Comment history

KU journalism professor Guth placed on leave as school reviews comment he made on Twitter on shootings

Unfortunately we are in an age of twitterdom in which commentary is reduced to sound bytes. The Chancellor's response is likely an act of political expediency to avoid reactions from a conservative governor and state legislature who might punish KU in an era of economic hard times. In doing so, principles, such as tenure, are sacrificed (at least temporarily) to weather a potential political storm in a time when KU can least afford it. If Guth's comments were made at KU in the 1960s and 1970s, the Chancellor would not have done anything.

In the end, Chancellor Gray-Little has suffered a political cost with some faculty members but not all. Professors are afraid to do anything with the fear of job cuts, and a Provost wielding a budget axe in these hard times. There is a theoretical term for this type of institutional behavior, which sound melodramatic but in terms of its definition is appropriate. It is friendly fascism. I do not use this term lightly. Faculty recourse is limited and ultimately sequestered in a political atmosphere of fear.

One may not like Guth's forthrightness, but as others have stated, he should have been allowed to say them. If KU's faculty rose up to protest, which it is highly unlikely, not only would the Chancellor be under fire but also the state legislature and its application of institutional rigidities that our Governor and conservative members have no qualms of using.

One wonders what Martin Luther King, Jr. would have said about this occurrence.

September 20, 2013 at 1:07 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Roberts says war with Syria likely

As much as people may want to put this on Obama (yes he is the commander in chief), a big part of this problem is this nation's interpretations of defending human rights. All nations expect us to do it and because we are economically strong, they want us to pay for it. We continue to work under the myth we are defending human rights when we go to war, but what is really happening other countries want to use the USA as the world police, have us pay for the bills, and have our citizens killed versus theirs.

As awful as it may sound, what is occurring in Syria may be good for this country in the long run. Syrians will think twice about having highly centralized power with a monarchy and be willing to fight at all costs in a war.

You will undoubtedly find shortcomings in my arguments, but I am tired of the USA being put in the position of damned if you do (go to war and making the inevitable mistakes) or damned if you don't (not doing anything). We are the world's major police source, and I think it is time for other countries to take charge rather than us always being the one to do so. We went to war in Serbia when European nations could have taken care of Serbia by themselves. As an American, I am tired our nation playing Lone Ranger to the world.

August 28, 2013 at 12:01 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Latest Census numbers show Douglas County had fewer private sector jobs, businesses than in 2000

One of the dilemmas of business growth in Lawrence is that its economy is based upon a culture related to KU. In the new edition of his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida has used a variety of criteria to evaluate why certain communities grow and others do not. Those creative criteria are technology, talent, and tolerance. Out of 361 communities Lawrence is ranked 105th. Given those rankings, Lawrence should be doing fairly well. The dilemma, however, is with the state of Kansas. Wichita is 126th and Topeka is 249th. Kansas City is ranked 48th, but most of KC is in Missouri. In part, Lawrence is an oasis of relatively good creativity, but it is in a sea of the opposite. Florida found that tax breaks do not provide the strength of incentives that local Chambers of Commerce would like us to believe. There are communities that are economically strong now due to natural resources, such as the Dakotas and the exploration of oil. But cities like Lawrence must rely on human resources. Compared to many cities, Lawrence did not experience the economic hits in the past 10 years as did other cities, but even in good times, Lawrence must compete with other cultural centers. Florida notes that people prefer larger cities that offer the sub-cultures they wish to have, and the arts play a big role in creating economic viability. With this nation having an international trade deficit, American cities are increasingly competing against one another for economic growth. It is no surprise that Boulder, San Francisco, Boston, Ann Arbor, Seattle are among the top 5 in the creativity index and are also doing quite well economically.

If Lawrence is to grow, it must continue to invest in its cultural viability, but as readers here will say, that culture is still not enough, and I agree.

July 12, 2013 at 4:41 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Legislative committee hears proposed KU admissions standards

Sorry, I meant to say that grades are not a good indicator for academic capabilities.

November 27, 2012 at 1:05 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Legislative committee hears proposed KU admissions standards

In response to oldbaldguy, there is a big difference in the quality of education that one receives in regard to where you gain your education. Having taught graduate students for many years, my colleagues have found a definite rank order average for who are the best students:

Rank 1 - Students who attended a private college or university.
Rank 2 - Students who attend a state's 1st tier universities, such as KU and KSU
Rank 3 - Students who attend a state's 2nd tier universities, such as Pitt, Emporia, or Hays

The Rank 3 students typically have lower Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores than students in the other 2 tiers. We rarely have to be concerned about students for the first 2 ranks, but students from Rank 3 schools are typically the ones we find who are put on probation for not performing sufficiently. The GRE exam is a rather good measure. Grade point averages are the best indicators for a student's capabilities. Grades are a good measure of how hard a student may work, however.

You may pay more to attend KU or KSU, and this follows a more general philosophy in life. You get what you pay for.

Oldbaldguy, sorry to burst your bubble, but I see how good of an education students actually receive.

November 27, 2012 at 1:03 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Decades of dishonor

I am an Eagle Scout. In the past I have been involved in the Scouting movement as an adult, and I believe the Scouting movement has been largely a positive force in American society. Charity evaulators say that the Boy Scouts of America has been one of the most effective organizations in using the funds contributed to it. Quite simply, the BSA is financially very responsible.

I do not condone how these Scout leaders have taken advantage of boys, but we must remember that Scouting is only as good as the people that become involved. Many good men and women in Lawrence have given their time and effort to help boys experience so many good things. For years, Scouting has had a system to extract leaders such as the guilty parties mentioned here. But even the best of intentions to monitor misbehavior does not always work. This is no reason, however, the throw out the baby with the bath water.

One of the reasons that the BSA was reluctant to have women leaders as Scoutmasters was the national office's concerns about sexual misbehavior. For years, the BSA has tried to monitor sexual misconduct in order to remove such people. In one of the cases mentioned above, I am rather sure the boy's parents filed a police report on the child abuser. I am not so aware about the reponsibilties of local Scout councils. As we have been hearing lately, organizations must notify the police, such as we found out with Penn State.

I am heterosexual, but to say a gay person is a pedophile is incorrect. Most gays would consider this abhorrent. The dilemma is when young men (often over 18) in Scouting decide they are gay and then make moves on boys who are 15 or perhaps a bit older. The law will treat the older one as a pedophile, but this gay Scout probably does not have the same intent as a 30 year-old man who attempts to make a move on a boy.

Churches are major sponsors of Scouting, and they are also have responsible for ensuring their troops have leaders who keep boys safe. Churches work in good faith with Scout leaders. This has been a sound relationship. But pedophiles ignore boundaries and responsibilities being interested primarily in themselves. They also can hide their intents quite well.

It is easy to attack the Boy Scouts of America. But many communities have benefited from the projects they construct for communities. Scouts was the most influential element in my youth, and for me personally, Scouts gave me psychological strength, the freedom to investigate many fields of knowledge. to take care of myself in the outdoors, and reinforced morals in a practical way. If you have doubts, read a Boy Scout Handbook.

Wrongdoings by pedophiles should not be ignored, but we should not be so brutal as to hurt a well-intentioned youth program for boys. As my dear Mother taught me, two wrongs do not make a right.

November 18, 2012 at 12:08 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Reviews of tenured professors proposed

In principle, the purpose of tenure is to ensure that professors can take controversial stands on issues. Perhaps the public is less aware of how professors have taken stands on issues, even against Chancellors in the past. LIkewise, a professor will be protected against having one's job taken if that person takes a stand on politics or controversial topics, such as using stem cells in research.

On the issue of productivity, there is no reason for a professor not to be productive. On the other hand, the point of doing quality research versus quantity is problematic as stated by someone here. Most refereed journals accept from 20% to less than 5% of the manuscripts submitted. Highly qualified people are competing with one another just to get a manuscript published. It is easy to criticize what is quality and what is critical in research, but most departments hire people to cover areas of knoweldge that need teaching, and professors need some freedom to pursue the research topics they wish to study. Otherwise, they will become robots to current isses. They can destroy their ability to be independent thinkers.

I think what is at work here are two issues. First, the administration wants to clear out it considers to be deadwood. Second, it wants those funds to reduce operating costs and to reallocate those funds within the university. But lack of productivity, identifying deadwood, is a matter of criteria. Yes, a professor who does not produce publications will likely be under fire.

But an increasing criterion is to produce research grants. KU's Provost, Vitter, was central in the analysis of faculty members at Texas A&M University. His basic analysis aimed to answer the question: Is a facutly member paying for his/her job. Of course generating student credit hours is one source of a professor's economic production, but research dollars are also valued. This productivity is not just evaluated in terms of indiviiduals but also departments. Generally, universities will make some exceptions. There is no way a music department will generate sufficient grants to cover its costs. Moreover, some professors in departments have a low number of students due to no fault of their own, but they generate low levels of revenue. One wonders how much such individuals and departments will be reviewed for their lack of grant productivity.

November 5, 2012 at 8:17 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Boy Scout 'perversion files' have 14 Kansas cases

Having been a Scout leader, I was in a position to know about this issue, and some of these comments are off the mark. Any organization should be accountable in regard to child abuse, but in my Scouting position, I was called by the Council office as to the status of some individuals. As seen with current events, some child abusers move from place to place, and I was asked if a certain person came from a particular city. The aim was to make sure that our local district was not penetrated by any child abuser. When I was a leader, there were a couple of cases where leaders were dismissed (not in Lawrence however).

For many years, Scouting has had the policy that there must be a minimum of two adults present when Scouts are present. I once told a Scout who wanted me to be his merit badge counselor that he would need to have a parent accompany him in order to comply with this policy.

Once again, every organization needs to be responsible. I doubt if there is a youth organization in the USA that does not face this potential problem. Scouting is a fine organization. I found that Scouts learn a great deal about leadership, how to take care of themselves in nature, and how to work with other people. Scouting does good work, and independent evaluators have argued that donations to the BSA are a high return for the investment. Unfortunately, Scouting can attract adults with less than principled motives.

October 19, 2012 at 3:43 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Achievement gaps persist in Lawrence schools

Undoubtedly there is more that can be done to improve our schools, but this differential in performance has been research. Controlling for household income, there remains academic performance differences between non-whites and whites, the latter group having the highest performance levels. However, Asian-American households perform at a higher level than all groups.

The gap problems have more to with the cultural circumstances people come from more from the culture of these groups than from the schools. For example, over 30% of all students admitted into Ivy League schools are Jewish. In California, the Univ. of California - Berkeley limits the number of Asian applicants to ensure that other minority groups, and perhaps even whites, gain a proportional admittance.

So when looking at the lack of student performance by certain non-white groups, I think the real question is: What is it about the culture of these non-white groups (beyond traditional prejudice) that reproduces these results in low performance? I stress looking beyond prejudice because Asian-Americans, just as other non-white groups, have certainly experienced prejudice in this nation.

September 20, 2012 at 1:54 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Brownback asks agencies to propose 10 percent cuts

I realize that the initial assumption is that Brownback is perpetrating an ideological agenda on the Kansas citizenry. To some degree he may be doing that, and being a Democrat, I am predisposed to believe so. However, there are deeper roots to his tax cuts and governmental cutbacks.

Kansas, like other states, are facing budget deficits with increasing demands for services. Federal mandates have placed a financial burden on all states, and in his own way, Brownback is attempting to balance a budget while simultaneously paying for these mandates and other state needs, such as education.

At the same time, Kansas is not competing well in terms of business. The state only has one Fortune 500 company. I believe his aim in tax cuts is to give relief to local businesses as well as Kansans to keep afloat during this recession.

If we want to keep and increase government services, we will need to raise taxes (which no politician ever wants to do), because many agencies and educational institutions have already made substantial cuts. The problem of this strategy is that we become less competitive with other states.

I can offer no solutions for these problems. Kansas is an unattractive state to businesses and people for a variety of reasons. Other states have lower costs. There is no real tourism in Kansas that attracts people who want an ocean or mountains. It can be extremely cold or hot here. For these reasons among others, Kansas has difficulties. To make matters worse, the nearest largest metropolitan area that might be an economic growth machine is just across the border in Missouri.

As for tax cuts, we should target them. I think it is wise to provide them for small businesses that produce goods and can demonstrate they have created jobs. I do not think Kansans should get a tax break from financial gains in the stock market.

As a Democrat, I would not want to be the governor of this state and attempt to solve this state's economy. It is an incredibly tough job.

August 17, 2012 at 8:31 a.m. ( | suggest removal )