Heard on the Hill: Digging into that faculty survey; WSJ reports on KU-KSU relations, ‘manicured lawns’; British market researcher (and knight) visiting campus next week

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

• We reported last week on a governance survey conducted by the state division of the American Association of University Professors. The results were interesting to look at, maybe chiefly because this isn’t something that’s been done before.

But it’s important to consider what we really know here.

In the survey, faculty at each of the seven Board of Regents universities (with KU and the KU Medical Center counted as separate institutions) answered questions related to their institutions’ governance practices, especially related to the degree of involvement granted to faculty in decision-making. What we know is that KU faculty (or, to be more precise, the ones who responded) gave the university a somewhat lower grade than faculty at the other institutions gave theirs, except for those at Fort Hays State.

However, even the responses at KU averaged out to a 2.2 “grade-point average,” giving it a solid “C.” (Answers were given on an A-F scale). State AAUP president-elect and KU aerospace engineering associate professor Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, who did much of the work for the survey, said this is based on the traditional scale where a “C” is average — meaning that overall, KU’s scores were slightly above average.

The two institutions that scored the highest, Pittsburg State University and the KU Med Center, were both near the line between a C-plus and a B-minus.

Beyond the grading scale, it’s important to note here exactly who received and responded to the survey, which was sent out in October.

I heard from two faculty members last week after that story was published who said they didn’t recall receiving the survey, and three others whom I quickly checked with said the same thing. (Several of them did note that they get deluged with mail and it’s possible they failed to notice it.)

So I asked Barrett-Gonzalez for some details on how the survey went out. He told me the AAUP sent out 1,323 surveys to faculty on the KU main campus, via first-class mail. The main campus had a total of 1,578 faculty members as of fall 2011 (the latest data I was able to access quickly).

He said the AAUP received back 5.4 percent of those surveys (the lowest percentage of any of the seven institutions, he said) from KU faculty, which would be about 70.

And because the survey was anonymous, we have no way of knowing if those 70 or so responses were from a representative sample of faculty from different schools, departments, demographic groups, etc.

So, while the results are interesting to look at, and are perhaps worth thinking about, I think it’s taking a bit of a logical leap to make sweeping statements such as that KU “professors believe homophobia is commonplace on campus,” as Kansas City’s The Pitch did, based on the results on two questions about the treatment of faculty on the basis of sexuality.

(Barrett-Gonzalez added that if any faculty are interested in improving the execution of the survey in future years, he would invite them to join the AAUP chapter and help out.)

In case you’d like to take a closer look at the survey, I’ve posted the results packet I was given, as well as the actual survey form, at left.

And if you’re a faculty member who’d like to add to the discussion, or just let me know whether or not you remember receiving a survey, let me know.

• A Wall Street Journal story on Friday delved into the cultural and political implications of the success of the Kansas State University football team this year, and KU made an appearance.

The story gets a little bit into the relations between K-State and KU, and the description of that will be familiar for anyone well-versed on the traditional stereotypes defining the differences between the two.

“Even by Kansas standards, the Wildcats are unheralded,” it says. “Their identity is built around insults, typically cow-related, hurled from the manicured lawns of its larger and more urbane sister, the rival University of Kansas.”

You can make of that what you will. For me, it’s given me a story idea to file away in my notebook: an in-depth comparison of lawn quality at KU versus K-State.

• If you wanted to make the case that KU is elitist, I suppose you could point to the fact that next week a British knight will be coming to campus.

All jokes aside, though, this looks to be something pretty neat happening Thursday, Nov. 29.

Sir Robert Worcester, an influential market-researcher and political commentator in Britain and the chancellor of the University of Kent, will be visiting that day as the second-ever Chancellor’s Lecturer.

Worcester is actually a Kansas City native and a KU graduate. In 1969, he founded Market and Opinion Research International in London, and he was knighted in 2005. He has also endowed a distinguished political science professorship at KU.

He’ll be talking with students throughout the day, and at 7:30 p.m. he’ll speak at the Dole Institute of Politics about “The Relevance of the Magna Carta to the 21st Century”: a subject about which he likely knows a thing or two, as he is the chairman of the Magna Carta 2015 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee. That talk is free and open to anybody.

• We’d love it if you’d hurl us some KU news tips from your lawn, manicured or not. Please hurl in the direction of merickson@ljworld.com.