Archive for Saturday, September 25, 2010

MBA students deserve credit for raising issues at KU

September 25, 2010


Several months ago, 25 students in the Kansas University masters of business administration program became concerned about actions and policies within the KU School of Business and began asking questions.

These were not irresponsible freshmen, but mature graduate student men and women concerned about the importance of an excellent education and the cost of this education. They wanted a school with vision and strong leadership, and they thought they were being shortchanged.

They sought information about the “differential tuition” plan, which was started in the Business School in 2004. During the past six years, business students have paid close to $32 million in extra fees to provide a superior education. There has been no audit of these funds as called for in the initial organizing plan.

The students also were concerned about the need for many business majors to travel to KU’s Edwards Campus in Kansas City to take required courses that were not offered at KU’s Lawrence campus. This took additional time and expense for students and time away from jobs they had to help pay their college expenses. It also often meant an extra semester or two to meet the requirements for a degree. None of this is mentioned in the promotional materials touting a Business School degree at KU. The students also were concerned about what they thought was a lack of leadership and vision within the school.

Yet another factor bothering the students was the fact the school had lost its “CIBER” program. KU had been one of only 32 business schools in the country to have this prestigious designation, intended to strengthen a school’s international program — and was the only school of the 32 not to have its program recertified.

The MBA students made their concerns known to KU Business School officials. Members of the Kansas Board of Regents, legislators and others also were told of this concern, and there was little, if any, meaningful response. In fact, several KU spokespeople and others close to the provost’s office tried to give the students the runaround.

Next, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little gave a report to the regents that almost echoed the report KU Business School Dean Bill Fuerst had given the chancellor to explain the student unrest. He indicated everything was fine and under control, and the chancellor repeated this message to the regents. Again, it was an effort to pooh-pooh the students, just troublemakers.

Learning of the chancellor’s report, the students sent their own report to the regents and some legislators, detailing where both the chancellor and the provost had failed to tell the complete story. They countered many of the positions and justifications that had been offered by the chancellor and dean. This was a damning rebuttal.

Perhaps this got the attention of regents or legislators because it appears they told KU officials to take action and get to the bottom of the problem. Apparently, they realized the seriousness of the situation and either the chancellor or provost decided now was the best time for Dean Fuerst to announce his resignation.

In the eyes of some knowledgeable individuals, the school and the university could face extremely harmful repercussions if there was not immediate corrective action.

The “differential tuition” was the original problem that attracted the students’ attention, but the cold shoulder they received from the chancellor, dean, provost and regents caused the students to look deeper into the Business School environment. It also caused some in other schools to question whether the millions of dollars collected in differential tuition in their schools had been used for purposes not outlined when the fees were approved.

The MBA students insisted on an impartial, independent audit, one far more independent than the one orchestrated by KU athletics officials in their own ticket scandal.

Apparently due to the Business School situation, most, if not all, other schools collecting differential tuition have initiated, or soon will initiate, audits of their own programs. This would not have happened without the MBA students’ efforts and courage.

It isn’t known what university official — either the chancellor or provost — decided to announce the dean’s “resignation” with the generous fringe benefit that he would remain dean until the end of the school year and would continue as a member of the business faculty. He will be given a special assignment to improve relationships between the Business School and corporate and business leaders.

He also will focus on raising money for a new School of Business building, along with working on a new university-wide capital campaign. This new role for Fuerst raises some interesting questions.

One of the complaints about the dean, particularly among influential and fiscally generous alumni is that Fuerst was ineffective and lazy in raising money for the school and a new building to house it. Also, he failed to develop strong, respectful relations with influential alumni.

Now, the provost has given Fuerst an assignment to raise money and build strong alumni/business relationships, two areas in which he has been weak and angered many donors and potential donors.

KU officials tried to sweep the differential tuition and KU Business School leadership issues under the rug. This being the case, some in Strong Hall and in other offices are likely to suggest students shouldn’t get any ideas about investigating concerns about how their particular schools or the university should be run. They don’t want the student-led Business School situation to be emulated by students in other schools.

Too much whistle-blowing probably makes many KU officials nervous. KU already has had enough embarrassing situations: the KU Hospital giveaway effort, the KU athletics ticket scandal and, now, the differential tuition mess that results in a dean’s resignation.

Students may be told — in one way or another — to keep their noses out of administrative and academic matters.

The upcoming role of the dean presents an interesting situation. Even though university officials will try to paint a different picture of Fuerst’s resignation, it would not have happened at this time without the dean’s own MBA students calling for his resignation.

These graduate students went way out on a limb. How can there be any assurance that the dean, now or after he becomes just a faculty member, or those faculty members loyal to the dean in one way or another won’t retaliate against the students?

It is not a healthy situation.

Fuerst should have been allowed to resign or step aside immediately and to hold off on any teaching responsibilities for a semester or two.

Consider what may have continued in the Business School and perhaps in some other schools, if the 25 MBA students had not spoken out!

Unfortunately, nothing was said in the KU announcement about Fuerst’s resignation relative to the investigation or audit about the use of differential tuition funds. Where and how was the money spent? Who was hired and why was the student oversight committee abandoned? Have any laws been broken?

This situation demands continuation of a deep and independent investigation and audit. There can be no “sweeping under the rug” on this matter.

Once again, congratulations to the very serious, committed and brave MBA students.

P.S. — It should be noted both Chancellor Gray-Little and Provost Jeffrey Vitter inherited their respective problems. The athletics department mess and Lew Perkins’ performance and the Bill Fuerst/Business School problem were allowed to develop under the leadership of Chancellor Robert Hemenway, Provost Richard Lariviere and Interim Provost Danny Anderson.

Hopefully, Gray-Little and Vitter will be far more alert and demanding. KU now is paying a high price for the ineffective and neglectful manner of past KU administrators, as well as complacent members of the Board of Regents who are supposed to oversee the state’s universities.


WaxAndWane 7 years, 8 months ago

Yawn...another day, another "I hate KU" editorial.

BillyGoat 7 years, 8 months ago

The Editor suggests the Business School Dean was "ineffective and lazy" in his role. The Editor should take care to remember that "ineffective" does not equate to "lazy". For example, I might believe that an Editor's columns are often uninformed, illogical and poorly written but that doesn't necessarily imply that I believe this same Editor to be lazy. The Editor might actually work very hard in composing these uninformed, illogical and poorly written columns. Similarly, the Business School Dean may not have been the most effective dean, but how did the Editor infer that he was "lazy"? The Editor might benefit from refreshing his memory as to the definition of the word "libel". Here's one definition: "to publish in print (including pictures), writing or broadcast through radio, television or film, an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others."

mysterion 7 years, 8 months ago

BG: Agreed on all fronts, except in this case, "lazy" does fit the mark. This Dean has shown a repeated pattern of being away from the school for long periods of time with no explanation. He also spends a considerable amount of time on "personal matters." Around the business school it has become a game to try and guess the number of successive days the dean will be away before he actually makes an appearance. As a matter of fact, I would take your well put comments and turn them around, it is likely because this dean has been lazy that he has been ineffective in raising money and actually operating the program. It's difficult to tell people how good of a job you are doing, or how great the program is, if you are never there to do it. This is all very unfortunate, but true. The Editor perhaps should have done a better job of detailing what constitutes "lazy" in this case.

WilburM 7 years, 8 months ago

This, to me, is not just one more "bash-KU" column; $32 million is real money and at the very least the accounting seems haphazard. (not unlike athletic dept. and tickets).
Plus, $32 mil for a mediocre business school (e.g., the lack of renewal of CIBER designation) from the students is pretty much a joke.
As always, Dolph hurts his own cause with his way-overlong, rambling, accusatory writing style. But the core of this issue is real, and the Chancellor needs to be a lot more involved and a lot more critical of information she gets from below.

ashmole 7 years, 8 months ago

Best Saturday Column ever. Not a high standard to beat, admittedly, but Dolph is right on target on this one. Past administrations have been as incompetent as the current one. Strong strategic leadership is a constant lacking on the Hill.

mom_of_three 7 years, 8 months ago

Since this is an editorial and an opinion piece, it makes sense that some things were left out. Wasn't it under this Dean that several majors were added? That the school has expanded? that the school is one of the few that is AASCP or something certified? That the undergrad program is still ranked in the top whatever in public universities? That the new building fund may have been stalled by say, um, the economy tanking in 2008? And this sentence "These graduate students went way out on a limb. How can there be any assurance that the dean, now or after he becomes just a faculty member, or those faculty members loyal to the dean in one way or another won’t retaliate against the students?" You have got to be kidding. Seriously?

kuprof54 7 years, 8 months ago

  1. All other peer institutions had majors without $32M additional. Further, for MBA's they can't get the concentration promised to because the dean won't fill out the required paperwork. So that's a lie too.
  2. The school expanded organically - to claim that is laughable. And, admission standards have decreased. Do the math.
  3. The school is AACSB accredited, but this last year it almost lost the accreditation. And so what? That's not an "accomplishment."
  4. The undergrad program dropped significantly in rankings. A specific goal with the tuition document was to have the school be a top 25 school. $32M later and after six years, the school is dropping in rankings and quality.
  5. Yes, he was serious about retaliation. There has been a history in that administration.

mysterion 7 years, 8 months ago

MOT.... "You have got to be kidding. Seriously?"... Hmm, that's generally comes to my mind when I read your posts. Sorry, but you just can't seem to see the forest for the trees. You have no ideas of the intimidation tactics used by some of the involved administration throughout this process, which began in March. Give it a rest, you just don't know what you are talking about.

mom_of_three 7 years, 8 months ago

So bash me all you want now because I don't automatically believe the MBA students and am one of the many waiting for the investigative results before I make any decisions. I am headed out to begin the football festivities.

kernal 7 years, 8 months ago

Do you have a reason for not believing 25 MBA students, or are you simply going by your gut feeling?

deec 7 years, 8 months ago

You're taking this awfully personally there, MOT...just sayin'

Thunderdome 7 years, 8 months ago

Only at KU can you screw up this bad and get to stay on for 9 months as a lame duck and then get moved into some made up position with a big salary and no chance of success. There is no intestinal fortitude in Strong Hall.

areyousure 7 years, 8 months ago

A couple of questions -

How many MBA students attend classes on a full-time basis at the Edwards Campus? How many MBA students attend classes on a full-time basis at Lawrence? Could the reason for classes being held at Edwards be because there are more students enrolled there?

I imagine most schools on campus have had a downturn in the their donations for the past few years. How is the economic situation of the past few years the Dean's responsiblity?

jonas_opines 7 years, 8 months ago

I don't have the numbers, but there are very few full-time students that primarily attend the Edwards Campus. As far as business students go, the Edwards campus primarily serves the Excecutive MBA program, for older, working students.

I've been through the MBA program, and have had friends on several of the last years' student councils, and the problems listed in this editorial are not new, and this new group of students have not been the first to bring them up.

The loss of CIBER is bad. All my ears in the B-School suggest that it is in trouble, and that trouble has been building for quite a while.

kuprof54 7 years, 8 months ago

A couple of answers: Students sign up for the Lawrence Full-Time MBA program. They are never told they will have to take nearly half their classes in KC, inquiring significant additional campus fees, additional tuition, and incremental travel cost.

Further, MBA students can't even get a concentration and all of the concentrations are touted highly to new admits. The school hasn't fulfilled the required paperwork. So they graduate with a generic MBA when a concentration was promised to them.

Thunderdome 7 years, 8 months ago

The Edwards Campus is a part time only program. The full-time program is based in Lawrence.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 8 months ago

I am continually amazed that Mr. Simons writes such insightsul and on-target columns about KU and such dreadful columns about local and national politics. I cannot explain it by my agreeing with him on KU and on not much else. It is something different.

I think Mr. Simons cares passionately about KU and is also intimately familiar with the topic. In terms of national politics, the familiarity and knowledge is just not there, so he relies on baseless suppositions and unsupported fears.

In any event, Mr. Simons is correct here. Fuerst is a prime example of a mediocre, ineffective KU administrator with a huge salary who was never subject to oversight, evaluation, or the consequences that result. He was allowed to occupy his position for far too long.

Let's hope Vitter and BGL continue their house-cleaning and subject every dean and provost to this same level of scrutiny before scandal forces their hand.

Thunderdome 7 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Simons,

Thank you for giving these students the respect they deserve. Too often in our society, we defer to people in positions of power in lieu of asking the tough questions. Their diligence and your reporting have set the course for changes that will hopefully lead to success in the Business School. More importantly, University leadership must now surely understand that we expect excellence, leadership, and transparency...and we are all watching. Thank you, Mr. Simons.

Graczyk 7 years, 8 months ago

His columns are unreadable. I stopped at, "Again, it was an effort to pooh-pooh the students, just troublemakers."

He may have a point but it just hurts too much to read.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 7 years, 8 months ago

What's maddening is that we have to continue to pay the salaries of these duds. And people wonder why the taxpayers don't want to invest more into higher education? Why would they when their money goes to pay outrageous welfare payments to a pack of losers.

Fuerst needs to be fired, yesterday and while they're at it, let them dump the chancellor and rescind Perkins' final looting of the til.

IronChefKS 7 years, 8 months ago

I'm grateful that someone has the rocks to talk about what really goes on at KU. As this editorial points out, KU is excellent at lying, denying, and sweeping things under the carpet. The next big investigation should maybe focus on KU human resources and how they (don't) handle legit staff complaints.

No matter what the administration says, the decline in enrollment could very well have a lot to do with people figuring out that they don't want to send their kids to such a corrupt university.

PugnaciousJayhawk 7 years, 8 months ago

KUHR is an absolute joke. The entire department needs to be completely rebuilt.

cmbj 7 years, 8 months ago

Eventually, we will see the results of the audit and it's going to be interesting to see how Mother of Three continues to dispute the results. If she isn't related to Feurst, she has to be a loyal faculty member that refuses to open her eyes and see the truth.
I'm proud of the students and their diligence and tenacity during this affair. It's a job well done.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 8 months ago

Good column. Like the athletic department, flooded with donor money by those who hope some will do their bidding, the B school has sugar daddies who hope to make their mark. If there were adequate state funding, 'popular' schools like business and law wouldn't have to depend on the charity of those who want their names on endowed professors' seats or buildings. All in all, one of the more reasonable recent efforts by the editor. Somewhat poorly written, as usual, but he doesn't have to pass freshman composition at KU and owns the press. Not too bad, Mr. Simons.

worldObserver 7 years, 8 months ago

Tough job being Business School Dean anywhere, no less so at KU. Whiney faculty, naively demanding students, and misinformed townies like Dolph Simons all taking potshots from the sidelines. If Fuerst actually was "ineffective and lazy," he couldn't have lasted ten years---roughly double the average tenure of a B-School dean. As for this latest beef, I won't be surprised to learn that the university siphoned off B-School differential tuition funds for use in other places on the hill, and that the disgruntled bozos who are the former CIBER administrators have fomented insurrection among the students to take the attention away from their own ineptitude and failure to get the CIBER grant renewed. How about investigating these allegations Mr. Simons?

urbanaks 7 years, 8 months ago

Perhaps worldObserver should check with the businesspeople who were the Advisory Council for the CIBER to get the accurate story on this. They gave of their time and talents on a voluntary basis to provide valid, real-world input into what the CIBER at KU should do. WorldObserver might ask them what THEY thought of the Dean's role in the matter. The Dean had a staff member who was no longer part of the CIBER administration prepare the last application, which was not funded. It was the Dean who bore direct responsibility for nonrenewal of the CIBER. Before describing former CIBER administrators as "disgruntled bozos" worldObserver should be aware of the FACTS. Yes, FACTS.

mbaclassof10 7 years, 8 months ago

I'm one of the 25 Disaffected, as the Dean refers to us. Something needs to be made extremely clear: we were never used by anyone in the bschool. If anything, we used them. We approached them. And once word got around, you would be amazed at the number of disgruntled professors who came out of the woodwork that wanted to talk and tell their story.

We're not naive students. If we were naive, we wouldn't have found this problem. And the 100+ pages of data and info supporting our position must have swayed KU administration. Actually, its been directly communicated to us that it has. The regents also thought it was damning.

Don't blame this on the students or KU faculty. If the dean's performance was that stellar, there would be no question he should have stayed as dean. But it wasn't. And there are example after example of why KU administrators thought he should go.

PS: the bschool is also being audited for use of state tax funds collected in JoCo for research purposes, which the students or faculty had nothing to do with. Apparently there are others out there who have concerns.

kusp8 7 years, 8 months ago

As somebody who is friends with a couple of the 25 MBA students this is NOT something that should be taken lightly. The Business School at KU has some AMAZING Faculty, some of the best professors in the profession. However, the leadership from the top has been toxic and has stymied much of their creativity. A change has been needed and has finally been actualized.

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