Posts tagged with Bernadette Gray-Little

KU chancellor elaborates on why she vetoed funding for Multicultural Student Government

When Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little vetoed Student Senate funding for a Multicultural Student Government, she cited a couple key points in a letter to Student Senate leaders. One, the student organization does not yet exist as a government. Two, university code doesn’t allow more than one government representing any of KU’s constituency groups in University Senate. (The funding she nixed amounted to about $180,000 in required student fees. MSG was slated to get $90,000 to pay officers and fund other operations, plus another $90,000 to allocate to other multicultural student groups.)

In the last paragraph of her letter, the chancellor indicated there was more to her decision than just that, however, writing “I believe that the independent student government proposed in the document sent to University Senate is not an optimal way to achieve the goals we have for diversity and inclusion at the university and, indeed, may lead to greater divisiveness.”

I interviewed the chancellor earlier this month about various KU issues, including this one. Here’s what she said.

Speaking to the Kansas University Student Senate, Jameelah Jones is joined by dozens of students and supporters of the Multicultural Student Government initiative during the Student Senate's meeting Wednesday evening March 9, 2016, at the Kansas Union.

Speaking to the Kansas University Student Senate, Jameelah Jones is joined by dozens of students and supporters of the Multicultural Student Government initiative during the Student Senate's meeting Wednesday evening March 9, 2016, at the Kansas Union. by John Young

“The letter outlines the technical reasons why, but I didn’t want to just hide behind that. I wanted to say what I thought,” Gray-Little said. “I believe the question or concern is that student government as it currently functions does not allow students who are not part of the anointed group — however that anointed is defined — to have a voice. I have heard that complaint from students in the past not based on race, so I don’t think it is a question solely that racial or ethnic groups have that experience because of being a member of a racial or ethnic group.”

Gray-Little said she suggests looking instead at what can be changed within student government to overcome that problem.

Since she came to KU in 2009, there have been two student body presidents who are black, Gray-Little pointed out. Stephonn Alcorn was just elected student body president for the upcoming school year, and Michael Wade Smith was student body president for 2010-11.

“It’s obviously not the case that you can’t get elected if you’re not Caucasian,” Gray-Little said. “I don’t think that that is the issue — or if it is, I think we’re doing fine if you look at that as a percentage.”

“I think it is something else that has to do with what goes on, who has a say, who feels they have a say, maybe how people get elected,” she said. “What I would like to work with students on is how we can go about ensuring that students have the opportunity to participate and be heard, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they get to decide what happens, but how they can be heard.

“We have university governance that’s made up of students, staff and faculty,” she said. “To change the university code … I don’t think it would be very productive in the long run to say those three elements of the university can have multiple representatives that are each working separately from one another.”

Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little speaks to the Kansas University Student Senate at the start of the Senate's March 9, 2016, meeting at the Kansas Union. Gray-Little was the invited guest speaker and gave a general update on university issues.

Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little speaks to the Kansas University Student Senate at the start of the Senate's March 9, 2016, meeting at the Kansas Union. Gray-Little was the invited guest speaker and gave a general update on university issues. by John Young

The final report of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Group formed last fall by the office of the provost calls for KU administration to support creation of the MSG and also for the current Student Senate to be “placed under immediate review.” (The report describes the Student Senate’s “exclusivity and greek life-centeredness” as a “crisis.”)

I asked Gray-Little about the advisory group recommendations, too. She said to expect a response to those recommendations around the end of the summer.

“What our effort will have to be is how to make some of the recommendations specific and not just say, 'This is a good idea, we agree with you, that’s an important goal.’ What do you actually do to achieve it? … We have to be very specific about things we’re going to do.”

She added: “I am not interested in having things that don’t work just to say that you have something.”

— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage at Reach me by email at, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at


‘Intellectual discomfort’ and ‘new ideas’: Newly released chancellor’s report issues challenge for KU

Kansas University’s newly released Chancellor’s Report draws a parallel between the tumultuous times in which the university was founded and some of its present challenges.

The annual report highlighting a variety of success stories and projects at KU went live online Friday, and print copies are being distributed around campus early this week, I’m told by KU public affairs. In a video introduction to this year’s collection of stories, headlined "My call to you ...," Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little recalls when KU was founded 150 years ago, on the heels of the Civil War.

Other KU faculty, staff, students and alumni then chime in:

Since its beginning this university has been central to our nation’s story and has grappled with our society’s greatest challenges. Some of those challenges today — citizenship, race, state’s rights — aren’t that different from those of 150 years ago.

Responding to those challenges is why they’re here, they say:

It’s not always easy. It makes some people uncomfortable, but that’s good ... to be challenged, to experience intellectual discomfort, to learn and to test new ideas.

Familiar faces from the video, to name just a few, include KU alumna Alyssa Cole, the then-student and single mom who introduced President Barack Obama for his January 2015 speech at KU; physics and astronomy professor Alice Bean, who’s led a team helping with upgrades to the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva; professor of ecology and evolutionary biology Jim Thorp, lead investigator on a $4.2 million grant to study climate change via U.S. and Mongolian rivers; and associate professor of film Kevin Willmott, who co-wrote the recent film “Chi-Raq” with Spike Lee.

See the full Chancellor’s Report and read stories about some of these KU representatives and others online at

— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at

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The President of the Gaels returns to the hill

For Iona College President Joseph Nyre, Tuesday's men's basketball game between his school and the Kansas University Jayhawks was one part competition, one part homecoming. Nyre holds Ed.s (education specialist) and PhD degrees from the KU School of Education, and he met his wife at the university. Last night Nyre had to put aside his longtime affection for KU basketball to root for his Gaels.

"I've never rooted against them (the Jayhawks) until tonight," he said. (Unfortunately for Nyre, his rooting came to no end: His Gaels lost by 20.)

Much has changed since Nyre last visited the KU campus 10 years ago. A football practice field sits atop what used to be parking lots, and the Booth Family Hall of Athletics now greets Allen Fieldhouse guests at the eastern entrance.

Nyre's journey down memory lane Tuesday included visits with education school professors he knew from his time as a graduate student. He also chatted with local media in Lawrence, including KU Sports' Tom Keegan and yours truly. Only now do I realize I forgot to ask him the most pertinent question of all: Is the Iona Gael's cane for walking, for hitting or for fashion purposes? Alas, I might never know. But I must move on somehow...

Nyre grew up in Wisconsin and went to school just about everywhere. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse and went on to receive an M.A. in Educational and Counseling Psychology at the University of Missouri. At Mizzou, Nyre said, he learned more about KU's special education program. Crossing the border, he got his PhD in school psychology from KU and then he was off to Harvard for post-doc work.

Nyre became Iona president in 2011. With Iona just north of New York City, Nyre has been able to meet with Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little on her occasional ventures to the Big Apple for national higher education gatherings. Nyre heaped high praise on Gray-Little — "I think the world of her and the work she's doing" — and said he was also excited to "share" New York's Iona with Kansas and the Midwest.

Whether Kansans were in the mood to have Iona shared with them is another question for another day. And it's one that does not matter to me, at least not until I find out what the Gael's cane is for. If you know, please share with me — along with any KU news tips you might have — at


Breaking down the private funds that pay the KU chancellor’s salary

If the comments on this story and the interactions with the @LJW_KU Twitter account last week are any indication, many of you had some thoughts and feelings about last week's Kansas Board of Regents vote to award a pay increase to KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, along with the chief executives at the state's other public universities.

One important detail, amid declining state funding at KU, is that the $60,000 raise for Gray-Little will come entirely from private funds. That means the privately paid portion of the chancellor's salary is approaching the state fund-paid portion: About $272,000 will now came from state funds, with about $221,000 coming from private funds.

That left me with a question: What are those "private funds," exactly?

Well, they come from the KU Endowment Association, but it's a little more complicated than that.

First, some history. KU chancellors' salaries consisted entirely of state funds until 10 years ago, in 2003, when Chancellor Robert Hemenway began to receive an additional $50,000 per year thanks to a $1 million donation from a KU graduate. That donor, Charley Oswald, of Edina, Minn., also donated $1 million each to Kansas State and Wichita State universities.

Each donation created a professorship fund — like ones used to pay additional salary for distinguished professors — to bolster the salary of each university's chief executive.

Ten years later, that fund at KU provides about $70,000 of the chancellor's salary, said KU Endowment President Dale Seuferling. The rest of her salary — and all of the $60,000 increase the Regents approved last week — comes from the Endowment's Greater KU Fund, to which donors can make unrestricted gifts "to advance the university for a variety of purposes," Seuferling said.

A big majority of gifts to the Endowment come with specific instructions for their use, but some donors give money that the Endowment can use for any purpose at KU, with the approval of the Executive Committee of its Board of Trustees. Those go into the Greater KU Fund.

For the current fiscal year, which ends a week from today, donors have made 2,921 unrestricted gifts to the Endowment totaling about $2.3 million (an average of $800 per gift), according to numbers that Seuferling shared. The totals for restricted gifts are much higher: 80,576 gifts that add up to about $128.7 million, with an average gift of about $1,600.

For the coming year, around $151,000 of the chancellor's salary will come from the unrestricted fund. Over time, Seuferling said, the Regents have asked for privately funded increases to the chancellor's salary that exceed the amount available each year from the fund established by Oswald's donation. Those increases require approval from the Endowment's Executive Committee.

So, in sum, here's how the chancellor's salary will break down, roughly: $272,000 from state funds; $70,000 from the Endowment fund created to pay some of the chancellor's salary; and $151,000 from the Endowment's unrestricted fund.

Gray-Little's new base salary of $492,650, by the way, would rank 34th among public university leaders in the most recent survey on that subject published by the Chronicle of Higher Education (though that survey was for the 2012 fiscal year, and she'll make that salary in the 2014 fiscal year, so obviously other leaders' pay may have increased since then, as well). Her then-base pay of about $429,000 ranked 60th in the survey for that year. (Overall, she was the 86th highest-paid executive on the list, but that includes retirement and severance payouts, among other factors.)

The Regents said the raises for Gray-Little and the other leaders were designed to make their pay more competitive nationally, and this one would appear to do that.

I'm sorry if you didn't expect your Monday to include so much math. I'll stop throwing so many numbers at you, but only if you send me a KU news tip to divert my attention. Send 'em to

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    KU chancellor’s pay ranks 86th among U.S. public university leaders

    KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was the 86th-highest-paid public university executive in 2011-12, according to a report published this week by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Her total compensation of just more than $475,000 was an increase of about 0.8 percent from the previous year.

    The Chronicle's report analyzed the total compensation for the chief executives at 191 different public universities and university systems around the country for the 2012 fiscal year — roughly equivalent to the 2011-12 academic year. Four different executives made more than $1 million during that year. (For perspective: 36 different executives at private universities topped the $1 million mark during the 2010 calendar year.)

    The highest-paid public-university executive for the year was Graham Spanier, who was fired in November 2011 as president at Pennsylvania State University because of "insufficient action" related to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse allegations and now faces felony charges related to the Sandusky case. Under the circumstances, his big payday sounds pretty crazy, but it makes sense if you look at the details: Spanier had served in the job for 16 years, he was already the third-highest paid executive the year before and most of the $2.9 million he earned in 2011-12 came from severance and deferred compensation spelled out by his contract.

    Because the Chronicle analysis looks at total compensation and not just annual salaries, it includes things such as severance, retirement payouts and deferred compensation packages. That's one reason there are some university leaders near the top of the list that seem to be head-scratchers. (Auburn? George Mason? Ball State?)

    Gray-Little received about $429,000 in base pay (ranking 60th nationally), according to the Chronicle, plus retirement pay and $25,000 in annual deferred compensation that she is to receive whenever she leaves the job. (UPDATE: As KU spokesman Jack Martin pointed out to me, some of that pay comes from private donations and not state funds. For the 2012 fiscal year, about $267,000 of Gray-Little's salary was paid by state funds.)

    Among the 10 institutions that KU leaders consider "peer universities," her compensation ranked seventh. Her pay ranked below that for former KU provost Richard Lariviere as president of the University of Oregon, but the bulk of his $485,000 in compensation came from a severance payment he received when he was fired. She ranked below two different Penn State presidents, because Rodney Erickson earned nearly $550,000 after he replaced Spanier.

    Other Kansas executives included in the report were Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz, who ranked 131st with about $396,000 in compensation; and Donald Beggs, who retired in June 2012 as president of Wichita State University and ranked 182nd with about $303,000.

    Gray-Little does receive one benefit that the Chronicle reports is not included in the numbers because it's tough to quantify: She lives in a university-owned home (and has a university-owned car). The KU chancellor's residence, known as the Outlook, is worth about $2.4 million, according to the Chronicle.

    Those salary numbers can be interesting to poke around in, though I probably need to pull myself away now. Help me do that by sending a KU news tip to

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    KU chancellor writes that possible state budget cuts would mean loss of at least 38 faculty jobs

    For the second time in a few weeks, a message from KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little on Monday addresses state budget cuts. And this one puts a number on the kind of effect the possible cuts being debated by the Kansas Legislature might have.

    Gray-Little writes that the higher-education cuts being debated would force KU to eliminate at least 38 faculty jobs. That would seem to dampen the impact of the university's effort to fill 64 newly created faculty positions by a bit.

    KU spokesman Jack Martin clarified for me that the 38 number is referring to the higher-ed cut being pushed by state House budget leaders, which would be 4 percent across the board. (The Journal-World's Scott Rothschild reported last week that, on the eve of a monthlong break at the Statehouse, those leaders were backing off from those proposed cuts.) Senate leaders have recommended a 2 percent cut.

    Gray-Little's letter mentions fears that cuts could mean KU couldn't keep its top faculty from bolting to other universities that offer them more money, turning KU into a mere "farm team" for other institutions.

    That brings us back to some of that faculty salary survey information I was yapping about earlier today. That Chronicle of Higher Education report on salaries showed that the gap in faculty pay between private universities and public ones is growing wider every year. In a story on the trend, the president of Florida State University also uses the "farm team" phrase, saying it's already happening there because of budget cuts.

    The difference is even bigger at the top of the faculty pay scale: Full professors are earning an average of $140,000 at private colleges and about $110,000 at public ones. Around the country, state cuts are hampering budgets at some public universities, but private institutions haven't had to worry about that.

    At KU, Gray-Little writes, the elimination of faculty jobs would mean KU wouldn't fill jobs left by departing professors. As Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Danny Anderson told me in February, this means that the reduction in force can have little to do with where the most teaching and research is needed; it all comes down to who happens to retire or take another job.

    We'll keep you updated on what happens. But only if you keep up your end of the deal and get those KU news tips to

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    KU links: Chancellor’s message on state funding; texting and driving; your crunchy chicken wrap update of the day

    Many things are published on the Internet each week. Some of them mention KU. Here is your weekly roundup of those.

    • As the Kansas Legislature contemplates possible funding cuts for higher education, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little's office published a message from her arguing against such cuts for KU and other state universities.

    • Men's Health magazine has an item about texting and driving, and as many people do when they're talking about texting and driving, the writer consulted with KU psychology professor Paul Atchley, who knows a thing or two about it.

    • The Kansas City Star covered a talk by Shane Lopez, a professor of the practice at the KU School of Business, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He talked about the power of hope, a subject he wrote a book about. If you find it interesting, I suggest you watch the pages of the Journal-World later this week.

    • Runner's World magazine reported on a forthcoming study from some KU Medical Center researchers on how certain types of shoes can affect the way teenagers run.

    • And now that all that fluff is out of the way, we've got what you've really come here for: Your Crunchy Chicken Cheddar Wrap Update Of The Day. It seems the KU Memorial Unions have pounced on the wrap's run through this Cooking Channel college food bracket and are putting together a full-fledged get-out-the-vote campaign.

    The Unions bought a URL to promote the wrap's tourney run: And they've made banners promoting the wrap, which I'm told are posted at the KU Union and the Underground at Wescoe Hall. You may also encounter some students who've been hired to wander around campus carrying posters and banners, as well.

    A banner on the fourth floor of the Kansas Union. Photo courtesy of KU Memorial Unions.

    A banner on the fourth floor of the Kansas Union. Photo courtesy of KU Memorial Unions. by Matt Erickson

    The wrap is leading Syracuse University's honey buns handily, as of Monday afternoon. Voting on this round of the bracket runs through 2 p.m. Wednesday.

    We're sure that the chicken wrap's sterling performance so far is due largely to the Heard on the Hill polling bump, measured before many times by novelty online bracket scientists. It's a phenomenon that can continue only with your help, so send those KU news tips to

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    In Kansas House testimony, KU chancellor says energy-efficiency effort has saved $3 million

    On the same day that a Kansas Senate committee cut $10 million for a new KU Medical Center education building from its budget plan, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little testified to a different committee Monday, this one in the state House of Representatives.

    KU posted her testimony, which was before the House Education Budget Committee, online. You can read it for a look at how KU is pitching its importance to the state.

    Gray-Little runs through a lot of the developments, initiatives and accomplishments that were listed in her "State of the University" video a couple weeks back. There's perhaps an additional emphasis on some programs that reach out to various parts of the state — for instance, the School of Business RedTire program that matches rural small-business owners with recent graduates who can take the reins, ensuring those businesses don't fade away.

    One other thing I noticed: Gray-Little reported that an energy-savings effort, conducted as part of a $25 million contract with an Overland Park firm, has saved the university about $3 million so far. KU may have reported that figure elsewhere, but this is the first time I've seen it.

    The last time we reported on the effort, done with the help of Energy Solutions Professionals of Overland Park, was about a year ago. KU had just about finished all the work, a lot of which involved more efficient ventilation of the scientific labs in Malott and Haworth halls, and was waiting to see how much savings would result.

    According to Gray-Little's testimony, the contract guarantees a total of $31 million in savings over 15 years.

    Obtaining a breakdown of how exactly those savings were achieved is among the items on my to-do list. So let me know if you're curious about any aspect of the energy savings in particular.

    Then set your computer to its most energy-friendly power settings possible before you email your KU news tips to

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    KU chancellor’s video urges Congress to prevent sequestration, making it feel like last 6 weeks of 2012 again

    Ah, November and December 2012 — it was a time that seems so long ago, back when "Gangnam Style" had only just become the most-viewed YouTube video of all time and made me feel as though popular culture had permanently passed me by, when we could not even conceive of a power outage at the Super Bowl, and when we were all talking about the "fiscal cliff."

    If, like me, you've been feeling nostalgic for those heady days of two-ish months ago, here's something for you. Officials from universities around the country are once again warning about the potential damage of a pending federal budget sequestration, and KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little is one of them.

    Once again, federal research agencies are facing a mandatory budget cut if Congress does not do anything about it, this time by March 1. This one would be a cut of about 5 percent, which would apparently fall short of qualifying as a "fiscal cliff," as no one is calling it that anymore.

    Gray-Little is among a number of university officials from around the country to record video messages to Congress asking members to "stop the sequester." This was done through ScienceWorksForU.S., an effort created by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities last year as the "fiscal cliff" approached.

    All jokes aside, such cuts to research funding could have serious consequences for KU and other research universities. In her clip, Gray-Little talks about how federal dollars make it possible for KU to conduct research on subjects ranging from cancer to alternative fuels to history. Black and Veatch executive Jim Lewis chimes in to say that research universities like KU help to produce engineers for firms like his to hire.

    Close your eyes and you can imagine we're back in that magical month-and-a-half or so at the end of 2012, when we first found out that Kate Middleton was pregnant and were all making jokes about the "Mayan" Apocalypse.

    Send me your reminiscences of late 2012, or preferably your KU news tips, via

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    KU releases ‘State of the University’ video

    The KU chancellor's office today released a 2013 "State of the University" video, which you can watch on YouTube:

    Narrated by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, the six-minute video starts with a nice piece of symbolism: a shot of the flags atop Fraser Hall as Gray-Little says her first words, "Flagship university" — a phrase you'll hear KU leaders use often.

    The chancellor then runs through a list of accomplishments, developments and ongoing efforts at KU: student and faculty honors, National Cancer Institute designation for the KU Cancer Center, faculty hiring efforts and a lot more.

    And there's a lot of footage of faculty and students in classrooms, labs, libraries and elsewhere, so there's a good chance you'll spot a face you know.

    An accompanying report from the chancellor is also posted on her office's website.

    The state of Heard on the Hill is quite satisfied, because we just finished lunch. Keep us feeling that way by sending your KU news tips to