Archive for Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Heard on the Hill: Cleaning out my desk yields amusing teacher evaluation comments, interesting facts on KU from 2008; university spent $155k on renovations for offices of provost, chancellor

August 8, 2012


Subscribe to the Heard on the Hill email edition

Subscribe to the email edition of Heard on the Hill and we'll deliver you the latest KU news and notes every weekday at noon.

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

• So just about everyone here at the Journal-World is moving desks around as we do a little office restructuring.

That means it’s time once again for me to clean my desk. And that means all sorts of old treasures from the past pop up.

My favorite one this time was a few loose-leaf sheets of reporter’s notebook paper that I almost threw away before I realized what was written on them.

They were comments I copied down from the student evaluations of Harry Shaffer, a longtime and much-beloved economics professor whom I profiled shortly after he retired.

The article ran in the paper on the day that Bob Hemenway announced he would step down as chancellor in 2008 (so Harry kind of got overshadowed a bit).

When I interviewed him in his home, he pulled out the evaluations from years past. He’d saved both good ones and bad ones, but some of them were just hilarious.

“This is the power Shaffer has: As a secure heterosexual male, even I would like to feed him warm cookies. Lately I have found myself wearing revealing clothes to class. I don’t know what’s happening, but I hope it ends after this semester.”

“I know you’re married but my grandma is one fine lady. Give her a ring if you’re ever in the 913.”

“My dad took the same class back in 1978.”

“I need to work on getting an accent like his so I can get all of the girls he does.”

There were more in the article, but that was a definitely a good desk-cleaning memory.

Shaffer, I’m sad to say, died at the age of 90 in 2009, not too long after his retirement.

• A second item from right around that same time period is an old article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that focused on KU.

The Chronicle centered on how KU had changed from 1988 to 2008, when operating expenses more than tripled, but its enrollment of 26,000 students stayed almost exactly the same.

It was an interesting study.

“Throughout academe, college leaders often explain the rising cost of a college education as the inevitable result of an expanded menu of services that students and their parents expect, the higher costs of conducting and monitoring research, and the plusher academic and social amenities that professors and students now consider standard fare,” the article read.

In that time, KU added hundreds of counselors, student-affairs officers, “scores” of statisticians and technicians to run sophisticated laboratory equipment for research and renovated tons of residence halls and academic spaces.

Tuition during that time, by the way, increased five times over.

The article points out that while state appropriations to the campus nearly doubled during that time, the percentage of operating expenses covered by the state went down from more than 40 percent in 1988 to 22 percent in 2008. Interesting stuff, all of that.

• One recent addition to the load of desk clutter is the response from KU to the open records request I made about renovations to the provost’s and chancellor’s offices (I specified that I wanted stuff for the entire room 250 and 230 Strong Hall areas, which include more than just those two officials’ private offices).

I asked for renovations to the chancellor’s office since August 2009 and renovations to the provost’s office since March 2010 (when the two new occupants of those offices took over).

I’ll be pulling together some more information (look for more information later), but I do have some preliminary information to report: The two spaces together had more than $155,000 worth of work done in that time frame.

The provost’s office had $56,484.19 worth of expenses in that time, including more than $9,000 worth of office furniture and just under $2,000 for televisions in a conference room and the “crisis management room” (which I didn’t know existed until this very moment).

The biggest expense for the provost’s space was more than $33,000 for 10 new office cubicles.

The chancellor’s office didn’t have any expenses until 2011, but spent more than $98,000 since then, the bulk of which was spent on new flooring and upgrades to the Regents Room, which serves as a conference room for the area.

As I said, more later, so stay tuned.

• Whenever I clean out my desk I remember fragments of how much I’ve managed to forget while toiling away at this gig. Help jog my noggin by sending me a tip for Heard on the Hill to


local_support 5 years, 8 months ago

While I think it is commendable that the chancellor's office did not have any "discretionary" expenses until 2011, these costs are still a tough pill to swallow for those of us whose tuition dollars are being used to finance such endeavors.

fiddleback 5 years, 8 months ago

What makes you assume it was tuition money? There's also Univ. Endowment and other funding...

mdlund0 5 years, 8 months ago

I think we're gonna need some "before" pictures to judge the merits of these expenditures. Have these offices been renovated recently? Or were they in nearly the same state that they were when Strong Hall was built? Updated in the late '70's and not a dab of paint since? $155k really doesn't sound like much for renovating two full office suites, depending on what needed to be done and what was done. The information given in the article does not a complete story make.

Tony Kisner 5 years, 8 months ago

I agree! It is the same budget method I use here in my mom's basement I have plenty of revenue coming in for booze and cigs but the water bill revenue is always a little less than anticipated. Mom is confused about it too.

Ceallach 5 years, 8 months ago

Anything on expenses to remodel Outlook for the new chancellor?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.