KU faculty leader: University to move jet to ‘private entity’ and no longer use academic funds to subsidize use
photo by: Contributed photo
The University of Kansas will take action on two faculty requests to help offset the impact of a $20 million budget cut, including ending the use of KU funds to support a university jet, a KU faculty leader told a university gathering last week. But now, Chancellor Douglas Girod’s office is refusing to confirm or deny that the chancellor has approved the budgetary changes.
Kirk McClure, KU Faculty Senate president, told attendees of a University Senate meeting on Thursday that KU Chancellor Douglas Girod granted the two requests during a meeting with McClure on Feb. 11. McClure originally made the request in August in a letter he sent to the faculty.
The Journal-World first reached out to the university Friday morning to confirm that the chancellor had indeed granted the requests. Joe Monaco, a spokesman for the university, in an email to the Journal-World Monday did not confirm or deny that the requests had been granted.
“The chancellor and provost have had many conversations with Professor McClure on these topics,” Monaco said via email. “For the most accurate information, we encourage the KU community to view the information and presentations available at http://provost.ku.edu/fy19-budget.”
The website Monaco referred to does not have any information about the status of the requests.
While the University Senate originally requested that the university sell the private jet in April 2017, more than a year before the $20 million budget cut was announced, McClure said Thursday that the university could not actually sell the plane because it was a gift to the university and KU Athletics.
McClure said he has not seen any specific documentation on the jet, but he believes the donation includes “strings attached” that would prohibit a sale. Additionally, the university owns “one-half” of the plane, he said.
Instead, the university will move the jet into a “private entity,” similar to how the university’s parking and garages are operated. The move would require the jet to operate off its own generated funds rather than being subsidized by the university’s budget.
“Obviously, selling one-half of an aircraft is difficult if not impossible,” McClure told the Journal-World via email. “Thus, transferring the jet to a private entity is a resolution to the issue.”
McClure also said if Girod or KU Athletics used the jet, they would need to pay for its use from their own budgets.
“The important point is that the aircraft will be operated on a self-sufficient basis,” he said. “No KU monies will go to the aircraft to operate it. It will have to run on a fee-for-use basis.”
Additionally, McClure said Girod granted a request to have the administration’s offices also take on a deeper cut to their own budgets. He said the chancellor’s office and the provost’s office would make a more than 6 percent cut to their operations, which is what the university’s faculty and staff departments had been asked to do.
How much the two decisions will help KU deal with the $20 million budget cut is not clear. Monaco did not respond to a Journal-World request for comment. McClure said his original purpose in making the recommendations was to find $10 million to offset the budget cut, which would in turn lessen the blow to academic programs.
photo by: Contributed photo
Some of the faculty’s other requests were not granted. In the letter, McClure also asked for the university to stop sending annual $1.5 million payments to KU Athletics and requested, instead, that KU Athletics begin sending payments to the university’s academic side.
McClure said Girod did not grant this, but agreed with the premise. He said Girod wanted to “wean” KU Athletics off of subsidies from the academic side of the university within the next 18 to 24 months. He said Girod did not give a specific reason why it would take that amount of time.
Girod was also open to KU Athletics sending funding to the academic side in the future, but that may depend on the university’s football program performing better, McClure said. The mention of football received laughs from some of the faculty during the meeting. The KU football team has not recorded a winning season since 2008.
The faculty also had requested for KU Endowment, a private nonprofit organization that raises funds for the university, to increase its annual contributions to the university. During the 2018 fiscal year, KU Endowment provided $191 million to the university for student and faculty support, construction and equipment, and other program support, said Rosita Elizalde-McCoy, a spokeswoman for the organization. But Girod did not grant this either, McClure said.
McClure previously said he understood a budget cut was necessary for the university, but he does not want it to fall mostly on the shoulders of the faculty and staff. So far in town hall meetings discussing the budget cut, KU interim provost Carl Lejuez said it would lead to the elimination of about 55 faculty positions and 100 staff positions.
Lejuez is expected to present another public budget meeting at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at Watson Library, 1425 Jayhawk Blvd.
Related series (March 2015)
Recent coverage: KU budget cuts
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