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May 21, 2005
Contact: Lynn Bretz, University Relations, (785) 864-8866.

Remarks by Chancellor Hemenway at 2005 All-University Supper

LAWRENCE -- The University of Kansas honored the four 2005 Distinguished Service Citation winners -- graduates Paul James Adam Jr. of Overland Park, Forrest E. Hoglund of Dallas, and Kala Mays Stroup of Lawrence; and longtime university leader Delbert M. Shankel of Lawrence -- at the All-University Supper today. The event takes place annually during Commencement weekend.

Here are the Chancellor Robert Hemenway prepared remarks:

Welcome to the 133rd All University Supper at the University of Kansas. This tradition began in 1872, and like a lot of KU traditions, it just sort of rolls forward through the years on its own momentum.

I suspect that if the University's planners just took a vacation some year, and didn't make provisions for the All University Supper, people would still show up on the Friday night before commencement, ready to hear the Chancellor describe the State of the University.

And the Chancellor himself, wondering why he felt uneasy at home that Friday, sensing, absent-mindedly, that maybe he was not intended to be watching the Royals that evening, would suddenly jump to his feet, turn off the TV, beg the tradition gods for forgiveness, scurry forth to the Union, and like an adult remembering how to ride a bike, offer up yet another celebration of KU's annual achievements.

Despite this amiable fantasy, the planners did plan this year, and the Chancellor gave up the pleasure of watching the Royals win yet another well played game, and you are here, as regular as clockwork. So we will go forward with the Chancellor's speech, despite a 133-year tradition of having some in the audience nod off at about the 15-minute mark.

Let me deal with the State of the Union first. KU is stronger than it has ever been before in its history. It has the highest enrollment ever, 29,590 students, the strongest student body in its history, judging by GPA, standardized tests, and the 329 National Merit Scholars enrolled. We also have the most skilled faculty ever, judging by teaching awards, and ability to compete for research funding, and we have just finished the most successful fund drive in KU history, 'KU First' which brought 653 million dollars into the KU Endowment.

With the help of such private funds, we have added 286.6 million dollars worth of new buildings and renovations to the university over the last three years, and our landscape plan has made the campus more beautiful than ever.

If I can sum it up, in basic themes, we have created a university of superior, enduring value for Kansas and the World.

We have fulfilled our mission as a public university. We have provided an excellent return on the state's investment in us. We are ready and willing to be held accountable for the results of our stewardship. We also believe that stewardship, that return on investment, and that mission deserve state support.

A public university should educate its citizens, and KU conferred a record 6,129 degrees last year. The freshman retention rate was 83%, also the best in history. We enrolled more Kansas residents than any other university in the state, 20,379, and they will soon join the 138,000 KU alumni working in Kansas. In that group are a large percentage of the professional classes of Kansas: almost 4,000 doctors, 3,000 nurses, 3,300 allied health professionals, 1,841 pharmacists, 3,533 lawyers, 12,729 school teachers, 5,127 engineers, 9,607 School of Business grads, 4,427 journalists, and 3,348 social workers, all KU grads, all contributing to the success of this state.

A public research university also has a responsibility to provide world-class faculty to teach its students and lead its research efforts. KU's faculty has earned 269 Fulbright grants since that program began in 1950 to send the best U.S. faculty abroad to share their knowledge with the world. Our faculty have also competed for and won 274 million dollars in research grants this year, the most ever, demonstrating that KU competes at the very highest levels of American research.

In fact, these figures demonstrate why KU is near its goal of becoming one of the 25 best public research universities in America by 2010. Five years ago, when we announced this goal, we had 17 departments among the top 25 in public universities. Today, we have 26 departments designated as among the top 25. Five years ago, we were 55th in federal research spending; now we are 45th.

The real story here is that KU accomplishes all this with a relatively small investment of state resources: only 25 percent of our total revenues come from the state. Basically, the state gives us 238 million dollars and we leverage it into more than 952 million dollars of goods and services for Kansas. For every dollar the state invests in KU, the taxpayer gets almost $4.00 in return.

What does our return on investment look like at KU? In 2003-04, our 29,590 students paid 136.4 million dollars through their tuition and fees. 'Auxiliary enterprises' (for example, housing and dining) account for another 116.7 million dollars. The sum of just tuition and auxiliary services is greater than our state appropriation.

The second way we've leveraged the state's investment is through creative management of our state resources. For example, recently we announced the closing of our Printing Services operation in Lawrence. The simple fact is we can save money by bidding printing jobs in the free market. While the closing eliminated 20 jobs, we will save a significant amount of money that can be reallocated from administrative functions to the classroom.

At Lawrence and the Medical Center, we've closed central storerooms, saving at least $230,000 per year by replacing them with vendor desktop delivery. By reducing staffing and improving service, a significant savings in operating costs will be converted into investments for the classroom.

While we have made great strides in advancing our mission and effectively supplementing state appropriations, we are a public institution, which implies a partnership with the state. Support for that partnership takes two forms, base levels of funding (the 238 million dollars) and sufficient management flexibility to get the most out of our resources.

Because state appropriations seldom increase much, management flexibility is critical. In recent years, the Legislature has taken significant steps to enable KU and other Regents universities to operate our institutions more efficiently and effectively, including tuition retention and block grant funding. But we can go much further in empowering the university to give Kansas taxpayers more for their money:

First, let us spend the tuition dollars that we receive. We deposit that 136 million dollars in tuition our students pay into the state general fund, but we do not get the economic value of these funds. The state takes all the interest earned on the tuition checks students and parents write. How many of you would run your business in this way, depositing all your revenues in the bank, and letting the bank have all the interest those deposits earn?

Second, because we are a public university, our facilities are owned by the state. They are state assets in the same way that your house is your private asset. But, the state has provided very little recently to maintain and protect those assets. You fix your roof when the house springs a leak. The state tells us, do the best you can, we're a little short. Here's a bucket to catch the drip.

If the Legislature provides the funds to protect these assets, if it gives us the interest our tuition earns, we should expect to be held accountable for our use of the funds. This is nothing new for us. Each Regents institution has entered into performance agreements with the Regents. If we don't perform as promised, our funding will be cut.

Finally, there is another service we provide to the people of Kansas. We promulgate, teach, and defend the scientific principles upon which modern society depends. We prepare students to go out into the world with the scientific information they need to make new discoveries to enhance our way of life. We teach, for example, the science that leads to discoveries that cure disease and save peoples' lives. Our Medical School helps young doctors identify organisms that have evolved through natural selection and developed resistance to antibiotics. Only if you understand evolution will you know which antibiotic to prescribe.

Our exercise of this educational responsibility has recently put us at odds with six politicians who have been elected to the State Board of Education. They want evolution to be diminished in Kansas's public schools, on the ground that it is only a 'theory.'

Evolution is a theory in the same way that gravity is a theory'it has been proven to be a fact by years of scientific observation and experimentation. If we were to fail to teach such basic scientific principles, we would place Kansas's students at a disadvantage in the global, intellectual marketplace, and we would limit their ability to contribute to scientific leadership in the world. KU and the State of Kansas must be part of the scientific discovery process that drives innovation and keeps us competitive in a world economy.

We assume this role with all due respect for the religious beliefs of politicians on the State Board. Most of us simply believe you can have faith in God and evolution, too. You can believe in both. You don't have to make a choice.

But we cannot fail to teach good science'science that does not serve political opinion, but science that is proven by centuries of empirical evidence and observation. To fail to teach what we know is true would be a moral failure. To permit America to become a second-class nation because we ignored the principles of modern science would be an insult to our children and a repudiation of their talents. Kansas is better than that, and it is our obligation to protect its future.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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