May 28, 2023

The World Company logo

Critical Decisions for KU

The importance of the current search for a new Kansas University chancellor cannot be over-emphasized. A truly superior new chancellor will help improve the university, help make Lawrence a better city and have a tremendous and positive impact on the entire state.

A mediocre chancellor will keep the university spinning its wheels with its competitors growing and excelling at KU’s expense.

A superior new chancellor will stimulate and inspire the entire campus family; restore faculty, student and alumni morale and enthusiasm; restore a positive attitude in Topeka among state legislators and the governor; and help the entire Kansas education fraternity.

Based on the University’s past 15 or so years, the institution, Lawrence and the entire state cannot afford more of the same in the chancellor’s office.

In today’s intercollegiate sports world, the very top high school athletes are called “five star” prospects. Kansas University needs and deserves a “five star” chancellor.

In fact, the search, identification and recruitment to land a “five star” chancellor should demand just as intensive and effective effort as the university employs to land a 7-foot basketball player or an all-star football prospect.

If KU is to merit and strengthen its claim as being a “flagship” university, one of the nation’s best state-aided research institutions, it must have a “flagship” chancellor. This probably calls for a “flagship” salary/compensation package, not one tied to what other Kansas presidents, or even executives at other area schools receive.

Unfortunately, in past years those involved in KU chancellor search efforts have not aimed high enough nor have they made as thorough examination of potential candidates as they should. There have been too many disappointing surprises surfacing after the deals were sealed. If this year’s “finalists” do not measure up to what the university needs, better to start a new search rather than accept second best.

Again, the right chancellor will have a tremendously positive impact on KU, Lawrence and the state. The potential is almost unlimited but a spark is needed to ignite the pent up enthusiasm, excitement and vision throughout the state that has been stunted by a lack of true leadership on Mt. Oread.

Those charged with the responsibility of identifying possible candidates should have been looking for emerging all-stars, individuals who are happy and successful in their current positions and have to be sold on the merits and opportunities presented by KU and Kansas. Individuals looking for a comfortable last stop on their professional careers should not be considered.

It’s time for true leadership and vision by those on the search team. They hold the future growth and development of the university, as well as the immediate future of the state, in their hands. The professional head hunters employed by the university in recent chancellor searches have not distinguished themselves. In fact, the last two exercises have left many questions.

The stakes are high as is the potential. It’s up to those on the search committee and the Regents to demonstrate their commitment to excellence and the best interests of the university rather than to base their actions on political or social correctness.