KU says it won’t use controversial faculty termination policy; 18-year-olds can now conceal-carry firearms

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After months of deliberation, the University of Kansas has decided not to adopt a Kansas Board of Regents policy that would have made it easier to terminate tenured faculty members for financial reasons in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod told the university’s governing body Thursday that the school finally has a clear enough picture of its financial outlook to determine it won’t need to use the policy. KU was the only one of the seven regents universities to even consider terminating tenured faculty because of budget shortfalls. The other six — Kansas State University, Wichita State University, Emporia State University, Pittsburg State University, Fort Hays State University and Washburn University — immediately rejected the regents’ option, which had been announced in January.

KU’s reluctance to commit to not terminating tenured faculty members had generated strong levels of worry and anger among the university’s educators. The regents had extended the deadline for KU to decide whether to take advantage of the policy until July 1 after Girod told the board an extension would give the university time to pursue other financial avenues.

Here’s what Girod told Board of Regents members on Thursday:

We appreciate the flexibility that was created through that policy and when you announced that back in January, we really were at the heat of the pandemic. Numbers were at their highest, and we were coming off a semester of dropped enrollments and pretty heavy revenue losses.

At that point our decision was we were not going to rule that out until we had a clear path forward financially. A lot has changed, obviously, since January and we’ve worked very hard on our campus, and a lot more things have become certain in that period of time.

So at this point, we really do not feel that we’re going to need to use this temporary policy in Lawrence or at the Medical Center.”

Also of note from June’s KBOR meeting:

• The Board of Regents adopted a change to its weapons policy to account for a recent change to Kansas laws that allows 18-year-olds to obtain concealed-carry permits. The change in the law, recently approved by the legislature, now allows a much wider group of KU’s student population to carry guns on campus, in dorm rooms and other locations.

• In a divided vote, board members on Wednesday rejected a proposal from KU student government leaders that would have raised required campus fees for each student by 6% — or roughly $31 — per semester. The regents who opposed the increase cited a board directive to universities to keep tuition rates flat because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They argued that the directive should apply to required campus fees as well, even given the relatively small increase. KU’s required campus fees will remain at their current $491.95 for the 2021-22 academic year.

• Girod underwent an annual job performance review in an executive session at the end of Thursday’s portion of the monthly meeting. The board recessed for two hours to review the KU leader’s job performance as well as those of Emporia State President Allison Garrett and Wichita State President Rick Muma. No results of the reviews were released.

• The search for the next leader of Kansas State University will be closed to the public. The board on Thursday unanimously approved a closed-search option to replace retiring K-State President Richard Myers, meaning that the public will have no say or input on any candidates for the position. In past searches, including for top leaders at KU, the board has presented a single “finalist” they’ve hired to fill university leadership positions.

Conner Mitchell (he/him), reporter, can be reached at cmitchell (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com or 785-435-9264. If you have sensitive information to send Conner, please email connermitchell (at) protonmail (dot) com. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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