Archive for Saturday, June 7, 2008

Simons: Lack of Strong Hall leadership hampers KU progress

June 7, 2008


A recent news story told of Kansas University School of Business officials ratcheting up efforts to raise $50 million for a new School of Business building. The school failed to match a $10 million challenge grant by the deadline set by a KU alumni donor and, consequently, the money was taken off the table.

This project, if it is worthy and needed, should be part of a major universitywide capital campaign. This particular building, along with funding for other campus projects including scholarships, faculty enrichment, equipment needs, endowed professorships and new or expanded and remodeled buildings, should be addressed and included in a broad, well-planned, professionally run campaign, not pursued in uncoordinated individual efforts across the campus, each competing with other KU projects for donors and dollars. KU must cultivate private giving to its fullest potential if the school is to grow into one of the nation's finest state-aided schools.

KU is lagging behind other schools in its planning and execution of a capital campaign. The school already has lost many millions of dollars by not having a campaign in the planning and "quiet" fundraising stages.

The KU Endowment Association is one of the best in the country. Its past record and the generosity of KU alumni and friends is excellent. Unfortunately, because of the current attitude and feeling by growing numbers of alumni and friends about the leadership of KU, officers of the association are in a stand-down position and have been unable to begin planning for a capital campaign.

The KU Alumni Association also is recognized as one of the nation's best, but here, too, board members find themselves limited as to what they can do for the university because of "the situation" in KU's Strong Hall.

There is growing concern about an apparent lack of leadership, vision, enthusiasm and excitement in Strong Hall and in the chancellor's office.

Although KU can point to many successes by its faculty and students in recent years, as well as its football and basketball teams this past year, there is an almost stifling environment hanging over the school.

Board members of both the KU Endowment and Alumni associations lack either the will or the courage to move ahead and call for changes in the current environment. Such changes could re-ignite pent-up enthusiasm and excitement for KU that currently is in an unfortunate idle or stalled position.

KU Provost Richard Lariviere, who came to KU only a couple of years ago with much fanfare and the hope he could provide the excellence, enthusiasm and vision to help build the school to new academic heights, is considering jobs at other universities. Some had thought he might move into the chancellor's office when Robert Hemenway decided to step aside.

Those who should be most concerned about the leadership situation at KU are the approximately 200,000 KU alumni who have reason to want KU to continue to grow and excel, the thousands of generous alumni and friends who over the years have provided hundreds of millions of dollars for KU, and Kansas parents who want their children to have the opportunity to have a truly challenging academic experience at KU.

These are the people who really ought to be asking, "What's wrong?" Where is the leadership, excitement, enthusiasm, vision and sense of urgency a school such as KU deserves and must have to reach its potential?

Members of the Kansas Board of Regents apparently are wearing blinders or earplugs regarding the current situation on Mount Oread. Regents recently conducted their periodic review of the chancellor's performance and gave him a high grade, one of the best he had received since coming to KU in 1995. And, yet, the general dissatisfaction about what is going on - or not going on - is near the dangerous level.

Something is wrong somewhere. It's not working the way it should.

Hemenway is a good man, a good and talented individual. He wants to do a good job. There's no question, however, that being a chancellor of a major university is a tough, demanding and tiring challenge. In today's climate, the tenure of college chancellors or presidents is becoming shorter and shorter, in many cases, only four or five years. Faculty, alumni, parents of students, campus turf wars, egos, state legislators, regents or curators, special interests, often those associated with medical schools, and even those in the news business can and do make the life of a chancellor a challenge.

There's no question that Hemenway, who soon will be 67 years old, has deep affection for KU. He has done many good things for the school, but for one reason or another, the university seems to be running out of gas. It doesn't have the level of leadership, energy, excitement and morale among its faculty and alumni that it once enjoyed. Again, something is missing.

The excitement or "swagger" that KU used to enjoy and merit must be recaptured.

KU Endowment and Alumni officials should have a straight-forward, tough, all-business visit with the chancellor to find out what is wrong, what is missing and how collectively to take the appropriate corrective action. Why haven't the regents been on top of the deteriorating situation at KU?

The longer such action is delayed, the more the school, the city of Lawrence, the state's higher education system and the welfare of the entire state will be handicapped.

Many good, well-intentioned people are involved in this unfortunate situation, but it shouldn't be allowed to continue the way it is.


Rickyonealku 9 years, 8 months ago

People just visit online other Big 12 University websites, see what is going on with new buildings being constructed for future students which lead to jobs jobs jobs.

Linda Aikins 9 years, 8 months ago

I'd love to know how many of you donate to things at KU that you believe need the support. And did anyone at Endowment get called, asking if there was a major campaign in the works? Who told him they were in stand-down? Someone from Endowment? I doubt that. When/if there is a major campaign, Dolph, will you and the LJW be donating?He may be eating the words from this column very soon.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 9 years, 8 months ago

Hemenway is a third rate political hack. The last time I looked at his CV his entire orientation is towards KCMO. He should be the chancellor of Mizzou, not KU. He belongs to the greater KC Chamber, the Civic Council of Greater KC and is on the board of a couple of politicized KCMO foundations. Maybe that's why he sold out KU Hospital to the KCMO business establishment. Unfortunately, Sebelius gets a lot of her money from the same bunch, so we're stuck with this schmuck.Fire Hemenway. Get someone in there who cares about Kansas, not Missouri.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 9 years, 8 months ago

Budig may not have the warmest personality, but he was a first rate administrator. Hemenway is a fool. We've swapped places and gotten the court jester.

funkdog1 9 years, 8 months ago

I recently spoke with an English major transfer student who said that Hemmenway had taught 3 of her English classes in the last two years. How does the chancellor of a major university have time to be teaching so many classes?!?

Miles Nease 9 years, 8 months ago

Keep hammering on Hemenway, Dolph. Maybe, someone with some power will eventually listen. Hemenway is an embarrassment to our university. He could hardly speak a coherent sentence at the basketball rally in Memorial.As others have pointed out, look at what is going on at other universities with competent leaders. For example, OU used to be a laughingstock in academics. Check out their website and see what they are accomplishing. It makes me sick.

GovJunkie 9 years, 8 months ago

While we are at it, why don't you come clean, Dr. Simon, and tell us about your successful tenure at the Lawrence Journal-World (get it? tenure? a college term???)? How is your circulation doing, say for the past 5 years??? Or perhaps you want to track it during the tenure of Dr. Hemenway? That would be a nice graphic. Perhaps its time the Citizens of Lawrence demand a new PUBLISHER!!! Amen, brother. GovJunkie

Kookamooka 9 years, 8 months ago

Been on campus lately? There is much construction going on right now but it's mostly "gateways" and fountains. The chancellor will leave a legacy.Among just a few of the major projects that have elevated KU recently are....The bioscience building on West campus. The Sabatini multicultural extension of the UnionThe "Gateways" including the latest fountain.The park and ride airport parking lot on West campus.and who could overlook the football practice fields that dominate central campus.Matching dollars are a tricky business. The business schools failure to match isn't uncommon. Remember when Christine Hixson had beaucoup bucks to expand and enhance the Lied center a few years ago. KU couldn't match the millions and the project died a quick death. A major problem locally, is that the city of Lawrence is in direct competition for matching funds with the University. Local KU Alumni are being hit hard twice. It would be lovely if the local alumni could shift some of their donations away from KU and help build the rails to trails that will run through a beautiful green corridor in affordable East Lawrence improving our city and making it an even more desirable place to live. As a citizen who isn't a huge football fan (although there are pro football players in my family!) I think it's time to start obsessing about the "hill" and start focusing on the "valley".

grimpeur 9 years, 8 months ago

hawk writes:"The park and ride airport parking lot on West campus. Ah yes, KU getting federal funds to build a parking lot that before long will be surrounded by buildings and just an other parking lot. What is the point when there is a bus system in Lawrence and KU to have a separate one that encourages people to drive to KU to keep those parking dollars rolling in and then riding a bus the rest of the way?"Hawk gets the cigar! You can't start a bus system when the prime destination is already served by a campus system. And a Park and Ride in the middle of a city? Lame. Bad for the city, bad for the streets, bad for our pocketbooks as neighbors. But nobody is talking about stopping the flood of cars into our city. In fact, KU brags about how much parking they have per student! And Jack writes:"...contracts with major corporations like Coke, Nike, and Adidias but can anyone show how it really has been benefical except for those companies?"Well said. Coke has removed 12-oz cans from campus, replaced by 20-oz bottles. Funny thing, the 20s are now more than twice the cost of the cans when Coke got its contract. If you lose your money in a machine or get the wrong product, you fill out the slip with your campus address, but they don't send it to you anymore. They hope that you'll forget about it. After all, most folks don't want to walk all the way to the union for a bit of change. If you don't pick it up, Coke keeps it. Ask to have a look inside the Coke refunds box in the Hawk Shop. That is bull, and demonstrates the relationship between KU and its corporate pals and the relative importance of and concern for students/customers/employees.Hey, maybe if we put some of Lew's apparent fundraising prowess to work for, oh, I don't know, say, the entire university instead of for entertainment, maybe we'd have some of the classroom and laboratory space we need instead of two more football fields we don't need. When assistant professors make as much as assistant coaches, and when the per capita expenditures per grad student are equal to those for football players, we'll have made some progress. Sadly, I don't see it happening soon.If KU and KU Endowment can't find a way to make better use of the (interest on the) funds they collect, then they should just get out of the university business and go into the fountain-building business.

Kookamooka 9 years, 8 months ago

I think its interesting to note that "back in the old days" the University was a self contained little world that housed, fed and entertained it's students and they didn't really need to move outside of the campus environs let alone own cars or rent apartments. That has changed significantly and the City of Lawrence is feeding and housing and providing parking and infrastrucure for a majority of students, staff and faculty affiliated with KU. That said, there is a relationship between the city and the university, it's alumni and donors, the chancellor and the city commission that needs to be examined more closely and redefined to be more inclusive. The people who run KU don't live on campus (except Hemenway) and neither do many of the students. Start figuring out how to make Lawrence as attractive as campus. I can't think of a single fountain that the city owns and that, in my opinion, is pathetic!

topeka411 9 years, 8 months ago

Two words for all involved in this discussion: Grow up. I know the editorial writer has a hang-up about the Chancellor, but where are the facts? If you have personal differences with the guy, fine. But just because he doesn't kiss your rear end, doesn't mean he isn't an outstanding leader for KU. How do you explain the record enrollment, robust energy at the med center with record federal research dollars, academic accomplishments, strong managerial hires for the university and dare I mention athletics? KU is a jewel and its it time y'all came to terms with that. Lordy, sometimes it seems like the favorite sport in Lawrence is running down the university and/or its people. Small-mindedness like this is not attractive.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 9 years, 8 months ago

No problem, keep Perkins, Self and Mangino and dump Hemenway. We lose nothing.

Kookamooka 9 years, 8 months ago

The University needs to start looking a little harder at being a good neighbor to the city within which it lives.I didn't grow up here. I moved here to go to college (for many, many, many years) and stayed (although I'd rather live somewhere else-my gosh-you Lawrencians can't even support an improved public library! What kind of community are you? OH fanatics). My once beloved campus has become a foreign country and I only live a few blocks away. There is a definite feeling of separateness that happens once you leave the hallowed hill and you are only invited back on their terms-so don't ask for an invitation unless your pockets are lined with gold. I'm encouraging my own children to look elsewhere for a college degree. I can't bear another four years at KU.

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