September 25, 2023

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KU Search Efforts

There’s no easy solution and hindsight is great, but Kansas University officials need to give more attention to the timing and sequence of announcements of major hires at the University.

The recent announcement of the hiring of two new deans – Michelle Mohr Carney, School of Social Welfare, and L. Paige Fields, School of Business – only a short time before naming Dr. Doug Girod as the new chancellor seems to be a case of getting the cart before the horse.

The search and selection of a new chancellor was due to be announced sometime in late May or the first part of June as current chancellor Grey-Little would step down from her office the last day of May. The search and selection efforts for the three positions were moving along similar time tracks. As it turned out, the two new deans were named only a short time before news of the new chancellor was made public. Consequently, the chancellor will be moving into his office inheriting two new deans whom he had never met nor knew of their academic skills and philosophy. If possible, shouldn’t a chancellor be given the privilege or courtesy of knowing quite a bit about individuals being considered for deanship positions?

Likewise, doesn’t it make sense someone considering a move to Lawrence for a KU deanship would like to know about the leader of the school and what he or she stands for relative to the expectations of a dean before they commit to a new job?

In the current situation it becomes even cloudier as it was known KU’s provost would be a candidate for the chancellor’s job, probably one of the finalists. This being the case and if she was selected, there would be a vacancy in the provost’s office. The provost oversees the academic operation of the university and prospective deans certainly should be interested in knowing what the KU provost expects of deans.

The current situation at KU may be unusual but with so many major changes in the KU academic family, wouldn’t it have been better, if possible, to hold off the selection or naming of two deans until after the chancellor had been selected?

Shouldn’t a chancellor be deeply involved in who serves as deans? Or, is he or she expected to automatically okay whomever may be presented to him as a dean?

Switching from academics to athletics – it appears KU’s new chancellor will be inheriting not only two new deans without any personal involvement but he also will be saddled with an Athletics Director who has been given an extension of his contract and a huge hike in his pay….all without any or very little consultation.

Chancellor Grey-Little extended the AD’s contract by four years and raised his salary to $700,000. There’s also a new bonus plan whereby the AD will get an extra $40,000 if the football team ends the regular season winning half of its games….at least six victories.

It may seem cynical but shouldn’t a bonus be given for achieving something more than a mediocre record? What if an AD and a coach worked out a plan to schedule three “weak sisters” for non-conference games and then only have to win three conference games to pocket the $40,000? Or, why not make the 50/50 win-loss target apply only to conference games?

It’s obvious the big dollars on the KU campus seem to flow to the athletics department rather than to the academic side of the University.

KU is a very good state-aided university. Hopefully Chancellor Girod will be able to lead it to higher academic/research levels and Athletics Director, Sheahon Zenger, will be able to help the KU football team achieve a record better than 50 wins/50 losses and reduce the embarrassing and too frequent off-field and off-court actions of players.