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Chancellor Douglas Girod reflects back on the 2020-2021 academic year and the challenges it presented, while looking ahead with hope for the fall semester.

The University of Kansas avoided mass COVID-19 breakouts in specific college and event spaces during the 2020-2021 academic year, despite the year’s challenges, and is looking forward to the upcoming year, according to a release from Chancellor Douglas Girod Monday. 

Cases were not only limited in classrooms, research facilities and at university events, but also limited in the broader community, Girod said.  

“Douglas County is among the state leaders in vaccinating its residents and has consistently been safer than most other parts of the country,” the email said. “It was never a given that we would be where we are today, and we shouldn’t take that for granted.”

KU is still navigating the $26 million cut to the upcoming fiscal year’s budget, Girod said. He said he is hopeful KU will move forward towards a sustainable and balanced budget so items such as salary increases and research can be invested in. 

In order to achieve those goals, however, there have been changes in staffing of campus leaders, the release said. One of those changes was hiring Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWitt, who was brought on to help combat the financial challenges KU has and continues to face, according to a financial update from Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer. 

“Over the past year, the projected budget shortfall has been a moving target that shifted periodically as we learned more about our circumstances and our funding streams,” Bichelmeyer said. “These changing figures – while still quite large – have led some to doubt the seriousness of our situation or the need to respond swiftly or innovatively.”

Amid these financial shortfalls, KU has continued to invest in recruitment efforts and tradition, the email said. This spring, the university began constructing a new Jayhawk Welcome Center which will be connected to the Adams Alumni Center. 

Social justice and safety were also noted as priorities for the university in the coming year.

“We’ve continued to focus on social justice by reorganizing and incorporating work to enhance diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging through all units of the university,” Girod said. 

To enhance public safety, the recommendations by KU’s Task Force on Community-Responsive Public Safety will be implemented in the coming year. 

 “The task force developed 12 specific recommendations in three categories: responses to behavioral health crises; officer conduct issues; and advisory and oversight processes,” Girod said.

KU will be implementing all of the Task Force’s recommendations, Girod announced Monday.

“As a university, we can be proud that we embraced this opportunity to be part of the national movement related to policing and proactively sought out enhancements to the way we provide public safety service to our campus,” Girod said.

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