Partnerships with policymakers at all levels of government are vital to our ability to achieve our bold aspirations. As we start the new semester, I want to update you on news from the Statehouse and the Board of Regents that is of interest to the University of Kansas.
Last week, the 2014 Legislative Session began and Governor Brownback issued his budget recommendations. As you recall, the FY 2014 and FY 2015 budgets approved during the last session included across-the-board cuts, as well reductions that came to be known as the “salary cap” and fell disproportionately on the KU Medical Center.
The Governor’s Budget recommends restoring half of the “salary cap” cuts for this budget year and all of those cuts in FY 2015, which combined would mean an additional $4.07 million for KUMC and $163,703 for KU. The budget does not restore the 1.5 percent across-the-board cuts.
Two KU projects also received support in the Governor’s Budget. One is the proposed Kansas Institute for Translational Chemical Biology, which would enhance our drug discovery and development efforts. The other is a doubling of funding for the Kansas Bridging Plan, a loan forgiveness program for primary care physicians who practice in rural Kansas.
The budget does not include funding for our Health Education Initiative, which would expand the medical center’s ability to address the growing shortage of physicians in our state. We will continue to work with policymakers to advance support for this initiative, as it is central to our mission and to the health and well-being of Kansans.
We are at the very beginning of the session, and there will be many twists and turns as legislators meet for the next several months. You can sign up to receive regular updates and learn how you can advocate on behalf of our university by joining Jayhawks for Higher Education.
I also want to update you on the social media policy passed by the Board of Regents at its December meeting. On December 31, the Regents announced that a working group of faculty and staff from all Regents universities would be created to review the policy and make recommendations on changes.
Provost Vitter and Executive Vice Chancellor Girod solicited nominations from faculty and staff governance for our representatives on this group. KU will be represented by Charles Epp, professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration, who will co-chair the group; Mark Fisher, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; and Easan Selvan, associate director of support services in KU Information Technology and past president of Unclassified Senate.
As the working group reviews the policy, we will work with faculty and staff governance on how we would implement that policy in whatever form it ultimately takes. Central to that discussion must be protection of our core values, foremost being freedom of expression and inquiry, as well as recognition of our rights and responsibilities as public university employees. We must also ensure due process is afforded, governance is actively engaged in that process, and each situation is evaluated on its own merits.
While public universities will always face challenges, together with our alumni, donors, and partners in local, state, and federal government, we will achieve our bold aspirations and deliver on our mission of educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world.