One phase of the ticket mess in the Kansas University athletics department supposedly will be put to rest with the upcoming sentencing of those involved in the illegal, embarrassing, criminal and long-running scam.
Even so, there are many who cannot accept that at least seven people could have been involved in the moneymaking scheme over a period of several years, while there was tremendous public outrage about the actions and policies of athletics officials, and not have the problem come to the attention of the leaders of Kansas Athletics Inc. Were they deaf, blind, lazy or arrogant?
Right now, that’s all past tense.
Now, there are other situations on Mount Oread that are just as important but perhaps do not generate a similar degree of interest, concern or frustration by alumni and friends of the school.
In no particular order of importance, consider the following:
There are three major search efforts under way to fill important senior positions: deans for the law school and business school and a new executive vice chancellor to handle public relations and lobbying efforts for KU in Topeka and Washington, D.C.
University leaders selected the same headhunter firm to handle the search for the business school dean as they used to find Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Provost Jeff Vitter. Dean Bill Fuerst announced last fall that he would step aside as B-school dean in June.
Whether someone will be found to move into the dean’s office by the start of the 2011 fall semester is questionable. If not, this important school will be run by a stand-in.
Just how big are senior university officials dreaming in their search efforts? Are they going after an easy hire or someone who has a national reputation as a leader with vision and courage, someone who is articulate and can inspire and motivate.
The same can be asked about a new law school dean. The first search effort went belly-up and, for various reasons, had to start over. It would be most interesting to know whether U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Deanell Tacha — a KU grad and Lawrence resident — was even considered as a candidate for law dean. Of course, perhaps Tacha, who was named this week to head the Pepperdine School of Law, wasn’t interested.
Both of the law and business school efforts raise the question of whether it is essential to have a high-priced headhunter directing staff searches.
Compare the current delayed and questionable search efforts for the business and law deans with the search process for the university’s new athletic director. This small group of six individuals searched the country. They didn’t use a headhunter; they got the job done more quickly than expected without any leaks and at a total cost of about $7,000.
And they got a winner, someone who is going to do an excellent job for the university and the state.
Couldn’t a small group of business school faculty members, working with a small group of highly successful business executives who are KU graduates, use their collective networking skills to identify a handful of superior candidates for the KU job?
In addition to these senior academic positions is the search for someone to oversee public relations and lobbying efforts for the university. Unfortunately, the university has not done a good job in this effort in past years. There has been a revolving door in this office, and it has hurt the school in many ways. One of the biggest and most frequent criticisms of the university is that it does a very poor job in telling its story. KU has a great story to tell, but it isn’t being told effectively or enthusiastically by those in Strong Hall. It’s embarrassing the university does not have an effective spokesperson.
Another challenge facing KU, as well as all Kansas Board of Regents schools, is the composition of the board and the degree of involvement these men and women have in the operation of the schools they oversee.
The recent serious problems in the KU School of Business offer first-hand proof. The regents knew nothing about this matter until a group of MBA students exposed the wrongdoing. Neither the dean, the chancellor, the active provost or anyone else had told the regents anything about the serious differential tuition matter at KU.
If the chancellor and university presidents are not going to be frank and open with the regents when discussing serious matters on their campuses, how are regents to know about such instances? However, this raises the question of whether past or current chancellors and provosts knew about the situation.
Regents need to have some way of finding out what is going on at the state universities and not blindly accepting the self-serving “everything is great” reports from the chancellor and presidents.
Gov. Sam Brownback will have the opportunity to reappoint or make new appointments to the Board of Regents within the next three or four months. Few gubernatorial appointments are more important for the state than those individuals who are supposed to oversee and guide the state’s universities, community colleges and vocational-technical schools.
Hopefully, Brownback realizes the importance of a strong, knowledgeable and committed Board of Regents.
In discussing the role and effectiveness of recent regents, this writer, in a December Saturday Column asked, “Might they (the governor and his close advisers) consider a university such as KU having a board of overseers, a small group of highly-skilled, knowledgeable individuals who could help guide the university? This group could be composed of vigilant, supportive, successful people who understand challenges and could provide the regents an acute, accurate, unbiased assessment of the university’s needs and how it and its administrators are functioning. Is the chancellor effective in communicating the school’s needs, and is he or she imaginative and innovative in addressing opportunities? Does the state have strong leaders in administrative positions?”
Too many KU friends and long-time advocates are expressing concerns about the school with some suggesting the institution resembles a caged hamster frantically running on a wheel but getting nowhere.
This cannot be allowed to continue as the university plays too significant a role in the state and is engaged in a challenging effort to achieve greater academic excellence.