The recent headline in an area newspaper read “Public universities battle for more private funds,” with a secondary headline adding, “KU, MU and KSU also cutting costs, raising tuition, seeking federal research dollars.”
All this is true, but what is not said, or at least isn’t said publicly, is that there are few individuals in higher education who are effective advocates for proper higher education funding.
At least this is the case in Kansas. Where are the leaders in higher education who have the ability to excite, enthuse and motivate their audiences, state legislators, faculty members, taxpayers and potential donors? We have nice people in high positions, but they are not individuals who have the ability to move their listeners to take positive, corrective actions. Likewise, it is unfortunate there isn’t a more positive, motivational message coming from the Kansas Board of Regents to fire up Kansans about the importance of excellence in higher education in the state.
It would be interesting to take a private, anonymous poll asking Kansas University and Kansas State University faculty members whether they believe their leaders are doing an effective job of telling the story of the needs of their respective universities. Are they truly making a difference? Such polls can be telling, as was the poll in which faculty members at the KU medical school offered a “shockingly bad” assessment of the leadership skills of their dean and executive vice chancellor.
If the KU chancellor and/or KSU president are not world champion public speakers able to deliver powerful, effective messages, then the universities or the Board of Regents should find individuals who have those skills and put them to work.
These are tough economic times, and most every tax-supported body claims it needs more money. The percentage of state tax support for higher education is declining year by year with tuition, federal grants and private contributions assuming an increasingly important role. This being the case, there is an even greater need for those in top higher education positions to be able, effective, articulate and inspiring communicators.
Academic qualifications are important, but someone with passion is needed to tell the higher education story and motivate legislators, taxpayers and those who have the ability to provide private funding.