Heard on the Hill: UDK celebrates two-ply toilet paper; KU explains Facilities Services post; Washington Monthly says KU is No. 118 university in the country

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

• The University Daily Kansan was in something of a celebratory mood on Monday, as a number of students were lauding the return of two-ply toilet paper to campus in the newspaper.

The student newspaper has been all over this Toilet Tissue Issue since November 2011, when it fired its initial salvo against the one-ply situation.

UPDATE: Though I had originally said the paper was provided at no extra cost, Steve Green, assistant director of KU Facilities Services, told me this morning it went from 60 cents per roll to 90 cents. I think I just misunderstood a line from the student newspaper story, so my apologies for that.

Students seemed pleased with the change in a manner that’s so colorful I’m not going to repeat it here (and this is the same blog that boldly printed a colorful Russian band’s name just yesterday). Click through if you want, but it’s not for the scatologically faint of heart. (I am pretty sure I just made up a word).

It’s really a strange sort of issue. In addition to those comments from students, Don Steeples, a former KU senior vice provost, brought back his “chunks of wood” comment he made to me back when this first surfaced.

He also told me at the time that KU once had toilet paper so nice, students would steal it, leading the university back to the cheap stuff.

So nobody filch this new stuff, and we might be OK this time.

• On a more serious note, a Sound Off question from a reader landed on my desk the other day, and I thought the answer I received merited some attention in this space, too.

The original question asked who was the newly created position of deputy director of Facilities Services was and inquired about the person’s salary.

The merge of KU’s old Facilities Operations and the Department of Student Housing Custodial and Maintenance Operations still has generated a fair amount of grousing among the employees, if the correspondence I receive on the issue is any indication.

The answer to the original question is a little complicated. Vince Avila is now serving as the interim director of the newly merged Facilities Services, KU spokesman Jack Martin told me. Once a permanent director is hired, Avila will assume the role of deputy director. In both posts, his salary is $120,000 per year.

The merge seems to have had a large impact on the way employees work, shifting everyone to a zone-based system, which Martin said eliminated lost time traveling back and forth to West Campus.

He also provided me with the first numbers that I’ve seen on the reduction in management and supervisory positions that the merge facilitated. He told me that the new structure resulted in a reduction of three associate director positions, eight assistant director positions and 35 maintenance and custodial supervisor positions.

I’ve been getting some other interesting bits about some of the other Changing for Excellence changes (some of you, at least, think they are not very excellent) made at the recommendation of the Huron Consulting Group. I plan to try and pull together some more information later this week.

• It’s college rankings season again, so get ready for a glut of people trying to condense everything a university does down to a single number.

Washington Monthly has gotten into this game over the past few years, and it has a number for KU: 118.

That’s where KU ranks on its big list of schools.

I always say it’s important to delve into the methodologies, though, and this one uses a bit of a different measure than most.

The list values three different categories: social mobility, research and service.

Social mobility tracks Pell Grant recipients, the cost of attending school and measures a school’s graduation rates. Schools get research points for having faculty in national academies and for high research expenditures. The service category is a bit of an oddball to me (at least compared with other rankings I’ve seen), as schools are rewarded for having students involved in the Peace Corps and ROTC programs, along with community service hours.

KU’s contemporaries on this list are places like the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Walden University in Minnesota and the University of California-Irvine (four pretty different places, if you ask me).

The top school in the country using these criteria? Apparently, it’s the University of California-San Diego. So take all that for what it’s worth.

The big college rankings (the ones everyone seems to look at, at least) done by U.S. News and World Report are due out on Sept. 12, so keep an eye out for those, too.

• Heard on the Hill: Wood-chunk free since 2010. Join the fun by sending me a tip at ahyland@ljworld.com.