Chair Neikirk reported the UT System policy on criminal background checks (UTS 124) had been officially approved and encouraged Council members to read the policy, which is posted on the System website. He said he believed the UT Austin administration was working to implement the policy in the least disruptive manner possible. As the local policy is initiated, he said the Faculty Council Executive Committee would update the Council should any issues of concern to the faculty arise. He explained the policy applies to all employees and includes a requirement for self-reporting of criminal convictions; however, he added that an earlier proposed requirement for self-reporting of charges had been dropped.

With regard to nominations for the ad hoc Committee on Faculty Excellence, Chair Neikirk reported that the invitation for nominations was being sent out. Although a number of nominations have already been received, he encouraged Council members to send him additional nominations within the next week and a half so the Faculty Council Executive Committee can make selections at its meeting on March 4. See Appendix A for additional information regarding this committee.

Chair Neikirk reported that 440 faculty members responded to the survey on faculty involvement in budget planning, which was about a 17% response rate. He said the final results, which are included on the second slide in Appendix A, were similar to the preliminary results reported at the last Council meeting. Chair Neikirk said he realized that the results involved some level of survey bias, but it seemed clear that there was a serious concern from the faculty about their lack of involvement in budget planning and prioritization at the college level. He said 185 respondents included written comments, with many reflecting the viewpoint that faculty are generally informed after decisions are made rather than being consulted during the decision-making process.

On his third PowerPoint slide (Appendix A), Chair Neikirk listed summary allocation data from both House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1 for comparison purposes. He reported the Senate bill included $170 million more than the House bill for higher education. For UT Austin, the Senate bill recommended $10 million more in both 2012 and 2013 than the House bill. After pointing out that the recommended funding levels were considerably lower than the amounts requested by UT Austin, Chair Neikirk said, “Again, as to what these numbers will end up being is anybody’s guess.”

Chair Neikirk reported Governor Rick Perry’s office had recently published its budget, which appeared to use House Bill 1 as its starting point but included some global changes. These changes included elimination of tuition waivers and increases in faculty productivity, which were forecasted to produce $118 million and $383 million in savings, respectively. Although Chair Neikirk said he could not discern what items were specifically included from the information he reviewed, the governor’s budget indicated that a reduction in special items funding would result in $817 million in savings. The budget from the governor’s office added back in the following amounts: $360 million in increases for the Texas Grants and Tuition Equalization Program, $480 million in systems discretionary funding, and $478 million to restore funding to two community colleges that had been zeroed out in House Bill 1. Chair Neikirk explained that these reductions and additions pertained to total higher education funding in Texas and appeared to be similar in overall allocations to those proposed in House Bill 1.

Chair Neikirk noted that the governor’s State of the State address had been mentioned in the General Faculty meeting held earlier that day. He said Governor Perry had proposed a four-year tuition freeze and a $10,000 bachelor’s degree (including textbooks) in his State of the State speech. Chair Neikirk said it appeared the way the latter would be accomplished would be to leverage web-based instruction, develop innovative teaching techniques, and pursue aggressive efficiencies. From a recent study published on the costs of for-profit higher education, Chair Neikirk reported that the average cost per year for this type of education was $25,000, which would total to $100,000 for a four-year degree. He said these institutions had an average six-year graduation rate of 22%. Non-profit private institutions have an average cost of $16,600 per year, and a 65% six-year graduation rates. For comparison purposes, Chair Neikirk reported costs at state universities averaged $8,600 per year, and these institutions had a 55% six-year graduation rate. From these data, the chair concluded that it appeared that both private non-profit and public non-profit institutions provide educational services much more economically than for-profit institutions.

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