Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to students, faculty and staff Feb. 9, 2021.
Faculty, staff and students:
Amid the challenges of the past year, we have maintained hope that conditions will allow us to host in-person Commencement activities this spring.
While there are still many unknowns about how the pandemic will play out in the months ahead, we are tentatively planning to host in-person Commencement events in May, both for this year’s graduates and the Class of 2020.
I want to emphasize that these plans can change at any point based on the latest guidance from health officials. We will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our community and adjust to evolving circumstances however needed.
For the Class of 2021, we plan to host Commencement activities in David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Sunday, May 16. For the Class of 2020, we plan to host Commencement activities in the stadium on Sunday, May 23.
To comply with health guidelines related to the size of mass gatherings, we will schedule multiple Commencement sessions each Sunday. Students and guests will be assigned to a specific session.
Tickets will be required for graduates and guests, and each graduate will receive a limited number of seats for guests – likely three or four per graduate.
Commencement will include the traditional walk down the Hill into Memorial Stadium, though the walk will look different than in past years to ensure social distancing.
All activities will be streamed live and recorded so those who aren’t on campus are able to watch.
Additional details will be shared later this spring.
School, unit and department events
All Lawrence and Edwards school, unit and department recognition events will be held virtually.
KU Medical Center leaders are still considering graduation weekend options and will communicate with medical center students and staff soon.
As we develop these plans, we will continue to consult with public health officials, as well as city and partners, whose assistance will be crucial as we welcome guests to the region.
I want to thank all of you who will help develop these plans in the weeks ahead, especially knowing they may change. This year’s planning will be complicated, but we owe it to our graduates to do everything we can to create the special moment they have worked for and deserve.
Fall 2020 may have been a semester to forget, but one KU journalism class was focused on making sure it could always be remembered.
Professor Eric Thomas saw a unique opportunity with his Photojournalism class to document a year unlike any other. Students captured shots of life on campus, both memorable and mundane to show their daily lives as students trying to get a college education during a global pandemic, with the end result a photo book available for sale.
Early in the fall with the semester’s future unknown, Thomas’ goal to produce the book was anything but certain.
“Honestly, I am surprised that we got the book complete,” Thomas said. “The book was a goal that I essentially whispered to the class because I was unsure that the pandemic, the state of classes on campus, the class’ health or even my health would allow us to complete it. Submitting the book to the publisher this month was, in some ways, the most unexpected thing that happened for me during a semester that was surprising at almost every turn.”
The photos cover moments in time such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 presidential election, and daily realities such as the pandemic and the resulting unemployment.
Phoebe Koruna, a junior journalism major from the Chicago area, came into the class with limited experience telling stories through photography.
“I took a few photography and digital art classes in high school, but I had never tried photojournalism,” Koruna said. “Artistic and journalistic photography have a lot in common, but I wasn’t used to taking well-composed pictures of strangers and asking for their information without using too much of their time. Capturing history instead of creating art was also different for me.”
As the end of the semester approached, the real work began: sorting through thousands of photos to find the very best to make the book. The process bled into the weeks after the semester ended, but the class was determined to get the job done.
“I will remember this year as a turbulent time, one of depressing news and little social life,” Koruna said. “I lost a chunk of my college experience, though I paid full tuition price. But I am also grateful, for my professors and peers, who made the best of a bad situation, and for this learning experience, even if it was not the experience that I had pictured. Professor Thomas’s class got me out of my apartment and thinking creatively; it was something I could focus my energy and attention on. I got to help document our small slice of history, and I will always be grateful for that.”
Thank you for your continuing advocacy on behalf of KU. As you know, the Kansas Legislature convened last week for its 2021 session, and last Wednesday, Governor Laura Kelly released her budget recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year. The Governor’s annual budget recommendations typically serve as a starting point for legislative debate throughout the spring.
This year, the Governor recommends a 5.3 percent cut to KU’s base appropriation, which amounts to $13.6 million. This proposed reduction includes a $7.6 million cut for Lawrence and a $6 million cut for KU Medical Center. As a percentage, this would be the largest cut to KU since 2010. As a total dollar amount, this would be the largest cut to KU in history.
Additionally, the Governor proposes salary increases for other State agency employees, but there is no such direct appropriation for universities. Instead, she recommends $10.4 million for the Kansas Board of Regents to utilize at its discretion.
We are disappointed and concerned by the Governor’s proposed budget and its singling out of higher education. Due to the pandemic, KU already faces a Fiscal Year 2022 projected shortfall of $74.6 million that will require us to eliminate programs and departments, reduce services, and implement furloughs and layoffs on a large scale. A reduction in state funding would necessitate these measures be even more drastic, causing irreparable harm to KU and further diminishing our ability to serve Kansans.
The Governor’s budget proposal is just that—a proposal—and her recommendations may or may not end up in the Legislature’s final budget. We will continue to work with legislators to help them understand the importance of adequately funding KU at this crucial moment.
For more information on KU’s legislative agenda, please visit KU Public Affairs’ state relations page. We will continue to share email updates throughout the session, and we appreciate your help in encouraging lawmakers to support KU so our university can continue to serve Kansans by educating future leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world.
Thank you, and Rock Chalk!
Heath Peterson, d’04, g’09 President, KU Alumni Association
Jayhawks for Higher Education communicate the importance of the University and higher education to the Kansas Legislature. Alumni advocacy is a longstanding tradition of the KU Alumni Association as an independent nonprofit organization. Informed advocates help strengthen the University.
Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to students, faculty and staff Jan. 7, 2021.
Students, faculty and staff,
This morning we join our colleagues across higher education in condemning the shocking violence that unfolded yesterday at the United States Capitol. We should all be horrified and humiliated by what happened in the very seat of our American democracy.
We join leaders and citizens across the country in calling on President Trump to accept the legitimacy and finality of the November election and to convey that to the American people. It’s imperative that he stop spreading false information that incited yesterday’s violence and has led many others to deny the true election outcome.
America operates on the rule of law, not mob rule. On Jan. 20, Joe Biden will be sworn in as our nation’s next president, as dictated by our Constitution and the votes of the American people.
This is a difficult moment in American history, and it is essential that the work of democracy continue. Universities like KU can and must play a role in this work through education, service and research, and by contributing however we can to the nation’s democratic values and procedures.
Douglas A. Girod Chancellor
Healing and Remembering our Responsibility to Humanity
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara A. Bichelmeyer and Interim Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging D. A. Graham sent the following to students, faculty and staff Jan. 7, 2021.
Dear Students, Staff and Faculty,
We condemn the defilement of the United States Capitol yesterday, a senseless and unlawful shedding of blood, loss of life, and the dysfunction that looms over our republic. This violent upheaval reminds us that facts matter, that there is power in our words, and therefore we must be careful with our speech. Words help us remember that we need to see in each other a common humanity that reflects our image.
The days ahead will certainly challenge us in many ways; we have to choose to focus on healing and creating an inclusive and nurturing community at KU. There are national questions that have yet to be answered, which speak to the disparity of the treatment of yesterday’s insurrectionists compared with those who peacefully protest in other settings and other cities. As we each engage together to restore our republic and our relationships, we have the power to choose to connect and understand each other – to be life affirming and life giving in our work and studies. Please avail yourself of your KU friends and mentors, as well as resources and counseling services this campus offers for students and for employees. We are in this together.
We ask that every member of our community choose to engage and communicate with each other bound by principles of inclusion, empathy, compassion, equality, dignity and diversity. We would hope that we choose to show up for our KU community with kindness, integrity, honesty and respect. We would hope that we choose nonviolence, truth, perseverance and the planet. When we find ourselves engaging in “us versus them” thinking, let us instead choose “we.”
We are KU.
Barb and D. A.
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, Ph.D. Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor
D. A. Graham, Ph.D., M.Div., MHR Interim Vice Provost Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging
The University of Kansas Alumni Association hosted its first-ever virtual fundraising event, Jayhawks Flock Together, Thursday, Nov. 19, in support of student and alumni programs and KU’s Campus Cupboard, a food pantry for students, faculty, staff and affiliates. The event, featuring KU Chancellor Douglas Girod, Alumni Association President Heath Peterson and Fox 4 News co-anchor John Holt, was presented in partnership with Dimensional Innovations, Helix Architecture + Design and McCownGordon Construction and supported by video production sponsor, KJO Media.
Nearly 750 Jayhawks worldwide participated in the event, which raised $80,000 from sponsorships and the silent auction to support the Association’s Jayhawk Career Network and the Student Alumni Network, and $20,000 from the Fund-the-Future portion of the live program to benefit the Campus Cupboard, which the chancellor selected to highlight the seriousness of food insecurity and its effect on Jayhawks.
According to KU, approximately one-third of its students experience food insecurity during their time on campus, and those needs have only intensified this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as many student-held jobs on campus or in the Lawrence community have been eliminated or reduced.
“We deeply appreciate the generosity of KU alumni and friends who contributed financially to the KU Campus Cupboard,” said Jennifer Wamelink, associate vice provost for KU Student Affairs and Food for Jayhawks committee member. “Your gifts help the pantry provide students with the specific food items, hygiene products and school supplies that meet their unique needs and are particularly meaningful as we prepare for what looks to be another difficult semester for many.”
“We are especially proud to support the KU Campus Cupboard to help students who are struggling with food insecurity and hunger,” said Peterson. “In addition, funds raised from Jayhawks Flock Together are critical to the Association’s efforts to expand industry and career connections between all Jayhawks and significantly enhance the student experience. We are grateful for all event sponsors and Jayhawks who came together during a very challenging time to positively impact thousands of students and alumni.”
Last week we announced we will not host fans at Kansas Athletics competitions for the rest of November in light of the regional surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
I write today to inform you that we will continue to not host fans during the first week of December, which includes all events through and including Saturday, Dec. 5. For contests after that week, we will make decisions about attendance on a week-by-week basis so we can be responsive to the most current circumstances and medical guidance.
This decision has been made after consultation with our Pandemic Medical Advisory Team and other university leaders. We will continue consulting this group regarding upcoming events and will communicate updates with you as appropriate.
We know this is disappointing to those of you who planned to be on campus to root for the Jayhawks in early December. While we are not aware of any incidents of COVID-19 transmission at any home athletics competitions, the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations across the region makes it unwise to host fans at this time.
As I wrote in last week’s message, this is a critical moment for our state and nation. Throughout the fall, Douglas County has had lower positivity rates than most other parts of the region, thanks to the commitment of our community to curb the spread of the virus. But the spread of the disease in neighboring regions has caught up to us. Kansas and adjacent states are at a tipping point, with the number of new COVID-19 cases increasing each day, and hospitals at or near capacity. The next few weeks will be crucial, particularly as many of us consider whether to gather for the holidays.
Now is the time for each of us to renew our commitment to mitigation efforts, particularly with respect to mask-wearing and social distancing, which have served us well so far. Each of us must commit to thinking not only about ourselves, but about the entire community, in every decision we make. The safety of our friends, families, colleagues, classmates and neighbors depends on it.
Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to students, faculty and staff Nov. 17, 2020.
Faculty, staff and students,
In light of the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the region, we have determined we will not host fans at any Kansas Athletics home competitions for the rest of November. This includes volleyball matches this Thursday and Friday, our football game this Saturday, women’s basketball games Nov. 25 and Nov. 29, and our football game Nov. 28.
This decision has been made after consultation with our Pandemic Medical Advisory Team and other university leaders. I will be consulting this group later this week regarding December athletics events, including men’s basketball games, and will communicate updates with you as appropriate.
We know this is disappointing to those of you who planned to be on campus to root for the Jayhawks. While we are not aware of any incidents of COVID-19 transmission at any home athletics competitions this year, the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations makes it unwise to host fans at this time.
Beyond athletics, I want to take this opportunity to emphasize how critical this moment is for our university, state and nation. Throughout the fall semester, Douglas County and KU have had lower positivity rates than most other parts of the state and region, thanks in large part to the commitment of our community to curb the spread of the virus. This is something we can be proud of.
But the spread of the disease in neighboring regions is catching up to us. Kansas and adjacent states are at a tipping point, with the number of new COVID-19 cases increasing each day, and hospitals at or near capacity. The next few weeks will be crucial to our region’s ability to weather this latest wave, particularly as many of us consider whether to gather for the holidays.
With this in mind, now is the time for each of us to renew our commitment to mitigation efforts, particularly with respect to mask-wearing and social distancing, which have served us well so far. I implore each of us to commit to thinking not only about ourselves, but about the entire community, in every decision we make. The safety of our friends, families, colleagues, classmates and neighbors depends on it.
Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to University of Kansas faculty and staff Thursday, Oct. 1.
I write to share a few thoughts about our annual 20th day enrollment numbers, which were released today in coordination with the Kansas Board of Regents, and to describe how recent enrollment trends will impact KU both in the short run and in the years ahead.
First, our overall enrollment fell 2.8 percent this year – a decrease of 804 students – due largely to declines in international students and first-time freshmen. Specifically, more than half of the decrease stems from a drop in international students (down 18.1 percent), while more than a third of the decrease stems from a drop in first-time freshmen (down 7.2 percent), which includes a 29.3 percent decline in international freshmen.
Additionally, today’s data show the one-year retention rate for last year’s freshmen is 85.7 percent – the second-highest rate in KU history – while the two-year retention rate for the 2018 freshmen is an all-time high 77.1 percent.
Given the hardships the pandemic has presented students and families – and the uncertainty it has created in the higher education market – we are pleased to have experienced such a modest enrollment decline. To have limited the decline to just 2.8 percent, and to have maintained historically high retention rates, is a testament to the great work you’ve done to help students continue their coursework during these turbulent times. To put it simply, we exceeded our expectations and outperformed many of our peer institutions, thanks to you.
While we are pleased with this year’s enrollment, the reality is the university – and in particular the Lawrence campus – still faces unprecedented fiscal challenges that necessitate painful cost-savings measures in the months ahead. In the short term, we need to address the current fiscal year deficit, which we previously projected to be $120 million. While we likely will be able to revise that projection down due to our better-than-expected enrollment, the current fiscal year challenge remains substantial. We will provide a revised projected deficit soon.
Beyond the current fiscal year, the decline in international students and freshmen presents ongoing revenue shortages that will follow us for years. When freshmen enrollment falls, that isn’t a one-year tuition hit; rather, we lose tuition we would have received for multiple years. Additionally, the decline in international students disproportionately impacts tuition revenue because these students pay the higher non-resident rate.
In summary, while we should pause to celebrate today’s enrollment data, we must be mindful of the unprecedented financial challenges we continue to face. As I’ve written before, KU will need to adopt new business models, reorganize and restructure, and implement cost reductions. All options – including furloughs, layoffs, and salary reductions – must be considered for us to manage through this. The decisions ahead will be hard, but they are necessary to ensure the long-term health of the university.
Thank you for your efforts to help students become and remain Jayhawks. It is, quite simply, the most important thing each of us can do for the university right now.
The University of Kansas will celebrate its 108th Homecoming Sept. 28-Oct. 3, culminating in the KU football game against Oklahoma State Oct. 3 in David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. The theme for this year’s event is “Rock Chalk Around the World.”
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, several traditional Homecoming activities have been replaced with digital events, including a weeklong game of bingo and a virtual scavenger hunt for students and alumni, both of which can be played via the KU Alumni app.
To further unite and engage Jayhawks around the world during Homecoming week, the Alumni Association and its Jayhawk Career Network will host Kyou Networking Week, a series of 11 virtual events for students and alumni in a variety of fields, including journalism, design and architecture, business and education. Details for these programs, along with reunion activities for the schools of Health Professions, Law, Nursing and Medicine, can be found at kuconnection.org.
The following events will also be featured:
Sept. 28: Homecoming in a Box—The Homecoming Steering Committee will deliver an assortment of T-shirts, cups, stickers and pens throughout campus.
Sept. 29: Homecoming Digital Banner Display—Students are encouraged to create original Homecoming-themed artwork, which will be highlighted in a social media campaign.
Oct. 2: Home Football Friday—The Alumni Association will provide a grab-and-go lunch at the Adams Alumni Center, followed by a Facebook Live event in the evening, featuring a performance by the Marching Jayhawks and a celebratory flyover.
The winners of the Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership (Ex.C.E.L.) Awards and the Jennifer Alderdice Award will be announced at the conclusion of the week.
Chancellor Girod sent the following message to faculty, staff and students Sept. 20, 2020.
It is with a heavy heart that I write you regarding Reggie Robinson, one of our most accomplished and beloved Jayhawks, who passed away this weekend at the age of 63.
Reggie leaves behind his wife, Jane, their two daughters, Clare and Paige, and countless Jayhawks whose lives he touched. He also leaves a legacy of public service and leadership unlike any in recent memory. With his passing, our community has lost one of our most respected leaders, a humble giant and a beautiful soul.
Reggie was a brilliant and devoted public servant whose passion was to help others and make the world a better place. He most recently served as CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation, a position he described to me as a dream job. Prior to that, he was vice chancellor for public affairs at the University of Kansas, director of KU’s School of Public Affairs and Administration, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents, a faculty member at the Washburn and KU schools of law, chief of staff to Chancellor Robert Hemenway, a White House fellow, special assistant to Attorney General Janet Reno, and deputy associate attorney general for the United States.
In addition to these leadership roles, Reggie gave back to the KU community through his service on boards of directors for the Friends of the Spencer Museum of Art, Hall Center for the Humanities, Kansas Leadership Center, Douglas County Community Foundation, and Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. He also was a life trustee of KU Endowment and held advisory roles with the KU Alumni Association.
Reggie was a 1975 graduate of Salina High School South and received both his undergraduate degree and law degree from KU. As an undergraduate, he was student body vice president. In law school, he was editor in chief of the Kansas Law Review. Between college and law school, he served four years as a field artillery officer in the United States Army and was honorably discharged at the rank of captain.
Reggie was a pillar in the KU community for more than four decades, and his legacy lives on in the many students and colleagues who benefitted from his teaching and mentorship. I have heard from so many former students who have told me Reggie was their favorite professor, and from so many colleagues who have said how much they grew as a result of working with him. While they admired his skills and expertise, it was his personal interest in their success that set Reggie apart.
Beyond his remarkable intellect and record of service, Reggie will be remembered for his uncommon kindness, warmth, generosity and decency. To put it plainly, Reggie was the nicest and most compassionate person one could ever hope to meet. He was humble, thoughtful and gracious. He had a disarming wit and an easy smile that lit up the room. He cared deeply about people and made those around him feel special — because to Reggie, everyone was special.
In recognition of a life well lived, gifts in Reggie’s memory can be sent in support of the Reginald L. Robinson Law Scholarship through the KU Endowment Association, P.O. Box 928, Lawrence, KS 66044-0928, or given securely online at kuendowment.org/give.
I am confident the best way to honor Reggie’s legacy is to follow his example of serving others with kindness, generosity and grace. Reggie’s life was a life of meaning because he consistently worked to advance causes bigger than himself. We can now carry on in his stead. His example calls us to follow our passions, be active citizens, lift up others, value education, pursue justice and work for healing. In the days ahead, when I reflect on my friendship with Reggie, like so many of you who knew him as a friend, I will feel the warmth of his spirit, remain in awe of his character and be grateful that he inspires the best in those who knew him.
Reggie Robinson embodied the best of what it means to be a Jayhawk and a Kansan, and he will be missed.