Posts tagged with Ku

KU events this week: Michael Dirda and the Post, Halloween concert, a cult classic filmed in Lawrence and more

Up on the hill Kansas University and company are dishing out ghoulish thrills and intellectual candy this week. If you have time between costume balls and Halloween parties, here's some stuff to do:

*Tonight night from 5:00-6:30 p.m. at the Big 12 room in the Kansas Union, Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Dirda will talk about his life at the Washington Post, the world of books and publishing, as well as literary journalism. Dirda is a book critic for the Post in addition to having penned a memoir and four collections of essays. He won the Pulitzer in 1993 for his literary criticism, plus a bunch of other prestigious awards. Seating is free but limited. (Note: I'm trying to start a rumor that he will present his talk in a Carl Bernstein costume. There's some candy corn in it if you can help spread the rumor. And there's a whole bag in it for Dirda himself if he actually comes dressed as Bernstein.)

*At noon Wednesday in the Ecumenical Christian Ministries building, Jeremy Farmer, CEO of Just Food, will speak about issues in the food system that have contributed to rises in obesity and malnourishment among the poor. Just Food is a nonprofit that aims to tackle food insecurity in Douglas County.

*On Wednesday visiting lecturer Robert Wuthnow, a professor of sociology at Princeton University, will look at the role religion has played in Kansas political activism from John Brown to Dwight Eisenhower. Wuthnow will speak at 4 p.m. in the Kansas Union's Woodruff Auditorium.

*If your Wednesday is still open after that, you can mosey on over to the Dole Institute of Politics on West Campus for PBS producer and director Mark Zwonitzer's talk on Richard Ben Cramer, who wrote a tome on Bob Dole. You can hear Zwonitzer talking about Cramer writing about Dole at 7:30 p.m.

*But perhaps you'd rather attend something spookier, and more tuneful. At the same time as Zwonitzer's talk, the Lied Center will host the KU Symphony Orchestra's Halloween concert, which will feature bat- and ghoul-related selections. Kansas public radio's Mark Edwards will emcee. Show up earlier and you can take part in the community costume contest. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for children. If you can't make up your mind whether to attend, consider this: They'll be playing from Danny Elfman's score of the Michael Keaton Batman movie.

*On Friday the KU Film and Media Studies department will be showing Carnival of Souls, an indie cult classic directed by Herk Harvey and shot largely in Lawrence. The film, made on a budget a hair over $30,000, is about a woman who survives a car wreck only to find herself haunted by ghosts. Doors at 100 Old Father Studios, where much of the movie was filmed, open at 7 p.m. Seating will be limited and tickets cost $10 at the door. Proceeds will go to benefit the department.


Tenure and post-tenure: discussions and rumblings

Earlier this week we covered the discussion on the hill about post-tenure review for faculty. It's an ongoing one at KU. Nearly a year has passed since the Board of Regents issued its initial directive for state universities to develop a review policy.

One of the main focuses in KU discussions on the current review policy draft doesn't relate to the policy itself but rather its ultimate destination. As it's been conceived, the review policy would be university-wide, in the KU Provost's Policy Library. It might sound like parliamentary minutia, but some think that leaving the policy in the policy library, outside the oversight of the KU Faculty Senate, could allow the policy to be changed without faculty knowledge or input.

In its most recent meeting, the Faculty Senate implored the administration to move the policy to the Faculty Senate’s own book of regulations. The body unanimously passed a resolution stating: “In accordance with the pledge to collaborate in good faith found in the Statement of Principles on Post-Tenure Review and in recognition of the importance of continuing KU’s tradition of meaningful shared governance, it is the sense of the University of Kansas Faculty Senate that the proper location of any forthcoming Post Tenure Review policy is the Faculty Senate Rules and Regulations.”

KU Vice Provost for Faculty Development Mary Lee Hummert said in an email that the Provost's office recently received the Senate statement. With KU Provost Jeff Vitter meeting regularly with faculty governance members, Hummert said, "there will be opportunities for him to discuss this topic with them."

An even greater contingent of faculty has voiced concerns that the current draft, as written, is too complicated. The members of the draft committee said they heard faculty concerns on the issue and are working to simplify the policy.

Much of the policy's complexity could have something to do with a central tension faced by the draft committee between giving departments flexibility and creating a university-wide standard that meets the principles of the Regents mandate and the Provost's charge.

The policy draft acknowledges that more innovative research takes time and carries a higher risk of failure than more conventional research. Also, departments have different standards and measures of success. James Carothers, an English professor and member of the Senate, pointed out that there is far less external funding available for research in English as a discipline than there is for the physical and applied sciences. Where those departments might make grant awards a part of faculty evaluation, "That would be inappropriate for us," Carothers said.

While many KU faculty members have entered the discussion around the reviews with considerable passion, the reaction will likely seem tame by comparison should the legislature move to change the nature of tenure. So far we at Heard on the Hill have only heard about rumblings from Topeka on changing tenure, but we'll keep a close eye on it.

In the meantime, send your own rumblings and KU news to


Antarctic research plans on ice

Yesterday the Journal-World took a look at how the federal government shutdown was hitting home in Lawrence.

Up on the hill, most research at Kansas University will continue as normal for now, though there is concern about the funding, review and submission of future projects tied to federal agencies if the shutdown continues, said Kevin Boatright, director of communications for the KU Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

But one area of research, several thousand miles south of campus, is in limbo right now. The National Science Foundation announced Tuesday that when its funding runs out on Oct. 14, it will cut most of its staffing at Antarctic research stations, including McMurdo Station, a critical hub of logistical support for most scientific fieldwork in the Antarctic.

That could delay or even upend a handful of KU projects in Antarctica that were — until now —slated to begin in the coming weeks.

KU's Center for the Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, or CReSIS, had two projects planned for Antarctica for the season, one of them a collaboration with NASA, another agency facing furloughs and near-full shutdown.

David Braaten, a KU professor of atmospheric science and deputy director of CReSIS, learned the projects could be in jeopardy when the National Science Foundation posted a notice about shutting down its Antarctic Program.

"The sad part is we hear bits and pieces of information and kind of assume the worst, but we really don't know," Braaten said.

Thomas N. Taylor, a KU professor of paleobiology, is also part of a team with plans for an Antarctic voyage this fall, in this case to collect fossils from the region to study the effects of climate change over time. Taylor also found out from the science foundation's website that his project could be stalled by the government shutdown. "We'd spent so much time getting everything and everybody set," Taylor said. "I just didn't think about the potential of (the shutdown) affecting us."

Even if a shutdown of McMurdo is short-lived, it could reverberate throughout the research season. More than 1,000 researchers worldwide depend on McMurdo and other government support operations in Antarctica. If an entire season is lost or even delayed, projects can't easily be rescheduled, Taylor said. That’s because so many scientific projects in Antarctica depend on government resources, such as helicopters to deploy them in remote areas of the continent, which are relatively limited even without a federal shutdown.

Taylor, Brataan and their colleagues are watching and waiting to see what, if anything, happens next.

At the moment, the situation is "not necessarily a disaster," Taylor said. "The two trains are rushing toward each other right now, but they haven't collided yet."

If the federal shutdown has you feeling cold and alone, send your woes and KU news tips to

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    Author invited to speak on race issues in the U.S. as part of 60th anniversary of KU American Studies

    As the Kansas University American Studies program celebrates its 60th anniversary this week, the department has invited David Roediger to give a keynote talk tonight at 7 p.m. in the Kansas Union's Alderson Auditorium.

    Roediger, a professor of history at the University of Illinois, has written extensively on race and ethnicity in the U.S. His books include "Our Own Time," "The Wages of Whiteness," "How Race Survived U.S. History," "Towards the Abolition of Whiteness" and "Working Toward Whiteness."

    His talk this evening is titled "Emancipation from Below: The Jubilee Slaves Made Freedom for All." Admission is free and the event is open to the public.

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    Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas to speak at KU tonight.

    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas will speak at Kansas University tonight. Vargas has written for Rolling Stone and the San Francisco Chronicle. He is perhaps most widely known for his 2011 essay in the New York Times admitting that he was an undocumented immigrant.

    In the essay he wrote about the daily fear of being found out, even having to keep family photos hidden away in his home. Vargas is also the founder of Define American, a group dedicated to engaging the public in discussion around immigration issues. Vargas will speak at 7 p.m. in room 120 of Budig Hall. The event is free to students with student ID and $5 to the general public.

    For more information call the Union Programs office at (785) 864-7469.

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    Fortune 100 CEO and possible Bernanke replacement to give KU School of Business’ 2013 Sutton lecture

    A current Fortune 100 CEO and possible candidate to replace Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve is set to speak about business ethics this evening at the Kansas University Edwards Campus.

    Roger W. Ferguson Jr., president and CEO of the not-for-profit Teachers Insurance Annuity Association - College Retirement Equities Fund (or TIAA-CREF), a retirement services provider for those in academic, research, medical and cultural fields, will give the 2013 KU business school's Walter S. Sutton Lecture at 6:30 p.m. today.

    Ferguson has served as vice chairman of the Fed's Board of Governors. While at the Fed he helped develop rules for large multinational banks. This summer he was listed by the Wall Street Journal as a "potential replacement" for Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman. His name was listed with seven others, including headliners Janet Yellen and Lawrence Summers, who recently withdrew his name. If tapped by President Barack Obama, Ferguson would be the first black Fed chairman.

    Ferguson's lecture, titled "Ethics and the Financial Services Industry," will be free and open to the public. More details are available at the business school's website.

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    KU moves up in U.S. News and World Report rankings

    Kansas University pushed ahead by a few nose lengths in the 2014 U.S. News and World Report rankings of best public universities.

    KU announced today that it had moved to the 47th spot in the rankings, up from the 51st spot in last year's list. This year the university is in a six-way tie for 47th with Iowa State, North Carolina State, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Oklahoma and University of Tennessee.

    In rankings for national universities, KU was in an eight-way tie for 101st, up from 106th in last year's list, according to U.S. News and World Report spokesperson Lucy Lyons.

    The rankings are based on the high school performance of students who attend, graduation rates and other data. U.S. News recently tweaked their methodology to give more weight to graduation rates over college selectivity in its admissions.

    For anyone who wants to move ahead in the official rankings of Heard on the Hill readers, you can fast track to a sweet spot by sending KU news tips to

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    KU Women of Distinction Calendar honors female students, faculty, staff and alumnae

    At 4 p.m. today in the Big 12 Room of the Kansas Union, Kansas University will honor 24 female students, faculty, staff and alumnae for a range of scholarly and social achievements.

    The women are being honored in the 2013-14 KU "Women of Distinction Calendar." They are in the spotlight for both individual and group achievements, everything from softball to book writing.

    Categories for honors include: "Individual Achievements," "Team Players," "Advocates for Change," "Women in the Humanities," "Students Transforming the World," "Promoting Healthy Communities through Education" and "Advocacy and Artistic Achievers."

    A full list of the honorees is posted on KU News. The event is scheduled to run until 5:30 p.m.

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    And you think your utility bills are high?

    We at Heard on the Hill were curious about what the sudden influx of students does to Kansas University’s electricity bill.

    As it turns out, the extra bodies, classes, computer use and extra everything else that comes with the beginning of a semester doesn’t demand as much power as Old Man Summer does. (Actually, maybe summer is not old at all, or a man. Summer seems more like a sweat-drenched young person with a sunburn and sand perpetually rolling around in his or her shoes.)

    Gavin Young, assistant director of KU strategic communications, checked with Westar, from which KU buys its electricity, for stats on energy consumption at the university. He found that the most energy-intensive month for the Lawrence campus is July, when most of the student population is away.

    Average daily electricity usage this July came to 368,475 kilowatt hours per day. That is compared to a daily average of about 316,000 kilowatt hours per day across the year. For the curious, that’s an average daily energy bill of $23,121.

    As Young explained in an email:

    While most students go home for the summer, we operate buildings for summer classes and research, faculty and staff comfort, and to control air quality. The students coming back in the fall does increase electrical use for lighting, appliances, and other miscellaneous uses, however weather conditions start getting cooler in September and have a tendency to make the overall energy use less in the fall, winter and spring.

    So, running the air conditioners in the blazing months of summer requires more electricity than all the added computer use and light flipping during the normal school year.

    Although energy use at KU spiked in July, it’s actually come down from Julys past. Monthly use was about 11.8 million kilowatt hours for July 2013, down from 13.4 million in 2012 and 12.8 million in 2011. That decrease is likely due to this year’s July being cooler than last year. Also, Young noted the university’s efforts to reduce energy demand by honing in on lights, appliances, computers and weatherization, as well as a contest among buildings to reduce their energy use called “Lights Out.”

    Not that KU asked for them, but I have some additional ideas that could trim the electric bill during the energy-sucking summer:

    • All non-laboratory classes can be held in Potter’s Lake.
    • Designate Wescoe as the state’s largest sauna and rent it out for the summer.
    • Post-apocalypse Preparation Week (because we will all have to learn to live without the electric grid once the zombie invasion comes in October).

    But before the power goes out forever, get your KU news tips in to The prize: millions of kilowatts of journalistic gratitude.

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    Cerner co-founder Cliff Illig shares his startup story with KU MBA students

    Talking to a crowd of suited and pantsuited M.B.A. students, the biggest laugh Cliff Illig got Wednesday evening at the Carnegie Building came after a simple description of how he has fared in the risky, failure-filled world of entrepreneurship.

    “It’s been OK,” he said.

    OK? To the KU business students listening to Illig speak, that was riotous stuff — hilarious.

    In 1979 Illig, who received his bachelor’s in accounting from KU, co-founded Cerner Corp. along with Neal Patterson and Paul Gorup. If you’ve heard of Cerner at all (and many haven’t, given that it is not a consumer company), you probably know that it has done quite a bit better than OK during its nearly 35-year life.

    The healthcare IT giant has grown at a furious pace since its founders conceived it on a picnic table in Kansas City’s Loose Park. Cerner licenses its technology to thousands of hospitals and healthcare facilities worldwide. Of its 13,000-person global payroll, Cerner employs 9,000 people in the Kansas City area who make a combined $700 million in income, and the company has a planned expansion on the way.

    Forbes recently put Cerner at the 13th spot on a list of the world’s most innovative companies. And federal incentives for doctors and hospitals to switch to digital recordkeeping systems promise strong growth for at least the near future.

    Much of Illig’s talk was devoted to tracking his own and Cerner’s arcs of success. Today Illig is vice chairman of a major tech company's board. Decades ago, before he even started college, he was smart and lucky enough to get into computers before they had a hand in nearly facet of the economy.

    As a teenager, Illig was drawn to computers because they had a physical, tactile side to them in the punchcard days of the late 1960s. “My dad was looking for child labor when I was 13, 14 years old, so very early on I learned how to stuff cards in the computers he used for his business,” Illig said. As a high school student at Shawnee Mission East, he took one of the first computer classes ever offered in the district.

    After his time at KU — which Illig glossed over with more understatement, saying he was mostly interested in “getting on with it” — he joined the consulting division of accounting firm Arthur Andersen, now Accenture.

    Illig and Patterson started at Andersen within two weeks of each other. As Illig tells it, the two agreed on little. But they both knew they had no interest in advancing to their bosses’ jobs. So, on yellow ledger paper, they started brainstorming business models together.

    At the time, the software industry was in its infancy, and healthcare recordkeeping was more or less in the Stone Age. They saw a role for themselves in bringing it into the future.

    The Cerner story makes for a sort of startup fairytale. Neeli Bendapudi, dean of the KU business school, was among the rapt in Wednesday's audience, saying “my heart soars” every time she hears Illig’s story.

    Along with co-founding Cerner, Illig is one of the owners and brains behind soccer team Sporting KC, which, similar to Cerner, is wildly successful in an industry that doesn’t exactly have a wildly visible public profile.

    Bendapudi said in an interview that she hoped having Illig come to Lawrence to speak with business graduate students would help them see that large-scale success can come to people sitting where they are now. “We need to showcase our own,” she said, “to inspire the students of today.”

    Illig himself put out a small plea for the potential future entrepreneurs in the audience: “The environment won’t necessarily be hospitable” for starting a business, he said, but added, “You can't be an entrepreneur without being fundamentally optimistic.”

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  • Cliff Illig (in the plaid blazer) talking with audience members at Carnegie Building on 9th Street

    Cliff Illig (in the plaid blazer) talking with audience members at Carnegie Building on 9th Street by Ben Unglesbee

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