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Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets

The Faculty Advisory Committee on the Budgets (FACB) serves in an advisory capacity to the president and provost. The committee is charged with reviewing University budgets and making appropriate recommendations. The FACB has met four times during this year and may have additional meetings in the late spring or early semester.

The first meeting of the FACB (9/12/06) was an organizational meeting. The president selects the chair of the FACB every third year. The committee elects the vice chair. At this initial meeting the members reviewed the functions of the FACB, and Pauline Strong agreed to serve as vice chair of the committee. “Best times” for FACB meetings were identified.

The second meeting of the FACB (10/17/06) had two primary agenda items: (1) an introduction/overview of the UT budget, and (2) a presentation on budget priorities by Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson. Executive Vice Provost Steve Monti and Associate Vice President and Budget Director Mary Knight gave members information regarding the general structure of the budget and the process of forming the budget. The provost and committee members identified several areas for the FACB to consider including increasing the faculty travel budget, increasing salaries for teaching assistants, unequal contributions to retirement due to differences in hiring dates, and funding for faculty research assignments.

The third meeting of the FACB (11/28/06) focused on two key issues – funding to increase teaching assistant (TA) salaries and funding for the faculty research assignments (FRA). The provost reported that comparisons with other similar universities indicate that the percentages of UT faculty receiving FRAs and Dean’s Fellows awards are similar to the percentages of faculty at competitive universities that receive traditional sabbaticals. There are significant differences between departments in the use of Dean’s Fellows awards. Some schools/departments use these to fund leaves much like an FRA; other faculty reported that in their department Dean’s Fellows awards are limited to leave for curriculum revision. FACB members felt strongly that the FRAs should continue to be administered through central administration and not through the Dean’s offices (as Dean’s Fellows awards are).

Vice Provost John Dollard presented an analysis of salaries and related costs of living and education for UT teaching assistants across colleges and schools. Dr. Dollard also provided comparison information from other institutions (e.g., University of Michigan, UC Berkley, UNC-Chapel Hill). There is considerable variability across institutions. Of particular concern to the FACB was the difference in the average stipend to UT TAs across the different schools and colleges. Average 9-month stipends in schools/colleges range from a low of $8,285 in architecture to a high of $15,374 in natural sciences. Students in five schools/colleges (architecture, communication, fine arts, information and social work) receive less than $9,100 for an average 9-month stipend. Presently, the UT minimum allowed for a TA is $8,285 and the maximum is $17,555. In fall 2005 there were 1,745 TAs. There are an additional 457 assistant instructors who receive larger average stipends ranging from $9,680 (social work) to $22,844 in geosciences. There was considerable dialog about the reasons for the disparities in rates across schools/colleges and how this might be addressed with a combination of central and college-based funding. Students in only four of the fifteen schools and colleges showed a positive net income (income included stipend, tuition benefit; expenses included income taxes, estimated book and living expenses in Austin).

The fourth meeting of the FACB was held on March 9, 2006. At the request of the provost, the FACB reviewed and discussed a proposal for revisions of the Faculty Travel Grant Program submitted by the Faculty Welfare Committee subcommittee on faculty travel grants (2/2/06). The goal of this proposal was to increase available funding for UT Austin faculty travel from its current level of $325 to $1,200 per year. The provost clarified that if the proposal was adopted that the overall funding for the program would be increased. It is anticipated that the number of awards would remain similar with the amount increasing. Last year approximately 600 awards were funded for $325. The same number of awards could be funded for the increased amount ($1,000 to 1,200) for approximately $500,000. The proposed awards could be used to pay a broader range of costs associated with meeting attendance (registration, hotel) — this may well impact the administrative costs to manage the travel program.

FACB members who attended the meeting and those who sent email comments on the proposal were generally in support of the increase in funding to support faculty travel. Faculty travel is an important issue across the institution and an area where we seem to lag behind comparable institutions. FACB members recommended some changes in the proposal. The original proposal contained language strongly encouraging faculty with other funds for travel support to not apply. There were a number of comments regarding this statement and some felt that it was a disincentive to faculty who secure external funding (which is often provides limited support for travel). The FACB recommended that the statement be replaced with the following: "Please remember, the pool of funds is limited. If you have access to other travel funds we ask that you use these first to maximize the benefit to your colleagues." The FACB also recommended deleting the "monitoring: questions at the end of the application as it was unclear what useful data would be obtained."

The FACB may meet in early summer to discuss the relative merits and impact of funding either one or both of the proposals (faculty travel grant increases and TA salary adjustments).

Alexa Stuifbergen, chair

  Updated 2006 August 29
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