Last year, a group of minority and underrepresented students trying to establish their own separate “multicultural student government” at the University of Kansas cited unfairness in the current Student Senate election process as one reason such a body was needed. Among other things, they complained that the election spending limit was too expensive for all to afford.
There isn’t going to be a separate multicultural student government. But there is now something to help students secure more money to campaign for election to the existing Student Senate, starting in the spring: KU Endowment’s Equitable Student Elections Fund.
Senate leaders worked with KU Endowment over summer break to recruit donors and set up the fund, Student Body President Stephonn Alcorn said.
Money, administered through KU’s Office of Student Affairs, will help student coalitions meet the Senate’s current $1,000 campaign spending limit, according to a Senate news release summarizing the fund. Coalitions can receive up to $700, though they must raise at least $300 on their own first. Funding amounts will be based on the coalition’s percentage of candidates slated for the election.
“The purpose of this fund is to eliminate inherent monetary disadvantages and inequities in the Student Senate elections process,” according to the release. “This will allow for the broader participation of all students in student government, especially the voices of those most underrepresented.”
For context, Alcorn pointed out that up until a few years ago there was no cap on election spending and some coalitions spent $10,000 or even more. But, he said, $1,000 is still a lot of money.
“That number kind of still serves as a barrier,” he said. “It should really be about a student’s leadership experience and their ideas.”
How much money have donors ponied up for this cause? I asked, but KU Endowment representatives and Senate leaders declined to share the amount raised. Senate communications director Connor Birzer said, “We want to keep the integrity of the donors and students who will benefit from the fund.”
Alcorn said he was pleased with pledges so far and optimistic the effort will be a success.
— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at email@example.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.
Earlier this year I wrote about how Kansas University Endowment was foraying into crowdfunding-style campaigns with a new effort called Launch KU. (In case you missed that story, click here to read it now.) There's a new batch of Launch KU projects open now. Obviously KU Endowment is looking for money to achieve these things, but I also think they’re fun to look through to see some of the small-scale projects going on around campus.
Here’s a snippet about each of the four new campaigns, which are open until mid-July.
“Investing in the Next Generation of Film and Media Studies” — This campaign seeks $100,000 to use toward the conversion of Summerfield Hall (which the KU School of Business is vacating, as we speak, to move into the newly constructed Capitol Federal Hall) into a new home for KU’s department of film and media studies, which has long operated off-campus out of Oldfather Studios at 1621 W. 9th St. Donations are requested for equipment, including heavy-duty portable lighting for shooting on location and microphones for the recording studio.
“Bring the T. rex home to KU Natural History Museum” — The KU Natural History Museum is trying to raise $16,700 to send KU scientists and students to Montana, where they’ll spend four weeks looking for pieces of a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil in hopes of bringing it home to the university, which already has 15 percent of this particular fossil. Money is needed for tools, transportation and lodging.
“WP4KU - Opening Paths to Individual Opportunity aNd Success” — This student retention effort goes by the acronym “OPTIONS,” and it’s seeking $3,000. It’s a summer residential program for first-generation college students from traditionally underrepresented groups, low-income students and students who are underprepared for college work.
“Support free performing arts experiences for preschoolers” — This is the only one of the four new campaigns that offers prizes for donating: for $100 you can join adorable little kids on stage for the 2016-17 Performing Arts 3to5 performance, and for $250 you can bring five friends up with you. The campaign seeks $6,500 for three seasons' worth of funding for the Lied Center’s Performing Arts 3to5, which gives area preschoolers a chance to experience a live, interactive show for free.
For details on any of the projects or to donate, go to www.launchku.org.
A few other projects you may have noticed around campus, or might if you find yourself walking around in the near future:
• The Burge is no more: As you can see from this picture I took recently, the building's demolition is complete — and then some, it seems. Work continues on KU's Central District redevelopment.
• Sensory Pavilion at KU Audio-Reader: The KU architecture department’s Dirt Works Studio class recently designed and built this new structure in the Audio-Reader Sensory Garden, near the Baehr Audio-Reader Center at 1120 W. 11th St. Read more about it here.
• Window to the world: The Spencer Museum of Art’s ongoing renovations include cutting out some walls to create a view of Marvin Grove, the lovely natural area the building is located on but virtually no one inside has ever been able to see while inside. Looks like that step has happened.
— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage at KUToday.com. Reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.
UPDATE: I need to clarify something about the post below, because the KU Endowment number and The Chronicle of Higher Education numbers aren’t totally apples to apples.
The $184.6 million from my story represents the amount of money KU Endowment gave to KU last year. The Chronicle numbers represent the amount of money donors gave to universities’ respective non-profits — the step that comes prior to endowment associations then turning around and giving money to the universities themselves.
The apples to apples number for KU, according to Lisa Scheller of KU Endowment, is $258.8 million. That’s the amount donors gave KU Endowment in fiscal year 2015. That’s still short of The Chronicle’s Top 10 list, but whichever step of the process you’re looking at, private giving to universities is definitely on an upward trend.
Today I reported that Kansas University Endowment gave KU $184.6 million in direct financial support during fiscal year 2015 (click here for the story). That’s 48 percent more than the previous year and a personal best for KU Endowment.
How does that amount stack up with other public universities nationwide? Last week The Chronicle of Higher Education published Top 10 lists of schools that received the most in private giving in 2014. KU isn’t in its Top 10, but the lists are good for context.
Here, according to The Chronicle, are the public colleges that received the most in private giving in 2014:
• University of Texas at Austin — $529,391,225
• University of Washington — $478,071,702
• University of Michigan — $432,596,374
• University of California at Los Angeles — $430,275,827
• University of California at Berkeley — $389,934,620
• Indiana University system — $341,312,881
• Ohio State University — $332,627,393
• Texas A&M University — $317,548,840
• University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — $298,804,228
• University of Minnesota system — $298,386,266
By comparison, donations to private universities were much higher. Harvard topped The Chronicle's private school list with a whopping $1.2 billion. In tenth place was Duke, with $437 million.
One trend that's happened at KU and is expected to continue here is also happening nationwide: Private giving keeps going up. Since 1990, according to The Chronicle, private giving to public colleges has more than doubled.
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 email@example.com.
More LJWorld KU News Coverage
KU's endowment wasn't alone in having a less-than-great return on investment during the most recent fiscal year, judging from a survey released last week. Its investment returns were a bit worse than the average for North American colleges and universities, though.
The average return on investment for endowments during the 2012 fiscal year — roughly the 2011-12 academic year, running from July 2011 to June 2012 — was negative 0.3 percent, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports from an annual survey of North American institutions. It's a bit unusual for investments to remain that flat, the story says. Usually endowments experience a lot of peaks and valleys.
The KU Endowment's investments declined by about 3.4 percent during that time, the Endowment Association reported in October.
That decline, in addition to record spending of $119 million and some other factors, caused the total value of KUEA's endowed funds to fall from about $1.25 billion in June 2011 to around $1.18 billion in June 2012. That's a 5.4 percent decline.
Those funds placed KUEA 59th among North American endowments as of June 2012, right between the University of Nebraska ($1.21 billion) and Texas Christian University ($1.18 billion). (A sortable table of all endowments is here.)
Other notables on the list:
• The University of Missouri system's endowment gained 4.7 percent in value, bringing it up to $1.17 billion — No. 63.
• The Kansas State University Foundation's value declined by 2.4 percent, falling to $329 million. That ranked 200th. Other Regents university endowments: Wichita State, $199 million, No. 268; Emporia State, $67 million, No. 494; Pittsburg State, $57 million, No. 536; Fort Hays State, $50 million, No. 565.
• The University of Texas system's endowment dwarfs those of all other public universities: Its value rose 6.5 percent to $18.3 billion, third on the list.
• And this is just crazy: Harvard University's behemoth of an endowment fell in value by an amount greater than the entire KU Endowment: $1.29 billion. But that was just 4.1 percent of its 2011 value, and its $30.4 billion in funds was still $11 billion more than second-place Yale.
Finally, this year-by-year graph shows that KU's endowment has followed roughly the same value trends as Harvard, Yale and other big dogs over the past six years — just on a much smaller scale.
Of course, all these numbers are from more than six months ago. Back in October, KUEA president Dale Seuferling said the endowment's investments had bounced back since the end of June 2012.
Here at Heard on the Hill, the value of our endowed funds stayed steady at $0 billion during the 2012 fiscal year. I guess you could donate to change that, if you want, but we'd really rather you just send your KU news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to distract yourself for about 6 minutes? Of course you do.
So click on this snazzy animated interactive feature from KU Endowment, and thank me later. It's a fortune teller — you know, one of those things you would make out of notebook paper in third grade.
But instead of numbers or letters or colors or whatever, this one asks you to pick your favorite of four old incarnations of the Jayhawk (the original 1912, for me), followed by two of your favorite places on the KU campus (I went with Potter Lake and the Campanile).
From that information it performs a personality test and guesses about some traits you have, comparing you to a KU figure who's done something impressive. I found out I am "innovative and hard-working," giving me something in common with KU grad Brian McClendon, who helped design Google Earth. I have no knowledge of the algorithm the device used to come to that conclusion, but my ego applauds.
You'll probably want to click around to try different combinations, as I did, so this should occupy several minutes of your time. You're welcome. And in case it's not a real fortune teller for you without the tactile experience of folding a sheet of paper and wiggling your fingers around, the page also offers a printable version.
I'll predict your fortune, though with no guarantee of accuracy, if you send me a nice Heard on the Hill tip to email@example.com.