Letters to campus

June 2015

Dear Faculty and Staff,

A warm mid-summer greeting from Anderson Hall! I trust that you are finding your way across campus through the myriad of construction projects as we continue to build needed physical infrastructure for our faculty, staff and students. I know it can be very inconvenient at times, and I thank all of you for your continued patience.

The last month has been a busy and challenging time in Kansas. After a record-breaking 113-day legislative session, the Kansas Legislature adopted a set of tax measures, passed the state budget and went home. The final budget passed by the Legislature capped tuition increases at the Consumer Price Index (1.6 percent) plus 2 percent, did not cut our block grant, provided the $60 million bonding authorization for renovation and expansion of the Seaton Complex for the College of Architecture, Planning & Design along with $3.7 million beginning in fiscal year 2017 from the educational building fund for debt service on the project. 

While the final result was not as good as we hoped, given the significant lack of needed revenue for the State of Kansas, it is not surprising.

At the end of the day, does it really matter what the pathway looks like that got us to this point?

In short, the answer is YES. The trail traversed by our elected officials does matter.

Like probably almost everyone, I paid close attention each day to progress made by the Legislature toward closing the funding gap and passing a budget. The emotional toll as the session went on grew on all state employees. As the session dragged on, with no compromise in sight, the possibility of a furlough became more and more a reality. I continued to doggedly believe that this wouldn’t happen and that our elected officials wouldn’t subject higher education to a completely unnecessary furlough process.

Thursday, June 4 — the day before furlough notices went out — was the worst day of my presidency at K-State as we prepared notices to our faculty and staff. To me, we were getting ready to tell significant numbers of the K-State family they were "non-essential" and their services and commitment to our students and the state of Kansas were not needed. With that came not receiving paychecks that they — and their families — were expecting until the Legislature finished its work.

Each and every one of you has your own story to tell about your perceptions and opinions about the last month of the legislative session as it relates to higher education in Kansas. I want you to know that I consider everyone to be essential to our operations at K-State. All of us work together to provide an outstanding educational experience for our undergraduate and graduate students. As I pondered the lasting effects of the 2015 legislative session, here are some other thoughts:

First, let me say on behalf of our entire senior leadership team how sorry we are that we even had to go through the furlough process. The quality of our university is driven by the people who work at K-State and having to tell any members of our university community that they are "non-essential" does not recognize the value each of you bring to Kansas State University. Many supervisors were placed in a position to make very fast furlough decisions with changing information from Topeka. While we endeavored to keep our communications open and provide everyone with as much information as we had available, at the end of the day many people had to make decisions with limited information.

Second, I heard amazing stories of K-State colleagues who asked their supervisor to put them on the "non-essential" list because they could afford the potential financial impact of a furlough compared to a co-worker. These requests were heartfelt and showed a sense of community and family that embodies the K-State spirit.

Third, we are going to need to clearly articulate the financial and morale costs associated with the furlough efforts, such as how many quality employees will seek opportunities outside Kansas or not even consider employment in Kansas. I will be prepared to discuss these issues with the Board of Regents and the Kansas Legislature during testimony in 2016.

Finally, I continue to receive questions on this year's budget and the effect it will have on campus. The short answer is that we will not have any internal reallocations this year, but we also will not be able to do across-the-board salary raises like we have done during the previous two years. My July letter to campus will have all of the financial details laid out for the campus community as I have done in previous years.

At the end of the day, I am proud of the K-State community for your response to the possible furlough and other situations outside our control. I appreciate your resiliency, your willingness to put students first and your commitment to excellence. Let's close this chapter of K-State history and move onto a great 2015-2016 school year.

Go Cats!

Kirk