MINUTES OF THE REGULAR FACULTY COUNCIL MEETING OF
March 22, 2010
REPORT OF THE CHAIR.
Discussion of Budget.
Chair Staiger invited Council members to express their views about budget issues and faculty priorities. Professor Andrea Gore (pharmacy) said she was concerned about the loss of informal classes and the impact this would have on the UT community and especially on staff members. Professor Hillis said he was concerned because the faculty had little input into the decision-making process regarding cuts. Even though he has served on both the FACB and the FCEC, he said he felt he had only a “minimal role in providing input into these budget decisions before they’ve really been made,” and he expected most faculty members perceive they have no input. He said mechanisms needed to be developed and utilized to garner broad-based faculty input.
Professor Karrol Kitt (human development and family sciences) said the time frame for budgetary decisions is usually very short at the University, which makes it difficult to obtain faculty input.
Professor Tom Palaima (classics) recommended that the administration examine how decisions are made within various administrative units across campus to find ways to prevent the problems that occurred in the decisions regarding the Cactus Café and informal classes. Chair Staiger said she was concerned that many faculty members are not involved in the decisions made on the administrative side through departments and deans and only learn after the fact what the decision outcome is.
Professor Hillis urged everyone to review the governance information for the various colleges/schools when it is posted on the Council web site because he thinks having this information available will provide a good opportunity for reflection and potential changes. Chair Elect Niekirk reported he had conducted an informal poll in his department asking if faculty would prefer raises over teaching assistant (TA) cuts, and everyone who responded said they would prefer having TAs instead of raises. He suggested that a broad-based survey of this type be conducted across the entire campus. He pointed out that the efforts by Chair Staiger and the executive committee had found a lot of variance in how curricular decision-making and approval processes occur in the colleges/schools, and he expected there would be even greater variance in budgetary decision-making processes. Professor Palaima recommended faculty chosen committees over appointed committees at the college/school level in an effort to encourage greater diversity of opinions.
Chair Staiger said the financial exigency policy will be discussed at the next meeting, and she was hoping that the oversight committee would have at least fifty percent of its membership filled by faculty representatives. Professor Cynthia Buckley (sociology) also strongly recommended that faculty members be encouraged to read the documents that were being assembled about processes and procedures so they are aware of opportunities for greater faculty participation that might already exist or that could be created. She said the transparency would allow changes to occur that could replace the processes of the past n which decisions have been made without much consultation with faculty.
In response to Professor Robert Gilbert’s (civil, architectural, and environmental engineering) question regarding if a system-wide program to facilitate retirement were being discussed, President Powers said there was an effort but the issue was quite complicated due to age discrimination laws. He said a program cannot be directed at individual faculty but would have to be directed toward units and limited to people who are retirement eligible. The criteria for units and the definition of retirement eligible are taking a good deal of time, with an emphasis on how to save money in an effective and humane manner through retirement without losing the people the institution wants to retain. President Powers said he expected a plan to be forthcoming during the current budget process.
President Powers said budget decisions would likely need to vary from department to department. He said informal polls are not as informative as well-designed formal ones. However, even formal polls must include a “compared to what” component and the selections of the choices to be compared are critically important. He said budgetary decision-making is stressful and difficult; as a result, the process can expose faults in the system as well as point toward ways to make improvements in the processes. According to President Powers, getting decisions made at the correct level in the organization, which he called the “federalism problem,” is extremely important and much more difficult for the current situation than it was with regard to curricular reform. In an effort to create a system that relies on the ground-level units to make important and effective decisions, those units and their processes require structural changes and growth opportunities that take time to be developed and hone.
With regard to structural changes, Secretary Greninger asked if there might be a way to connect the faculty governance silo into the administrative silo at a lower level than is currently done. She asked if there could not be some way for college/school representatives on the Faculty Council to pay some participatory role within their own colleges/schools so that better coordination might occur. Although this would require a great deal of creative thinking and development, it might make for a more functional system and ultimately attract greater interest and involvement in shared faculty governance that worked in a coordinated, productive rather than counterproductive way. She recommended that discovery be undertaken to look into the costs and benefits of a new structure.