Archive for Saturday, April 13, 2013

Simons’ Saturday Column: Universities should put spotlight on academic stars

April 13, 2013


Earlier this week, Kansas Athletics held a press conference to announce that Kansas University basketball star Ben McLemore is leaving the university to enter professional basketball. The status of McLemore has been local, state and national news.

How long has it been since the university called a news conference to announce a student, faculty member or dean was leaving KU or that an all-star recruit was coming to the campus as a student, faculty member or dean? The university issues press releases, but that’s about it. Hiring a new football or basketball coach or earning the designation as a National Cancer Center are about the only events that merit major news conferences.

It is understandable why and how sports get such attention, but perhaps this also illustrates why there isn’t far more interest and excitement about the academic side of the university. Is it any wonder state legislators or taxpayers don’t get excited or enthused about the critical importance of good teachers, good deans and superb leaders?

Shouldn’t a good chancellor or president be just as important as a good coach? Apparently not, even though both are supposed to coach, lead and inspire. Look at the earnings of coaches versus a chancellor or president. KU isn’t alone; the situation exists at most every NCAA Division I school.

In the eyes of the public, what is most important at KU: whether Ben McLemore stays in school or KU loses an excellent dean or is able to recruit a truly outstanding dean or nationally recognized faculty member?

When there is a truly major loss or gain in the academic/research/administrative ranks, why doesn’t KU think it sufficiently important to have a press conference? Maybe the public and state legislators would think it really is important and realize the need for proper funding and excellent leadership for the university.

KU now is engaged in a major capital campaign to raise $1.1 billion. It’s a big deal in every respect and important for the university. But even in this case, for whatever reason, KU and KU Endowment Association officials elected to start the public side of the campaign with more of a self-congratulating event in Allen Fieldhouse with little outside public fanfare or effort to capture state or national media attention

Those serving on the Kansas Board of Regents are supposed to be the state’s overseers of higher education and should be the most effective and vocal spokespeople for higher education. Lawrence residents and people throughout the state know the names of Bill Self, Charlie Weis, Bill Snyder, etc., but how many know the name of any of the regents or even the chancellor or president of KU and KSU? Shouldn’t regents be out front, telling a powerful, effective story about higher education? How long has it been since the regents held a press conference about the necessity of attracting a superior faculty, gifted students and effective, articulate, passionate chancellor and presidents?

What’s more important relative to the investment Kansas taxpayers make in higher education?

The public sees the regents more as a list of names on a letterhead than as individuals known for helping bring about major changes and improvements at the schools they oversee.

Sports are great, and players like Ben McLemore bring enjoyment, excitement and enthusiasm as well as pump up school pride. They also help encourage some to be fiscally generous to the university.

But, really, who should be in the front seat of the vehicle called Higher Education? Who would someone standing on the sidewalk, watching this vehicle pass by, see driving this car: the Bill Selfs, Charlie Weises, Bill Snyders and Ben McLemores or the chancellor and president?

There needs to be some major, well-planned press conferences focused on higher education identifying the All-League, All-Conference and All-American players on the various academic and administrative teams.

Kansas needs to be just as proud of the academic accomplishments of their state universities as they are of the win-loss record of those schools’ athletic teams or the comings and goings of star players. Also, they should be aware of the win-loss record of the university coaches: the chancellor and presidents.


sci4all 4 years, 11 months ago

Isn't Dolph the one who gets to decide what's newsworthy and what isn't at the LJW?

melott 4 years, 11 months ago

Newspapers should put spotlight on academic stars

Patricia Davis 4 years, 11 months ago

I think one of the answers is for wealthy concerned people to donate more funds for endowed professorships to allow KU greater access to the greater minds in the academic world.

Richard Wade 4 years, 11 months ago

Hey Dolph! Who is your academics section editor and how many reporters do you have assigned to it to cover KU?

phred 4 years, 11 months ago

You mean like this: or this: or this:

Maybe Dolph missed these because he didn't have a tab for "KU academics" on the top like "KU sports".

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 11 months ago

I agree with the other commentators that newspapers should start reporting on KU academics.

"Heard on the Hill" is good as far as it goes as a random blog, but true, steady coverage like that given to sports might do wonders.

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