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MINUTES OF THE REGULAR FACULTY COUNCIL MEETING OF
May 9, 2011

 

 
VI.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS.

A. Resolution on the Faculty Role in the UT Austin Budget Process (D 8631-8632).

Chair Elect Friedman said the resolution, which is summarized on the PowerPoint slides in Appendix A, was developed due to frustration with the lack of faculty involvement in the budgetary process in the past. He added that the FCEC members firmly believe that faculty should be involved in budgetary decision-making at all levels. He said the component parts of the resolution addressed the need for faculty involvement at the departmental, school, college, and overall University levels. In addition to the faculty role on the existing Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets (FACB), Chair Elect Friedman said the resolution asked that the University Budget Committee, on which the president and other executive officers serve, include a faculty representative.

Chair Elect Friedman asked for the privileges of the floor for Professor Alba Ortiz, the incoming chair elect, for her to present background regarding the components of the resolution. Professor Ortiz said the resolution that appeared in the meeting’s agenda was the appropriate version for review and consideration since the one presented at the April Council meeting had undergone a few modifications. After acknowledging Chair Elect Friedman for covering the preamble portion of the resolution, she concurred that the resolution had grown from concerns regarding diminished faculty involvement in the budgeting process. She said, “…most of what is in the resolution are really rights that we have, and so we are reaffirming those rights.” For example, she said faculty members have the right to participate in budgetary decision-making, but the resolution clarified that the faculty should be included in the “planning” phase of the process. She also pointed out that the resolution addressed the immediate need for faculty involvement at all campus levels in current budgetary decisions due to the uncertainty about UT Austin’s level of state funding and the proposed budget cuts under consideration in the 2011 legislative session.

Professor Ortiz indicated the next component of the resolution specified a set of recommendations that would hopefully decrease the frustration level experienced by members of the FACB and actually allow the committee to execute its stated charge. She said the committee must be provided with the requisite budget information to do its work. If the information is not made available to the committee, then “the committee will take action to make sure that it gets done.” To facilitate the committee’s effectiveness and not have its responsibilities usurped, she said a portion of the resolution asked the administration to refrain from appointing other budget committees when the tasks could be done by the FACB. Professor Ortiz noted that a portion of the resolution had been modified following conversations with President Powers, but she described the result as providing a break-through from what has occurred in the past. This was the wording that now says “one non-administrative member of the faculty, appointed by the president, but in consultation with the chair of the Faculty Council, shall serve on the President’s Budget Advisory Committee.”

Professor Ortiz said another component of the resolution assured that all levels of the administration would comply with Chapter 3, Section 3.17 of the Handbook of Operating Procedures, which says it is the responsibility of budget councils and executive committees to make recommendations about faculty salaries. Professor Ortiz said in addition to honoring this provision, the resolution included that “the chair should present his or her budget recommendations back to the budget council or executive committee for review before submitting them to the dean.” She emphasized that this provision made it clear that the faculty want to know the extent to which their salary recommendations were followed and what changes had occurred as they progressed through the administrative approval process.

The final component of the resolution underscores the need for transparency and convenience for faculty access to detailed budgets at all levels throughout the University’s organizational structure. Although this provision already exists, Professor Ortiz said she was certain Council members had experienced a considerable level of frustration and difficulty tracking down budgetary information at the University’s library. She added that information regarding the budget is also available on the budget office’s website, but the information at these sources often does not provide the level of detail that she expected faculty members were generally seeking.

Professor Mary Rose (sociology) asked if the proposed policy would require the use of a regular University-wide committee and thereby abrogate the possible usefulness of a college or school establishing an internal ad hoc committee that deals with budgetary decisions. Chair Elect Friedman responded that the particular component of the motion dealing with the use of ad hoc committees did not apply to college and school levels. He explained the appointment of ad hoc committees or task forces in the past to address issues and problems within the areas of responsibility of Standing Committees of the General Faculty had occurred generally at the University level. He added that President Powers had agreed to utilize existing committees when appropriate, and the provision in the resolution simply reaffirmed this promise. Chair Neikirk pointed out that the resolution referenced the FACB and that that committee is responsible for the discussion and recommendations at the University level.

Professor Staiger said she was aware that there had been discussions about the proposal with the administration but understood that no commitment had been forthcoming with regard to its approval. She asked Chair Neikirk what his expectations were regarding the likelihood that the resolution would gain administrative approval. Chair Neikirk said he thought it was likely that a faculty member would be appointed by the president in consultation with the chair of the Faculty Council to the President’s Budget Advisory Committee. He added that there was no faculty voice on that committee at present and that adding a faculty representative would be a significant change.

Professor Pauline Strong (anthropology and FACB chair) said the resolution supported the efforts of her committee, which had tried for the last two years to gain access to detailed budgetary information. Because most budgetary decision-making is now occurring at the college rather than the University level, she indicated the FACB’s task has been limited to advising the provost on the use of his discretionary funds, such as increasing faculty travel budget limits. As a result, Professor Strong said the FACB was seeking an expanded role, which meant the resolution was “very consistent with what the committee has been trying to do itself.”

Professor Strong said her committee had discussed with Provost Leslie the possibility that the FACB chair, or at least a member of that committee, would serve as the faculty representative on the President’s Budget Advisory Committee. She added the six FACB members believed this practice would provide a good integrative approach and enhance the influence of the FACB. She asked for an explanation as to why this arrangement had been changed in the resolution and said she might want to make an amendment. Chair Neikirk said President Powers would need to personally address the matter. After saying he had been present when the president discussed what was likely to be acceptable, Chair Neikirk emphasized that the proposed resolution now contained the language that was agreeable between attendees at that meeting.

Professor Strong offered an amendment to the resolution specifying that “the chair or another member of the FACB will serve on the President’s Budget Advisory Committee.” She said she thought this organizational practice would facilitate the functioning of an existing committee as well as the Faculty Council, but she realized the president had the prerogative to choose another arrangement if this was not what he preferred. When Chair Neikirk asked for a second to the amendment, an unidentified voice from the audience said, “second.” Chair Neikirk opened the floor for discussion of the amendment, and there was none. He called for the vote, and the amendment unanimously passed by voice vote. When Chair Neikirk clarified with Professor Strong whether she had said the chair of FACB or a member of the committee, she responded, “chair or a designated member.” She added that the chair might need to designate another member of the committee because the meetings occur largely during the summer. Chair Neikirk clarified that the faculty representative on the President’s Budget Advisory Committee would be the chair of the FACB, and the chair of the FACB would designate another committee member to attend if the chair could not be present at a meeting of the President’s Budget Advisory Committee.

Chair Elect Friedman said he was sure President Powers would not agree to the FACB chair, who will be chosen by the committee, serving as the faculty representative to his Budget Advisory Committee. He thought the president might be amenable to a member of the FACB serving as the faculty representative if the president selected that individual in consultation with the chair of the Faculty Council. As a result, Chair Elect Friedman said he hoped Professor Strong’s amendment could be interpreted as meaning a member of the committee rather than the chair of the committee. Chair Neikirk responded that he thought there would have to be another amendment offered because he felt Professor Strong had clearly indicated she meant the FACB chair in her amendment and that amendment had already been approved. Past Chair Staiger said the proposal was a resolution and not binding legislation, so perhaps it could go forward with Professor Strong’s suggested phrasing, as approved by the Council. Should approval not be granted, then she suggested that the Council leadership might encourage President Powers to make his appointment from the FACB members in the spirit of shared governance while negotiations are continued. Professor Strong repeated that the FACB members had discussed the matter with the provost, and he had agreed in principle to it; she also repeated her point regarding the committee members’ frustration with being what she called “side-lined” in its efforts to pursue its charge. Chair Neikirk also noted that the proposal was only a resolution; however, he explained that the wording of the resolution had been revised based on a compromise solution arrived through discussion with the president. Even though he expected the best compromise that could be reached was similar to what the FCEC had proposed, he saw no problem in sending the amended version forward to the president for his consideration.

Professor James Holcombe (chemistry and biochemistry) said he thought having advisory input was good, but he wanted to know if faculty automatically got access at the present time to what the final budget included. Chair Neikirk said he was a member of the FACB, and he thought both he and Professor Strong would answer “no” to the question. He said he thought the only budgetary information faculty get at present is what is published in the University’s Statistical Handbook at the end of each year. Professor Holcombe asked if that source only included expenditure data, which Chair Neikirk confirmed. Professor Holcombe asked if it were possible to determine how money had been partitioned out among colleges or within a college to various departments at the end of the year? Chair Neikirk said the expenditure information in the Statistical Handbook was broken out by department, and there was some limited categorization. Past Chair Staiger said an open records request could be done to look at allocations in progress, but this would be perceived as confrontational. Professor Elizabeth Cullingford (English) said a very large copy of the University’s budget is available at the Perry-Castañeda Library, which provides data by college/school, department, and individual so instructional, administrative, and salary amounts can be determined. She and Chair Neikirk both agreed that the information at the library was only past expenditure data.

Professor Strong said the FACB had requested planning data so the committee could serve in its advisory role during the actual on-going allocation decision-making process. She said the previous year the committee was asked on an emergency basis to provide recommendations regarding the two percent merit pool and faculty salary increases. Since no information was provided regarding offsets and the potential implications of their possible choices, she said there was no way the committee could provide informed recommendations in response to the urgent request. After asking if it were really 2011 or only 1911, Professor Alan Cline (computer science) asked why the information were not available electronically. Chair Neikirk said he did not know, but he had only been able to find information in the Statistical Handbook, and although budget categorization was limited, he had been able to use the document quite quickly and easily. After Professor Cline and Chair Neikirk agreed the information had to exist somewhere in electronic format, Professor Cline said failing to put the data in electronic form for others to review seemed like a technique to keep the information hidden.

Chair Neikirk said there was a resolution on the floor with one amendment that had been previously approved. Since there was no further discussion, he called for the vote and the amended resolution unanimously passed by voice vote.

 

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