Topeka Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway on Monday appeared before lawmakers, touting KU's accomplishments and urging passage of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' budget proposal for higher education.
But when he finished his pitch for KU, what he got were questions about conservative columnist Ann Coulter and illegal immigrants.
Rep. Bonnie Huy, R-Wichita, asked Hemenway to comment on a student throwing a pie at Coulter when she spoke in March at the Lied Center as part of the 37th J.A. Vickers Sr. Memorial Lecture Series.
"Ann Coulter did not have a pie thrown at her at Kansas University," Hemenway said.
While Coulter was heckled during her talk, Hemenway said, the university tries to teach people to respect others even if they disagree with them.
"That's as it should be," Huy replied. "All speakers should be treated with respect."
Huy, a member of the House Education Budget subcommittee, had earlier asked Hemenway whether there was a policy at KU to spend down its budget at the end of the fiscal year.
"There is no such policy," he replied.
Rep. Becky Hutchins, R-Holton, and the chair of the subcommittee, asked Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor and dean of the KU Medical School, whether there were any illegal immigrants being taught at the school.
Atkinson said she didn't think so but that she would check.
Hutchins is pushing for passage of a bill that would repeal a law enacted in 2004 that allows some illegal immigrants to attend state universities at the less expensive resident tuition rate if they attended a Kansas high school for at least three years and graduated or earned a general educational development certificate in Kansas. Also, they must be seeking legal immigration status.
Hutchins also urged KU to get busy and produce legislation that would appropriate $5 million annually to the KU Cancer Center.
"We're a third of the way through the legislative session," she said.
"We appreciate the admonition and will get with it," Hemenway said. Later, however, KU officials said they had already put together language for the funding that could be used in the state appropriation bill.