Archive for Sunday, October 23, 2011

KU housing

A communication from Kansas University administrators raises questions concerning a possible strategy to help fill university residence halls.

October 23, 2011

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Kansas University officials are engaged in a major analysis of how they can save money and enhance efficiency and effectiveness in an effort to build the university into an even finer center of academic and research excellence.

It would be interesting to know what connection there might be between the current million-dollar Huron Consulting study to recommend ways the university could operate more efficiently and the possibility that university officials would consider requiring all freshman men to live in university residence halls.

Enrollment at KU has declined for the last three years. At an August meeting at KU, a Huron representative said that he thought the vacancy rate “in the dorms” at KU was about 10 percent. At that time, Jill Jess, a KU spokeswoman, said he was talking only about residence halls and that the overall occupancy for residence and scholarship halls and Jayhawker Towers apartments was 91.1 percent last year. That figure may or may not be related to a recent email sent by Amy Long, KU associate director of the Student Involvement and Leadership Center, to senior representatives of KU men’s fraternities saying:

“Hello National Fraternity Director:

“I am writing you today urgently seeking information, on behalf of our vice president for student affairs. The University of Kansas has a tradition of allowing freshmen/new members to live in privately owned fraternity housing. Currently, as part of the University’s strategic planning process, one item being considered is moving to a First year live on requirement for all students. This would no longer allow new members to live in chapter property their freshman year.”

The letter stated the information was needed “urgently” and should be provided no later than Friday, Oct. 21.

Several specific questions were asked, including how many first-year students are living in fraternities. Also, whoever authorized the questionnaire stated, “This message w/attachments (message) is intended solely for the use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain information that is privileged, confidential or proprietary.”

Almost immediately, Tammara Durham, interim vice provost for student affairs at KU, sent a follow-up email to “undisclosed recipients” on the subject of “KU Freshman Fraternity Living.” She stated, “I wanted to correct an email sent by Amy Long requesting information regarding fraternity living. There is no university intention of prohibiting freshman students from living in fraternity houses. I was simply interested in this information as I take on a new role at the university.”

She noted fraternities and sororities have been an important asset to the university and that the university is committed to supporting a “thriving Greek community.” She ended by apologizing for “the miscommunication.”

Clearly, KU officials are trying to cover their tracks by denying any involvement in the freshman men matter and probably are trying to suggest any such information-gathering effort was the idea of the Huron group.

It is understandable that representatives of a number of KU fraternities are deeply concerned about any effort by KU officials to require freshman men to live in university housing rather than in a fraternity house. This could have serious implications for the fraternities and is looked upon as an effort either to weaken the fraternity system at KU or help fill empty KU dorm rooms.

Unfortunately, there are too-frequent reports of misbehavior by some living in KU fraternities. However, the fraternity system at KU is looked upon as one of the best in the nation. The on-campus accomplishments and involvement of KU fraternity and sorority members are outstanding, and, as alumni, they have been active and highly effective and generous supporters of the university.

It would be wrong and shortsighted for KU officials to weaken or handicap the KU fraternity/sorority system.

It’s obvious KU officials need to get their stories straight and/or acknowledge that Huron officials may be encouraging KU officials to investigate the fraternity system as a means of capturing more residence hall revenue for the school.

Comments

Peter Macfarlane 3 years, 6 months ago

I question the assumption that freshmen have the maturity to live off-campus or in fraternities/sororities. It has always seemed a bit of a stretch to me based on my experience as an undergraduate away from home for the first time.

ljwhirled 3 years, 6 months ago

They are old enough to be drafted into military service.

They are old enough to enter into contracts.

They are old enough to be prosecuted and executed under the death penalty statute.

They are old enough to live alone. Will they screw up? Yep. That is part of being an adult. Live, love and learn.

Jack Martin 3 years, 6 months ago

If the LJW had contacted us prior to writing this editorial we would have been happy to provide this message, which was sent out Friday morning by Vice Chancellor Tim Caboni to Greek leaders, chapter advisers and other interested individuals:

Good morning,

Our goal at the University of Kansas is always to create an environment where students can succeed, with a particular emphasis on the first-year experience. As part of KU's ongoing efforts to increase the number of students who succeed and graduate, we continually examine issues related to curriculum, support services, living arrangements and a host of other areas key to student retention and academic success.

We’ve received many questions about whether KU is planning to require all freshmen to live in on-campus housing. There have been communications from some university staff members that have not been accurate.

On behalf of the university administration, I want to assure you that such a requirement is not being planned and it is not a recommendation of the Huron Consulting team. Furthermore, KU doesn’t have the capacity in on-campus housing to even implement such a requirement.

I want to apologize for the Greek community feeling singled out in discussions about student housing. As a former fraternity president, I know firsthand the positive formative experiences that can result from Greek affiliation. The Greek community plays an important role at KU, including in the first-year experience, and will continue to do so.

Best,

Timothy C. Caboni Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs University of Kansas

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 6 months ago

Given the two e-mails this writer does reference, one must assume this writer also had a copy of this third e-mail.

Apparently this writer didn't consider the third e-mail to be connected to this writer's story.

These editorials provide frequent evidence on the differences between ranting and journalism. I wonder if KU ever uses them as a teaching tool?

Jack Martin 3 years, 6 months ago

The original e-mail was sent by Tim. I thought it would be of interest to the LJW's readers, so I posted it here.

Jack

KU_cynic 3 years, 6 months ago

The rebuking of many of Huron's assumptions underneath the many millions of dollars of potential savings from "efficiencies" that have been identified will be a continuing story to follow in the months ahead.

For example, Huron identified $5.5 million in savings from "facilities maintenance & upkeep" and $8.6 million in flows from "enrollment management-increased revenue." A good chunk of that, no doubt, is based on the shaky assumption that KU will stabilize or increase enrollments and generate as much or more revenue from milking students for tuition and fees for services such as on-campus housing. With the college-age demographic in steep decline across the Midwest and all colleges and universities locked in a fierce competition for students, I just can't see those assumptions holding true.

KU_cynic 3 years, 6 months ago

No -- KU needs their parking fees and fines!

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