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Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets

The Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets serves in an advisery capacity to the president and provost. Its charge is to review University budgets and make appropriate recommendations.

The committee met four times during the year. At our first meeting, Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson set forth several issues that were of concern to the administration and which he suggested might warrant discussion by the committee. These included:

  • funding "start-up costs" of new faculty,
  • strengthening the core curriculum, and
  • assuring that all departments have sufficient resources to provide an adequate "quality of life" (e.g., copy and phone privileges, computers, and travel allowances) for all faculty.

The second meeting was directed to the first of these issues — that relating to start-up costs. Provost Ekland-Olson indicated that the administration is concerned about the high cost of bringing new faculty into the campus, especially those in engineering and the sciences. Such faculty often require laboratory space and equipment at costs approaching $500,000.

In the course of a wide-ranging (and inconclusive) discussion, committee members made several suggestions as to how to better manage these costs. Among them were:

  • Be more aggressive in obtaining grants from NSF, NIH or other appropriate funding sources.
  • Reduce expenditures on labs and departments which are no longer conducting high-priority research.
  • Better manage ongoing expenditures for equipment so that labs are kept up-to-date and there is less need for major outlays to replace virtually all equipment in a lab.
  • Improve cost recovery on patents and commercially viable research results.

Prior to the third meeting of the committee, President Faulkner had established the President's Task Force on Efficiency. Accordingly, in its third and fourth meetings of the year the committee "brainstormed" as to how the University could reduce costs without impairing its academic programs. Suggestions included the following:

  • Consider consolidating academic departments. It was noted that several departments have an especially small number both of faculty and of student majors. Yet they nevertheless have a chairperson, a graduate adviser, and a full complement of support personnel. Any effort at consolidation should focus mainly on combining administrative functions and must be sensitive to cultural conflicts.
  • Consider consolidating colleges. Some colleges are smaller than departments in number of faculty and students and might function adequately as a division of some other college.
  • Review research and other types of "centers." Some centers have probably outlived their utility yet continue to incur administrative costs and to occupy valuable office space.
  • Perform "process audits" to assure that all administrative functions are carried out efficiently. Identify "best practices" and encourage other departments to adopt them.
  • Compute for each department ratios of number of support personnel to number of faculty and students. Question the reason for seemingly out-of-line ratios.
  • Review faculty workloads. Acknowledge that faculty can contribute to the University in a variety of ways. Faculty who are no longer active in research should be encouraged to teach more courses or accept administrative assignments.
  • Increase flexibility with respect to length of courses. All courses need not be scheduled for 15 weeks and assigned 3 credits. Courses of shorter length, if pedagogically sound, could make faculty more productive and, thereby, reduce teaching costs.
  • Reduce paperwork. Whenever feasible, transmit administrative documents and course materials electronically.
  • Review all administrative, maintenance, and physical plant functions to determine whether they are suitable for outsourcing.
  • Be more aggressive in asking donors of buildings to also fund endowments to support building maintenance and repairs.
  • Be certain that prime University land is used optimally and is not committed to activities that can be carried equally well at off-campus sites at which the land is considerably less valuable.
  • Review courses with small enrollments. Schedule required small enrollment courses less frequently, giving students advance notice as to which semesters they will be offered.
  • Review physical plant operations.
  • Review the use of part-time staff. Hire part-time staff only when they are, in fact, cost efficient.

  Michael H. Granof, chair

This document was posted on the Faculty Council Web site, www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/ on July 29
, 2002. Paper copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, FAC 22, F9500.

  Last updated:July 29, 2002
  Comments Welcome.
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