Posts tagged with Kansas University

Sales tax paying off for education efforts in Johnson Co.

A new 75,000-square-foot complex on the Kansas University Edwards Campus and a new building that will house Phase I Clinical Trials for the KU Cancer Center are scheduled to open in the coming months.

The funds for the construction are paid for using a one-eighth cent sales tax in Johnson County that is divided equally among the KU Edwards Campus, KU Medical Center and Kansas State University’s Olathe Innovation campus.

The Business, Engineering, Science and Technology center on the KU Edwards Campus is scheduled to open March 2, said Bob Clark, vice chancellor of the Edwards Campus.

Eventually, KU will add 10 degree programs in Johnson County as part of its commitment to voters in return for the sales tax, Clark said. One of those programs, a bachelor’s degree in business administration, is already operating. It’s been a popular one, he said, with more than 100 students enrolled so far.

A second degree program, a bachelor’s degree in information technology through the School of Engineering, is pending approval from the Kansas Board of Regents.

The Edwards Campus hopes to roll out one or two new programs each year until it reaches the 10 new programs, Clark said. A third likely program will be a degree in engineering project management, he said.

KU officials have worked with industry members and other groups to determine what kinds of degree offerings are needed in the workforce.

“We have to offer what it is they’re looking for,” Clark said.

Fred Logan, a Prairie Village attorney and member of the Kansas Board of Regents, was chairman of the campaign to pass the tax. He said at the time of its passage in 2008, it was the first time in the United States that a county’s voters passed a sales tax in support of life sciences and higher education.

“It’s still the only one,” he said.

He said he’s been “thrilled” with the progress of the projects.

The new clinical trials building in Fairway for the KU Cancer Center is set for a late January opening. The Cancer Center hired Ray Perez to serve as the center’s medical director.

After the building opens, KU will be able to dramatically expand the number of patients it sees for experimental drug trials and should jump to one of the top five centers for Phase I trials in the country, Perez said.

The building is light and open and will have top-notch labs and other scientific support areas to complement the patients’ space.

“The thing that it’ll really enable us to do is to have full control over the research process,” Perez said.

Perez said the sales tax was “one of the compelling reasons” why he left his position at Dartmouth University’s cancer center to come to KU.

The sales tax is generating between $13.5 and $14 million per year, said Ed Eilert, chairman of the Johnson County Education Research Triangle authority board. That’s under the initial projections of $15 million per year, but the slightly lower collections haven’t had any effect on the projects, Eilert said.

By Andy Hyland

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KU cancer center designation may happen in 2012

The year 2012 will be a pivotal one for the Kansas University Cancer Center. After a site visit from an NCI team in February, KU will await word on whether it has achieved its top research priority of attaining designation as a cancer center from the National Cancer Institute.

The effort has been ongoing since 2005, but 2012 marks a turning point. After the site visit, the KU Cancer Center expects to hear back on whether it has received designation in the summer.

Designation, of course, is no guarantee.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said she has to keep reminding herself that most universities don’t achieve designation on the first try.

“In my heart of hearts, I think we’re going to get it,” Gray-Little said.

The results so far have been good. And in many cases, KU leaders say, the community is already beginning to see the benefits of a lot of hard work.

During the site visit, each section of the 600-page application will get a small group of reviewers associated with it.

“It’s a very scripted process where our programs have 10 minutes to present and they’ll be asked 10 minutes of questions,” said Roy Jensen, KU Cancer Center director.

They’ll also visit other areas of the cancer center until near the end of the day, when the room will clear out except for the site visit team and Jensen himself.

“That’s when I start earning my pay,” he said.

Group members will ask Jensen other questions or clarifications, and will then retreat to their hotel. Each grant section will be graded, and the entire grant as a whole will be graded. Those recommendations will be forwarded back to Washington, D.C., where a separate NCI review team, responsible for reviewing all cancer center grants in the country, will look at it, and decide whether it should be funded.

The waiting game begins after the site visit, and budget wrangling in Washington can make the timing of the decision a little more unpredictable. If KU doesn’t get designation, it will immediately begin the process of reapplying. University officials would receive a document from the NCI detailing areas where they need to improve.

“That document would become a blueprint of how we should address certain deficiencies and making sure that we comply with their guidelines,” Jensen said.

If KU does achieve designation, the cancer center plans to keep working. The grant must be renewed every three to five years.

KU also hopes to work toward the next level of designation as a comprehensive cancer center, which involves a more restrictive set of benchmarks for the center to meet.

Also in 2012, the KU Cancer Center will see the opening of its new clinical research building in Fairway. Ray Perez is the director of that facility, and is a recent KU hire from Dartmouth. The clinical research building is set to open at the end of January, and will vastly expand KU’s ability to perform Phase I clinical trials for new treatments.

Perez said he came to KU to help start an effort that was already going strong at his old school. He also saw the level of support — from the university, the state, the philanthropic community and the voters of Johnson County, who passed a sales tax to help fund the clinical trials building in Fairway.

“I don’t have a single colleague who isn’t really jealous of what we’ve got here at KU,” he said.

He said the voters who provided the sales tax gave the cancer center an extra boost.

“I think that what they’re really enabling us to do is very quickly jump in to the early-trial game,” he said.

Whether the application for designation is approved, Perez said, great strides have already been made.

“The indisputable fact here is that cancer treatment in Kansas City has already been improved by what we’ve put in place,” he said.

Andy Hyland

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KU surplus property recycling program donates 10,000th item to nonprofits

In a 3,500-square-foot section of a warehouse on Kansas University’s West Campus is what Sam Pepple calls the equivalent of grandma’s basement.

Rows of office chairs, tables, filing cabinets and shelves fill the space, as well as more unusual finds, such as a doctor’s examination table.

The warehouse is the heart of KU’s surplus property recycling program, which collects unwanted office furniture and equipment free of charge from departments across campus. Those items are then stored at the warehouse where other departments or area nonprofits can use them.

“Things get shifted around, sort of like grandma’s basement,” Pepple said.

This week, the program donated its 10,000th item to nonprofits. The item was part of a truckload headed to Lawrence Habitat for Humanity ReStore that included file cabinets, office chairs, desks and frames.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Byron James, who works at ReStore and stops by the warehouse about twice a month. The items he collects are sold at the store, which gives the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.

The 10,000 mark is a significant one when the alternative is considered.

“If we weren’t here doing this, it would be thrown away. It would be in a landfill,” Pepple said.

The program has been around for more than four years and is under the management of KU’s environmental stewardship program. Pepple, who is aided by a group of student workers, collects reusable office furniture and equipment from campus departments at no charge.

Other departments on campus have the first option of reusing those items. Just recently high-end Herman Miller office furniture made its way from the provost’s office to the Life Span Institute.

“It gives them a little more credibility,” program coordinator for the environmental stewardship program Aileen Dingus said of the effect the department’s furniture upgrade will have on visitors.

The surplus furniture becomes available as departments at KU remodel, move more people into smaller spaces or purchase new furniture. If the items aren’t gone in two weeks, the items are available to local nonprofits.

On a recent chilly day, Pepple had already collected brown sitting chairs from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Health Care Access stopped by to pick up office chairs, Cottonwood Inc. procured tables, and the Ballard Center took cubical dividers and a desk for a new office.

And then James drove off with a truck full of “new” merchandise.

“It’s great for us,” James said.

By Christine Metz

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Regents want universities to put together policy on reporting sex abuse

The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday told the leaders of the state’s public universities to put together proposed policies on mandatory reporting of sexual abuse to law authorities.

The directive was in response to allegations of long-running sexual abuse against a former assistant football coach at Penn State University.

Regents Chair Ed McKechnie said he would like the six public universities in Kansas to work on policies and possibly combine them all into one statewide standard.

After the allegations of abuse were made public at Penn State, Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little put out a message to the “KU Community,” saying, “Beyond any legal responsibilities, we each have a moral obligation to look out for the safety of the other members of our community, especially when they are children.

“The state’s mandatory reporting law does not cover institutions of higher education, but we are examining changes to KU’s own policies, which would codify that responsibility for our employees.”

The schools are supposed to report back to the regents in January.

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged with more than 50 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over 12 years. Sandusky has denied the allegations.

Critics said Penn State officials failed for years to do anything about Sandusky.

The scandal led to the recent firing of longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier.

Athletic director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz have been charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse.

By Scott Rothschild

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Regents want universities to put together policy on reporting sex abuse

The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday told the leaders of the state’s public universities to put together proposed policies on mandatory reporting of sexual abuse to law authorities.

The directive was in response to allegations of long-running sexual abuse against a former assistant football coach at Penn State University.

Regents Chair Ed McKechnie said he would like the six public universities in Kansas to work on policies and possibly combine them all into one statewide standard.

After the allegations of abuse were made public at Penn State, Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little put out a message to the “KU Community,” saying, “Beyond any legal responsibilities, we each have a moral obligation to look out for the safety of the other members of our community, especially when they are children.

“The state’s mandatory reporting law does not cover institutions of higher education, but we are examining changes to KU’s own policies, which would codify that responsibility for our employees.”

The schools are supposed to report back to the regents in January.

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged with more than 50 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over 12 years. Sandusky has denied the allegations.

Critics said Penn State officials failed for years to do anything about Sandusky.

The scandal led to the recent firing of longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier.

Athletic director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz have been charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse.

By Scott Rothschild

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Kansas Regents OK 2.5 percent in residence hall rates at KU

Kansas University students will pay more for room and board under an increase in student housing and food service that was approved Wednesday by the Kansas Board of Regents.

The room-and-board proposal would increase the yearly rate by $178, from $7,080 to $7,258, which equals 2.5 percent. That increase is for a typical double-occupancy room-and-board contract, and will take effect July 1.

All six state universities were granted increases by the regents.

The increases will range from 1.7 percent at Wichita State to 4 percent at Pittsburg State. Kansas State’s is 3.5 percent; Emporia State, 2.6 percent; and Fort Hays State, 2.4 percent.

Even with the increases, the cost of room and board at the Kansas schools would remain below the $8,194 average for public universities in the Midwest, according to a regents memo.

About 4,800 students live in KU student housing.

By Scott Rothschild

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Chancellor Gray-Little prepares to share KU’s vision for improvement with Kansas Regents

At a time of fiscal constraints, Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little is hoping to get state leaders to sign onto the school’s vision for improvement.

The goals outlined in KU’s “Bold Aspirations” plan, which was unveiled earlier this year, will also lift the state as a whole, Gray-Little maintains.

“It is very much a push to make an outstanding University of Kansas that also benefits the state,” Gray-Little said Monday in an interview with the Journal-World.

Gray-Little will present KU’s strategic plan and goals on Wednesday to the Kansas Board of Regents.

The goal is to make KU a top-tier research university, delivering the kind of research that improves the health of Kansans, creates new sources of energy and other discoveries, and meets the state’s workforce needs.

Gray-Little said she would like KU to be in the middle of the pack of peer research institutions, such as Iowa University, North Carolina University and Colorado University.

She also wants to maintain the school’s membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities.

Accomplishing those goals will require more revenue at a time when the availability of funds is being squeezed at the federal, state and household level.

“That is what keeps you awake at night,” she said.

In the legislative session that starts next month, KU will ask the Kansas Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback for $3 million in new funding to hire highly sought-after research professors.

KU also is working on programs to increase graduation and retention rates. Also, she said KU is undergoing an active discussion on whether to increase student admission standards.

Brownback has called on all public universities in Kansas to improve their national academic rankings.

By Scott Rothschild

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420 KU employees get pay raises

Although Kansas University has been without systemwide salary increases for faculty and staff since the 2008-09 fiscal year, 420 KU employees, including four deans, did receive pay increases for this academic year.

Tim Caboni, KU’s vice chancellor for public affairs, said the pay increases were for several reasons, including promotions and new job duties, increases to keep people from being recruited to other positions and addressing issues of salary equity based on the market.

KU officials said the 420 pay increases were separate from the planned merit-based pay increases for faculty and staff scheduled to be distributed in January.

The increases came throughout the university, including for faculty and classified and unclassified staff, he said. He said he didn’t know precisely how the pay raises were determined in each case and did not specify why the deans were given increases.

“It’s an individual-level decision,” Caboni said.

A specific job offer was not required in all cases. Jack Martin, a KU spokesman, said KU took pre-emptive action in cases “up and down the board” where salaries were out of line with the market value for the positions.

“Retention and retaining talent is going to be key to us doing what we aspire to do” in the future, Caboni said.

In at least one case where an increase was given, no specific job offer was ever discussed before the decision was made.

Mary Ellen Kondrat, dean of KU’s School of Social Welfare, received the largest pay increase among the deans, a $20,000, or 12 percent, increase from $165,000 to $185,000.

She said she never brought up other employers’ interest in her with her superiors, but she knew they were aware of the interest. While she said she didn’t know the specific reason given for her pay increase, she’s happy to remain at KU and wants to stay.

“I was the lowest paid dean,” she said, adding, “I certainly had options.”

Three other KU deans received salary increases:

• Rick Ginsberg, dean of the School of Education, received an 8.7 percent increase, from $184,000 to $200,000.

• Stuart Bell, dean of the School of Engineering, received a 3.8 percent increase, from $260,000 to $270,000.

• Lorraine Haricombe, dean of libraries, received a 3 percent increase, from $174,620 to $180,000.

Neeli Bendapudi, KU’s business dean, is the school’s highest paid dean on the Lawrence campus. She started this year at a salary of $350,000, which includes $60,000 in private funds.

Before this year, all of the KU deans on the Lawrence campus had been kept at the same salary level as the 2008-09 fiscal year. The only increases came when new people were hired to the position. Caboni said it was not just deans, however, who received increases. On his own staff, another company tried to recruit one of his employees. Caboni said that while the university couldn’t match the offer, he was able to offer the employee a raise, though it didn’t match the offer given by the outside employer.

Information on the deans’ salaries came to light after comparing their previous salaries with a new state salary database published this week by the Topeka Capital-Journal. KU officials expressed some concern about the database, including that it appeared to be inflating the salaries of most faculty members by taking their biweekly pay and multiplying it out over the entire year. However, many faculty members are paid on a nine-month salary instead of a 12-month salary.

The deans’ salaries, however, were reported accurately.

Andy Hyland

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Personal information of some KU students stolen during break-in

Kansas University police are investigating a break-in at KU Student Housing’s offices that resulted in some students’ personal information being stolen, said KU spokeswoman Jill Jess.

The break-in occurred last Wednesday night or Thursday morning, Jess said. Two computers — a desktop and a laptop —were taken, along with a binder containing housing paperwork for current and past Stouffer Place and Sunflower Apartments residents. The information stolen from the offices, which are at 422 W. 11th, included names, KU ID numbers and dates of birth. It also included dependents’ names and dates of birth.

A small number of the reports included Social Security numbers, Jess said. KU ID numbers will not allow access to student records without a password.

Affected students have been informed exactly what information was stolen, and KU officials are recommending that students whose paperwork was stolen update their passwords.

Anyone with information on the crimes should call the KU Public Safety Office at 864-5900, KU Crime Stoppers at 864-8888 or the Douglas County Crime Stoppers at 843-TIPS.

By Andy Hyland

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KDHE secretary advises KU pharmacy students to get to know their legislators

The secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment told a group of Kansas University pharmacy students they should be their own advocates and make their voices heard as the state works to fix a gap between Medicaid funding and expenses.

Bob Moser told the group of students and administrators on Monday the funding gap is widening for Medicaid costs —enrollment is going up by about 4.6 percent per year, while costs are increasing at about 7.4 percent per year, he said.

“We have to address this cost growth, or it’s going to affect other programs,” he said.

Costs are growing in large part because the population is aging, he said, and more people are becoming disabled, which qualifies them to receive Medicaid funds.

Moser said his office is focused on efforts to integrate “whole-person” care into the system and to involve health care managers in the care of patients to help them take medications on time, refill prescriptions and keep appointments, among other efforts.

He encouraged pharmacy students to involve themselves in the policymaking process by meeting with legislators.

He talked about working as a physician for 22 years in the western Kansas town of Tribune. He was often called upon to testify at state legislative hearings on a variety of topics.

“They value what health care providers have to say,” he said of legislators. “But they may not seek you out, necessarily.”

He encouraged students to make appointments with legislators, to be brief and come prepared with two or three talking points, leave with a business card and follow up with a thank-you note.

“Develop that relationship,” he said. “Whether you voted for them or not doesn’t matter.”

Donating big dollars to campaign war chests isn’t necessary, he said. But, especially at the national level, pairing with an organization with a political action committee can help get you in the door to see a legislator rather than working with staff.

“(Money) does get you access,” he said. “Right or wrong, that’s the way it is.”

Still, students shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to make their voices heard.

“It’s amazing what you’ll be able to do,” he said.

By Andy Hyland

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