Archive for Friday, November 11, 2011

Heard on the Hill: More thoughts on departure of KUMC leader Barbara Atkinson; former KU vice provost sheds more light on toilet tissue issue

November 11, 2011


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

• First off, a few extra things I’ll be watching in the wake of last evening’s big announcement that Barbara Atkinson, KU Medical Center’s executive vice chancellor and executive dean of the School of Medicine would be stepping down from those roles. I had a few thoughts that didn’t quite make it into my story on the issue for one reason or another.

One, because KU is splitting the two positions, it will be interesting to see how KU handles the salary of the two new posts.

Atkinson, who earns more than $540,000, is already one of the highest-paid employees in the state. But I’d imagine the cost of the two new posts added together will exceed that figure by a fair margin, so it will be interesting to watch from that regard.

Also, both Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Atkinson both told me the effort to achieve National Cancer Institute designation shouldn’t be affected at all, and Atkinson, in fact, told me something I didn’t even realize.

Roy Jensen, the director of the KU Cancer Center, doesn’t even report to the dean of the medical school.

His position reports directly to the executive vice chancellor of the KUMC campus, and also to the executive vice chancellor of the Lawrence campus, who is, of course, Provost Jeff Vitter. So there will be some additional stability, there, too.

And a dean leaving probably isn’t the kind of thing that would cause a the cancer effort to derail — it’s been chugging along for some time.

Also chugging along for at least a little while, apparently, has been the decision to split the job into two jobs again. Atkinson has held both titles since 2005.

As the number of schools increases at KUMC (a new School of Public Health is planned there), Gray-Little told me, the role of the executive vice chancellor becomes more and more complex.

We’ll see much more on these big positions for KU — more than one leader of KUMC has risen to become chancellor in the past — as the story continues to unfold.

• Don Steeples, who formerly worked as senior vice provost for scholarly support, told me an interesting follow-up tale to the toilet tissue issue I discussed yesterday.

After the University Daily Kansan reported several students who took issue with the single-ply toilet paper on campus, Steeples wrote to me with a pretty amusing story.

Apparently, a few years ago as Steeples tells it, the university had a vendor who had difficulty meeting a particular obligation.

KU struck up a settlement with the vendor that included the delivery of “a substantial amount of a higher quality of toilet paper,” Steeples said.

“The quality was, in fact, so high, that people were stealing it by the partial roll,” he wrote to me. “That is one of the principal reasons that we have to put up with toilet paper that still has chunks of wood in it.”

So there you go, KU. Apparently, you can’t handle better toilet paper, anyway.

• Keep sliding those tips for Heard on the Hill under the door by sending me a quick email at


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