University of Kansas Provost, Barbara Bichelmeyer, appeared before the University Senate in a meeting Thursday afternoon to take questions from representatives of the staff, student and faculty about a Kansas Board of Regents policy and low retention rates at KU.
Bichelmeyer again addressed concerns about KU’s refusal to reject a controversial KBOR policy that would allow universities to terminate tenured faculty to ease the financial pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said KU sees implementing the policy as a “last resort.”
“I will do everything in my power not to terminate faculty with that policy,” Bichelmeyer said.
Senators asked Bichelmeyer about KU’s efforts to increase the university’s retention rates when it comes to both undergraduate and graduate students, saying low retention rates contributed in part to the current financial crisis at the university.
“We don’t complete the students we have,” Bichelmeyer said. “Particularly, we don’t complete the students who come from underrepresented backgrounds and Pell-eligible students. That is a social injustice we are creating. We have to reconcile.”
Students, staff and faculty have previously called on Bichelmeyer for more transparency after a significant reorganization of KU's diversity and equity office, now called the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.
“We are investing, with the support of [KU] Endowment, in DEIB,” she said. “We must foster an environment of inclusion and belonging.”
When pressed further about the financial state of the university, Bichelmeyer pointed to lawmakers in Topeka, including Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, as a significant reason for the financial crisis.
“We have a governor who proposed a cut that is the single largest cut to KU,” Bichelmeyer said.
Both Bichelmeyer and Chancellor Douglas Girod will appear at a town hall hosted by Faculty Senate on March 31.
At Thursday's meeting, faculty senators again discussed a no-confidence resolution for Bichelmeyer and Girod, but tabled the discussion until after the town hall.