A recent Journal-World report of actions and activities at last week’s Kansas Board of Regents meeting told of the suggestion by several Regents that it would be wise for board members to become better acquainted with state legislators and the governor.
Why has it taken so long for common sense to be considered at a Regents meeting?
Year after year, there are complaints state lawmakers do not understand or appreciate the fiscal needs of higher education. The governor is criticized for not being in tune with the needs at the various Regents schools.
Do the Regents realize the importance of doing a better job of telling their story, and of developing friendship and respect among the Legislature? Strong support for higher education will help the economic development of the state which, in turn, is likely to bring about better results in the funding exercise.
Regent Tim Emert of Independence, a former legislator who served as Senate majority leader, said making contacts with those who control the purse strings and those who help form public opinion is paramount in advancing higher education initiatives in Kansas. Kenny Wilk of Lansing, a newly appointed Regent and a former state legislator, said Regents should make sure they establish relationships with the new crop of legislators, who in several years will be holding leadership positions.
Gov. Sam Brownback also stressed the importance of Regents doing a better job of telling the story of the fiscal needs of higher education. He said the best way to get on the good side of lawmakers, as well as the governor, is to set measurable targets for the universities that will produce results. Otherwise, Brownback said, the only message that is heard is: “We want more money.”
Those appointed to the Board of Regents are expected to be knowledgeable and “street smart.” Why haven’t they had the smarts to realize the importance of developing closer, more respectful and more understanding relationships with lawmakers? Former lawmakers have served as Regents in past years, but apparently it wasn’t until Kenny Wilk joined the board, and last week was his first meeting, that his common-sense message got the attention of his fellow Regents.
Wilk’s presence on the board is sure to make it a far more effective body in telling the story and needs of higher education. He also is sure to make it clear to senior university leaders as to what will be expected from them.