Archive for Saturday, May 20, 2006

Simons: Fresh leadership could present opportunities for KU

May 20, 2006


This weekend marks the end of the spring semester at Kansas University, but it won't be long before students arrive back in town for summer school and then the start of the fall semester in August.

Cities that are host communities for colleges and universities are so fortunate in many ways. The presence of talented, enthusiastic young men and women students, faculty members and their families does so much to enrich the schools and the communities.

It is hoped this year's graduates will leave Mount Oread with great memories of their time at KU and in Lawrence and that they will consider their years at KU as an excellent investment. Likewise, it is hoped they will maintain a close relationship with the university as they scatter across the country.

As these students leave Lawrence, there are major changes about to take place on the campus; it is hoped these changes will result in KU being an even finer university.

Saturday Columns

Rarely in the school's recent history has KU welcomed as many new top officials as it will in the next two months. This fall, there will be new deans in the schools of law and social welfare and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as well as a new provost and a new dean of libraries.

Not to minimize the roles, responsibilities and leadership of the new deans, but the new provost is likely to have the most significant impact on the overall academic excellence of the university.

Departing Provost David Shulenburger has been in his position for 10 years and was becoming predictable in his actions and outlook relative to the university. Incoming Provost Richard Lariviere will bring new ideas, new vision and new goals for the university. At KU, the provost is "Mr. Inside," while the chancellor is more "Mr. Outside." The provost oversees the academic program; the deans answer to him.

This being the case, it is likely deans and others will try to make a good impression with Lariviere.

It's something like players on an athletic team or participants in any type of team or group where members start as freshmen and work their way up within the group with the expectations they eventually will advance to the "first team."

But the coach or director of the team or organization leaves for another position or is fired. The new coach arrives on the scene and informs the "players," everyone will be starting on an equal footing and will have to prove their worthiness to be on the first team.

The new provost is not likely to make major changes as soon as he moves into his office, but he is sure to be observing and measuring the effectiveness and excellence of all those under his purview. It's sure to cause some nervousness among many at KU who have thought their positions and responsibilities were secure.

It will be interesting to see the degree of freedom Lariviere will have from the chancellor's office to initiate change or reorganization.

The school needs a major injection of enthusiasm, excitement and vision. Many senior faculty members have expressed a hunger to take advantage of the numerous strengths of the university. They are frustrated, at a time when there has been so much talk of KU becoming one of the top 25 state-aided universities and moving into the top 25 of all American universities, that KU has lost its standing in some programs and no longer stands as the flagship institution among the old Big Eight schools: Colorado, Iowa State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State.

It is hoped the new provost with the help of the new deans and continuing deans will be able to recapture the enthusiasm and excitement that used to be a hallmark on Mount Oread. The coming academic year at KU should be interesting and could mark a new chapter in how KU is viewed by students, faculty, regents, state legislators, Kansas taxpayers and prospective students and faculty members.

It is a great state-aided school with an illustrious record. However, there is room and potential to become an even finer institution. It needs a new spark to ignite this potential. It is hoped Lariviere will provide that spark.


Charles L Bloss Jr 9 years, 4 months ago

We need roundabouts at every intersection on the KU campus! Thank you, Lynn

moveforward 9 years, 4 months ago

I could not agree more. As a twice graduate in the last two years, the value of my degrees will increase with the betterment of KU's academic reputation. Though that likely sounds self-centered... it holds true for each and every graduate and faculty member.

Two areas of concern that I find troubling are, the shift in University Policy control towards the athletic department, and the lame duck dean of Fine Arts. Granted, we are not likely to cure disease through fine arts, but it is an important area of academic study nonetheless. The lack of leadership in that department is demoralizing to faculty, staff and students and frankly, appalling for a major university. I hope there is yet another newly filled vacancy on the hill sometime soon.

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