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May 10, 2010


B. Questions to the President.

From the Faculty Council Executive Committee.
We understand that some trimming will be occurring in the upper administration budget (the offices of the vice presidents). For our information in terms of thinking about University priorities, what was the structure (number of vice presidents and number of staff members in the vice presidents’ offices) ten years ago, five years ago, and this year? What was the budget for these offices ten years ago, five years ago, and this year not in dollars necessarily but in terms of a relation to the general academic budget (e.g., 10 percent of the amount in the general academic budget)?

President Powers said the questions posed by the FCEC were useful ones to the administration, but they required a great deal of data gathering due to the reorganizations that have occurred over the past ten years in the structure and portfolios of the administrative staff. Although much had been done in gathering the information, he said additional time was needed to complete the work to produce accurate answers. He said he would be willing to discuss the findings at a future Council meeting after the work was finished.

With regard to the $14.6 million reduction in recurring costs, President Powers said he had held meetings with several University groups and hoped that most employees had met with their supervisors about the situation. He said he had also included information about the reduction in his Tower Talk blog so members of the UT community as well as alumni would know what was occurring. He explained the reductions were being requested because the deficit estimates are now in $11-14 billion range, and the upcoming legislative session appears “challenging in terms of the Texas economy.” In describing the impact of the cuts, President Powers said they would “sort of set our budget for next year… and as we go forward.”

President Powers further explained that one of the key overriding objectives was to protect the core academic missions of the University. Therefore, $13.6 of the $14.6 million of reductions would be made in the portfolios of the vice presidents; however, the administrative reductions would not be across-the-board. There would be about a three-quarter of one percent budget reduction in the overall research portfolio because the unit’s outlays were closely aligned with instructional and research functions situated within individual or multiple academic units across campus. He said only one million of the $14.6 million reductions, or one-fifth of one percent of the total amount, was being requested from the colleges and schools. The impact of the reductions was to occur in the following phases: the first 25 percent by the end of August, the next 50 percent by the end of December, and the final 25 percent by the end of August 2011. This process, he said, would provide time for thoughtfulness and normal attrition to occur in an effort to minimize layoffs. He said flexibility in meeting the reductions will be permitted, but the cuts must occur by the end of the phase-in period. Saying the impact on the work force would become clearer as the administrative reductions progress, President Powers anticipated there would be approximately a 200 person workload or staffing reduction from June 2009 through the summer of 2011 in the vice presidential portfolios. Thus far, about 125 of the 200 reductions have occurred with seventy having come from the reorganization of the Information Technology Services. The president said he hoped a good many of the approximately seventy-five remaining staffing reductions would occur through normal departures and attrition.

President Powers said plans submitted across campus for the previously requested budget cuts had included a 2 percent savings for a merit salary pool for faculty and staff. Although discussions with the vice presidents, deans, and the Faculty Budget Advisory Committee had indicated there were different opinions regarding merit raises, the president said he had decided to go forward with the salary increase plan for faculty and staff. He said faculty members had expressed concern to him regarding the impact salary increases would have on available funding for programs, courses, and teaching assistants, and these concerns contributed to why the colleges and schools were being asked to bear such a small proportion of the next round of budget cuts. He said he had sought to strike a balance between the concerns expressed on both sides of the issues.

President Powers said he personally felt that a merit pool was essential since all staff members and 70 percent of the faculty received no raises this past year. In addition, he said it was important to continue addressing issues of structural equity and competitiveness in an effort to retain talented faculty and staff members. He encouraged everyone to review the information about the budget reductions on the UT Austin web site and asked if there were any questions.

Professor Cherise Smith (art and art history) said she had a question about the creation of the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies. She reported there were faculty members, who wanted to be part of this new department but were being excluded because their current positions are not situated in the College of Liberal Arts, and then asked what the upper administration’s position was on these inter-college developments. President Powers responded that he would have to seek information to fully answer Professor Smith’s question. He said he was aware that some deans were concerned about the impact on instructional needs in their own units if faculty members quickly moved from their home departments into the new department. He added that work was underway to resolve this problem, and he was hopeful that faculty members who want to join the new department would be able to eventually do that. He offered to discuss particular situations with the chairs of departments, but he said a balance was needed between individuals who want to be in the department, assuming the new department would want their services, and the immediate needs of the home departments.

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