May 21, 2004

Contact: Lynn Bretz, University Relations, (785) 864-8866.

Chancellor's prepared remarks for All-University Supper

The following are University of Kansas Chancellor Robert E. Hemenway's prepared remarks for tonight's All-University Supper.

This event has a long history. We have been inviting members of the KU family to break bread and honor Jayhawk achievement on this occasion for well over 100 years.

More than anything, the All University Supper is a kind of annual family reunion, one in which we talk about our university and recognize distinguished alumni for the extraordinary ways they have brought honor to themselves and to KU.

The emphasis has always been upon family, on the bonds of caring that have shaped students, faculty, staff and alumni during their KU experience. So accept my report tonight as a kind of belated Christmas letter for the far-flung KU family, meant to bring everyone up to date with family events.

We have just finished one of the most successful years in KU history. We have the largest enrollment ever at the University of Kansas, 29, 272 students. We have the largest enrollment of students of color in KU history, 2,915, or 11% of our student body.

That student body is the most qualified ever, judged by standardized test scores and grade point averages. We have almost 400 National Merit Scholars now studying at KU.

Our enrollment success comes after two years of a five-year tuition plan that will take KU tuition to $4700, still well below the national average. These increases have been supported by students because they do not want KU's commitment to excellence to be compromised by the recent economic hardships of the state. With student support, KU has set aside 20% of those tuition increases for the most needy students, so that KU can preserve its historical commitment to access for all those qualified. KU has always been a public university for all of the students of Kansas, regardless of wealth, race, lifestyle, ethnicity, religion or heritage, and KU continues to enroll more Kansans than any other university in the state.

KU's faculty are the best, most accomplished, and most competitive they have ever been.

Our teaching has been nationally recognized this year, and I will speak more about that in a moment. Our faculty's research efforts have enabled KU to compete for and secure $258 million of research and training funds this year. Five years ago, KU ranked 65th on the list of public universities receiving federal funds. KU now ranks 46th among public universities in the successful competition for grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies.

Faculty members in the arts, the humanities and the social sciences have been equally as successful as their grant-getting scientific colleagues. They have published ground-breaking books and won national awards for their work. Don Deshler in Special Education met this month with President Bush to talk about the No Child Left Behind Act. Kevin Willmott's film, "Confederate States of America," acquired an executive producer, Spike Lee.

Vince Gnojek, Professor of Saxophone, and his students won Down Beat's award for Best Classical Instrumental Music. Roger Shimomura, Distinguished Professor of Painting, won one of ten prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation Awards. Bozenna Pasik-Duncan, Professor of Mathematics, won the Hay Award for Distinguished Contributions to Mathematics Education.

KU First, Invest in Excellence, our capital campaign, met its $500 million goal a year ahead of schedule, a tribute to the private donors who want KU be more than it would be with only state support.

The KU Medical Center sees more patients now than ever before in its history, and the KU Hospital has been designated as one of the 100 most improved hospitals in the country -- one of only 15 teaching hospitals to make the list.

Our athletic programs, under the general leadership of Lew Perkins, have had an extraordinary year -- a football bowl game, the basketball team a shot away from a third straight Final Four, volleyball advancing to the NCAA tournament, soccer reaching the Sweet 16, a new women's basketball coach, Bonnie Hendrickson, who is a former Olympian. In all kinds of competitions we excelled. The Bowling team won the national club championship. The Debate team finished fifth in the nationals.

These achievements are tangible and obvious and easy to point to. What lies at the heart and soul of the university, however, is the attachment that students feel with their university and their teachers. We had an extraordinary opportunity to observe how KU students feel this year because an external group wanted to study us.

The AAHE conducted a national survey of over 500 institutions in an attempt to identify universities that are unusually effective in promoting student success. This national survey identified institutions that ranked extremely high when their students were queried about how positive they felt about their educational experience. KU was one of only two large universities that scored so highly in the survey that an investigating team was sent to visit campus.

Thus, this fall a team of researchers came to Lawrence to document effective educational practices at KU. Let me share with you what these researchers found at KU. They began with things we take for granted.

"The main campus is in the city of Lawrence, a vibrant, medium size (80,000 population) college town, known for its arts scene and specialty shops, coffee houses and restaurants. Owing to its attractive setting 'on the hill,' KU has a distinctive 'sense of place' that instills school pride and an excitement about learning. Students repeatedly mentioned the physical beauty of the campus and especially appealing places such as Jayhawk Boulevard as significant to their educational experience."

The investigators quickly got past the surface to the culture of KU.

"The history and ambience of Lawrence also have a non-trivial influence on the attitudes and norms of campus life. Home to the abolitionists who survived Quantrill's raid, and the well-known African-American poet Langston Hughes, the town is open to newcomers who share similar democratic values. The egalitarian, Populist roots run deep, which makes for a curious self-conscious ambivalence about aspiring to excellence -- or at least being too public about it. It is not that Kansans do not want to be known for something, or for KU to be thought of as the 'Harvard on the Kaw.' In fact, as a long-time faculty member told us, 'the inherent inferiority of Populism drives us to be distinctive.' In part, it is how one becomes 'known' that is the issue. Being distinctive because of good works and good deeds is acceptable, but making too much of one's accomplishments, or that of the University, is not considered 'the Kansan way' -- unless intercollegiate basketball is the issue."

What they were most surprised with was how KU was different:

"With a faculty to student ratio of 15:1, KU strives to promote the nature and frequency of student-faculty interaction that is not typical of large research universities. There is also a strong ethic that faculty members provide individual attention and support to students, a reflection of KU's background and history. Extensive mentoring for faculty and students, financial support from administration to support faculty-student conducted research, and a Center for Teaching Excellence are a few of the mechanisms in place to further promote teaching excellence and collegiality within the University."

In the end, what the researchers found was that KU's success depends upon three qualities:

1) KU's collegial environment
2) KU's undergraduate teaching
3) KU's traditions and culture

Here is what they said about each of these.

Collegial Environment
"The collegial character of KU is key to a variety of desirable educational outcomes among students including leadership, interaction with faculty, and ease in adjusting to the college environment. There is an open, positive relationship between students and faculty members, characterized by respect and genuine appreciation. Administration and faculty described the University as a place where collegiality, trust, and positive working relationships among people have established an atmosphere of collaboration and cooperation. In fact, the word 'family' is often used to describe the atmosphere and nature of the relationships that exist on campus.

"People frequently referred to doing things the 'Kansas Way,' which has multiple interpretations. One is the norm that 'we all give up a little to make the place better as a whole.' Another is an 'insidious fondness for Jayhawks,' in the words of one long-time faculty member. Yet another interpretation is that KU 'creates an environment in which the student feels comfortable.' One faculty member said it well: 'KU is remarkably sensitive to student issues.' As one student senate officer commented, 'Students are on an equal playing field with faculty and others in terms of governance.' Clearly, students and their 'voices' are very important at the University.

"This ethic of cooperation and collaboration further promotes and supports the value that students come first and are important, valued participants in the life of the University. A senior put it this way, 'I have a greater love for KU because I have a better understanding of how it works.'"

Undergraduate Teaching
"Over the last decade, high quality undergraduate instruction has been increasingly emphasized at KU. This has come about, we were told by faculty members and senior administrators, as a result of a deliberate effort to 'change the faculty ethos related to teaching.' There is a consistent message coming from the highest administrative levels that 'good teaching matters.' The Provost's philosophy is that effective teaching complements good research and vice versa. He has built support for this approach because the faculty 'knows that he will listen and that he understands the culture.'

"The emphasis on teaching is manifested in a number of institutional practices and norms, resulting in improved teaching and learning at all levels -- from introductory to capstone courses -- and students now expect a more challenging academic experience. The emphasis has had a profound effect on the caliber of teaching -- and hence, the level of academic challenge -- at KU. The shift in orientation and values began with senior faculty, those who are making tenure and promotion decisions. The message is reinforced by the fact that all executive administrators teach at least one class per year. One faculty member pointed out, 'Even the Chancellor teaches. This symbolizes our commitment to undergraduate teaching!'"

Traditions and Culture
"KU has a 'legacy of excellence' built upon a reputation passed between generations, among siblings, and through local Kansas lore. KU was described to us as 'steeped in traditions.' Many of these traditions (particularly academically related ones) build school pride, create an environment of academic success, and connect students to the campus community.

"According to one administrator, 'The school is very direct about building graduation into Traditions Night.' KU also emphasizes the importance of graduating from KU through the ritual of recognizing the generations of Jayhawks. Students who are first- through fifth-generation Jayhawks are asked to stand and be recognized. In addition, a torch is passed from a senior to a representative of the first-year class (representatives are usually fourth- or fifth-generation Jayhawks). Several students mentioned that the campanile represents high aspirations and seeing students walking through the campanile at commencement is an academic achievement ritual, inspiring them to work even harder."

It is not often that you receive an evaluation from an outside group of experts, and they say, in effect, "You are doing great. You are a model for the rest of the country."

We are very proud of this assessment and hope you are, too. The survey team identified, I believe, why KU has the privilege of pointing to distinguished alumni and saying here is the result of a KU education.

But I have to tell you, in closing, there is a sadness in reporting such notable successes. KU faculty have been so successful that one is forced to ask a legitimate question: Why is it that such a talented faculty is 10% to 20% behind other Big 12 universities in salaries? We are not at the bottom -- K State is -- but why should Kansas be lagging? That question must be answered soon by the Kansas Legislature, or the achievements I just cited will be gone because the professors will be gone. And they will leave behind dedicated faculty members who have committed their lives to KU, and watched their salaries fall further and further behind, as though there was a penalty for staying at KU.

We must do better. Our achievements will be hollow if the state does not step up and say, students with your higher tuition you are doing your part to ensure that a great university sustains its excellence, but the state must participate, too. Salary increases over the past three years have been less than 2%. Our faculty are too good and too proud to have the State of Kansas continue to disrespect their achievements. Achievement is high. Morale is low. Voters will have the opportunity this year to identify who will support higher education and who will not. We must elect a legislature that believes in the same excellence that KU faculty achieve every day. Let's make sure a pro-education legislature convenes in Topeka come January 2005.


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