At a virtual town hall with faculty and staff Friday, Kansas State University President Richard Myers reiterated the university has no plans to adopt a controversial policy that would make it easier for university executives to dismiss faculty without initiating the process of declaring a financial emergency.
The one-year policy was unanimously adopted Jan. 20 by the Kansas Board of Regents based on financial damage to K-State and the five other state universities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We value tenure and we always will. Tenure is an important part of how we operate at Kansas State University. We have no plans on advocating to do away with tenure,” he said.
While the outlook for 2022 remains uncertain with regards to higher education funding, President Myers says there is some hope for more federal aid — but even that would likely come with some strings attached.
“If we get more COVID relief from the federal government, the HEERF funds (Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds) are pretty substantial. Our portion would be substantial. The bad news is that a lot of them are restricted on what they can be used for. So we don’t know what’s going to be required as we get to the new fiscal year,” he said.
It’s anticipated the university could see additional budget cuts, layoffs and/or furloughs to reduce expenses. Nothing has been announced to date and Myers wasn’t prepared to speculate on any future decisions, primarily due to uncertainty over state funding.
Gov. Laura Kelly has proposed approximately $37 million less in state funding of higher education, equating to a roughly 5.5 percent decrease in state funding to K-State.
Also addressed during the town hall was a question regarding fraudulent unemployment claims, which many in Kansas and the country have dealt with over the past several months.
Kansas State University Vice President for Human Capital Services Jay Stephens explained why even some university employees aren’t immune from being a fraud victim.
“Basically what you’ve got is a bunch of foreign actors who are buying social security numbers on the dark web. We all work at a public institution. Our names are readily available and they take those, match them up with social security numbers and names they’ve gotten, and file fraudulent unemployment claims,” he said.
Fraudulent claims have slowed down payouts from the Kansas Department of Labor which announced a weekend shutdown from Saturday through Tuesday to put in more safeguards. Stephens also reiterated the university’s diligence with protecting employee data.
“We take very serious care of our employee’s data. We don’t release it. We don’t allow people to use it. In this case, with unemployment fraud, there has been no breach of K-State data. We haven’t given anything away, nobody’s stolen our information,” he said.
Stephens says unemployment claims come to his office and they notify the state labor department anytime there are discrepancies or illegitimate claims.
The town hall, which lasted about an hour, also included a break down of the university’s COVID-19 dashboard and policies governing restrictions on campus going forward. The full town hall is posted at K-State Today.