Posts tagged with University Senate

University Senate at KU opposes campus carry in ‘strongest possible terms’; Regents expected to approve policies Wednesday

Elected representatives of faculty, staff and students at the University of Kansas are now formally on the record opposing campus carry. KU’s full University Senate this month approved a resolution, first crafted by the University Senate executive committee, stating that the body opposes “in the strongest possible terms” allowing concealed weapons on the KU campus.

State university campuses currently prohibit guns, but Kansas law requires them to allow lawful concealed carry beginning July 1, 2017. KU and the other universities have been prepping for that date by crafting policies for implementing the new concealed carry law. The Kansas Board of Regents is expected to approve draft policies from KU and the other schools on Wednesday.

Understanding that at this point the Board of Regents and individual universities are not in charge of the law but rather drafting policies to comply with a law that others made, the University Senate’s statement directly addresses the state Legislature. It says:

The University Senate of the University of Kansas is composed of the elected representatives of staff, students and faculty at the University and is charged with acting in behalf of the staff, students, and faculty.

Eighty-two percent of the KU staff, students, and faculty who participated in the January 2016 Docking Institute survey expressed opposition to allowing concealed weapons on campus.

Moreover, current research indicates that the net effect of campus carry on the safety of college students, faculty, and staff is likely to be more death, more nonfatal gunshot wounds, and more threats with a firearm that are traumatizing to victims.

Therefore, the University Senate wishes to express its opposition, in the strongest possible terms, to allowing concealed weapons on the University of Kansas campus.

On behalf of our constituencies, we urge the Kansas State Legislature (1.) to respect local control by continuing the exemption to the Personal and Family Protection Act and (2.) to allow our campus communities to choose whether or not weapons are allowed on our KU campuses.

In true academic fashion, faculty members from the six state universities are already discussing possibilities for studying effects of the law — whether they want it to become reality or not.

The Regents Council of Faculty Senate Presidents is working on a survey to measure university faculty, staff and students’ anxiety about campus carry, according to a report at last month’s Board of Regents meeting. The idea is to establish a baseline by surveying people before implementation and then again after implementation. The group is also checking with other U.S. campuses with similar laws to see what data they collected before and after implementation.

No guns allowed signs are posted on doors leading into Wescoe Hall on the University of Kansas campus on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. Jayhawk Boulevard and Strong Hall are reflected in the glass.

No guns allowed signs are posted on doors leading into Wescoe Hall on the University of Kansas campus on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. Jayhawk Boulevard and Strong Hall are reflected in the glass. by Sara Shepherd


I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

Reply 6 comments from Spencer Bird Randolf Fellows Charles L Bloss Jr

University governance taking stance on campus carry; Multicultural Student Government plans new request

University of Kansas administration continues working on weapons policy updates with the assumption that beginning July 1, 2017, the university must allow legally carried concealed guns on its campus — as current law dictates. The latest step forward was Wednesday, when a Kansas Board of Regents recommended KU’s proposed weapons policy for approval by the full board, along with similar proposed policies from the other five state universities.

However, there are still individuals and groups pulling for state legislators to change the law so KU would not need that policy after all. At least tentatively, add KU’s University Senate to that list.

This week the University Senate Executive Committee agreed on the following statement, which the full University Senate is scheduled to consider Dec. 1. Based on previous observations of university governance talks on guns, I would be surprised if the full Senate does not overwhelmingly approve taking this stance.

The University Senate of the University of Kansas is composed of the elected representatives of staff, students and faculty at the University and is charged with acting in behalf of the staff, students, and faculty.

Eighty-two percent of the KU staff, students, and faculty who participated in the January 2016 Docking Institute survey expressed opposition to allowing concealed weapons on campus.

Moreover, current research indicates that the net effect of campus carry on the safety of college students, faculty, and staff is likely to be more death, more nonfatal gunshot wounds, and more threats with a firearm that are traumatizing to victims.

Therefore, the University Senate wishes to express its opposition, in the strongest possible terms, to allowing concealed weapons on the University of Kansas campus.

On behalf of our constituencies, we urge the Kansas State Legislature (1.) to respect local control by continuing the exemption to the Personal and Family Protection Act and (2.) to allow our campus communities to choose whether or not weapons are allowed on our KU campuses.

Is that realistic? I’ll leave speculation to others about what our state legislators may or may not do. Meanwhile, I can confidently say KU will keep working on its policy and I will keep writing updates as they’re warranted.

No guns allowed signs are posted on doors leading into Wescoe Hall on the University of Kansas campus on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. Jayhawk Boulevard and Strong Hall are reflected in the glass.

No guns allowed signs are posted on doors leading into Wescoe Hall on the University of Kansas campus on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. Jayhawk Boulevard and Strong Hall are reflected in the glass. by Sara Shepherd

• Multicultural Student Government wants seats on University Senate, not a committee: Also on Dec. 1, the University Senate will probably receive a new proposal from Multicultural Student Government. Leaders of the new student organization attended the full University Senate meeting earlier this month and asked the body to establish a committee exploring how to implement MSG as a separate governing body within University Senate (currently composed of representatives from KU’s Faculty, Staff and Student senates). That request was tabled.

MSG board president Trinity Carpenter, a senior from Richmond, and five other group members were at this week’s University Senate Executive Committee meeting. They said they wanted to scrap the committee request and go straight to a request for actual seats on University Senate — specifically, a number equal to Student Senate.

“What we want is University Senate representation at this point, and equal representation that Student Senate already has,” Carpenter said. She said her goal is to change policy to create bicameral student governance instead of operating within the existing Student Senate. “If we felt that Student Senate was meeting our needs there would be no need for this.”

Student Senate currently has 13 seats in University Senate. Rather than double the number of students — and shifting the balance of power in University Senate — some University Senate Executive Committee Members said they’d be more open to allowing existing student seats to be allocated differently. We will see exactly what MSG suggests next month.


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

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KU’s Multicultural Student Government proposing new path to governing-body status

The University of Kansas student organization that calls itself Multicultural Student Government is still active this semester, and is now trying a new path in hopes of becoming a separate governing body with standing equal to KU’s existing Student Senate.

On Thursday, MSG leaders asked the University Senate to establish an ad hoc committee to explore the feasibility of an actual Multicultural Student Government and, if deemed appropriate, change University Senate code to include it. Per University Senate code — which allows just one governing body per each university constituency — the current University Senate comprises representatives from Student Senate, Faculty Senate and Staff Senate.

University Senate voted to table the question until its December meeting.

Sophie Wang, a Student Senate representative on the University Senate, formally proposed the MSG committee at the end of Thursday’s meeting, during the new business portion of the agenda. The item was not on the meeting agenda, and University Senate members did not receive information about MSG or their proposal in advance. University Senate members said they wanted more time to look at the group’s information and discuss it before deciding whether to create a committee.

Wang was joined by three of MSG’s top leaders, who spoke on behalf of the proposal.

MSG has fashioned its leadership positions after those of a governing body, with a board instead of typical club officer positions, said Omaha senior Alex Kinkead, vice chair of the MSG board. Other board members present were Emporia senior Mercedes Bounthapanya, board treasurer, and Wichita senior Christian Roberson, board secretary. Student Trinity Carpenter, who wasn't present Thursday, is the MSG board chair and also a School of Social Welfare representative on Student Senate.

“We’re coming to University Senate because we’d like to work with you in tandem and have conversations,” Kinkead said. “We are a legit entity, and we are functioning as a student government. The only thing we are not is functioning within the University Senate.”

Kinkead said a separate governing body is needed because the current university governance system inherently oppresses students from marginalized backgrounds who don’t “access spaces” the same way other students do.

“We have significantly less barriers and hoops that multicultural students have to jump through,” Kinkead said of MSG. “We’re centering marginalized identities and multicultural groups.”

In spring 2016, Student Senate voted to allocate about $180,000 in required student fees — $90,000 to pay officers and fund other operations, plus another $90,000 to disseminate to other multicultural student groups — to establish and empower MSG, which had just registered as a student club. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little vetoed that funding because MSG was not actually a recognized governing body. She added, in a letter explaining the veto, that she did not think MSG was “an optimal way to achieve the goals we have for diversity and inclusion at the university and, indeed, may lead to greater divisiveness.”

Speaking to the Kansas University Student Senate, Jameelah Jones is joined by dozens of students and supporters of the Multicultural Student Government initiative during the Student Senate's meeting Wednesday evening March 9, 2016, at the Kansas Union.

Speaking to the Kansas University Student Senate, Jameelah Jones is joined by dozens of students and supporters of the Multicultural Student Government initiative during the Student Senate's meeting Wednesday evening March 9, 2016, at the Kansas Union. by John Young


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

Reply 1 comment from Reid Hollander

University Governance leaders mull KU ‘policy on policies’; two more showings of ‘Cowboy Song,’ KU Theatre play exploring sexuality

I’ve long suspected the University of Kansas has a Department of Departments somewhere, I just haven’t found it yet. Maybe budget cuts have forced the department to leave its public affairs position unfilled, so there’s no one to contact me with news tips or press releases about what they are doing?

That was a joke — I think.

It turns out KU does actually have a policy on policies. At least that’s what university faculty and staff leaders are calling the University Policy Program, a policy of the KU Policy Office. The policy’s stated purpose is “to align operations and set expectations across the institution regarding the development and promulgation of policies.”

Professor of history and Faculty Senate representative Jonathan Clark voiced concerns at a recent University Senate meeting about the 2014 policy, which was updated earlier this month. Clark called it “a totally top-down” effort and “another example” of major policy not going through University Governance. “I have no confidence in this system working,” he said.

University Senate Executive Committee members last week did discuss asking that the University Senate president be advised of any universitywide policy prior to its enactment, but decided that could become too overwhelming. For now the committee isn’t taking action regarding the policy on policies; they tabled the discussion for a future meeting.

• Cowboy ‘love triangle’ on stage: Almost certainly more gripping than policies about higher education policy is a play running right now at KU — specifically, according to a KU School of the Arts communications coordinator, “a dark comedy centered around a love triangle that is complicated by standards of gender and sex, as well as expectations of heterosexual marriage roles.”

The last two performances of “Late, A Cowboy Song,” by playwright Sarah Rule, are set for 7:30 p.m. today (Wednesday) and Thursday  in the William Inge Memorial Theatre at Murphy Hall. For ticket information and more on the play, visit kutheatre.com/late-cowboy-song.

• Emmett Till expert in national spotlight: KU associate professor of communication studies Dave Tell, one of the leaders of the digital Emmett Till Memory Project, appeared in national news this week after social media sparked renewed interest in replacing at least one Emmett Till site marker in the Mississippi Delta, which has been riddled with bullet holes for years.

The New York Times, for one, interviewed Tell, who is writing a book about Emmett Till and helped develop an app to commemorate the circumstances surrounding the black teenager’s 1955 killing. Here’s a story we did last year about Tell’s work on the app.


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

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University Senate execs demand more transparent process for choosing next chancellor

University Senate leaders at the University of Kansas are now on the record stating they don’t want a secretive search and interview process to determine their next chancellor. On Tuesday, the University Senate Executive Committee approved the following position statement to be shared with the Kansas Board of Regents, the body that directs the search process and hires state university CEOs. The Regents are meeting today at Fort Hays State University.

We, the members of the KU University Senate Executive Committee, feel it is essential for the new Chief Executive Officer of this institution to have the opportunity to interact with the people they will be serving and supervising. Accordingly, there must be open, public presentations and question-and-answer sessions for each finalist.

Moreover, we urge KBOR to include, in the search committee, elected representatives of the Staff, Student, and Faculty senates of the University of Kansas. Only in this way can we insure that all stakeholders on campus have a voice in the process. And it is crucial that the students, faculty and staff, as well as community leaders, play a vital role in selecting the next chancellor — especially in light of the challenges of weapons on campus, and achieving greater diversity, equity and inclusion.

We thank the members of KBOR for their consideration.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little announced in September that she would step down after the 2016-17 school year. An article I wrote a few days after her announcement (click here to read it) talks more about the search process, which Regents representatives have indicated will almost certainly be “closed,” meaning no names will be shared publicly until the next chancellor accepts the job. Gray-Little was hired, in 2009, through a closed search process.

University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little speaks to the University Senate on Oct. 6, 2016, in Green Hall.

University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little speaks to the University Senate on Oct. 6, 2016, in Green Hall. by Sara Shepherd

• This week at KU — homecoming: It’s homecoming week at KU. In case you missed it, this Heard on the Hill post from Friday has the main event details. To help your homecoming spirit, here are photos I took of a few of this year’s sign competition entries.

The 2016 University of Kansas Homecoming theme is "Rock Chalk Super Hawk." Pictured is one of several sign competition entries displayed on Wescoe Beach on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016.

The 2016 University of Kansas Homecoming theme is "Rock Chalk Super Hawk." Pictured is one of several sign competition entries displayed on Wescoe Beach on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. by Sara Shepherd

The 2016 University of Kansas Homecoming theme is "Rock Chalk Super Hawk." Pictured is one of several sign competition entries displayed on Wescoe Beach on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016.

The 2016 University of Kansas Homecoming theme is "Rock Chalk Super Hawk." Pictured is one of several sign competition entries displayed on Wescoe Beach on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. by Sara Shepherd

The 2016 University of Kansas Homecoming theme is "Rock Chalk Super Hawk." Pictured is one of several sign competition entries displayed on Wescoe Beach on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016.

The 2016 University of Kansas Homecoming theme is "Rock Chalk Super Hawk." Pictured is one of several sign competition entries displayed on Wescoe Beach on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. by Sara Shepherd

The 2016 University of Kansas Homecoming theme is "Rock Chalk Super Hawk." Pictured is one of several sign competition entries displayed on Wescoe Beach on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016.

The 2016 University of Kansas Homecoming theme is "Rock Chalk Super Hawk." Pictured is one of several sign competition entries displayed on Wescoe Beach on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. by Sara Shepherd


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

Reply 1 comment from Stacy Napier

A.G. denies KU request to ban guns in sensitive areas; rocket fuel and guns likely to mix on campus

Pressurized gas cylinders, rocket fuel, other combustible materials — it appears unlikely the University of Kansas will be legally allowed to ban handguns from campus locations where those are stored.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little told the University Senate on Thursday that there are high-security labs and other areas on campus where firing a gun would be “disastrous” but that the attorney general has told KU it can’t make those places exceptions to state law.

KU and other state universities are currently drafting policies to implement a state law that requires allowing concealed guns on campus beginning in July 2017, with the exception of buildings with adequate security measures to keep all guns out, such as metal detectors or security guards.

Proposed policies have not yet been made public. The Kansas Board of Regents is slated to consider them at its October and November meetings.

In the meantime, a small committee of representatives from KU’s Lawrence and Medical Center campuses has been working on KU’s draft policy.

“In making the policy there were some things that we tried to include that had to have a review by the attorney general,” Gray-Little said. “We have not been given the go-ahead to include that,” she said of an effort to designate restricted areas, which has been suggested by a number of faculty members over the course of the past year.

Those faculty members include aerospace engineering professor Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, who asked the chancellor about the issue during Thursday’s University Senate meeting. He said engineering labs, for one, are home to storage for a multitude of dangers including pressurized gas cylinders, rocket fuel and other fuels.

KU’s policy may, however, legally require people bringing concealed guns into buildings to have those guns in holsters, Gray-Little said, based on the attorney general’s opinion. “My information is that we can require that,” she said.

University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little speaks to the University Senate on Oct. 6, 2016, in Green Hall.

University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little speaks to the University Senate on Oct. 6, 2016, in Green Hall. by Sara Shepherd

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus, pictured in May 2015.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus, pictured in May 2015. by Sara Shepherd


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

Reply 10 comments from Joe Andrew Bob Smith Bob Forer Greg Cooper Scott Kaiser beth newman

Wheels are turning to create new University Senate standing committee on diversity

Kansas University has an active diversity task force, the "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Group" created in November by the Office of the Provost. But there are two main problems with it, said University Senate President Mike Williams, who is a representative on the group.

One, it’s finite. Two, it’s not autonomous from university administration.

Williams wants the University Senate to establish a permanent and separate standing committee to address diversity, he said at this week's University Senate Executive Committee meeting.

He said he’s working on a proposal and hopes to bring it to the full University Senate for a vote before the end of the school year. He said the proposal may be to create an ad hoc committee first, which under University Senate rules could be populated and begin work immediately, with the idea it would lead to a permanent committee later, which would take more time to formalize.

Williams said “many” other universities have such committees for diversity and that he was surprised KU did not.

“I think it’s more than just an appropriate gesture,” Williams said. “It’s overdue. I think it’s a chance for governance to become very visible in their support of improving the climate of the university.”

Students hold signs in the back of Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union during a town hall forum on race on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. The group later took the stage and read a list of diversity and inclusion related demands for the KU campus. KU scheduled the forum in the wake of problems at the University of Missouri, where the system president and chancellor resigned under pressure from students who said the school failed to properly respond to racial problems there.

Students hold signs in the back of Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union during a town hall forum on race on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. The group later took the stage and read a list of diversity and inclusion related demands for the KU campus. KU scheduled the forum in the wake of problems at the University of Missouri, where the system president and chancellor resigned under pressure from students who said the school failed to properly respond to racial problems there. by Mike Yoder

KU’s Student Senate already has a Multicultural Affairs Committee, one of that body’s four standing committees (the others are Finance, Student Rights and University Affairs). The University Senate (composed of students, faculty and staff) currently has nine standing committees: Academic Computing and Electronic Communications, Academic Policies and Procedures, Athletic, Calendar, International Affairs, Libraries, Organization and Administration, Planning and Resources, and Retirees Rights and Benefits.

Williams said fellow Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Group members and others have said that KU should have a body “beyond administrative reach” that can hear concerns from across campus and make recommendations for how the university can do better.

From the Provost's website, this is the charge of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Group: "The DEI Advisory Group will discover and inform our campus community of patterns of discrimination, including lack of respect, inclusion, and equity in our educational and research environments and social communities. The group will consider on an ongoing basis the degree to which we provide inclusive educational, research, and social environments for all students, staff, and faculty."

• University governance turnover: KU’s various governing bodies are amid their respective changing of the guards this time of year. Student Senate elections are today (Wednesday) and Thursday, and newly elected incoming leaders will meet jointly with outgoing representatives April 27. (If you're interested, The University Daily Kansan covered the presidential and vice presidential candidates' debate here, and published a guide outlining each of the two coalitions' platforms here.)

Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and University Senate also are in the process of naming new leaders and will hold their last meetings of the year in coming weeks.


— 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 sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

Reply 2 comments from Clara Westphal Nathan Anderson

Sporting events, high-risk facilities mentioned as likely locations for prohibiting guns at KU; fans may have to go through metal detectors at Jayhawk games

The subject of guns on campus, as it usually does these days, came up in Thursday’s Kansas University Senate meeting. A KU-specific policy for implementing the law is still in infancy and nothing has been decided, but some tidbits of Thursday’s discussion may be of interest to the KU community.

For one, the University Senate’s weapons committee will continue to meet with groups across campus, University Senate President Mike Williams said. He said conversations with KU Athletics leaders indicate KU will at least need to put in place adequate security measures to prohibit guns during games at Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium. That raises the possibility that fans will have to go through metal detectors at both Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium.

Also, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said areas with sensitive materials are likely candidates for security measures. (She did not specify any locations, but faculty have previously cited concerns over science and engineering labs housing combustible substances.)

“There are places at the campus where, because of the materials there, they’d have to be excluded because an accidental discharge of a weapon would be disastrous,” Gray-Little said.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus, pictured in May 2015.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus, pictured in May 2015. by Sara Shepherd

A committee led by KU administration will develop a policy for allowing concealed carry on campus, which will be required by state law beginning in July 2017. Last month, the Kansas Board of Regents approved a policy requiring each state university to develop a campus-specific plan.

In other University Senate news:

• The KU Staff Senate has created a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Staff Senate President Chris Wallace reported. “We’ve come to realize our Senate is not real diverse,” he said, adding that the committee’s goal is outreach to underrepresented groups.

• The University Senate elected a new vice president, graduate student and Student Senate representative Brent Lee. Lee will complete the term of Shegufta Huma, who is not enrolled as a student this semester.

— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

Reply 3 comments from Sam Crow Charles Fogarty Laura Wilson

What’s ahead for university governance this year? Guns, diversity, parking and more

At the first University Senate meeting of the school year Thursday, leaders of KU’s various governing bodies shared some of their major charges for the upcoming year. Here are a handful of highlights from their reports:

• After announcing that the chancellor had approved the Senate’s Social Media Policy procedure recommendation with only “a few minor corrections,” University Senate president Michael Williams, professor of journalism, said one of the group’s most important focuses for the upcoming year was going to be guns. Specifically, an ad hoc committee will discuss and recommend best practices for when the day comes that weapons are allowed on campus, including inside buildings and classrooms. Williams said he hoped the committee would have a report by the end of the school year.

“For organization’s sake and for preparation’s sake, we’re hoping to have something ready for the university to embrace ... a set of documents that are acceptable to all involved,” Williams said.

News to you? In case you missed it, recently enacted Kansas law does indeed say that government buildings can no longer ban concealed weapons without security measures such as metal detectors. I wrote this pretty extensive article about the issue back in May (“Kansas universities lack firm plan for concealed guns on campus, making some anxious”) and a little more shortly afterward when University Senate first announced its ad hoc committee (“University Senate forms committee to address guns on campus”).

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus, pictured in May 2015.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus, pictured in May 2015. by Sara Shepherd

• Faculty Senate president Tom Beisecker, associate professor of communications, said faculty want to take a closer look at the International Academic Accelerator Program, a 1-year-old initiative to recruit and international students to KU and support them when they arrive. Beisecker didn’t elaborate on Thursday, but at past university governance meetings, faculty members have complained that some students don’t seem to have the English proficiency they should, and also bemoaned the fact that — because KU partners on the program with a private company, Shorelight Education — some financial and other information about it is secret.

The Journal-World did try to get a copy of KU’s 15-year contract with Shorelight through an open records request. However, back in March 2014, Shorelight sought and won an injunction in Douglas County District Court barring the contract's release.

• Student Senate Vice President Zach George said that diversity would be one of the biggest issues the Student Senate will be pushing this year, and leaders try to address it every chance they get in meetings with university officials. “This is not only a very important issue for our campus but also nationally,” George said.

• Staff Senate President Chris Wallace said he expected his group’s big discussions to involve weapons and potential changes to KU’s smoking policy.

Williams noted that the committees and charges were established back in June but that they’re fluid, and if significant new issues arise the Senate should add them to the list. A suggestion for at least one new charge immediately followed: parking. KU Parking and Transit redesignated a number of lots this year, and a lot of students and faculty aren’t happy about it, saying they have fewer — and insufficient — parking options. (Like, even more than usual.)


Footnotes

• Some big KU alumni news from Thursday: President Barack Obama presented a National Medal of Arts to 1979 KU textile design graduate and visual artist Ann Hamilton. The medal is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government, and Hamilton received hers in a batch of 11 artists that included writer Stephen King and actor Sally Field. Hamilton “uses time as process and material, and her work demonstrates the importance of experiencing the arts firsthand in the digital age,” according to prepared comments from the White House.

Hamilton’s unique, large-scale work was recently on display here in Lawrence, when she teamed up with her former KU teacher and textile artist Cynthia Schira for an exhibition titled “An Errant Line.” In the 2013 installation, the artists used digital tools to cast a new lens onto the unique architectural features and existing artworks at KU’s Spencer Museum of Art.

• The big Jayhawk Boulevard reconstruction project (which included replanting trees on either side of the roadway that, once they’re bigger, will form a tree canopy like the one KU’s main drag used to be framed by) is being dedicated Friday, will remarks and a ribbon-cutting at 11:15 a.m. on the Strong Hall lawn. KU also is using the event as an opportunity to celebrate the university’s 150th anniversary — and promises there will be no fewer than 1,500 cupcakes.


Contact me

I welcome feedback and KU news tips, and as always I’m at 785-832-7187 on the phone, sshepherd@ljworld.com by email or @saramarieshep/@LJW_KU on Twitter.

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Provost: KU planning for implementation of same-sex spouse benefits

For five years, Kansas University's University Senate has been studying the issue of domestic partner benefits, urging KU to offer them, and basically getting nowhere. The new U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage — obviously — is not a mere suggestion. It's causing real change, and swiftly.

Just three months ago I reported the University Senate was formally recommending that KU offer benefits to employees’ domestic partners, following a report from the Senate’s Domestic Partner Benefits Committee. At the time, I got the sense that senators didn't think that would happen anytime soon but they wanted their stance on the record, nonetheless. (Note that their recommendation was for domestic partner benefits because they wanted benefits for same-sex spouses as well as non-married partners, same or opposite sex.) A snip from that story:

“KU does offer a few benefits to domestic partners — including gym access and bereavement leave for various definitions of partners — but not the most valuable benefits, which are medical and dental insurance, according to the report.”

Back in 2010 we reported that the initial Domestic Partner Benefits Committee was launching its first study. That resulted in more or less the same conclusions and the same University Senate support — and also the same lack of real effect. Again, from my April story:

“The university has cited state and federal laws, as well as challenging tax and regulatory implications to providing domestic partner benefits, as roadblocks, according to the report.”

Enter the June 26 Supreme Court ruling that all states must legally recognize same-sex marriage.

Today, KU Provost Jeff Vitter addressed the issue of same-sex spouse benefits in his e-newsletter, saying:

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling on marriage equality affects University of Kansas faculty and staff, as well as our families, friends, and neighbors. Recent news reports highlighted that all 105 counties in Kansas will now issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Today, we received the very good news that state agencies involved with revising policies are reaching out to clarify how and when benefits will be extended to spouses and dependents of state employees affected by the decision. Human Resources Management will share detailed information with faculty and staff as soon as it learns the date of implementation from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Division of Health Care Finance.”

So while paperwork may not be in order for employees to sign up today, it appears that at least for same-sex married couples the option is imminent — and no longer just a suggestion.

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