Chancellor Douglas A. Girod

Message: Universities vital to democracy

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dear Colleagues,

Over the course of the past week, we have marked two occasions that remind us of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, as well as how we as individuals and as a university contribute to our democracy.

Last week, we held a national election. In Kansas, it was the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. And just as activists brought down this barrier to voting, many of us have seen other barriers come down over the course of our own lifetimes.

In addition to readying our students for their careers, we also have a responsibility to prepare them to be active, engaged citizens. This includes equipping them with the ability to think critically, and helping them develop a broad base of knowledge and experiences on which to base their decisions.

Through its learning outcomes, the KU Core Curriculum will help ensure our students receive an education that is flexible in its requirements, yet comprehensive in its approach. This will enable them to enter the world after graduation ready to contribute to our society and our democracy.

The other event we marked was Veterans Day, a day to honor the men and women who have served our nation and defended the rights and freedoms we enjoy. The University of Kansas is proud to be home to faculty, staff and students who have served in the armed forces, and is one of only 50 universities to have all three ROTC programs represented on campus.

This weekend I visited with the KU Veterans Alumni Chapter, which is working with the KU Collegiate Veterans Association and the university to provide services to Jayhawk veterans, including those wounded in the course of their service, as well as their families.

The chapter is also looking at how we can strengthen our partnerships with the military, such as the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. These partnerships enable the men and women of our military to benefit from the knowledge of our faculty and staff in several of our schools, departments and area studies centers, and we in turn benefit from their extensive first-hand experience in areas of the world in turmoil and transition.

These partnerships are also an example of how we benefit the nation by serving as a forum for the free and open exchange of ideas, especially when we are able to contribute our own ideas and discoveries to that exchange. This dialog must never be hampered simply because some of those ideas may be unpopular or because some of those discoveries challenge the conventional wisdom.

We are striving to enhance research and scholarship across all academic disciplines because it is part of our responsibility as a research university to bring new ideas to the table. By meeting global challenges and contributing to global understanding, our discoveries really do change the world.

History has shown us that democracies need protectors, whether they are marching in uniform or in peaceful protest. And to stay healthy and vibrant, they also need active citizens and engaged universities — universities just like ours.

Bernadette Gray-Little

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
Chancellor's Vision

The mission of the University of Kansas is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world.

We will do that by raising the expectations we have for ourselves, the aspirations we have for our state, and the hopes we have for our world.