Archive for Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Heard on the Hill: Mizzou details small degree program cuts; ‘Seabiscuit’ author agrees — it’s ‘Kansas University’; battle looming in Congress over Pell Grant maximums

December 28, 2010


Your daily dose of news, notes and links from around Kansas University.

• The small degree program kerfuffle hit the fan last week in Missouri.

University of Missouri leaders announced that they would be combining and eliminating programs at that school, resulting in a net loss of 16 programs, pending approval of a new list of programs that features some combination of existing offerings.

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton detailed the cuts in a letter to the Missouri Department of Higher Education, which had asked for a review of small degree programs in response to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s request. Kansas Gov.-Elect Sam Brownback has mentioned that perhaps Kansas should undertake a similar review.

But what might that look like at a major research university?

Granted KU and MU have some very different programs, so it’s not a direct apples-to-apples comparison, but I still think it’s interesting. Here’s a rundown, courtesy of the Columbia Daily Tribune.

• Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Spanish and French should be combined to create new Romance languages bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Spanish was not considered a low-producing degree, but the department agreed to take in the French program.

• Three master’s programs within the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources should be rolled into one catch-all degree covering forestry, parks, recreation, tourism, and soil, environmental and atmospheric sciences.

• On the doctoral level, two programs — forestry and soil, environmental and atmospheric science — should become one PhD.

• In the School of Medicine, pharmacology and physiology medicine master’s and doctoral programs should be combined into one degree.

• Exercise physiology and nutritional area master’s programs in the School of Human Environmental Sciences should also be rolled into one degree.

MU is proposing to eliminate the following programs:

• Education specialist and doctoral degrees in career and technical education, and a specialist degree in special education.

• Communication sciences and disorders doctorate and a clinical laboratory sciences bachelor’s program within the School of Health Professions.

Nowhere in Deaton’s letter did I see a good accounting of how much money the cutbacks saved the university. KU has offered a variety of reasons for keeping programs around, even when the numbers of graduates are small, for other compelling reasons. So I’d be curious to know how much money this has saved in the long run, as a major expense for many of these programs is in the faculty required to support them — most of which have tenure.

If this ever gets rolling in Kansas, it’ll be interesting to watch, as I’ve made extensive mention of in this space before.

• Co-worker and police reporter extraordinaire George Diepenbrock pointed me to a page of a book he’s been reading on his new Kindle that seems to come down on the Journal-World’s side on the issue of “Kansas University” versus “The University of Kansas.” Laura Hillenbrand (author of “Seabiscuit”) makes a reference to KU miler Glenn Cunningham that includes the phrase “Kansas University” in her new book “Unbroken.”

I get asked that question — “Why do you call it Kansas University instead of The University of Kansas?” — seemingly once every two weeks or so. Some folks get pretty worked up about it. So here, for all those who have been wondering, is the short answer.

I always start by saying that the decision on what to call the university is made well above my pay grade. And, in fact, it’s been part of the Journal-World’s style for a long, long time, predating nearly everyone at the newspaper (maybe even everyone). But, even though the university uses “The University of Kansas” in official communications, you can find “Kansas University” in a number of different places, too, including on the university campus . Enough so, that I really think it’s commonly known by both names. In addition to Laura Hillenbrand books, you can find it on the sign outside the KU Endowment Association, on the website of KU Physicians, Inc., which employs doctors practicing at KU Medical Center (the website uses both names) and in a number of other places, too.

And “KU” has to stand for something, right? I mean, it’s not like the letters were chosen at random. And don’t tell me that the University of Kentucky took “UK.” Ohio State University, Oregon State University and Oklahoma State University all seem to find ways to use “OSU” without too much consternation.

But I get that it frustrates some (maybe more than some) people, and that this explanation won’t satisfy them. But, hey, at least now I can provide an easy link back to this discussion instead of typing 20 of these e-mails every year.

• Catching up on a bit of news from last week, the U.S. Senate passed a short-term budget bill that protected the Pell Grant maximum of $5,500 per year, at least until March 4, according to Inside Higher Ed.

That maximum grant award is a figure closely watched by low-income students who benefit from the bill each year. The program may be a target of the newly-elected Congress as they target programs for cuts. President Obama had sought to increase the levels of aid this year to $5,500 from $5,350 as part of his budget provisions in 2009.

• I take tips for Heard on the Hill from all degree programs, regardless of size. (I heart you, Slavic Languages and Literatures!) Send them to


Shardwurm 7 years, 3 months ago

"That maximum grant award is a figure closely watched by low-income students who benefit from the bill each year."

Based on what Kan$a$ Univer$ity (or Univer$ity of Kan$a$) charges for tuition everyone but the Gates family is low-income.

cowboy 7 years, 3 months ago

MU programs that won't be cut....

Meth Lab 101 Walnut bowl Engraving 203 How to dress up your toof 102

KU_cynic 7 years, 3 months ago

But three MIzzou degree programs -- adult bookstore marketing, live bait management, and interstate billboard communications science -- will be combined into a single degree program.

Sarah St. John 7 years, 3 months ago

"And, in fact, it’s been part of the Journal-World’s style for a long, long time, predating nearly everyone at the newspaper (maybe even everyone)."

I can vouch for that. I find "University of Kansas" in the 1910 paper, but not much in the later ones.

Having said that, let me add that when I worked at KU back in the early 90s, we received a memo specifically outlining the nomenclature of the university. We were told that it is the University of Kansas, and that the "KU" wasn't really an abbreviation in that it didn't stand for anything; it was just a nickname, and that we were NOT to call it Kansas University. I guess times have changed, judging from the links you posted!

(However, I wouldn't take Laura Hillenbrand's word for it. She's an east coaster! What's more, a book by another fairly well-known author once placed KU in Kansas City. Not KU Med or some satellite campus -- the MAIN campus. The author couldn't even do the research and find out it was in Lawrence! Or maybe it's all one to some people -- "Lawrence, Kansas City, whatever....")

bearded_gnome 7 years, 3 months ago


and this just in: in the face of diminished funding and collapsing small degrees, Missou announces a completely new degree program encompassing bachelor's, master's and Doctorate degree offerings:

the science of your family tree in four dimensions.

tcohen 7 years, 3 months ago

The authority granted to the author of Seabiscuit to determine KU's official name aside, it is refreshing to read the J-W (or is the W-J?) finally acknowledge it does not use the university's official name, yet persists in using another of its own choosing. Due to the J-W's consistent, deliberate misuse over the years, it is not surprising to find references to it in web sites and signs here and there. (Why not rectify the situation by reporting the university's actual name since you know what it is) To cite the various mistakes as the reason to perpetuate the error further is strange logic indeed. Perhaps the author of Seabiscuit can weigh in.

kymock 7 years, 3 months ago

Literally every obscure link you provided to examples of "Kansas University" was from an organization or business that is not actually part of the university but a separate entity.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 3 months ago

The University of Kansas cannot maintain the huge humanities departments it currently has. Yes, these departments are an integral part of the university, but the fact is that humanities majors have fallen off drastically. Why does KU need an English department with over 40 professors, especially when most of the teaching is done by GTAs and lecturers? Why does KU need separate departments of French/Italian and Spanish/Portuguese, as well as separate slavic and germanic language departments?

These large humanities faculty numbers and numerous departmental bureaucracies are unsustainable at KU gven the decreaed numbers of humanities majors. I am not at all saying that humanities should be eliminated, but future growth at KU should not focus on the humanities.

akhmatova 7 years, 3 months ago

Those are good points, but there are a few complications involved. For one, the English department is huge. Really, really big. There are a LOT of English majors, and the classes that are actually taught by professors -- 300-level survey classes, creative writing, and the senior-level classes -- are almost always full, often with 30+ students per class. It's not just because there are a lot of English majors, but also because there are a lot of Journalism majors who pick up English minors. I'm not sure -- and I'm sure someone can correct me -- but I think that News & Reporting majors have to either be an English minor or pick up a co-major before graduation. So, there is a huge demand within the English department for just the major/minor-related classes. They obviously have to employ a legion of GTA and lecturers just for ENGL 101/102/200-level classes, just because (almost) every single undergrad at KU has to take these classes.

As for merging the regional-studies majors, this could be a possibility and obviously infinitely more desirable than dissolution. But still, the Slavic and Germanic depts. have nothing in common. Germanic and Slavic languages have very little in common, except for some common features between some West Slavic languages and Slovene. Russian has more in common with French than German.

But, regardless, many schools around the country have merged these two departments. The Slavic Department at KU is nothing less than absolutely stellar and one of the best in the country, with some tremendous teachers and even better researchers. It'd be a shame if the dept. was downsized and arbitrarily lumped with another department just to put more money into the Business school and renovating Summerfield. But I'm sure the course fees for the B-School will approach even closer to $150/credit hour to cover that.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 3 months ago

Believe it or not, 30 students is a small class size in many of the sciences. 400-level science classes often have 100-200 students. By looking at the KU schedule of classes on line, it would seem that man English, language, and other humanities classes are small and are indeed not full.

I agree that disciplines have different cultures, but the same could be said for any of the science departments, which are now single, large departments. Chemistry is lumped into a single department, but there are materials chemists, organic chemists, physical chemists, etc, each with their own disciplinary cultures.

My point is that it takes too many resources to maintain separate departmental bureaucracies for each individual language department, for example. The humanities departments must be consolidated, and the languages are the logical place to start. Indeed, many peer research institutions have departments of modern languages, an umbrella department.

Jonathan Becker 7 years, 3 months ago

I just looked up on the wall and my degree says, "The University of Kansas". So it is the University of Kansas where it counts.

bearded_gnome 7 years, 3 months ago

I just looked up on the wall and my degree says, "The University of Kansas". So it is the University of Kansas where it counts.

---and ... at least you can read your degree along with writing coherently!

John Hampton 7 years, 3 months ago

Print hold over.

Kansas University takes up less column space than The University of Kansas.

In Lawrence, KS, over time, that's a lot of space saved.

Think about it.

As a graduate of KU... it's The University of Kansas or KU... People who have worked for or have graduated from the institution should know this.

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