February 16, 2009


A. Comments by the President.

President Powers said his current expectations regarding the budget for next year were similar to what he had previously reported to the Council, describing the coming year as “tight” but “okay.” He said the presidents of academic institutions within the UT System had met with Vice Chancellor David Prior (academic affairs) to discuss actions that might be taken. The System announced a freeze on the high-level salaries of its employees at the current level for next year and encouraged the same actions be taken at each institution. UT Austin announced the next day that the salaries of the president, vice presidents, and deans would be frozen in place though next year. President Powers said he wanted to clarify that the salary freeze does not apply to other administrators (e.g., associate vice presidents and associate dean) or to faculty and staff members. He said he hoped there would be some funds that could be used for a targeted salary policy, but this could not be determined yet.

President Powers reassured the Council, as he had previously done, that Texas and UT Austin are in relatively better financial positions than most other states and public higher education institutions, respectively. Because of this comparative advantage, he believes it is still possible to make progress toward our goals, such as adding new faculty members. However, he said it would be essential that both the central administration and the colleges/schools carefully work together to find resources that can be used to recruit new faculty. He pointed out that the salary freeze applies to only about 26 people here at UT Austin, and he thought those individuals could handle the temporary freeze “quite nicely.”

The president said the second measure being implemented on campus—a flexible hiring freeze—was very important. He said UT Austin must be responsive to the current economic situation and carefully consider resource allocation decisions. When dealing with new positions and potential hires, President Powers said it is essential to consider the recurring obligations that are involved and make choices that move UT Austin ahead toward accomplishing its goals. He added that this was something that needed to be done in all economic environments, but the current challenges made it worthwhile for him to emphasize its importance. He said he had concerns about how the words flexible and freeze would be perceived by different constituencies, and it had concerned him that the articles in the Austin and UT newspapers had not been entirely clear in saying the freeze did not apply to faculty at all. He again emphasized that departments and colleges need to use resources as productively as possible and make hires in high priority areas. He said the freeze was flexible even for staff members but warned that caution was needed here as well.

He said he had meetings scheduled with vice presidents and the deans to determine what caution really means in terms of procedures and instructions about hiring. He had notified these administrators by email that the flexible hiring freeze would not apply to faculty members; employees on research grants and sponsored research; temporary, non-benefit workers; and student workers, including AIs, TAs, and work-study participants. During the next week to 10 days, while the hiring policies and procedures were being developed, he announced that hiring decisions would require the approval of a vice president or dean. The president said he expected the hiring freeze would remain flexible until later in the legislative budget cycle; until the budget is determined, the extent to which hiring will be impacted cannot be accurately assessed. He summed up by saying his main point was to clarify that there is not a salary freeze or a faculty-hiring freeze here at UT Austin like the ones occurring in some other states and their public universities.

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