Your weekly KU campus events roundup:
• Author and radio host Peter Sagal will speak at 7 p.m. today in the newly remodeled Kansas Union ballroom, on the fifth floor. Sagal is the longtime host of the NPR quiz show "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" and his talk tonight is on "Current Events: Why Satire is the Only Reasonable Response to the Times We Live In."
• That talk was organized by the Student Union Activities group, and it's a busy week for the students down there. At 7 p.m. Tuesday in Woodruff Auditorium at the Union, SUA will sponsor a "Comedy and Pizza Night" featuring the improvisational comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade (founded by famous super-funny person Amy Poehler). You can watch the troupe perform and eat some pizza for free if you're a student with a KU ID card, or for $5 if you're just a regular person. And then at 8 p.m. Wednesday, the professional step dance company Step Afrika! will perform in the Union Ballroom. That one is also free for KU students or $5 for others.
• Also on Wednesday is what sounds like quite the interesting debate about technology and some hefty philosophical ideas. At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in The Commons at Spooner Hall, a visiting philosophy professor from Dartmouth will debate a KU computer scientist about our increasing dependence on computers and technology and what that means for our future. James Moor, a professor of intellectual and moral philosophy at Dartmouth, will present a dystopian perspective on the issue. Perry Alexander, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at KU, will counter with the more optimistic utopian perspective. Will computers rise up and destroy us, are they our best friends forever or is there some more nuanced conclusion? It's probably that last choice, but this talk should be interesting nonetheless.
As always, I can't hope to sum up everything happening on campus this week here. So if there's anything you'd like to add, post it in the comments below. And keep those news tips coming to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eleven students, three staffers and one faculty member are Men of Merit this year at KU.
The Men of Merit are honored on a poster each year by KU's Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity for being on-campus leaders who challenge masculine stereotypes. The 2013 class is the fifth one since the program began in 2009, based off a suggestion from a KU football player.
I have not met most of these fellows, but no fewer than two of them came to visit me during my office hours Wednesday (stay tuned for more news on that front next week), and that certainly makes them worthy of recognition in my book.
So congratulations to the whole group:
• Students: senior Sam Schroeder, senior Ryan Moulder, graduate student Seyool Oh, senior Coulter Cranston, senior Ryan Burton, senior Brandon Rogers, first-year pharmacy student Cameron Johnson, graduate student Dillon Pearson, junior Thomas Plummer, senior Eric Driscoll and senior Matt Visser.
• Faculty and staff: Philip Lowcock, director of records and coordinator, International Student-Athlete Support; Mauricio Gomez Montoya, retention specialist, Office of Multicultural Affairs; Rueben Perez, director of the Student Involvement and Leadership Center; and Jonathan Earle, associate professor of history.
The Men of Merit poster came about as a companion to the annual Women of Distinction calendar poster, which was developed in 2003. The Women of Distinction for this school year were announced in August.
We here at Heard on the Hill aren't really authorized to award pronouncements of distinction or merit, but if we had to choose people for such titles they would likely be the kind folks who send their KU news tips to email@example.com.
Sorry, folks, but this Valentine's-related post is quite a bit less whimsical than our previous one.
You may have seen media reports about two new studies released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just in time for Valentine's Day, about the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections. The studies showed there were about 110 million incidences of STIs in the year 2008.
Well, one of those two studies was conducted by epidemiologist Catherine Satterwhite, who's an assistant professor of preventive medicine and public health in the KU School of Medicine. She worked for the CDC for more than 10 years before coming to KU.
The studies show "an ongoing, severe STI epidemic," Satterwhite told NBC News.
To whine about how I'm a Valentine's downer, or send me your KU news tips, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
I have no doubt that our regular Heard on the Hill readers with significant others have their stuff together enough that by today, Feb. 13, they've got Valentine's gift plans ready.
But just in case you're a new reader (Welcome!), or you want something else to pile on top of your gift stack, here's something you can put together as long as you've got a printer and your Valentine enjoys KU paraphernalia.
The KU Alumni Association offers you six downloadable and foldable KU-themed Valentine's cards right here. Each of them contains a lovely romantic message, and two of them contain adorable mini-mascot Baby Jay. All the instructions you need are on that page.
As much as you might be tempted to send a Valentine's card our way, that's really not necessary. Instead, send your KU news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you watched President Obama's State of the Union address last night, you may have heard him mention a new "College Scorecard" to help prospective students figure out where they'll get the most educational value.
Well, the Scorecard is up and running now on the White House website. If offers a database of colleges and universities around the country with four basic numbers on each: the average cost to attend, six-year graduation rate, the rate of student-loan defaults and the median amount borrowed by students in federal loans.
One category of information it does not have yet — which might be the most interesting — is job and wage information for graduates. But it suggests that info might come later.
I, of course, took a peek at KU's page. Each metric includes a graphic comparing it to the rest of the country. KU ranks on the low end of the "medium" range when it comes to average net costs; in the "high" range with its 60.7 percent graduation rate (though KU leaders want to bump that number up to around 70); and right about in the middle in the area of median borrowing. Its loan default rate, 4.3 percent, is well below the national average of 13.4 percent of federal student-loan borrowers who default within three years.
Below are the numbers for KU and a few other big state universities in the middle of the country:
KU — Average net cost: $14,768 per year. Graduation rate: 60.7 percent. Loan default rate: 4.3 percent. Median borrowing: $214.34 per month.
Kansas State University — Cost: $14,352. Grad rate: 56 percent. Default rate: 4.5 percent. Borrowing: $225.85/month.
Iowa State University — Cost: $13,554. Grad rate: 67.5 percent. Default rate: 4 percent. Borrowing: $250.30/month.
University of Iowa — Cost: $14,245. Grad rate: 70.8 percent. Default rate: 2.9 percent. Borrowing: $235.91/month.
University of Missouri-Columbia — Cost: $15,759. Grad rate: 68.9 percent. Default rate: 3.9 percent. Borrowing: $223.29/month.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln — Cost: $13,108. Grad rate: 66.7 percent. Default rate: 3.7 percent. Borrowing: $218.66/month.
At that point, I had to pull myself away. But poke around yourself for more.
You can fill out a scorecard for Heard on the Hill, if you like, and send it to email@example.com. But please also include a KU news tip, if you've got one.
Before his talk about George Washington on Sunday, I chatted with presidential historian and former Dole Institute of Politics director Richard Norton Smith about what he's up to these days (finishing up a 1,200-page book, plus a "couple thousand footnotes," on Nelson Rockefeller, for one).
But we also chatted about where the Dole Institute is now compared with his time there, when he oversaw the construction of the building in which we were sitting. (Not that I had to ask many questions; that guy is a talker, which might have something to do with why his presidential talks are pretty popular.)
He said he's thrilled with where the institute is now and how it's progressed under Bill Lacy's leadership. It attracts crowds to its events while staying lean and efficient in a way that Bog Dole himself would appreciate, he said. "It's more than lived up to our hopes," says Smith, who left the institute in 2003.
But he also couldn't help dreaming a bit about what it could still become. The Dole building was purposefully designed so that it could be expanded, Smith said, and, boy, wouldn't it be nice if there were an auditorium tacked on to the north end, or an outdoor amphitheater around the artificial lake out front?
Right now the Institute holds its events in its main hall. It's certainly nice to look at, and it seats several hundred folks, but I've often seen crowds overflowing into a media room where people can watch on a projector screen. I can certainly see how an auditorium would come in handy.
The KU administration has always been supportive of the Dole Institute, Smith emphasized, and he thinks the building is beautiful. But if any potential donors out there would like to make a 90th birthday tribute to Bob Dole this July 22 (also the building's 10th anniversary), he has an idea: chip in for a bolstered endowment.
"When you succeed, it's easy to be taken for granted," Smith said, "but hopefully there's no one around here taking the success of the Dole Institute for granted."
By the way, even though Smith will be talking about John Adams over at the Dole Institute when President Obama starts his State of the Union address tonight, he previewed Obama's talk for the Wall Street Journal in this web video. He Skyped in straight from the Dole Institute, you'll notice.
And here's your final reminder in this space: My first Heard on the Hill office hours are tomorrow (Wednesday), 9 a.m. to noon in the Media Crossroads at the Kansas Union. This is your chance to ask me a question, tell me about something I should be writing about or just tell me what you really think of me. You can always send your KU news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, of course, but still: Come see me!
A new feature here at Heard on the Hill, which we'll pull out every week or whenever enough news piles up to merit it: a roundup of recent KU faculty/staff news and media mentions:
• KU psychology professor Paul Atchley, who's no stranger to the national media, talked to the Washington Post about using psychological methods to get people to use less energy in their homes.
• Jeffrey Hall, assistant professor of communication studies, chimes in on the effect of technology on courtship in the Vancouver Sun.
• After the Chinese calendar turned to the Year of the Snake, KU Biodiversity Institute herpetologist Andrew Campbell talked with National Geographic about how the traits ascribed to snakes by astrology compare to what they're like in real life.
• And Lorraine Haricombe, KU's dean of libraries, was elected chairwoman of the steering committee for a national group of academic libraries: the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (per a KU release).
Keep this thing stocked by continuing to send those KU news tips my way: email@example.com.
Your weekly sampling of upcoming events around KU:
• The KU Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Institute will show off its newly completed $3.5 million renovations during a reception from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday. Tours will show visitors all the high-tech stuff there that will help scientists and students expand their research, including the cryogenic tanks I saw last week, which I thought were pretty cool. The space at the event will be limited, though, so organizers ask that you RSVP if you want to go: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 864-4540.
• Historian Richard Norton Smith's second lecture on America's first presidents, on John Adams, will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Dole Institute of Politics. I checked out his talk on George Washington on Sunday, and he promised his Adams discussion would include the rise of the first U.S. political parties, which he said were far nastier than the parties we sometimes consider so polarized today.
• From 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday will be my first-ever Heard on the Hill Office Hours at the Media Crossroads in the Kansas Union. Please come say hello and tell me what's on your mind.
• A Nobel Prize winner will pitch "A Next-Generation Solution for Funding Retirement" in a talk at the Dole Institute at 1 p.m. Friday.
• And an "It Gets Better" program featuring the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles will address youth bullying, 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lied Center. Check out that link for some other related events during the week, as well.
There are far more events than this, of course, and if there are any you'd like to add, chime in via the comments below. And get those KU news tips to email@example.com.
You know, when I started writing about KU, I was enchanted by the idea of getting back on the campus. In my mind, I'd be strolling down Jayhawk Boulevard again, calculating in my head how long it would take me to walk from Budig Hall down to the Kansas Union, pretending I was back in college. (Students: When you're not in college anymore, you're going to want to pretend you're back in college.)
And sure, I'm no stranger to campus these days. But, you see, I've got all this "work" that occupies a lot of my time: writing stories, firing off phone calls and emails, crafting these blog entries that you follow so very devotedly.
So I end up spending most of my time cooped up in the Journal-World's News Center. It's a lovely building, but it does not allow me to soak in that campus feeling. And more importantly, you are not here.
Hence, an announcement: Next week I'll be holding my first-ever Heard on the Hill Office Hours on the KU campus. From 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, my "office" will be the Media Crossroads at the Kansas Union. That's the room just to your right when you come in the main entrance on the fourth floor, near Alderson Auditorium, with one bright green wall. I'll be there with my laptop and perhaps a cup of coffee.
Yes, it will give me an excuse to come to campus. But the real point is that you, a person on campus, can come talk to me. Whether you're a student, staffer or faculty member, please come tell me what stories you think I should be telling, what you didn't like about my article last week or what else is on your mind. Or ask me anything you want.
Cal Butcher, the Media Crossroads director, has kindly offered up the space for me to use Wednesday morning. I like to think this fits nicely into the School of Journalism's goal with that space: to help people tell stories. I may continue to have Heard on the Hill Office Hours there every week or two, or I may rotate times and spots on campus so everyone who wants to can make it.
But for this to work, I need you to come see me. Please come say "Hi."
And if you want to come by but that time and place doesn't work, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, as always, send your KU news tips that way, as well. (Or, better yet: Come tell me in person on Wednesday.)