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Fall 2011 Faculty Chat with President Schulz

This is the official chat transcript from November 28, 2011. It reads top-to-bottom.

Betsy Cauble We've noticed DCE fees vary considerably across classes including some face-to-face day classes. Why can't we have the same tuition across all classes offered by K-State?

Kirk Schulz Greetings K-State faculty! I am looking forward to a great chat tonight, and I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving. My fingers are limbered up and ready to type - so let the questions begin!

Emilee Taylor asks:President Schultz, As we look towards our future in the 2025 plan, and a growing population of k-state students, how do you foresee us maintaining our "small school atmosphere, big school opportunities" mentality, outside of the attitudes of our students?

Kirk Schulz Excellent question - and one that I don't have an easy and pat answer to type. I think that we first need to be sure we understand what it is that gives us the "small school" atmosphere - is it the friendly faculty, relatively compact campus, etc... Once we have this identified, we can then ensure that in our desire to be bigger that we don't lose the "feel" of the Kansas State campus.

Andrew Bennett asks:The controllers office has new rules requiring we fill out a W-9 form for students receiving $10 for their time as research subjects. This hasn't been required in the past and is a pain. It seems unlikely the office is filing 1099 forms for students receiving $10 (it isn't required for amounts under $600 I believe). This is just one example of where the support services are increasing the load on faculty via overly strict requirements and stifling research efforts. What can you do to help minimize paperwork burdens.

Kirk Schulz Andrew - I have no idea why this is the case. I am going to ask Bruce Shubert (who is probably at home enjoying a cold one) to look into this and give you an answer. I concur - this seems a bit on the silly side.

Andrew Bennett How will KSU faculty faculty collaborate with programs at Olathe and Leavenworth? How can we maintain this as 1 university and not 4?

Donald Hedrick asks:Some talk is heard about considerations for ending or phasing out the phased retirement negotiated option. Are you a full supporter of this option, which would, obviously depending upon individual circumstances, offer continued expertise, mentoring, institutional memory, and national connections provided by many senior faculty, at least saving the university the expense of their full salary? Given our woeful status of salaries compared to our peers, it would seem that long time service to K-State would itself warrant continuance of the program. To what extent would you fight for it or not?

Kirk Schulz I don't think that Kansas State has taken any action on ending phased retirement at this point, and if we choose to do this it will be after asking the faculty senate to weigh in - any decision on this will not be made by my office with no input from campus. You point out many of the very positive reasons for why this program is worthwhile - mentoring, institutional memory, etc... I would note that phased retirements can be for up to 5 years, and I am fine with this policy if a clear case can be made on what the roles and responsibilities will be for an 80%, then 60%, then 40%, and finally a 20% load will be (and I fully realize that this will be case dependent). I am not in support of the phased retirement for administrators (deans and above). Bottom line - I don't know of any attempt to end this program by Anderson Hall.

Judith Hughey asks:Please address the Penn State situation; what steps are you taking to assure that a similar situation will not occur at K-State?

Kirk Schulz I believe that everyone across the national higher education community has been horrified by the unfolding situation at Penn State University. We have worked with our athletic department personnel to ensure that we have clear reporting lines for everyone involved with intercollegiate athletics at Kansas State. However, it is important that we publicize reporting opportunities for the entire Kansas State community - the issues at Penn State are much broader than just athletics. As such, the campus leadership (faculty senate, classified senate, administration, student senate) will be sending a communication to campus making sure we make everyone aware of policies which are currently in place as well as who to contact in the case of suspected illegal or improper behavior by anyone associated with Kansas State.

Tara Terkildsen asks:Why do out-of-state students with GRA positions get in-state tuition rates in addition to their standard pay, while in-state students only get the standard pay rate? This makes it so that out-of-state students are being paid more for the same work than an in-state student, since this is part of their compensation for GRA employment. Yet as a long-standing resident of the state of Kansas my family and I have contributed to the state (and thus the university) through taxes for many years. It would seem to me that it should be in-state students then who should get a tuition break. Can you explain why this is the policy since I do not understand the logic in this policy?

Kirk Schulz I am not sure I can answer this, so I will check with Dean Shanklin tomorrow to be sure. However, when I was a student at Virginia Tech in the 1980's, this was the same policy that was in place at that time. In engineering, many of the students were from abroad, so the granting of in-state tuition rates was the only way that stipend support could be spread among more students. I will see if I can get a better answer for you tomorrow.

Elizabeth Dodd asks:This fall I've noticed some much-needed repairs to the bike route directly west of the Facilities plant. Are there any other bike-friendly upgrades planned in the near future?

Kirk Schulz We will try and make these types of upgrades as funds permit - and it helps for our bike friendly faculty to bring forward suggestions and ideas on things we can do to improve this part of campus infrastructure.

Betsy Cauble asks:We've noticed DCE fees vary considerably across classes including some face-to-face day classes. Why can't we have the same tuition across all classes offered by K-State?

Kirk Schulz A lot of issues with our distance education fee structure are historical. We need to look at distance education tuition and fee structures across the entire campus to ensure that we come up with a more reasonable tuition model. I know that Provost Mason and VP Shubert are aware of this, and we are looking at some possible solutions. However, we are always welcome to suggestions from across campus on issues such as this one - as there are no solutions that won't have a negative impact on either individual faculty or entire departments.

James Bloodgood asks:What has the Regents' reaction been to 2025? In what ways are they planning on supporting this effort?

Kirk Schulz The Kansas Board of Regents has been extremely supportive of the 2025 vision. Indeed, this summer during my annual review and discussion on K-State 2025 they told me "don't take your foot off the accelerator!". I believe that they are going to assist us with special initiatives with the legislature, and giving us considerable latitude to try new things. Finally, I believe the Regents more fully understand that Kansas State has a broader mission as a research university - which includes excellence in teaching, research, and service. This is particularly important as we need their support to grow our scholarship endeavors as a campus - and by their understanding of research and graduate education as a key part of our mission we have a greater chance of being successful.

Julia Keen asks:Can you tell us how you see distance learning and alternate course delivery contributing to 2025 goal? Do you see the number of students on the physical campus decreasing?

Kirk Schulz I don't believe we are going to see the number of students on our physical campus decrease significantly - as there are still many students who desire (and will demand) face-to-face instruction and interaction with faculty. However, I do think we will see more adult learners, individuals who are place bound, and global students attracted to our unique programs - which means that we will see our enrollment increase with students that we simply could not reach any other way that through distance education. Finally, I do think that we will see more students with "hybrid" schedules - some face-to-face and some interactive on-line with instructors.

Betsy Cauble asks:How will KSU faculty faculty collaborate with programs at Olathe and Leavenworth? How can we maintain this as 1 university and not 4?

Kirk Schulz I think that faculty at Kansas State and other universities are the masters of creative collaboration - which is part of many faculty members scholarship. Early in my career, collaboration was done with physical visits to other laboratories, phone conversations, and interaction at national meetings. Today, this list only grows longer with additions of email, video chats, and other modern technological collaboration tools. I do think that we sometimes have to work harder to collaborate since we are overburdened with information - and it will be up to the campus leadership to find creative ways to ensure that faculty at all K-State locations are aware of opportunities for collaboration regardless of physical location. As always, good ideas on how to do this are welcomed ....

Elizabeth Dodd asks:Okay, another suggestion: bike racks more prominently--and conveniently--located near Hale Library's entrances. Bike racks are cheaper than parking lots!

Kirk Schulz Good suggestion - and I will pass this on to the powers-that-be to see what they can do. Wait - I am the "powers that be"! Let me see what we might be able to do .....

Thomas Vontz asks:Many faculty members remain concerned about faculty salaries. Of course, the 2.5% increase is better than no raise at all. Several issues remain: 1) How do we address merit increases in the current environment? 2) How do we address salary compression in the current environment? 3) When do you plan to address salary issues in the future?

Kirk Schulz Ah, my favorite chat question! The senior administration needs to continue to find good ways to fund additional salary increases for both our faculty and staff. Our increased enrollment this fall give us the financial flexibility to be able to do the 2.5% salary increase, and continued modest student growth in the fall of 2012 would give us the opportunity to look at an additional mid-year adjustment next year. Salary compression continues to be a significant problem, and we will need to consider a compression pool separate from a raise pool sometime during the next 12 months. Salary will continue to be an issue as we move into the future - and we will keep doing what we are now - raising private funds to endow more chairs, using modest enrollment growth to fund modest raise pools, and developing a separate pool of funds to address compression issues. If we are able to convince the State of Kansas to provide more financial support to higher education, we would be in a much better position to make bigger salary gains sooner. Finally, I fully understand that our salaries lag other Big 12 research universities - indeed, we are last. The only solution to this is to keep trying a variety of different ways to provide raises - which is what we are committed to trying.

Michel Ransom asks:What has been your most difficult challenge since you accepted the job as President of K-State?

Kirk Schulz The biggest challenge is to convince K-Staters that it is O.K. to think big. We have a lot going for us here at Kansas State, and our future (at least in my opinion) is very bright. Do we have issues - sure - but then again what public research university doesn't? I will stack our faculty, staff, and students against their counterparts anywhere - and am confident that 9 times out of 10 we will come out ahead. So - we need to think big (hint, hint Top 50, $1B fundraising campaign, national academy members on faculty, etc...), plan effectively, and I am confident we will achieve things that no one may think is possible. I really believe that I have one of the top jobs in higher education - and tend to be a "glass is half-full" kinda guy anyway.

Andrew Bennett asks:What worries do you have going into the HLC visit?

Kirk Schulz I feel VERY good going into the HLC visit. Brian Niehoff and his team have done an excellent job at getting us ready to go. I am sure we will dinged a bit for lack of diversity among the senior leadership team and funding for the library - but these are items we can work on for the future. Overall, I am confident we will come out of this visit with a clean slate.

Betsy Cauble asks:What can the university do to support fixed route transit in our community?

Kirk Schulz We continue to have discussions with the Mayor and City Commission on this very topic. I gave a K-State 2025 update to the Commission several weeks ago, and mentioned that public transportation was critical to our ability to grow as a university in the future. Conversations are continuing, and I am optimistic we are getting close to a solution. However, it is critical that everyone - City of Manhattan and K-State, enter into this as a partnership - this cannot be totally funded by the university.

Betsy Cauble asks:What plans might we have for recruitment of underrepresented groups both faculty and students?

Kirk Schulz We continue to dialog with several of our underrepresented campus faculty groups about what we can do to increase our diversity among the faculty. Generally, there are few items we can do - but the most pressing is finding additional monies to fund tenure-track faculty lines when great minority candidates are identified. If we provided additional faculty lines as incentives to search committees, I believe it would provide the needed spark to further diversify our faculty.

Andrew Bennett asks:Dickens Hall has had electrical problems this semester. This is just one of many infrastructure problems on campus. What are plans to improve the physical facilities on campus?

Kirk Schulz The Kansas Legislature is very aware of the issues with campus infrastructure, and we intend to aggressively pursue funds to renovate existing campus buildings and to continue to address basic infrastructure issues. We have made some excellent progress in the last couple of years on roof replacement, upgrades to the campus electrical network, upgrades to steam lines, etc.. It is like trying to eat an elephant - you have to do it one bite at a time! So we will continue to be diligent in improving our facilities for our faculty, staff, and students in the future.

Michel Ransom asks:Will you be seeking changes to the promotion and tenure system at K-State? Will changes be needed to meet the vision and goals of K-State 2025?

Kirk Schulz I would like to see greater consistency in the way we handle promotion and tenure across the university - but in the end - this is really a faculty issue. I have talked with Provost Mason about this extensively, and this is an issue I would love to have the Faculty Senate take up in the future. As a quick example, most universities (actually all of them I where I have worked!) have external letters from peers as part of the packages for tenure and promotion - some units do this at K-State and some don't. Any changes to tenure and promotion are always controversial - but I would certainly enjoy some dialog with the faculty on this as we move ahead.

Kirk Schulz Folks - thanks for great questions! Time for dinner now - and I wish everyone the best of success as you finish up the semester. Go Cats!