Reaccreditation process reveals university strengths, challenges
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor David Shulenburger
discusses challenges facing the university during his address at the Faculty/Staff
Convocation Sept. 9. Focus groups meeting in preparation for KU’s
10-year reaccreditation identified a handful of common themes that make
R. Steve Dick/University Relations
Provost said common themes arose during accreditation
Focus groups meeting in preparation for KU’s 10-year reaccreditation
identified a handful of common themes that make KU distinctive, but Provost
and Executive Vice Chancellor David Shulenburger said KU could face challenges
in maintaining those qualities.
Shulenburger shared the focus-group findings during convocation Sept.
9 in Budig Hall. The concerns came to light during the university’s
self-study process in preparation for accreditation by the North Central
Association of Colleges and Schools.
The first challenge, Shulenburger said, relates to KU’s identity.
“KU is the flagship in a state that does not particularly want a
Shulenburger said. “Many believe that the University
of Kansas has a better reputation nationally than within the state. In
telling the KU story to Kansans and their elected representatives, we
encounter the sort of populism that is at some level suspicious of excellence
and aspirations to excellence.”
KU also faces a more general, nationwide proclivity toward anti-intellectualism.
“It is ironic — indeed, it is tragic — that as the academy
continues to make advances to better the health of the planet and its
inhabitants, as we gain the knowledge that can enable us to deal more
sensitively with the problems confronting us all, political and culture
wars impede the application of that knowledge,” Shulenburger said.
Focus groups also identified KU’s international community as an
important component of its distinctive culture, as well as hurdles facing
KU students from outside the United States and programs that send KU students
Internally, the university also faces challenges, including an apprehension
that KU’s goal of reaching the top 25 among public research universities
will damage the sense of community valued by students and faculty.
“Some fear a loss of collegiality and increased competition between
KU’s strong focus on undergraduate education and the robust research
efforts necessary to advance nationally,” Shulenburger said. “I
believe such fear is misplaced.”
Shulenburger also detailed the university’s efforts to fund improvements
in infrastructure and to pay for future growth. But, he said, the university
had to balance material needs with its responsibility to serve as a model
for intelligent planning and green growth.
“Our responsibility is not to advance as an institution for selfish
goals but to better our students and our society,” Shulenburger
said. “The focus groups showed that we are a community and that
we have broad basic agreement about how to tackle the problems in our
path while preserving the essence that is the University of Kansas.”