DOCUMENTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY
Following are the minutes of the special Faculty Council meeting of December 14, 2009.
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The General Faculty and Faculty Council
MINUTES OF THE SPECIAL FACULTY COUNCIL MEETING OF
December 14, 2009
The first special meeting of the Faculty Council for the academic year 2009-10 was held Student Union Quadrangle Room (UNB. 3.304) on Monday, December 14, 2009, at 2:15 P.M. This was a specially called meeting since the regular December Faculty Council meeting had previously been announced as cancelled. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss developments in the University’s budget situation, particularly the announcement of the $2 million raise for the football coach and decide upon an appropriate response. There was no prepared agenda for this meeting.
Present: Urton L. Anderson, William Beckner, Christopher J. Bell, Narayan Bhargava, David P. Birdsong, Simone A. Browne, Cynthia J. Buckley, Neal M. Burns, Miles Lynn Crismon, Elizabeth Cullingford, Andrew P. Dillon, Edwin Dorn, Adam K. Ekenseair, Brian L. Evans, Luis Francisco-Revilla, Alan W. Friedman, Steven J. Friesen, Robert B. Gilbert, Mickey L. Gonzales, Andrea C. Gore, Michael H. Granof, Sue A. Greninger, Sabine Hake, Kevin P. Hegarty, Manuel J. Justiz, Steven W. Leslie, Hunter C. March, John H. McCall, Dean P. Neikirk, Patricia C. Ohlendorf, David S. Onion, Thomas G. Palaima, Thomas L. Pangle, William C. Powers, Tina M. Radke, Lauren A. Ratliff, Catherine Riegle-Crumb, Victoria Rodriguez, Daniel D. Spikes, Janet Staiger, Vincent S. (Shelby) Stanfield, Rabun Taylor, Samuel M. Wilson.
Absent: Elliott M. Antokoletz, Judy Copeland Ashcroft, Hans C. Boas, Randy Bomer, Daniel A. Bonevac, Pascale R. Bos, Dean A. Bredeson, Philip M. Broadbent, Lee R. Chesney, Namkee Choi, Patricia L. Clubb, Richard H. Crawford, Molly E. Cummings, Douglas J. Dempster, Randy L. Diehl, Jonathan B. Dingwell, John S. Dzienkowski (excused), Gregory L. Fenves, Drew Michael Finke, David W. Fowler (excused), Eileen R. Fowles, Irene M. Gamba (excused), Alexandra A. Garcia, Thomas W. Gilligan, Linda L. Golden (excused), Juan C. González, Charles R. Hale, Donald A. Hale, Patricia I. Hansen, Roderick P. Hart, Fred M. Heath, James L. Hill, Martha F. Hilley (excused), David M. Hillis (excused), Gerald W. Hoffmann, Elaine K. Horwitz, Syed A. Hyder, Bobby R. Inman (excused), Kedra B. Ishop, LeeAnn Kahlor, Karrol A. Kitt, Erhan Kutanoglu, Mark G. Longaker, Shara Ma, Raul L. Madrid, Jennifer A. Maynard, Lauren A. Meyers, Sharon Mosher, Gretchen Murphy, Paula C. Murray, Gordon S. Novak, William T. O'Rourke, Edward W. (Ted) Odell, Shirley Bird Perry, Elizabeth C. Pomeroy, Mary Ann Rankin, Soncia Reagins-Lilly, Lawrence Sager, Juan M. Sanchez, Cherise Smith, Frederick R. Steiner, Alexa M. Stuifbergen, Ye Sun, Gregory J. Vincent, Barbara W. White, Darlene C. Wiley, Paul B. Woodruff, Lexing Ying, Harold H. Zakon.
Faculty Council Chair Janet Staiger (radio-television-film) called the special meeting to order and requested that a motion be offered to suspend the traditional meeting agenda format. There was a motion and second from the floor for suspension of the traditional agenda, and the motion passed unanimously by voice vote. Chair Staiger reminded everyone to be sure to sign in at the table near the door for the purpose of recording attendance. After saying she would recognize anyone who wanted to speak, she asked speakers to use the available microphones and to introduce themselves by their name and classification as faculty, staff, or student so the minutes would be correctly recorded. She added that only Faculty Council members could vote, and normal rules of procedure would apply.
Chair Staiger called upon Chair Elect Dean Niekirk (electrical and computer engineering) to read a previously distributed resolution from the Faculty Council Executive Committee. Chair Elect Niekirk read the following resolution on behalf of the Faculty Council Executive Committee:
We appreciate the contributions of the athletic staff and, especially, the student-athletes, to the community of the University of Texas at Austin. However, at a time when students are facing a deteriorating academic environment in the form of declining class offerings and increasing class sizes, and lecturers, teaching assistants, and staff are facing job terminations, we believe a permanent raise of $2 million (a sum greater than the entire career earnings of a typical university employee) offered to any member of the university community is unseemly and inappropriate.
He reported that the committee members had spent about a week discussing the raise announced for the head football coach and “were all really deeply troubled by the signal this sends at this particular time.” He said the raise coming at a time when there is declining funding for academic budgets causing layoffs of staff and teaching assistants “just seemed that this was a particularly inopportune time.” He said the committee members recognized the major contributions athletics makes to UT Austin, were thrilled with the football team’s success this year, and pleased that the financial situation was not as dire as in other universities across the United States. Chair Elect Niekirk said there was, however, a sense that the raise and its size “sent a bad signal” as well as concern about its impact on escalating costs for university athletics programs. He said the committee members were disturbed about the perception that UT Austin was contributing to this problem by being the “the Jones” so many other universities were attempting “to keep up with” and felt, after a great deal of discussion and deliberation, that the resulting resolution expressed their concerns.
Professor Cynthia Buckley (Slavic and Eurasian studies and sociology) seconded the motion. Chair Staiger said President Bill Powers wanted to speak, and then she would open the floor for comments by others.
President Powers thanked Chair Staiger and said that he actually had more than a few remarks. He stated that a lot of thought had gone into Coach Mack Brown’s raise. He wanted to provide some of the details of what he believed to be relevant issues, and faculty were entitled to an explanation given that these are difficult economic times.
President Powers then gave a brief summary of the Coach Brown’s contract starting from 2007, when Coach Brown was well behind his peers. President Powers said that changes have been made to Coach Brown’s contract in stages through retention bonuses so that over a three-year period, the contract would be ramped up to $5 million. This is the third year of the three-year period and something needed to be done. President Powers said that it was important that the raise be given. He reiterated many times that it was unfortunate that it was necessary now when the University is going through such difficult times. He said that the overriding decision—aside from the stellar performances on the football field and that Coach Brown and his wife portray the kind of image that we want at our University—was first and foremost a business decision. President Powers went on to describe the business model in the athletics department noting that, “It has been to have fewer teams but excel in those enterprises—to excel in them by paying for coaches and paying for facilities. It’s a business model that has served us very well, and that has helped us relative to other universities in these difficult times.” President Powers said that our athletics program is one of the few self-sustaining in the nation. While other programs in the nation are dealing with declining revenues, UT’s program is thriving.
In retrospect, President Powers said this has not always been the case. He said that in 1996-97, when Mack Brown first came to UT, the University was subsidizing athletics—football only had revenues of $21 million. President Powers contrasted that figure against the revenues in 2008-09 of $87.5 million. He pointed out that that this fourfold increase in just one decade is quite an accomplishment. He highlighted how those additional revenues freed up the academic budget from any subsidies, and “that was a great step forward, and one that is not accomplished on the overwhelming number of campuses across the country.”
President Powers went on to say, “When I became president, we were just coming off the National Championship. I think I became president about three weeks after we’d won the National Championship. It was a very good year.” He said that at that time, he sat down with DeLoss Dodds (athletics director) and Chris Plonsky (athletic director) and discussed what it means to have a successful athletics program. It was decided that it was not only important to have no subsidies and deficits, but that “it ought to be returning money to the academic side of the campus, and we did that.” He also said, “We had athletics contribute money to the academic side of the campus, and since that time, there have been direct payments by athletics to support academic programs of $6.6 million plus whatever comes in this current academic year, in the 09-10 academic year.” President Powers sited one potential contribution from athletics—the addition of 6000 square feet of classroom space in Belmont Hall resulting from the remodeling of the north end of the stadium. President Powers said, “So, this year again, there’s contingency in that particular transaction, but it looks very promising. That may mean something like a $10 plus million-dollar year for getting contributions on the academic side.” President Powers also said that athletics paid $16 million for services this year, which he said is “a tremendous addition to the economy of the academic side of the campus.” He gave other examples of contributions, which included support of the libraries, and holdings of “$500,000-600,00 on interest on reserves.”
President Powers also stated, “I think there’s a myth that people give to athletics rather than giving to academics. In fact, of all of our philanthropy last year, we had about $360,000,000 of philanthropy. Less than 10% of that goes to athletics.” He went on to say that in his experience “people connected to the campus, and they are interested and want to give to the academic side of the campus as well.”
President Powers followed by saying that budget problems are being addressed at universities throughout the nation and that we are not alone. He discussed programs that might be implemented to help balance the budget and said, “They are real proposals that have a great deal of momentum. They’re coming from legislators, our board, from the governor, from a variety of people around the state.” He then sited examples that he has been dealing with on a day-to-day basis:
“Let’s sell the field lab and forget the work that goes on there. Let’s get out of the business of graduate student housing. Let’s support research only if it would be designed to lead to a product that could be sold commercially. Let’s cut our teaching budgets by putting a few of our stars on video, and then having them teach all of the students, including stars from other campuses on video to teach our students. Let’s separate the teaching function from the research and scholarship functions so we don’t have to have a large faculty that’s made up of people who are relative to other universities highly paid because they’re stars in the research field. Let’s freeze tuition, and just keep the costs down and not worry about the quality of the University. Let’s fund all the universities in our state at the same level. Why pursue the kind of research that goes on here? I could on with more of them.”
President Powers said these have been difficult issues that he has dealt with and that,
“I mention them for a more important reason. The one group that has stood with us in every one of these battles, the one group, is a group a strong alumni--the kinds of people that were on the Commission of 125. They have stood with us. They have stood with you, arm in arm. Now, why did they do that? Predominantly, overwhelmingly, it’s because they like what goes on in our classrooms, our labs, and the Ransom Center, and the Blanton. They went to school here. They know what it’s like. I’ll tell you this. Athletics plays a strong role in forming that bond.”
He said that we do not want to regress back to the period when the alumni were not happy, when the budgets were not good and UT had to subsidize athletics.
“We’ve come a long way from there to where we’re not subsidizing athletics, where athletics is contributing back, where we’ve got a strong bond with our alumni. That is a business decision to make sure that we remain and keep this continuity. Keeping athletics on a sound financial basis is going to be critical to helping solve some of these budget issues that we’re going through. Athletics can be a partner in that. We’ve started the process of athletics giving money back to support our academic programs, and I think to jeopardize that or to endanger that would be the wrong, purely business and budgetary decision to make.”
President Powers closed by saying, “Now, let me end where I started. I fully appreciate that I’m not the only one with truth on this matter. People can disagree. But, I will tell you this, what I just went through was the overwhelming basis of this decision. It was the regents overwhelming basis of the decision, and I think it was the correct decision to make, especially in these difficult times.” President Powers then opened the floor to questions and general discussion.
Following the president’s statement, Professor Chris Bell (geosciences) asked if a quorum were present. Ms. Jennifer Morgan (executive assistant, Office of the General Faculty and Faculty Council) said thirty-two Council members had signed in and that did not qualify as a quorum. Chair Staiger asked if everyone had signed in and encouraged anyone who had not to do so. Secretary Sue Greninger (human development and family sciences) announced there was a request for a recount of Council attendees. Chair Staiger asked for a show of hands by the Council members in attendance, and the count was twenty-nine. Chair Staiger said the meeting would continue with attendees “simply acting as a body of the faculty at this point.”1
Professor Tom Palaima (classics), member of the Faculty Council Executive Committee and UT’s representative on the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA), spoke in favor of the resolution. Saying his views were know, he read the following statement from Professor David Hillis (integrative biology and past Faculty Council Chair), who was unable to attend the meeting due to a back injury.
"The UT System sends out links to news clips about UT each week. In today’s posting, there’s an excellent article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette published yesterday titled, “Colleges questioning steep price of winning in sports.” The author notes that emphasis on winning at all costs is crippling colleges and universities across the country and notes that colleges are beginning to drop football altogether because they can’t afford to ‘keep up with the Jones’ or else they are sacrificing their academic budget to try to keep up with this madness. As the number one example of a college program that is spending out of control, the article cites this $2 million coach’s raise at UT, which makes UT the leader in the salary war. That makes our football coach the highest paid public employee in the world. What does that say about UT? …about our community values? …about higher education? I enjoy UT football as much as anyone, but do we need to spend this kind of money to make UT football worthwhile and enjoyable? Of course we don’t. In fact, we are contributing to the destruction of college sports by leading the way in this madness. UT athletics is also always had the sensible position that our coaches are not number one on the national pay scale. DeLoss Dodds has made this a point on many occasions. Why are we suddenly abandoning that sensible principle? The Post Gazette article ends by noting that this can’t go on forever. College sports costs are widely viewed as out of control. Right now UT is stoking this train to make it run even faster. We can be the ones who begin to apply the breaks to prevent the collision, or we can be forever known as the ones who are responsible for the wreck. For the sake of college sports, for the sake of UT, and for the sake of higher education in this country, I sincerely hope that we cease the stoking and start the breaking before it is too late."
Professor Palaima reminded the Council members that Athletic Director Dodds had referred to UT’s athletics program “as the Jones” and recalled his saying UT would never pay its principle coaches the top salary in the nation because of the potential exposure to criticism. With regard to the costs of athletics programs at universities and colleges, Professor Palaima said the NCAA reported that only 25 out of the 120 Division I schools were profitable last year, earning an average of $3.9 million profit, whereas he thought UT’s profit was almost $20 million last year. From these profits, Professor Palaima acknowledged that the athletics program had contributed approximately $6.5 million to the University for academic endeavors. He said there were costs to the University that athletics did not pay; most notably, he said Professor Michael Granof (accounting and UT’s former COIA representative) had indicated that athletics did not pay rent for its facilities. As the current COIA representative, Professor Palaima said he had extensive meetings with Vice President Hegarty, Athletics Director Dodds, Athletics Director Plonsky, and Associate Athletics Director Goble regarding the athletics budget and had asked specifically about Coach Brown’s contract, but he was never told about the bonuses Coach Brown received--$1 million two years ago and $2 million this year. He said he respected the integrity of Coach Brown and Athletic Directors Dodds and Plonsky, and he thought they had been “open and honest” with him during the two years he had worked with them as the COIA representative. He said he felt the same way about Associate Athletics Director Brian Davis, who had provided opportunities for Professor Palaima to visit with the athletes. Professor Palaima referred to himself as a “big sports fan” and said he enjoyed interacting with the athletes and cared about their well-being. However, he said he was concerned about the damage to UT’s reputation being caused by the 37% minority graduation rate of UT’s football players, which he called “deplorable.” He encouraged everyone to read the recent article published by the Boston Globe on graduation rates, where UT was listed fourth from the bottom among the “bold disqualifications teams” having black or white graduation rates below 50%. He said the article included “a whole list of schools with at least 50% graduation success rates: Northwestern, University of Connecticut, Boston College, Penn State, Navy, Rutgers, Southern Methodist, Virginia Tech, and Alabama.” Professor Palaima lamented that the statistical evidence did not support our athletics program’s claim over the years that UT’s graduation rates for athletes “are on the upswing.” He said he felt the NCAA’s creation of the Annual Progress Rate had been “collusive” by only requiring athletes to have 2.0 GPAs at the end of two years to maintain eligibility, especially when the average GPA for all students is 3.2. Furthermore, he said the NCAA requirement that athletes only need to have 80% of their degrees completed by the end of four years did not facilitate improved graduation rates. He reported that there are some student athletes who are successful, even those from disadvantaged backgrounds, largely due to the efforts of Associate Athletic Directors Randa Ryan and Bryan Davis. Professor Palaima lauded the women’s athletic program for its outstanding graduation rate, but he said he thought the lack of professional sports opportunities for women contributed to this success.
Professor Palaima shared a remark from an email he had received from Professor Hillis, whom he described as “a very even-tempered person.” He quoted Professor Hillis as describing the $2 million salary raise decision as “sick, sick, sick,” to which Professor Palaima added, “and he didn’t mean ‘thus’ in Latin.” According to Professor Palaima, Professor Hillis had put the amount of the raise in perspective by saying, “20% of this raise could pay for all of our AIs and TAs.” Professor Palaima pointed out that recent extensive cuts in personnel and the language requirement in the College of Liberal Arts had been required to reduce costs by $1.5 million. Although he believed Coach Brown was “everything” the president had described in his remarks, Professor Palaima said he did not “agree that this is a good expenditure of money.” Professor Palaima concluded his remarks by saying he thought it would be shameful on all of us to be tolerant of this situation.
When Chair Staiger asked President Powers if he wanted to respond, the president said he would limit his remarks to a couple of points because this was a discussion among faculty members. He said the bonuses received by Coach Mack Brown were approved in an open meeting of the Board of Regents and reported in the newspapers. Although Professor Palaima may not have been specifically told about them, the president said they were not secret or hidden. He also said that he disagreed with the point that the money could have paid for teaching assistants. Furthermore, the president said the reasoning underlying the additional pay was his belief that “the quickest way to have more difficult financial issues than we have now is to erode the financial soundness of this program.” Professor Palaima then asked Mr. Ralph Haurwitz, reporter for Austin American Statesman, and “did you know about the…you’re the one who told me about the bonuses, when did you find out about them?” After Mr. Haurwitz replied that he believed the sports writers previously reported the bonuses in articles appearing in the local paper, Professor Palaima apologized for misunderstanding that the information was public and not hidden.
Ms. Caroline O’Connor (recent graduate from LBJ School and staff organizer for the Texas State Employees Union) asked President Powers how many lecturers, staff members, assistant instructors, teaching assistants, and research assistants would be laid off or let go this coming spring and fall? She said her organization had been attempting to get the information through a number of channels but had not succeeded. She also thought the information was relevant to the resolution because the average staff member would not make $2 million in his or her entire career, and there was a need to know how many individuals would get no salary increase in the coming year. President Powers responded that he did not know how many might lose their jobs, but he wanted it to be as few as possible. He said the financial situation of the University is very fluid, and there was no way to know what the financial picture would be in March; however, he said there would be a big effort for the process to be a transparent one. When Ms. O’Conner asked how it was possible to know if the University could afford the $2 million raise for Coach Brown, President Powers said the athletic budget was more predictable than the academic one since it comes from athletics revenue and not from tuition and state general revenue.
President Powers said the most important goal was to treat employees fairly and to have funds for raises available in future years, but this could not be done unless costs were reduced. He said he could have said there would be no raises for four years in an effort to reduce the number of layoffs, but he did not believe this was the “right way to go.” Instead, he said he wanted to be able to give raises to staff and faculty in the coming years so UT would be competitive and its talent would not be lost to other institutions and employers. When Ms. O’Conner asked if this meant there had to be lay-offs to provide salary increases, President Powers replied that answer was yes because 80% of UT’s budget was salaries. He said an effort was underway to find other sources of revenue, such as contributions from various types of donors as well as from athletics. Ms. O’Conner asked when employees would be notified whether or not they would have jobs in the fall, President Powers said he did not know. He said this would depend on the results of the process underway to reduce costs and inefficiencies, such as the one recently completed in Information Technology Services, where $5 million in annual expenses had been saved. Chair Staiger thanked Ms. O’Conner for her questions and asked if there were others who wanted to speak for or against the resolution. There being none, she asked for a vote by all attendees affiliated with the University. Explaining that the vote would only be an expression of the group’s sentiment and not an official vote of the Faculty Council, she invited everyone to vote by show of hands, except outside media representatives. Chair Staiger then read the motion that was unchanged from its introduction by Chair Elect Niekirk at the beginning of the meeting. The unofficial vote resulted in twenty-three for the resolution, fifteen against it, and four abstentions. Chair Staiger thanked everyone for attending, announced that the next Council meeting would be January 25, 2010, and adjourned the meeting.
Meeting adjourned at 3:19 P.M
Although the meeting continued with the attendees acting as a body of the faculty, it should be noted that the proceedings from this point on are unofficial with regard to Faculty Council business.