Tompkins talks challenges for incoming President Jay Golden



University President Jay Golden, then president-elect, speaks at a Student Government Association meeting in December 2019.

Walking into the President’s Office located in Morrison Hall, it’s clear that a transition is taking place. 

The bulky wooden desk used by late President John Bardo and Interim President Andy Tompkins is being replaced with a more modern standing desk for incoming President Jay Golden. It’s tucked in the back room of the office to make room for a collaborative space where the old desk stood.

The transition in the President’s Office is not only a physical one but also a philosophical one.

Bardo’s administration was often criticized for a lack of shared governance. Golden says he hopes to bring more voices into the decision-making process.

“Whether it’s thinking about new facilities on campus, new academic programs, investments, budget — it’s making sure there’s representation from students, staff, faculty and administrators at the table from the beginning,” Golden said in a November Q&A with The Sunflower. “Because there’s nothing more disingenuous than saying, ‘Here’s our plan. We want you to be engaged and review it.’ It has to start at the very beginning.”

In an interview with The Sunflower last week, Tompkins said “shared governance” means helping these stakeholders understand how they can contribute to the university’s vision.

“If you just put a random group of people together, and you told them you want to do something, they’re going to say, ‘Okay, now, what’s my role in this?’ and, you know, ‘Is it to confirm what you wanted us to do?’ or ‘Is it to bring you our new ideas?’” Tompkins said.

“So, I think a part of this is just going to be the parameters for that. And then I think they’ll adjust once they know what that is, because then they’ll know the way they’re supposed to contribute.”

Tompkins gave the university’s announcement of NetApp’s probable move to campus as an example of upfront transparency.

“The whole idea here on this was not to wait till the end of anything,” Tompkins said. “See, that’s still not a done deal. So we wanted to do it early. So you had an idea to look at it, see what’s happening.

“I think you’ll see more of that in this process that he (Golden) used. I mean, and, you know, I’ve heard people saying, boy, I’m looking forward to trying to see what that really is like.”

Another challenge Golden will be faced with right away is figuring out tuition

Kansas universities present their tuition and fee recommendations in the spring, giving Golden just a few months to get familiar with WSU before presenting a proposal to the Regents.

Golden has reiterated that he would like to cap tuition and make it more affordable, but if the state decides not to increase higher education funding this session, that might not be possible.

“I mean, that’s the big issue right now we have to deal with this, you know — affording this,” Tompkins said, “And so, on one hand, they (the Kansas Board of Regents) want no increase in tuition. On the other hand, is anybody going to give me any money so that you don’t have to increase tuition?”

Tompkins said Golden will have to meet with quite a few donors and legislators in a shorter amount of time than usual, since he’ll be taking on the president job in the middle of the year.

“There’s always this challenge. You want to spend some time out there with your donors, with legislators, but you don’t want everybody saying, ‘Well, where is the person?’ . . . So he’s got to find that balance when he’s gone,” Tompkins said of his successor.

Golden will take over as Wichita State’s 14th president Tuesday.