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KU sports psychology expert sees lessons in Kansas City Royals team chemistry

Watching the Kansas City Royals come back from several deficits and win a wild card game and advance in the Major League Baseball playoffs, Mary Fry saw a team that gets it.

Fry, director of Kansas University's Sports and Exercise Psychology Lab, said the Royals are an example of a team that has embraced a positive and caring atmosphere, which in turn promotes excellence.

"The players had each other's backs and they seemed to be focused on each pitch and be in the moment and that sets the stage for people to perform under pressure," Fry said.

She said the Royals' team chemistry could be a lesson for all coaches and athletes.

Fry, who also is an associate editor for the Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, said the body language of the players showed they were supportive of one another even when it appeared they were on the verge of losing.

She said when management, coaches and players value everyone giving their best effort and trying to improve, then "winning falls into place."

The Royals eventually defeated the Oakland Athletics 9-8 on Tuesday with an incredible comeback in the 12th inning and advanced to play the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Division Series.

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In response to Ferguson, two KU professors say it’s time to end ‘investigatory stops’ by police

Writing in response to the events in Ferguson, Mo., Charles Epp and Steven Maynard-Moody, professors at Kansas University's School of Public Affairs and Administration, had a recent opinion piece published by The Washington Post, in which they called for an end to "investigatory stops" by police as a way to reduce tensions between law authorities and minorities.

"Unlike traffic-safety stops, in which the purpose is to sanction safety violations, investigatory stops are intended to check whether a person is engaged in serious criminal activity. Our interviews revealed that while whites are quite familiar with traffic-safety stops, they have little experience with investigatory stops. But half of all stops reported by blacks were investigatory.

"Investigatory stops can be tense, because people view them as unfair and fear what the officer may do next. They wonder: If an officer can handcuff me for an hour when all I did was drive through a white neighborhood, what is to prevent him from doing far worse?" the two KU professors wrote.

Epp and Maynard-Moody are co-authors with Donald Haider-Markel, chairman of KU's Political Science Department, of the book "Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship."

In The Washington Post piece, Epp and Maynard-Moody said many blacks view the police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American, as something that could have happened to them.

"African Americans experience not only more police stops than whites but also a completely different kind of stop. For many African Americans, the stop of Michael Brown on a Ferguson street was all too reminiscent of ones they have experienced themselves — stops they feared could spiral into violence. Many black men may now be saying, `There but for the grace of God go I.' "

Some police departments have argued that investigatory stops are necessary to fight crime but Epp and Maynard-Moody write that the practice comes at a high price.

"The problem is not police stops — it is investigatory stops. These stops poison blacks’ attitudes toward the police — and toward the law itself. They undermine police effectiveness and turn the citizens of a democracy into the controlled — and resentful —subjects of a security state. It’s time to end them," they wrote. Here is a link to the article: link text

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KU prof says NFL toughening suspension policy for domestic assault shows public pressure can work

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's decision to toughen penalties for players accused of domestic violence, shows that the public can influence large sports organizations, a Kansas University assistant professor said Friday.

Jordan Bass, executive director of KU's Laboratory for the Study of Sport Management, said Goodell's mea culpa "speaks to how extreme the backlash was."

Goodell had caused a public outcry after he suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games after Rice was caught on video dragging his then-fiance off a casino elevator. Numerous advocates for women and families said the penalty was too lenient.

On Thursday, Goodell said the suspension was too light, and announced a new policy that players will face six-game suspensions for a first offense of domestic violence or sexual assault and at least a one-year ban for a second offense.

Bass said the policy change was a "positive first step."

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KU Student Body’s “Burritogate” saga roils on, but end could be near

Another chapter in the Kansas University student body "Burritogate" saga was written Thursday.

Its authors were the University Judicial Board, a body of faculty, staff and students that resolves "to whatever extent possible" conflicts, complaints and grievances brought before them.

The board had the final say on the matter of the Jayhawkers' disqualification from the student elections earlier this month.

On Thursday they upheld the disqualification, a move that will free the Election Commission to finally release the results of the student elections held two weeks ago. Jake Rapp, chairman of the commission, said in an email that the commission will do so by Monday.

As many on the hill probably know by now, the Student Senate Election Commission disqualified the Jayhawkers days before the election, though they remained on the ballot for the election.

Another coalition, Grow KU, alleged that Jayhawkers spent $300 at Chipotle to woo potential voters and then failed to report the expense to the commission. The Election Commission agreed, and disqualified the Jayhawkers, per new rules passed by the Senate in the fall.

The Jayhawkers appealed to the student government's judicial branch, which resulted in an injunction that has kept the election results under lock and key thus far.

The case then got kicked to the University Judicial Board. With no one disputing the burrito money itself, Thursday's decision by the board boiled down to definition of the word "campaigning."

In its decision, the board said the Jayhawkers "argue that the term is limited to activity that is designed to win over undecided potential voters." The Jayhawkers contended that all who attended the burrito party had already expressed interest in the coalition, and so they were engaged in fomenting party leadership, not trying to win over voters.

The commission and board disagreed, citing evidence that general information about the Jayhawkers platform was dispensed at the burrito summit — something not likely to take place at an intra-coalition strategy session of insiders.

The Jayhawkers alleged that the commission had applied new campaigning restrictions arbitrarily, noting events where Grow KU offered free cappuccino and snacks to event-goers. But the board said the cappuccino, in the one case, didn't represent an incurred expense (they were available to all via a nearby cappuccino machine); the snacks, in the other case, the board said were given at a meeting that did not involve campaigning, and so did not need to be reported.

The Jayhawkers were among three coalitions that formed to launch students into student government for the next school year. Student coalitions have a long history of "conflicts, complaints and grievances" in student elections.

They are formed by likeminded students who want to pool their resources to run for student government on a common platform. They exist as campaigning entities. They are not meant to govern.

One coalition, KUnited, dominated KU student elections for nearly two decades, a streak broken last year by Ad Astra. Moreover, elections were often punctuated by squabbles and questionable campaign practices.

Last fall student body executives Marcus Tetwiler and Emma Halling and some senators advocated for ending the coalition system altogether, but they were rebuffed by the full Senate. However the Senate did pass new regulations on campaigning, including spending limits, meant to make elections more fair and meaningful. The new rules include the ones the Jayhawkers broke.

The Board thinks perhaps the rules themselves go too far.

Concluding their decision, the Board said:

We are admittedly not experts in student elections. Still, the extreme remedy of party disqualification seems to us disproportionate to the severity of the violation and arbitrarily insensitive to the Jayhawkers' effort to cure any violation. But the source of these problems, it seems to us, is the inflexibility of the pertinent regulations rather than any arbitrariness on the part of the Commission.

On Monday we should see which coalition was chosen by the student body to lead next year. Depending on the vote, there could be more Burritogate drama ahead.

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The future of KU parking: fewer spaces that cost more

"I want you to feel my pain."

That's what Donna Hultine told an audience Monday to explain why she was showing them photo after photo of cracked and potholed concrete.

For Hultine, the director of KU Parking and Transit, campus parking lots crumbling visibly on her watch is painful. So is the cost of fixing them. The university recently examined 85 parking lots around campus and estimated it would take $15 million to repair them all. And that might be on the low side.

Which is why the department is looking to raise revenues through parking rate increases. Few people at an open KU forum Monday questioned the proposed prices, which could jump 10 to almost 40 percent next year, depending on the permit type.

Most people brought to the forum the sort of highly localized and specific, but sometimes emotional, concerns and questions that only an issue as embedded in everyday life as parking can.

Several students and staff asked about parking on Daisy Hill, where more than 500 parking spaces were recently lost to a construction project. Those spaces were scheduled to disappear, but not until after graduation. Diana Robertson, director of KU Student Housing, said the contractor working on the future Daisy Hill dorms that will replace McCollum Hall asked for the space sooner than scheduled to make up for a longer-than-projected construction time.

That sent hundreds of students looking for somewhere else to park. While the parking department has offered prorated refunds and wrangled spaces from around the area, some at the forum voiced safety concerns about students having to walk to the dorms from spaces as far away from main campus as the Lied Center.

While the Daisy HIll spaces represent a short term hiccup in the lives of KU drivers, the future of parking on the campus is likely to hold fewer, not more spaces.

The university's 10-year master plan outlines a host of new building projects, some pending, some further out on the horizon, some only an idea. Many new buildings, including those that will be built in the near future, will take up parking spaces.

Parking usually is built on good, flat land. In the next 2 years, KU could lose another 200 spaces to construction.

But losing those spaces from the current parking system likely won't be as disruptive as the system itself, which the department calls "unsustainable."

Most campus drivers buy permits for a vast swath of lots and go "hunting" for a space wherever they can find one. That makes parking a kind of lottery contest on any given day. It might also, as parking commission chair Steve Schrock points out, increase the total traffic on campus as people drive from lot to lot looking for a space.

The department and KU's master planners have suggested replacing the current system with one where drivers would get an assigned lot based on a list of their preferences. That could be a reality as early as fall 2015.

In its master plan KU has also looked at beefing up the campus transit system, introducing market-based prices for parking permits, and starting a carpooling program that might give preferred spaces for carpoolers to share.

In any case, campus drivers should probably expect their parking prices to increase. The department expects that "remote" spaces — a new designation under the proposed parking system — would cost $273 by fall 2018. Today's Yellow permit, which usually confines parkers to the most remote lots, costs $204. That's a price increase of about a third. And the prices only go up from there.

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KU grad students fighting to hold on to work hours

With spring break looming, graduate students at Kansas University scrambled last week to organize a response to discussions within KU around the possibility of limiting the number of hours many graduate students can work to 20 per week.

The discussions are still early and revolve around how KU will adapt to the Affordable Care Act's mandate for employers to provide health insurance to full-time employees. (A Journal-World article from the weekend looks at the issue in more depth.)

The possibility of a 20-hour limit to campus work has many worried, especially those graduate students who rely on a second job to supplement income from teaching and research assistantships.

Pantaleon Florez III, a master's student in the education school and director of graduate affairs with the KU Student Senate, said that by Friday afternoon more than 300 graduate students had signed a petition stating opposition to a 20-hour limit.

An additional 274 undergraduates had signed a statement of support. Speaking at the Student Senate last Friday, Florez asked the undergraduate student senators for their help. To persuade undergraduates that the issue was relevant to them, Florez asked for a show of hands of everyone who had taken a class taught by a graduate teaching assistant. Nearly all hands in the room went up.

In 2013 the university employed more than 1,000 GTAs at an average salary of less than $16,000 for a nine-month appointment. Some make as little as $13,000, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Planning. That leads many to seek jobs elsewhere on campus: libraries, tutoring services and other departments where they can put their skills to use.

But graduate students wouldn't be the only ones affected by a change in policy. The offices that hire them could also suffer.

The KU Writing Center, for example, currently employs 17 graduate students. Director Terese Thonus said about 40 percent of those who use the center are graduate students, and they most often seek sessions with other graduate students, who have experience with similar writing projects from their own academic work.

"If we had to replace our graduate students with undergraduates, we wouldn't be able to offer that peer service," Thonus said. That could potentially disrupt the pedagogical model of peer-to-peer advising behind the Writing Center.

Judy Eddy, assistant director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, said her center currently employs four graduate students. That might not be many, but they make up a sizable fraction of the center's small staff. Eddy said that graduate students who have themselves taught as GTAs understand the challenges and concerns that go into designing courses, and so often make for ideal employees.

Eddy said she's optimistic that the 20-hour rule won't go into place. "We would hope that there would be some compromise available," she said.

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The David Guth of Wisconsin

Some of you on the hill might remember a little incident last September involving a Kansas University journalism professor, a politically charged sentiment about the Navy Yard shootings in Washington, D.C., and a social media platform that disseminates statements of 140 characters or less.

I'm talking about David Guth, who was placed on administrative leave last fall by the KU administration after an anti-NRA tweet sparked outrage among conservatives and gun rights supporters.

Guth put KU and the journalism school in the national spotlight for reasons both entities would probably like to forget. But Guth wasn't alone among college professors who have come under fire for making politicized statements in an age of rapid-fire social media communication.

This week the Chronicle of Higher Education detailed the story of Rachel Slocum, an assistant professor of geography with the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse.

Like Guth, Slocum referenced current events in digital communication, only in this case the medium was email and it was directed at her students.

When last fall's government shutdown stalled a class assignment, which depended on government data from websites that were on hold with the shutdown, Slocum made an overt reference to the politics around the shutdown.

According to the Chronicle, Slocum wrote to her class in an email:

Some of the data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/Tea Party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government… [the rest of the project] will have to wait until Congress decides we actually need a government."

A student in Slocum's class, who was then interning at the anti-tax advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform and who had a different view on the politics behind the shutdown, posted a picture of the email on Twitter with the message: "Can't do my homework for class; govt. shutdown. So my prof. blames Republicans in an e-mail blast…"

The fallout was swift and harrowing for Slocum and the university, much as it was for Guth and KU.

Among the similarities between the Slocum and Guth situations: Both stories were picked up by the college media site Campus Reform, which is affiliated with the Leadership Institute and other conservative outlets.

Guth, Slocum and administrators at their respective universities received vitriolic messages from strangers outside the university. Guth even received death threats.

Administrators in both cases publicly denounced the faculty members under fire.

Some called for Slocum to be fired. Same holds for Guth, and some state legislators joined in the demands for his job. Both universities saw legislative funding come under threat.

And, of course, both stories spread like wildfire through social media.

The speed with which news travels through social media strikes fear into the heart of university officials. In response, some universities and state boards are looking to somehow contain social media wildfires, as another Chronicle article points out.

That list includes Kansas. If it weren't for David Guth's tweet, the Kansas Board of Regents would probably never have introduced the controversial new social media policy giving university CEOs the power to fire employees over "improper" social media use.

That policy has gained at least as much notoriety as Guth's tweet. It sparked dismay and outrage among Kansas university employees and has brought condemnation from national groups and newspaper editorial pages around the state. Critics say the policy restricts academic freedom and free speech.

(Shortly after passing the policy, the regents said they would take a second look at it in response to the outcry. The work group tasked by the regents with reviewing it recently approved a rewrite that would take an advisory, rather than disciplinary, role. Campuses have largely lauded the proposed draft so far.)

The regents, as KU Provost Jeff Vitter has said, were trying to protect universities from political backlashes and funding risks such as that which followed the Guth imbroglio. In the process the regents found themselves at the center of a national debate over free speech in higher education.

Universities have evolved in part to be institutions of democratic instruction and the free debate of ideas. The invention of tenure was meant to shield university scholars from political reprisals by people who don't like their ideas or ways of expressing them.

It's understandable that taxpayers and tuition payers would want to limit classroom conversations to the assignment at hand, and to keep hot-button politics out of education. At the same time, universities are the places where many learn to think, talk and write critically about political, social, philosophical, scientific and commercial ideas for the first time.

Trying to keep politics out of the classroom, or social media, for education's sake might ultimately be self-defeating.

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Another setback in KU’s quest for Med Center expansion

In recent days Kansas University officials have faced new setbacks with legislators on some key initiatives, but certainly not for lack of effort or focus.

For much of the past year the university's public affairs office and top administrators have been trying to persuade lawmakers to help fund a new KU Medical Center facility that would help train more doctors.

They've talked, they've tweeted, they've gone on road trips around the state, they've invited lawmakers to the Med Center. They've even tapped KU alumni for help spreading the word about the health education initiative.

It's rare to hear KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little or Tim Caboni, KU's chancellor for public affairs, give a talk without mentioning the state's shortage of doctors and KU's role, as the only state university with a medical school, in training them.

But the university hit another road block this week after the Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee approved a capital improvement plan that excluded KU's long-sought-after Med Center facility.

KU has requested the Legislature release a $25 million FICA tax refund linked to the medical center, and provide $1.4 million a year to help retire $15 million in bonds. The remaining funds needed for the building would be paid with private donations and internal funds, KU has said.

The $75 million building would would allow KU Med to expand capacity by 50 additional medical students and add new technologies and teaching methods that KU has said are necessary for accreditation.

Committee Chairman Ty Masterson, R-Andover, didn't see it that way. Masterson told the Journal-World Tuesday, "I don't feel the accreditation is in jeopardy. If it were, we would reconsider what we needed to reconsider."

Caboni was on his way to speak about KU at a Rotary Club event in McPherson Kansas — a fairly typical road trip to spread the KU gospel — when he heard news of the committee's decision.

"The state has a certain need for more primary care physicians, and the University of Kansas is the one institution in the state that can help solve this challenging problem," Caboni said. "The decision today also unfortunately puts at risk the accreditation of the state's only medical school."

He said his public affairs team and fellow administrators plan to regroup after the decision. "We will continue to talk about it across the state," he added.

A senate subcommittee also excluded an item listed in Gov. Sam Brownback's budget to help establish the Kansas Institute for Translational Chemical Biology.

The $2 million Brownback had set aside for the research center would help support labs working on drug discovery and other research aimed at fighting a range of health problems.

Caboni lamented that decision as well. "Without seed money, it makes it difficult to build the center," he said. Pointing to competition in recruiting top faculty, he said, "It's important to us that the talented faculty that do this work have the resources that will keep them at the University of Kansas."

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KU students call on regents to suspend social media policy

Kansas University students have joined in the call for the Kansas Board of Regents to suspend a social media policy passed in December.

The KU Student Senate passed a resolution this week urging the regents to ax the policy while a regents-created work group reviews it and recommends revisions.

Garrett Farlow, a KU freshman in journalism, was one of the primary authors of the resolution, which states the social media policy "inhibits free speech of faculty and staff, depriving them of the academic and personal freedoms necessary to effectively educate students."

Farlow said he was concerned that the policy could inhibit faculty members who engage with peers and students on social media. "Although the policy is directly targeted at faculty and professors, it obviously affects students," he said.

The policy allows university heads to suspend and fire employees for social media posts that conflict with the best interest of the university or its ability to perform services, among other violations.

After passing the policy unanimously in December, the regents announced they would review it in response to widespread criticism that it was too broad and could restrain free speech.

The regents established a work group of faculty and staff from state universities to study the policy and make recommendations to the board by April. But faculty and staff groups have repeatedly asked the regents to suspend the policy until the work group makes its findings. Yesterday the regents pushed back against those calls.

Farlow said the issue hasn't gotten much attention from students largely because they don't follow media accounts as closely as faculty and staff. But Farlow is trying to make it an issue with students, starting with last night's resolution.

"The more people that know about this, the more impact that we can have," he said. "The First Amendment is very near and dear to my heart."

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KU students in Topeka to ask for break on sales taxes for textbooks

A contingent of Kansas University students spent the day in Topeka Tuesday advocating for higher education issues with lawmakers.

Members of KU's Student Senate joined students from other Kansas Board of Regents universities traveling to the capital as part of Higher Education Day.

On behalf of their student bodies, the delegation is calling for lawmakers to eliminate sales taxes on textbooks as well as discuss higher education funding.

Marcus Tetwiler, KU student body president, said in a release that getting rid of sales taxes on text books would "help alleviate these rising costs" of textbooks and decrease the overall cost of education.

Eric Hurtt, a KU senior in political science and government relations director for the Senate, helped coordinate meetings and events.

While student delegations have traveled to Topeka to talk with lawmakers before, Hurtt said he thought this year's student delegation had better talking points.

"This year we're picking things where we all have skin in the game," he said. "You get a better seat at the table if you pick issues we can actually do something about."

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