13, at 1:30 PM and is now closed, but you can read the full transcript on this page.

Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway chats online with LJWorld.com readers at the World Company's News Center in downtown Lawrence. Terry Rombeck, Journal-World reporter, and Beth Lawton, World Online intern, moderate the chat, providing the chancellor with reader-submitted questions.

Moderator: Thanks for joining us. Our chat will begin in just a few minutes. There’s still time to submit questions on any KU topic.

Gail, Lawrence: Chancellor Hemenway: As an employee of the University, I am concerned about the threat of ballooning health insurance/benefits costs in an environment of tight funding. Do you see an end to this squeeze or are there decades left of difficult times? How does the strategic plan of the University address the issue of expensive health care?

Chancellor Hemenway: Gail, KU experiences the same pressures that businesses do. The cost goes up and the benefits go down. Our health insurance is negotiated by the state. We are not involved in any way, so it is hard for us to do much except urge the state to find an insurance company that offers the best benefits for the lowest costs. The strategic plan for us is the same as for other state employees.

Michael, Lawrence: Is it important to KU to have good relations with its neighbors in the community? And where are negotiations at on proposed zoning that would give the city more power over campus expansion?

Chancellor Hemenway: It is important for KU to have good relations with neighbors. We have worked out a good set of policies now that help us do that. Obviously we did not have this process well enough developed on the Ohio Street properties. The final result of that episode has, I think, made the university more sensitive, and I have high hopes that the future will see this process work well. We have been talking to the city government about this process and I think we are close to agreement.

Clark, Lawrence: Will you ask the KU Endowment Assn. launch a major campaign to establish at least three Distinguished Professorships in each program/department? This would go a long way toward moving KU into the top 25 public universities.

Chancellor Hemenway: The Endowment is committed to having a s many Endowed professorships as possible. I think we have just about doubled the number of endowed professorships during KUFirst, our current capital campaign. The more professorships the better, in my opinion. All we have to do is find the donors.

Mark, Lawrence: What is the secret about Lew Perkins salary? Everyone with a lick of sense knows that the university is overpaying him, so why not just admit it and quit feeding the legal community.

Chancellor Hemenway: As you know this matter is in litigation, so I can not really comment on it. You certainly are entitled to your opinion. I will state that I think Lew Perkins has been very successful as an A.D.

Travis, Lawrence: Chancellor, the search for a new director for the Dole Institue seems to be languishing. I’ve heard several interesting names of potential directors — John Carlin and David Adkins, to name a few — but no news on whether these are pipe dreams or serious candidates. Any word on when a new director will be named and who it might be?

Chancellor Hemenway: We are engaged in the opening phase of the search process, vetting possible names, seeing who might be interested. There is a great deal of interest because the Dole Institute is such a prestigious part of the university. We will eventually appoint a search committee and bring the process forward. I would guess that we will have someone appointed by fall semester. I will tell you that there are very excellent candidates out there.

Tom, Lawrence: What are your feelings regarding Associate Professor Christopher Morphew’s recent research which proposes that university research costs can outweigh their financial rewards?

Chancellor Hemenway: I know Christopher and respect his talents. I do not know the specific research which you refer to, but Dr. Morphew is a creative researcher, and I will look forward to seeing this research. I will say that all of our analysis has shown that research at KU has been a major benefit to the university, both economically and in terms of reputation. Just yesterday I read a European economic journal which bemoaned the loss of French researchers to the University of Kansas economics department.

Sara, Lawrence: Why don’t you do more to curb the rampant under-age alcoholism problem on our campus? Do you think tailgating and alcohol in the football suites sends a good message?

Chancellor Hemenway: We have initiated a number of steps to limit and control alcohol on campus. The KU administration has urged for years that the Fraternity system consider alcohol-free houses. The key to all of this is alcohol education. Students need to know the damage they are doing to their bodies by excessive use of alcohol. On the other hand, alcohol is a part of American life, and students need to be thoughtful about the role it will play in their lives.

Susan, Lawrence: A Lied Center staff person told me that of the 1900 tickets available for the Clinton talk, 1200 of them were held by the University and were not distributed on Wednesday to the public. Who is getting them, which departments, etc.? Will some be released later? Thank you.

Chancellor Hemenway: I have not been part of the distribution process so I am not sure how the division of tickets has occurred. I believe that I was told that 30-40% of the tickets went to students, and i know that the first two rows will be all students. The major problem with this event is that we have l0,000 people who want to hear Bill Clinton, and we only have 2200 seats in the Lied Center. With this equation, there are bound to be disappointments. I wish there was a way for everybody to have a chance to see the former president.

Chris, Lawrence: KU has an image problem across much of the state of Kansas. Vice-chancellors for public relations have been hired, consultants have been engaged, etc., to address this image problem. What will it take to improve KU’s image?

Chancellor Hemenway: I don’t think KU has an image problem, but I do believe that KU could do a better job of telling Kansans what a benefit it is to the state to have a university like KU. If we had an image problem then I don’t think we would have the highest enrollment in our history . But we can always do a better job of telling our story, and that is why we have been focusing on public relations and marketing

Mike, Kansas City, Kan.: If you could have a conversation with anyone in history, who would it be and why would you want to meet that person?

Chancellor Hemenway: There are a whole host of people I would like to talk to, but if you include all of recorded history, I would like to talk to Sister Theresa. I suspect that you could learn a lot about relating to people from such a conversation.

Moderator: That wraps up our chat today. Thanks for joining us this afternoon, and thanks to Chancellor Hemenway for his time.