Welcome back! As we start the spring semester I want to invite you to attend the State of the University Address, this Thursday, January 27 at 4 p.m. in Woodruff Auditorium. This event will give us an opportunity to look at the major events of the past year, as well as to talk about the challenges and opportunities facing KU in the coming months. I hope you'll be able to either join us in person or watch online at www.chancellor.ku.edu.
While the university was on break the Kansas Legislature began its 2011 session and Governor Sam Brownback was sworn into office. Public service is just that – service – and we thank all of our state's leaders for their willingness to step forward and work on behalf of our state.
In his State of the State Address, Governor Brownback highlighted the importance of higher education to the future prosperity of Kansas. His budget identified the areas of cancer research, aviation, animal health and engineering as priorities for the state's research universities and recommending funding accordingly.
Overall, funding for the Regents system remains essentially flat in the governor's budget proposal, which is positive given the ongoing state budget crisis. However some proposed cuts, such as to public broadcasting and funding for the arts, would affect several units at KU.
The proposals made as part of KU's 2011 state agenda maintain our focus on fostering excellence in education and research, while also seeking ways to operate more efficiently, often by freeing the university from redundant state rules. We also support efforts by the Board of Regents to secure an increase in funding consistent with the Higher Education Price Index, as well as more support for scholarships and building maintenance.
In addition to support from faculty, staff and students – such as the engineering students who met with lawmakers last week and our very active student government leaders – Jayhawks for Higher Education will serve as a key ally in Topeka. I encourage you to sign up and to ask friends and family members interested in strengthening higher education to do the same.
KU's faculty and staff have a wealth of information to share with policymakers and we encourage you to respond to legislative requests, being sure to coordinate with Kathy Damron, our director of state relations. I also want to remind you that advocacy for issues or causes should be done with personal time and resources, such as non-KU e-mail accounts.
We are at the start of the legislative session, and while the governor's budget is an encouraging beginning, it is still just a beginning. I will continue to update you as the session progresses and you can also read weekly updates at the KU Government Relations page.
Thank you for being active and engaged in setting the future course of our university and state, as well as for being the reason that KU has such strong support in the Statehouse and across Kansas. Your work builds that support and is our university's strongest asset.