Chair Neikirk (electrical and computer engineering) reported on a number of topics, including progress on establishing the Faculty Council’s ad hoc Committee on Faculty Excellence, performance goals for higher education included in House Bill l, and survey results regarding faculty involvement in budgetary decision-making across campus. The PowerPoint slides he used during his presentation are attached in Appendix B.

With regard to the ad hoc Committee on Faculty Excellence, Chair Neikirk said the invitation to Council members for submitting nominations for membership on the committee would be sent out in the next couple of days. He reported that the ad hoc committee’s initial charge would have the following three objectives:

(1) to explain to the public what faculty productivity and accountability mean, how they are currently assured, and whether or not the University is determining this productivity in the best and most appropriate ways,
(2) to suggest ways to facilitate faculty efforts to further improve the productivity of both the faculty and the University, and
(3) to suggest ways to further improve data collection and other methods for assessing the productivity of the faculty and of the University.

In explaining the importance and breadth of the ad hoc committee’s work, Chair Neikirk recalled that President Powers had emphasized the term “ecosystem” when he talked about evaluating the University’s overall performance and contributions to its students and the broader society and economy. Chair Neikirk said he thought much of the ad hoc committee’s overall charge involved looking at the larger context of the performance of the University beyond that of the traditional measures included in the annual reports of individual faculty members.

With regard to membership, Chair Neikirk said the Faculty Council Executive Committee expected the committee to be comprised of approximately ten faculty members, with a wide representation from various colleges and departments to reflect the diversity that exists across campus. He added that the committee would be expected to elect its own chair from its membership. In addition, because it was not expected that the committee could accomplish its tasks in a short time span, Chair Neikirk said the terms of service would be two years and members would be expected to agree to this period of service at the time of their appointments. Therefore, he said it would be a future Faculty Council Executive Committee that would review the committee’s progress and make decisions about future needs, including when exactly to end the ad hoc committee’s work, whether or not a standing committee of the General Faculty would be needed to continue the on-going work and monitor the progress of implementation across the University, and how to interpret and utilize the measurement outcomes.

Chair Neikirk said that nominees for service on the ad hoc committee did not have to be Faculty Council members. He asked that nominations include a brief sentence or two explaining why the nominee would be an appropriate candidate for contributing to the committee’s important tasks. He said these comments would be helpful to the Faculty Council Executive Committee in the selection of members. Although he expected the initial committee to be comprised of faculty members, Chair Neikirk said the work of the committee would need to coordinate effectively with the work of a number of other standing committees as well as the UT Austin administration. After the committee members were selected, he said individual members would be named to serve as liaisons to the administration and to other related standing committees.

Chair Neikirk then reported on his review of the Legislative Budget Board’s House Bill 1, which he said included specific performance goals and measures that were relevant to the issues of accountability and excellence. He said he was surprised the bill contained goals and performance data for each higher educational system in Texas regarding the percentage of first-time, full-time freshmen who earn a degree within six years and the retention rate of first-time, full-time freshmen after one year. The actual numbers for the University of Texas system are included for your review in Appendix B. Chair Neikirk said the goals specified for the UT System are the highest for any of the higher education systems in Texas, and the past data indicated that our system has met these expected higher levels of performance. He pointed out that in 2010, the UT system’s six-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time freshmen was 80% and the one-year retention rate for first-time, full-time freshmen was 91.7%, which were a little higher than those of the Texas A&M system. He said other systems in the state have goals and actual performance rates closer to 50%, which he said no doubt reflected differences in the characteristics of institutions within those systems when compared to those in the UT and Texas A&M systems.

Chair Neikirk next presented a summary of bills related in some way to higher education that had been filed for consideration in the current Texas legislative session. His complete listing is included in Appendix B. Without expressing any editorial comments, he briefly mentioned the wide array of topics addressed in Senate and House bills filed thus far that he thought could impact higher education throughout the state. He said Council members could read any of the bills for additional details that pertain to issues in which they were particularly interested. He added that Council members should expect additional bills to be filed up until the filing deadline but to remember that many bills are filed that do not gain passage into laws.

Chair Neikirk reported that the survey of faculty regarding their involvement in budgetary decision-making had been underway since just before the holiday break; he said the on-line survey would remain open until January 28, with a reminder notice being sent to faculty encouraging their participation. He apologized for the typographical error on question seven where the response categories did not fit the question asked and explained that the error was not caught in time to cancel the survey. Because numerous responses had been received and the identity of respondents was protected, there was no way to determine who had already completed the survey and attempt to get their corrected responses to the question. From the 360 responses received from faculty members thus far, Chair Neikirk gave the following summary of preliminary results:

(1) Approximately 80% of the respondents indicated their deans did not consult faculty about budget planning and prioritization.
(2) Approximately 60% of the respondents indicated there was no discussion of budget planning and prioritization at college/school meetings.
(3) Approximately 50% of the respondents indicated there was discussion of budgetary planning and prioritization at department meetings; 35% indicating there was not and the remainder did not answer.
(4) involvement in budget planning and prioritization. (5) Approximately 76% of the respondents thought the faculty should be more involved than they are in budget planning and prioritization.
Chair Neikirk said he was sure people knowledgeable about surveys could argue there was inherent survey bias with those who responded caring more about being involved than those who did not respond. He said there were 151 of the surveys with written comments, and he had not had time to read them all yet. In summary, Chair Neikirk said it appeared to him that the faculty members perceive they are informed about the budget but not consulted about it.

After saying President Powers had indicated that it would be useful if the Council members were provided additional details about the legislative budget, Chair Neikirk reviewed the slide titled, “Report of the chair: state budget,” for this part of his presentation. (See Appendix B). He reported that the baseline appropriation in House Bill 1 for higher education in Texas for 2012-13 was $156.4 billion, with the bill summary indicating that this amount was $31.1 billion less than the amount allocated in 2010-11, or a 16.6 percent decrease. For the UT Austin campus, the bill lists $367 million as the expended amount in 2009 and $391 million as the estimated expended amount for 2010. He said UT Austin’s Legislative Appropriations Request asked for $365 million and $383 million for 2011 and 2012, respectively. Chair Neikirk pointed out that the recommended funding of $342 million listed in House Bill 1 for UT Austin in 2012 was approximately 11 percent less than the amount that had been requested. Additionally, the recommended amount in House Bill 1 for UT Austin in 2013 was $343 million, which he said was about 9 percent less than had been requested. The Competitive Knowledge Fund, which Chair Neikirk said appeared to be also referred to as the Research University Development Fund, was the largest item included in UT Austin’s special items support; he explained that this funding was what President Powers mentioned during his remarks earlier in the meeting that promised $1 of state support for every $10 received from external research grants. Chair Neikirk also noted there were proposals in House Bill 1 that would reduce retirement contributions and health care premium sharing. He said the information presented in his second slide provided a detailed break out for some categories, but the total amounts given at the bottom of the slide agreed with those presented on the previous slide. He said these break outs might not be very meaningful when presented without background information, but he thought that the declining numbers were of concern. He added that he hoped the situation would not end up as negative as first appeared in House Bill 1.

To provide additional information in order to help Council members understand the budgetary context, Chair Neikirk then introduced Associate Vice President and Budget Director Mary Knight. He said her slides would be posted on the Council website following the meeting since the font size was too small for many in the audience to read. Associate Vice President Knight said she first needed to explain that the figures at the bottom of the slide shown by Chair Neikirk did not include all of the funding sources that UT Austin has. She explained that the figures at the bottom of the slide included only state-provided general revenue amounts plus estimates from the Legislative Budget Board for UT Austin’s statutory tuition funds. She said the figures did not include separate designated tuition funds, or what has often been called the deregulated tuition funds, as well as amounts from the Available University Fund, contracts and grants, and endowments.

Associate Vice President Knight explained that the categories used by the Legislative Budget Board were standardized to get consistency across all of the state agencies and higher education institutions with which the board must interact. She clarified that UT Austin does have flexibility in how these funds can be utilized. For example, if the $190 million for faculty salaries in one-year decreases to $144 million the next year as indicated in the table, she said this would not mean that our faculty salary amount would actually be $144 million. The $144 million would reflect the amount received from this particular funding source, but not from all of the University’s funding sources. She said the numbers were not arbitrary amounts but were actually estimated amounts over time. As an example, she pointed out how the figures on the table for utilities started at zero and then went all the way up to $59 million with a figure of $9.9 million in between. She explained that UT Austin generally does not use any state general revenue funding for utilities. However, she said the $9.9 million was from federal stimulus money from the state in 2010. She explained that the Legislative Budget Board just spreads its funding across all the categories when it made its estimates so numbers showed up for utilities several different years, including estimates for 2012 and 2013. According to Associate Vice President Knight, this example just illustrates that the amounts showing up in this context are not at all meaningful.

Associate Vice President Knight explained that the table she had reduced to fit on the screen contained the data that President Powers had discussed in his earlier remarks. She said the University administration pays very careful attention to what is included in the bills pertaining to the general revenue as they appear during the legislative session. She said the general revenue is what will actually come from the state, and this amount will have an impact on the University budget. The tuition amount will be based on the number of actual enrolled students and is not included in the general revenue figure. For 2010-11, the general revenue amount was approximately $586 million. She pointed out that second column of numbers on the slide included the 5 percent reduction in the budget that had already occurred. Then, the amount entered in the third column is what is appropriated to UT Austin in House Bill 1, which indicates the decrease to $473 million. She said the variances from the original 2010-11 appropriations are reported on the table, indicating that the amount included in House Bill 1 is approximately 19.3 percent less than what was in the 2010-11 original bill before the 5 percent reductions. Associate Vice President Knight said there is some variance depending on whether or not the House bill includes the supplemental funding that President Powers referred to when discussing the hold harmless funding during his earlier remarks. The change in House Bill 1 funding from the amount in the 2010-11 original appropriation ranges from 17 to 19 percent reduction, depending on whether or not the hold harmless amount is included. When House Bill 1 funding is compared to the 2010-11 amount after the 5 percent is subtracted, then a 13 to 15 percent reduction results, depending on whether or not the hold harmless amount is included. Associate Vice President Knight said this is why President Powers had said that UT Austin is facing between a 13 to 20 percent decrease in state general revenue funding from 2010-11 levels given the bills that have so far been introduced.

Associate Vice President Knight said the University administration is currently monitoring legislative bills and has a planning process in place with potential budget reductions under review. She said the administration believes the University is in “good shape for looking at what the legislature is going to end up providing for us, or not.” She said she would gladly go into more detail to help the members of the Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets understand the Legislative Appropriation Request. She again explained that the process involves using standardized categories so the Legislative Budget Board can have consistent data from various agencies and institutions. As a result, she said the specific figures and their categorization do not end up being “necessarily all that meaningful as we go through the process.” She asked if there were any questions, and there were none. Chair Neikirk thanked Associate Vice President Knight for her report and said the data presented in the slides would be posted on the Council website.

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