Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Kansas public university leaders: Budget cuts have prompted departure of faculty members

January 19, 2011

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— Leaders of several of Kansas’ public universities said Wednesday that they have lost some star professors because of recent state budget cuts.

In Kansas University’s case, budget cuts likely figured into the 2009 departure of associate professor Yang Zhang, one of the most prominent researchers in bioinformatics, according to a “case study” memo by KU.

His computational laboratory at KU, started with an initial investment of $335,000, generated $2.5 million in research funds. But the University of Michigan made a $2 million start-up offer for Zhang to conduct his research there.

KU couldn’t counter, the memo said. “In this case, the offer (from Michigan) came when no merit salary increases were available, when cuts were making it impossible to maintain faculty numbers in bioinformatics, and when the prognosis was for additional challenging budget years,” according to the memo. Zhang’s spouse was also able to find an ideal job in Ann Arbor, the memo said.

“The loss of Professor Zhang has been a major setback” for bioinformatics and molecular biosciences departments at KU, the memo said.

Higher education has been cut by approximately $100 million during the past two years. Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed budget makes no additional cuts. He has proposed $15 million in new research funding, divided equally among KU, Kansas State and Wichita State, but the universities would have to match the state funding through their own existing resources to access those funds.

Kansas State, Pittsburg State and Wichita State provided similar examples of top professors leaving for more lucrative deals at other schools.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said KU has strong faculty who are sought by programs across the nation.

“Their departure causes loss of other staff and research programs,” Gray-Little said during a meeting of the Kansas Board of Regents’ Council of Presidents, which is composed of regents university chiefs.

In November, the Council of Presidents had discussed trying to gather figures on the number of faculty who have left recently for better offers, and forwarding that information to policymakers.

But on Wednesday, Gray-Little said there “was not a clear pattern” of faculty losses across all regents universities. So the council decided to focus on several specific instances of faculty being lured away.

Comments

hbjayhawk 4 years, 4 months ago

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KU_cynic 4 years, 4 months ago

This is hogwash. Sounds as if an obviously more prestigious university (Michigan) made an obviously better offer (including spousal deal) to a KU star. If bioinformatics is critical to KU's mission, we should have matched the offer (the money could have been found if they really wanted to). The reality is that an outstanding faculty member who seems to have been under-placed at KU found a better match.

Don't blame budget cuts. If anything, blame KU leaders for failing to prioritize.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 4 months ago

Of course this is true, but every monetary decision is a prioritization, which are much easier when there are adequate funds to run a research university. You know this as well as I.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 4 months ago

The facts are that Zhang was offered $2 million by Michigan and KU couldn't match it, so Zhang went to Michigan. Another fact apears to be that Zhang's spouse could not find a position in Lawrence.

Stephen Roberts 4 years, 4 months ago

Wow $2 million.... I thought people in education are underpaid... Sounds like a heck a paycheck. I know some people who own their own business that do not make that much.

ConcernedCynic 4 years, 4 months ago

He was not paid 2 million. That was "start-up" money to set-up his lab, purchase equipment, pay staff, Graduate Assistants, Post-Docs, etc.

I could go off on how much athletes and coaches actually get pad, but I wont.

gccs14r 4 years, 4 months ago

Why worry? When Brownback and the Republicans are finished, the only educational opportunity left in Kansas will be Bible School. Who needs all that other book learnin'? Science is the work of the devil, don'tchaknow.

Shardwurm 4 years, 4 months ago

Speaking in absolutes is hilarious....and pretty ignorant.

wagenseil 4 years, 4 months ago

At the risk of stating the obvious, the $2.5 million does not go to the professor: at the maximum, you can only take about 20% additional salary from all of your grants combined. KU takes about a third of the funding in "indirect costs" that pay for...well, no one really knows. The remainder will typically go for salaries of undergraduate students, graduate students and technical staff (in Zhang's case, probably some equipment as well). So of the $2.5 million, probably a good $1.5-$2-million went straight into the Lawrence community.

Like anyone cares.

Shardwurm 4 years, 4 months ago

A good $1.5 to $2 - million went straight into the Lawrence community?

Fascinating. Where do you think the original $2.5 million came from? Santa Claus?

That money came from you, me, and the staggering student loan debt being carried by middle class students paying tuition. In other words it was taken from someone else to be 'given' to Lawrence. Not something I personally celebrate.

As for the continued crying of The Education Industry about salaries - most of us are pretty sick of hearing it. For the last 30 years they've suckered us into over-paying and it's taken this recession for people to finally start taking notice of exactly how big the scam has become. It goes from top to bottom.

I saw a video clip on 60 Minutes of the New Jersey Governor in a town hall meeting. A teacher was standing there at a microphone berating him. "You don't pay me for education and you don't pay me for my experience!!!!" she cried. He looked right at her and said: "Then I suggest you do something else." The crowd applauded.

If you don't like what you're getting paid, do something else....like the rest of us. It's like a guy working at Burger King at the take out window complaining that he doesn't make $50k a year doing it. Fact is he probably works harder than most teachers, but if he ever expects to make that kind of money he's going to have to change.

So move on if you're undercompensated. There are hundreds of other faculty looking for work right now.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 4 months ago

And what do you do for a living, shardwurm?

AnonymousBosch 4 years, 4 months ago

No, it didn't come from the Lawrence community. The grants come from agencies like the NIH and other government or private-sponsored agencies for the advancement of research. So, no, that money was free money that Zhang's exciting projects generated - at no cost to Lawrence or Kansans - that demonstrate the worth to the scientific community of his research. And then that money would have gone back into KU, students, and Lawrence.

And you have no idea how hard teachers work, clearly, and get paid peanuts. The people who are getting paid lots are getting paid by grants or being paid to be administrators. They may not even teach. Those who are teaching and do care about it work their butts off. Your blanket statements about overpaid educators do not accurately describe the reality of the university or any other educational entity. Plenty of people get paid more than they are worth, but there are plenty of faculty and staff who get paid far less than they and their contributions are worth. It's sorting them out that no one ever bothers to do.

usnsnp 4 years, 4 months ago

All I hear is that teachers are overpayed and have it so good. If that is the case why dont you complainers become teachers. I do not know what you all do, but when your boss comes to you and says I am going to pay you 25% less and if you dont like it go someware else. As for the Govenor of New Jersey, this is the person that cancled work on a new tunnel between New Jersey and New York, the old tunnel is 100 years old, what happens to the communeter trains and freight trains that use it when it fails not counting the people that will probably be killed. What will he say I made a mistake and shrug his shoulders and walk off.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 4 months ago

And what do you do for a living, shardwurm?

bd 4 years, 4 months ago

They are all overpaid! Now the GTA's, they are underpaid!

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