For the past seven years, Kirk Schulz has been the president of K-State. Last Friday, he announced that he will be taking the presidential position at Washington State University starting this upcoming fall.
When we take a look back at his seven-year run at K-Sate, what is it we see in Schulz’s legacy? While it may depend on who you ask, people can approach this question from a number of angles.
From the Starship Enterprise halftime show fiasco back in September, to the relatively recent “Sandstorm” ban controversy at basketball games, this athletic year has been a doozy for administration-student relations.
Now, before a bunch of sports nuts ambush me, I recognize that it is John Currie who oversees the K-State Athletics Department. With Schulz as president, I think he could have done a bit more this year to contain the drama that flowed from athletics department relations.
Having said that, Schulz has represented K-State well as a member of the Division I NCAA Board of Directors.
“President Schulz has proven himself to be an outstanding educator and a talented leader,” Bob Bowlsby, Big 12 Commissioner, said in a Jan. 31, 2013, K-State Today press release.
It’s pretty clear that with Schulz, K-State has been given a good face to present to fellow administrators; however, do the students and alumni feel the same way?
Many of us already know about the latest example, as chants of “Fuck KU” filled the ears of frustrated administrators earlier this semester. The “Sandstorm” controversy not only hurt the way the administration is viewed by students, but alumni as well.
The administration’s efforts were “delusional on the level of a man trying to avoid drowning by drinking the ocean,” Timothy Everson, Collegian sports editor, said in his article “K-State ashamed: A recent history of the failed quest for sportsmanship at K-State.”
The controversy carried on until the crowds were appeased at the last K-State versus KU game of the season, when Schulz gave clearance for “Sandstorm” to be played during the game.
Schulz’s involvement with student-administration relations in the realm of athletics has been a mixed bag of giving K-State good representation, standing before other administrations and restricting free speech to save face.
Schulz’s K-State 2025 plan included a $1 billion budget campaign to renovate campus facilities, according to the Hutch Post article “KSU launches $1B fundraising campaign.” The projects ranged from creating new buildings like the College of Business Administration and Wefald Hall, to improving infrastructure with the construction of a chilled water plant.
According to the plan, Shulz wanted to make K-State one of the nation’s top 50 public research universities.
While this is all well and good, the state government has not been the most cooperative.
Gov. Brownback issued a 3 percent cut in the allocation of state tax dollars to the higher education system, according to Edward Eveld’s Kansas City Star article, “Gov. Sam Brownback cuts higher education as Kansas tax receipts falls $53 million short.”
Such a cut is a deep one because it comes right in the middle of the 2025 plan’s time frame.
I do sympathize for Schulz’s plight when it comes to spending, considering what’s given to him by the state government. I do not particularly like, however, the way he intends to make up the difference. K-State students will have a 3.6 percent increase on tuition rates, according to page 34 of The Kansas Board of Regents’ State Universities Tuition and Fee Proposals.
In summary of his economic contributions to K-State, there will be new and improved facilities for campus, which is great. The downside? Students will make up for the deficit in spending.
The last element that contributes to President Schulz’s legacy is his contribution to the social aspects of the university.
For one, his tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT community at K-State has proven the campus’ friendly and inclusive atmosphere.
Another one of Schulz’s contributions to K-State’s social atmosphere was striving for a diverse student population in terms of ethnicity, as well as religious and political views.
“A diversity of views lies at the heart of a university education, as does the ability to discuss differences in a healthy, civil environment,” Schulz said in a Dec. 11, 2015, K-State Today “Letter from the President’s Cabinet.”
No matter what lifestyle choices, political or religious views one may have, we are all still a K-State family, and I think this mindset has been encouraged by Schulz through and through.
So, was President Schulz’s administration here a good one?
Although there has been controversy and he may not have been the most-liked person at times, I would say Schulz has made a large impact on K-State. That impact, especially with the 2025 plan, will leave his mark on the university for years to come.