I am excited to announce that Travis Goff is joining the University of Kansas as our new director of athletics.
Travis brings more than 16 years of experience in athletics administration at the Division I level, most recently at Northwestern University, where he serves as deputy director of athletics and assistant vice president. In this role, he is a member of the department’s executive staff responsible for all high-level decisions and is a sport administrator for the football, volleyball and baseball programs. Before joining Northwestern, he served as associate athletics director for external affairs at Tulane University and worked in athletics development here at KU, where he earned his undergraduate degree.
Our search for an athletics director during the past several weeks resulted in conversations with a number of outstanding candidates, which speaks well of KU’s reputation on the national stage. Travis stood out due to his experience, his reputation as a man of integrity, and his demonstrated ability to connect with faculty, staff, alumni and donors.
I am especially impressed with Travis’ vision for KU. Travis understands the challenges we face and the changing landscape of collegiate athletics. At the same time, he is well-positioned to help us build on our recent successes in student-athlete healthcare, diversity and inclusion, and student-athlete academic achievement. The fact that he is a Jayhawk himself is an added bonus and will undoubtedly serve him well as he moves Kansas Athletics forward.
Travis will begin his new role immediately. I look forward to introducing him to the KU community at a news conference Wednesday, April 7 at 10 a.m. at the Lied Center.
I greatly appreciate the faculty, staff, alumni and friends who were instrumental to the process that helped bring Travis to KU. I especially want to thank our team of alumni advisors – Linda Ellis Sims, Ray Evans, John Ballard and Wayne Simien – each of whom brought tremendous expertise and passion to this process. I also want to thank Kurt Watson for providing strong counsel and stability as interim director of athletics.
This is an exciting day for the University of Kansas. We are delighted to have someone of Travis’ caliber joining our university, and I am confident that Kansas Athletics is in good hands under his leadership. Please join me in welcoming Travis, his wife, Nancy, and their children – Ellie, Carly, and Graham – to Lawrence.
I am writing to inform you of a leadership change in Kansas Athletics.
Earlier today, Director of Athletics Jeff Long announced he is stepping down from his position. Jeff and I spoke at length last night, and while I know he would have loved to stay here many more years, I respect his selfless decision to step down so that we can move Kansas Athletics in a different direction.
I want to wholeheartedly thank Jeff for his service to KU. When we hired Jeff, he was charged with modernizing our athletics department and ensuring our coaches and student-athletes continue to have the resources they need to succeed. This was no easy task, and he far exceeded our expectations. Jeff guided Kansas Athletics to progress in student-athlete healthcare, diversity and inclusion, and student-athlete academic achievement, all while managing significant challenges not of his own making. Most important, Jeff was unwaveringly dedicated to students, coaches and staff, and he represented KU with integrity and compassion. For that, we thank him, and we wish him the very best.
I have asked Kurt Watson, one of KU’s most trusted advisors, to serve as interim director of Kansas Athletics. I have spoken with Kurt about my expectations for the coming days, and I am confident he will provide strong leadership and stability during this transition.
We will immediately begin our search for a new athletics director. I will lead the process with the assistance of a search firm and four alumni advisors, each of whom have experience in collegiate athletics: Linda Ellis Sims, Ray Evans, John Ballard and Wayne Simien. Each of these loyal Jayhawks will bring tremendous expertise and passion to the search, and I know their counsel will benefit the process. We will move quickly but judiciously, and my hope is to have a new athletics director in place within the next few weeks.
Once a new athletics director is in place, that individual will determine next steps related to our football coach position. To assist the new athletics director make that determination once he or she arrives, I am assembling a committee of advisors who will be ready to help when called upon.
I understand time is of the essence and that our football student-athletes are eager to know who will be guiding them. But we are making long-term decisions on an athletics director and a football coach, and we cannot sacrifice the quality of a search simply for expediency. While there will be a lot of speculation regarding potential candidates for both searches, I urge Jayhawks to have faith in the process and in those who are devoting their time to assist.
I know the past week has been challenging for those of us who love Kansas Athletics, but I am heartened by the passion of our university community. Since becoming chancellor, I have spent countless hours with Jayhawks to hear their perspectives on KU. A common theme in these conversations is that we must strive for excellence in all areas, including athletics. As I have said many times, a successful athletics department is inextricably linked to our mission as a flagship research university. That perspective will serve us well as we identify our next leader of Kansas Athletics.
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.
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
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.
Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to University of Kansas faculty, staff and students Aug. 31.
Earlier this year, we created the Pandemic Medical Advisory Team to guide our decisions related to campus operations. This team comprises nine of the region’s top public health officials and has been instrumental to our efforts to begin the fall semester in a way that prioritizes health and safety.
Today I am writing to let you know that, at the advice of the Pandemic Medical Advisory Team, we will begin our fall athletics season without fans in attendance. This includes our first home football game Sept. 12 against Coastal Carolina and all Kansas Athletics competitions at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena, Rock Chalk Park and Rim Rock Farm through September.
In addition, tailgating will not be permitted on campus for the Sept. 12 football game.
We know this is disappointing to those of you who planned to be on campus to root for the Jayhawks. Our football, volleyball, soccer and cross country contests will not be the same without you there. But this is the right decision for our community at this time.
We will continue to evaluate safety conditions with the hope that we can welcome fans to athletics events after September. We will report back to you as we approach our second home football game, which is slated for Oct. 3 against Oklahoma State.
For those of you with tickets to upcoming Jayhawks sporting events, Kansas Athletics will contact you in the days ahead.
One final thought: It will undoubtedly be disappointing for our student-athletes to not have you cheering from the stands. So if you have the opportunity to interact with these remarkable young men and women when they aren’t competing, please tell them how much you appreciate their resilience amid all this uncertainty, and remind them how important they are to our university.
Thank you for all you are doing to help us continue our mission of education, service and research while prioritizing health and safety.
We have posted the latest results from our community COVID-19 saliva testing.
As of Monday evening, 222 people have tested positive out of 19,452 entry test results received, for a positivity rate of 1.14%.
The overall positivity rate is in line with what we expected and are prepared to manage, and it represents a slight decrease from the initial round of results we shared last Thursday. We always expected to see some positive tests from this effort. Notably, our positivity rate is lower than rates of the general population from Douglas County. We know our situation is fluid and can change rapidly, but overall, these results suggest we are starting the semester in a good place.
As a reminder, we’ve conducted this testing upon return to campus before the beginning of on-campus activities and classes for two key reasons:
First, we want to identify positive cases early and ensure that they are isolating appropriately to prevent community spread. Those who test positive receive instructions to self-isolate, in accordance with guidelines from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, along with additional instructions from Watkins Health Services. All members of our community must follow these directions closely.
Second, we want to establish baseline levels of positivity rates among our campus populations to determine appropriate safety, infection prevention, education, and testing efforts moving forward. This baseline testing will inform more targeted testing efforts in the future.
Our Pandemic Medical Advisory Team, which features nine of the region’s top medical and public health professionals, guides our overall approach in these areas with an eye toward data and scientific evidence.
As we use these overall results to form a baseline, we will be able to move forward with more targeted testing efforts with specific populations.
Faculty, staff, and students who didn’t get tested during our initial rounds of testing can make an appointment online to receive a test near the mobile testing unit at Watkins Health Services at protect.ku.edu/covid-19-testing-information. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you should call Watkins Health Services directly at 785-864-9507 to arrange an appointment, or contact your primary care physician.
Some results from last weekend’s tests are not included in today’s update, and we plan to publish an additional round of results from our entry testing on Friday.
We also have updated numbers for our Greek community, which has an overall positivity rate of 5.47%. We applaud that community for participating in our testing efforts so far and for proactively working with us to take measures to improve health and safety. We commend the members of this community who are taking positive steps to this end, and encourage that work to continue.
No single group will be ultimately responsible for our overall success or failure in combating this disease. That responsibility rests with all of us.
The ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 remain clear: Wear a mask, stay six feet apart from others, and wash your hands. Again, all of us need to do our part.
In looking around campus this week, we saw a lot of positive signs: a lower-density overall environment, students wearing masks inside and outside, and social distancing in classrooms. Keeping that up will be key this semester.
While we may have fewer people than usual on Mount Oread this fall, it’s still good to see classes starting up again. To all of you who have worked so hard to enable us to reopen campus while continuing to prioritize health and safety – thank you.
I want to share some information and updates with you now that we’ve reviewed some initial results from our testing efforts as our community returns to campus.
We have posted initial results from our community COVID-19 saliva testing for the Lawrence and Edwards campuses. The results show the total tests administered and positive results for both students and faculty/staff, along with positivity rates for each group.
As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, 89 people have tested positive out of 7,088 entry test results received, for a positivity rate of 1.25%. Of the 89 positive cases, 87 are students and two are faculty and staff. We plan to post additional updates on the website on Tuesday of next week.
When we decided to move forward with broad entry testing of our community, we knew that inevitably we would receive some positive results. This positivity rate is in line with what we’ve expected and prepared for as we began this process in consultation with our Pandemic Medical Advisory Team.
We’ve conducted this testing upon return to campus before the beginning of on-campus activities and classes for two key reasons:
First, we want to identify positive cases early and ensure that they are isolating appropriately away from campus. Those who test positive receive instructions to self-isolate, in accordance with guidelines from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, along with additional instructions from Watkins Health Services. All members of our community must follow these directions closely.
Second, we want to establish baseline levels of positivity rates among our campus populations to determine appropriate safety, infection prevention, education, and testing efforts moving forward. We plan to continue more targeted testing effort and random sampling of our population after this initial round of testing.
In addition to the numbers from the early rounds of testing, we have also identified a few trends.
A large majority of the 87 overall student positives have come from our fraternity and sorority community. Last night, I met with leaders in these communities along with other campus officials to stress the importance of adhering to the health and safety guidelines and rules we’ve laid out while laying out some additional policy recommendations. And we’ll follow up with these groups with targeted additional testing efforts as needed.
Also of note, our staged move-in process at KU Student Housing helped to identify positive cases in the on-campus housing community earlier so these individuals can isolate at their permanent addresses before coming to campus. Thanks to that preparation, so far we do not have any cases isolating in student housing. We expect that will likely change as new students continue to move in, and we are prepared to offer spaces for those students who need to self-isolate.
We know what works to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wear a mask. Stay six feet apart from others. Wash your hands frequently. Use our CVKey app to check your symptoms for COVID-19 each day. Refrain from hosting social gatherings and events. And remember to think not just about yourself, but about the good of the community, in every decision you make.
We know that challenges with following these requirements are not limited to any one group in particular. If we are to open successfully and avoid moving more fully online as other universities across the country have done in recent days, all of us – students, faculty, and staff alike – will have to be the very best versions of ourselves.
As a final reminder: our initial round of testing is mandatory for students, faculty, and staff who plan to be on campus in Lawrence or Overland Park before Sept. 7. If you have not yet set an appointment to receive a test through a drive-up site, please visit https://protect.ku.edu/covid-19-testing-information and sign up soon. Students living in KU Student Housing will receive testing through the move-in process and do not need to sign up for an appointment. Those on the KU Edwards Campus should refer to specific testing instructions for that campus.
During the summer, so many of our faculty and staff have spent countless hours to prepare for the coming days. It is up to each of us to determine our success moving forward.