Posts tagged with Kansas University

Office hours 9 a.m.-noon tomorrow at Kansas Union

We're short on time here at Heard on the Hill HQ, so today we've just got a quick reminder: Tomorrow's the second Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time for Heard on the Hill Office Hours.

You can come see me from 9 a.m. to noon in the Media Crossroads at the Kansas Union. If you've got a question, a comment, a suggestion, or perhaps a haiku you've composed about our KU news coverage, now's the time to come tell me about it.

If you actually do read me a haiku, I promise to reproduce it in full on this blog, as long as it's fit for a family-oriented publication. If it's another form of poetry, I'll consider it.

If you need some more KU news, read about late KU paleontologist Larry Martin, if you haven't already. I'm sad I did not get a chance to meet him, but at least I got to learn about him, and that was a blast.

And if you absolutely CAN'T make it to my office hours tomorrow, send those KU news tips to I will accept poetry only if recited by you in person.


KU links: Former provost Lariviere confronts budget problems at Field Museum

Your weekly roundup of KU mentions in the news from around the country, a bit of a light one this time:

• Less than 18 months after he was fired as president of the University of Oregon, former KU provost Richard Lariviere's new job is not shaping up as an easy one.

Lariviere took over in October 2012 as director of the Field Museum in Chicago. I just visited the museum a couple months ago and had a fine time, but that apparently was not enough to help it overcome some serious budget issues that developed well before Lariviere came aboard.

The Chicago Tribune has reported pretty extensively the past week on the museum's troubles. It seems that last decade the museum borrowed many millions of dollars to pay for improvement projects, and then the recession hit. That has left it with no choice but to cut its budget.

Of the museum's two missions — providing the public museum for visitors and conducting scientific research — it appears the research side is likely to face more cuts, the Tribune reports. The museum's scientists pushed back against that idea during a meeting with Lariviere late last week.

• Time magazine wrote about a new book by Shane Lopez, a professor of the practice in the KU School of Business, called "Making Hope Happen." Lopez tells the magazine what he's learned about how hope and how it helps in business and academics.

• Carol Holstead and Doug Ward, both associate professors of journalism at KU, authored a blog post for the Chronicle of Higher Education about how instructors can use social media, Facebook and Tumblr in this case, to get students engaged.

I'm choosing to believe that if I'm hopeful that I'll receive KU news tips from you, it will happen. Please help this come true by getting those tips in to


KU events this week: Marrow drive, NPR White House correspondent talk, provost lecture on ‘big data’

Your weekly KU events roundup, on a Monday during which, as I write, sub-freezing temperatures remind us that there's still another week to go before spring break:

• As we told you last week, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the KU Credit Union, 3400 W. Sixth St., is a marrow donor drive in honor of 2012 KU grad Laura Hollar, who's battling leukemia.

• KU Provost Jeff Vitter is also a distinguished professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and he'll show off his computer chops in a lecture Tuesday called "Finding your Way in a Compressed World." The topic sounds intriguing: He'll talk about how humongous piles of information, used ever more these days and often referred to as "big data," can be compressed and searched in a manageable way. (The compressed version of the lecture's title, according to a KU release, is "&W$!h")

This is his inaugural lecture, a tradition for KU distinguished professors, in his Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor post. The talk will be 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Alderson Auditorium at the Kansas Union.

• Tuesday evening brings another date on the Dole Institute of Politics spring semester lineup: "An Evening with Scott Horsley." Horsley is National Public Radio's White House correspondent, and he'll sit down for a chat with Dole Institute Director Bill Lacy that you're permitted — nay, encouraged — to listen to. That's at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Dole Institute.

KU-based Kansas Public Radio is also a host, as it celebrates its 60th anniversary. KPR has an entertaining Q -and-A with Horsley on its website to get you pumped up, in which he talks about the time he gave the president a piece of his mom's zucchini bread and other tidbits.

In case you can't make it to the Dole Institute, the KU School of Journalism will also be broadcasting the event live on Knology or KU ResNet channel 31 and AT&T channel 99, as well as streaming it online at this link right here.

• Also on Tuesday — this is shaping up to be a busy day — the KU Honors Program will serve up another entry in its lecture series on "The Digital Humanities": Kathryn Tomasek. an associate professor of history at Wheaton College in Illinois, will give a talk called "Oh My Dear Father! Uncovering Religious Networks through a Daughter's Journal." She and her students conduct digital research of the history of the college. That's at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in The Commons at Spooner Hall.

• The KU Natural History Museum has another of its Science on Tap events, uh, on tap: Sharon Billings, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, will discuss how plants and soil serve to regulate the climate here on Earth, and how humans are changing that. That's 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St.

• And, as you may have seen last week, award-winning author Edwidge Danticat will visit for a lecture 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union, as well as an informal Q-and-A session 10 a.m. Thursday at the Hall Center for the Humanities.

I've surely missed something someone feels is of interest. But on this wild and wonderful world of the Web, you have the power to share news with the entire world with a few taps on your keyboard. By which I mean you can just post any other events this week in the comments below. And send your KU news tips to


KU Natural History Museum offering bilingual event on animals of Latin America on Saturday

This month's family-oriented Science Saturday event at the KU Natural History Museum has an interesting twist. In addition to a Science Saturday, it will also be a Ciencia Sabado.

If you speak both Spanish and English, that sentence probably seemed like nonsense to you, kind of like if you say "the Los Angeles Angels" ("the The Angels Angels," if you translate it all to English) when talking about the baseball team.

But what I'm trying to say is that the event will be bilingual, with guides speaking in both English and Spanish. And that's especially appropriate in this case, because the Science Saturday program is about animals of Latin America.

KU Biodiversity Institute researchers, including some graduate students from different Latin American countries, will be available to talk in both languages with visitors while specimens of beetles, reptiles, amphibians and birds are on display.

The event is from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the museum in Dyche Hall, and it's free. There will be children's activities and brief museum tours provided in Spanish, as well. KU's Center for Latin American Studies is helping out, too.

You can submit your KU news tips to me in any language you like, as long as you send them to


Proposed course requirements for CLAS students would still require foreign language, lab experience, but no Western Civ

KU's new Core Curriculum, as it will be presented to freshmen starting in the fall, is taking its final form right now. It will apply to all undergraduates, but KU's individual schools also are figuring out what kinds of general-education requirements they might like to have above and beyond the roughly 36 credit hours' worth that will be in the Core.

That includes KU's biggest school, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Faculty and some student representatives in the College will be voting soon to establish requirements for its biggest degree track, the Bachelor of Arts. That's according to a letter distributed last month by Danny Anderson, the dean of the CLAS. He also included some proposed requirements from a committee.

Students seeking a BA currently have 72 credit hours' worth of general-education requirements. That's well more than half of the 120 hours required for a bachelor's degree, and a figure commonly cited by KU leaders as way out of line with other universities.

The proposed new requirements for the BA would require a maximum of 56 credit hours' worth of gen-ed courses, but most students wouldn't actually need to take that many (more on that below). It would include three additional requirements beyond those that will apply to all undergrads, as Anderson suggested when he told me late last year that the College would still be giving students a well-rounded liberal arts education.

Those extra requirements include an extra "quantitative" course beyond the one required by the Core; four semesters' worth of proficiency in a foreign language; and a laboratory or field experience, such as a laboratory science course, that will give students experience doing scientific work. Those all echo similar existing requirements for the BA.

Students probably won't have to take all 56 hours, according to the proposal, because they may use transfer or Advanced Placement credits, use some courses to fill more than one requirement, test out of some foreign language courses if they took some classes in high school, etc.

As you may note, those proposed requirements do not include the Western Civilization sequence currently required for a BA from the College. We reported a while back that Western Civ would likely no longer be universally required.

The College will likely vote on those new requirements sometime in the next week, CLAS communications director Kristi Henderson told me.

You can count on Heard on the Hill to continue to provide a well-rounded education on all things KU for you. But it will be even more well-rounded if you send a KU news tip right now to .

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KU student leaders pushing for consistent grade system

Here's a situation: Two friends, both KU students, are both enrolled in an introductory psychology course this semester. After the final, they've both scored, say, a 91.4 percent for the class.

For one student, this is great news. She's gotten an A and 4 whole, meaty grade points to contribute to her GPA. But for her friend, things aren't so rosy: She gets an A-minus, which comes with only 3.7 grade points. That's because they're in different sections of the class, with different instructors. Friend 2 is furious, or at least pretty annoyed, and doesn't talk to Friend 1 for a couple of days.

This is a hypothetical story, with some dramatic embellishment by me, but it's based on stories that KU student body vice president Brandon Woodard says he's heard from some other students.

You see, some KU schools and departments opt to use a plus/minus grading system, awarding fewer grade points for an A-minus than for an A, more points for a B-plus than for a B, etc. Others opt to use a straight letter-grade system: If you get a 90 percent or above, you get the A and all 4 grade points.

But other departments allow instructors to choose which system to use. That, Woodard says, can cause inconsistencies like the one described above, especially in the case of classes with lots of different sections.

Woodard and some other student government leaders are trying to change this, proposing a policy that would require each department to decide on a uniform grading system for each of its courses.

I'd like to check in on this effort at some point and report on it in more detail, but in the meantime I'm curious: Are there any students out there who've run into a scenario similar to the one I laid out above? Or perhaps an instructor who would like to preserve his or her ability to choose a grading system? Or are most people indifferent?

If any of those applies to you, email me at Send your KU news tips there, too. (I reserve the right to grade your news tips on any scale I choose: plus/minus, straight letter grades, non-numeric symbols based on how it makes me feel, which television character I think your news tip most resembles, etc.)

EDIT (8:25 a.m. Thursday): Brandon Woodard, as you may know, is KU's student body vice president. Hannah Bolton is the student body president. Last night I left out the word "vice" in Woodard's title. That's fixed now.

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Skipping class costs KU students as much as $70 each time

The University Daily Kansan published an interesting little math project today: How much tuition money are KU students throwing out the window if they skip class?

The newspaper crunched some numbers to figure out how much students are paying per individual lecture or class meeting, and therefore how high the "cost" is for skipping a day's worth of class at a time when higher education has never been more expensive.

A first-time freshman paying in-state tuition this year is throwing away about $18.30 if she skips a class that meets three times a week, the Kansan calculated, or about $27.40 if it's a class that meets twice a week. For out-of-state first-year freshmen this year, the cost is steeper: $47.60 per class session if it meets three times a week, or $71.40 if it meets twice a week.

(Those numbers have to be specified for first-time freshmen because of KU's Four-Year Tuition Compact, which locks students in at a steady tuition rate set before their freshman year. For, say, a senior, the cost per class would be a bit lower, because students who started at KU in fall 2009 when tuition was lower are still paying a lower rate now.)

Some KU schools, including business and journalism, charge higher tuition rates, making those courses more costly to skip.

And, of course, tuition is far from the only college expense. Students are also paying for room and board, fees, books and more.

You could probably have an interesting philosophical discussion about what students are really paying for when they pay tuition — are they paying for the time spent in class, or more for the knowledge and skills they gain from the whole experience, or really more for the credit they receive at the end, if they're a bit more cynical? But whatever the case, the math is interesting to think about.

You know, something that definitely doesn't cost you anything is sending your KU news tips to us. Send them to, but not during class. (Unless your instructor has assigned you to do so, in which case: Bravo, instructor!)

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KU links: Law professor a finalist for dean job at New Mexico

Some KU news tidbits for you from around the country:

• Melanie Wilson, a KU professor of law and an associate dean in the School of Law, is one of four finalists to be the new dean of the law school at the University of New Mexico, reports the Albuquerque Journal. She'll be visiting the campus for some public forums later this month, per the UNM website.

• David Ekerdt, a professor of sociology and director of KU's Gerontology Center, talked with the Washington Post about how retirement can affect people's health. (Not that much, he says.)

• Two people from KU's Biodiversity Institute discussed with National Geographic a recent finding of a scar on a piece of fossilized skin from a duckbill dinosaur — the "first clear case of a healed dinosaur wound." Bruce Rothschild, an adjunct research associate at the Biodiversity Institute, was a co-author of the journal article describing the find, and paleontologist David Burnham also is quoted.

• The Biodiversity Institute also popped up in Wired magazine, where paleoentomologist Michael Engel was quoted in a story on how scientists are learning more about the colors of ancient insects, which are often dulled on the fossilized specimens they study.

What will scientists make of the fossilized remains of these Heard on the Hill posts when they're discovered one day? I don't know, but it's probably best if you send as many KU news tips as possible to, to make sure these posts aren't lost in the sands of time, or something like that.


KU events this week: Sporting KC CEO, Chinese restaurants in Israel and elsewhere, manhood and violence

Your events roundup for what will presumably be the first week uninterrupted by weather at KU since mid-February:

• Robb Heineman, CEO and co-owner of the Sporting Kansas City Major League Soccer club, will be at the Dole Institute of Politics on Tuesday for a talk called "Reinventing the Empire" about how he steered the team to success. Dole Institute Director Bill Lacy talked a bit about the event when it was announced in January. That's at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Dole Institute.

• Investigative journalist James B. Steele, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and two National Magazine Awards, will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union.

• The KU Honors Program, also on Wednesday, will start a weekly-except-for-spring-break screening of a documentary series called "Chinese Restaurants." The series has five parts and an interesting concept: Filmmakers take a look at how Chinese identity and culture has spread throughout the world by visiting family-run Chinese restaurants all over the globe. Each installment visits restaurants in a different region.

At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Nunemaker Center on Daisy Hill, the Honors Program will screen the first two episodes — one that focuses on restaurants in Israel, South Africa and Turkey and one that tours Mauritius, Trinidad and Cuba. Further installments will be shown at 7:30 p.m. March 13 and 27 at Nunemaker, and then 6 p.m. April 3 at the Spencer Museum of Art Auditorium.

• On Thursday, another lecture will examine how cultures define manhood and how that relates to violence. Jackson Katz, an author and scholar who created a widely used sexual and domestic violence prevention program, will give a talk called "More Than a Few Good Men: A Conversation about Manhood, Violence and Doing the Right Thing," which by my count includes references to at least two movie titles. He's the author of a book called "The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help."

It's sponsored by KU's Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity. Speaking of that office and examinations of manhood: This weekend we profiled a student on the center's "Men of Merit" calendar who overcame some trouble early in his KU career, in case you missed it.

You hopefully know the drill by now: KU is a big place with a lot of things going on, so I may have missed something you think is of interest. If that's the case, add it in below in the comments. And send your KU news tips to


KU Queers and Allies group bringing Phelps’ estranged son to speak

KU's Queers and Allies student group has an event coming up that caught my eye: a visit from Nate Phelps.

That's Nate Phelps, the estranged son of Fred Phelps, the longtime leader of Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church. The KU Student Senate last week approved the use of $1,000 in student-fee funds to bring him in to speak on campus in April.

Nate left the church and his family on his 18th birthday, more than 30 years ago. Since then he has spoken out against the church, known for its anti-gay protests at funerals and other events, and in favor of rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.

KU junior Ailee Cassel, the president of the Queers and Allies group, told me he's set to speak on April 19, during the group's monthlong pride celebration called "Gaypril." She said the time and location of the talk hadn't yet been nailed down. She said she'd heard a lot of curiosity about the Phelps family recently, which was part of why the group extended the invitation, but she wasn't sure how much Nate might talk about the family during his speech.

We'll let you know when more details are worked out. In the meantime, keep those KU news tips coming to

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