Editorial: All in the family?

Appointing an interim committee of Kansas legislators to visit state university campuses might be a first step in building a better relationship between the two.

July 25, 2013


According to Wichita news reports Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle is trying to promote some better communication between legislators and state university leaders to help solve their budget differences.

“It’s like we’re all a big family, and we’ve had this family fight,” Wagle told the Wichita Eagle. “Now we need to talk.”

Wagle added that she would ask other legislative leaders later this month to appoint an interim committee to visit the six state universities.

That would be a good start.

It was clear during the last legislative session that lawmakers and university leaders weren’t on the same page when it came to higher education funding. Universities thought they were clearly expressing their funding needs, but, as Wagle reiterated this week, “My senators didn’t feel like they got the information from universities that they wanted.”

The result was a budget that seemed almost punitive to universities and the Kansas Board of Regents, who felt forced to offset funding cuts with increased tuition, which was exactly what legislators didn’t want.

This is a standoff that must, for the good of the state, be called off. Appointing an interim committee could be a step in that direction. It’s important that the members of that committee are willing to approach this issue with open minds and not be driven by preconceived ideas or political agendas.

University leaders also should approach this idea with open minds and a helpful attitude. This could be a great opportunity to share information that could give legislators a better understanding of the challenges universities are facing.

It seems that, right now, the relationship between legislators and universities doesn’t include enough respect and credibility. Perhaps some one-on-one meetings and campus visits can help build the level of understanding that’s needed to help move the state’s higher education system forward.


olddognewtrix 4 years, 10 months ago

Dealing with the current Legislature is like the old saying that to get the attention of a mule, you have to hit him in the head with a two by four

TalkSense 4 years, 10 months ago

An interim committee, with adequate lead time to prepare briefing papers and make plans for meaningful campus visits, is a good next step. However, do read the full July 22 Wichita Eagle article at http://www.kansas.com/2013/07/22/2900434/legislators-university-leaders.html. This editorial quotes from it very selectively, implying that the Regents and others on the campuses were not forthcoming with data or didn't want to meet with legislators, etc. Based on news reports and the universities' own statements, that was not at all the case. Sen. Wagle says “My senators didn’t feel like they got the information from universities that they wanted.” More likely, her senators didn't like the information they did receive, or couldn't handle the truth about higher education funding in Kansas. The "family fight" she refers to was one-sided.

Teri Chambers 4 years, 10 months ago

The Universities have made meaningful cuts. Positions are not being filled creating a staffing issue with work not being able to get completed, a salary cap which allows good faculty to be lured away to other institutions, reducing the number of students admitted or cutting programs. The various colleges have made meaningful cuts. You get what you pay for. Go ahead, keep cutting education and remember that when you need a doctor to perform surgery, or an engineer to fix your broken bridge.

George_Braziller 4 years, 10 months ago

Susie-Q -- Ever consider that the "family" is completely dysfunctional and you're one of the reasons? There's always one "touched" family member who shows up at the reunion and the rest of the family is polite but they keep their distance.

“It’s like we’re all a big family, and we’ve had this family fight,” Wagle told the Wichita Eagle. “Now we need to talk.”

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