MINUTES OF THE REGULAR FACULTY COUNCIL MEETING OF
October 25, 2010

VIII. NEW BUSINESS.

C. Discussion on the budget and faculty involvement in budget planning and prioritization.

Chair Neikirk said he hoped Council members had reviewed the linked information included in the email he had sent to the membership in preparation for today’s discussion of faculty involvement in budget planning and prioritization. He said Provost Leslie was committed to making the process “transparent and accessible,” and Chair Neikirk said faculty members needed to become involved and participate in this endeavor. Toward this end, Chair Neikirk said he wanted discussion and feedback at today’s meeting to focus on the Deans/Provost Academic Core (DPAC) planning process or what had previously been called the Compact Process that began in the mid-1990s. He explained that the Compact Process produced “a written agreement between the provost and individual colleges and schools (Compact) that defines the issues, goals, objectives, plans and strategies, resources available, and specific activities to be undertaken for the coming years.” He showed a slide that Vice Provost Neal Armstrong had developed that briefly summarized the key attributes of the DPAC planning process (see Appendix B) and explained that the slide was from a set of slides referenced in the email Council members had received. Referring to the DPAC as a planning exercise, Chair Neikirk invited Provost Leslie to correct or clarify any statements that might not be a fair representation of the DPAC process. He said the process involved a sizable amount of time and effort on the part of the provost and his staff as well as the deans and their staffs since he understood it was an annual process designed to produced a rolling five-year plan largely completed over the summer months. He said he thought this process likely reflected the Commission of 125’s recommendation that there be greater autonomy in decision-making and management at the college and departmental level with necessary supervision provided from the provost’s office. Chair Neikirk said that he thought it was important to determine how, when, and to what extent faculty involvement occurs in this process, and how it is integrated into the planning process. He said he had asked Council members to make themselves aware of how faculty were involved in the planning process within their own colleges/schools and departments since this is an important formal process between the leadership of the units across campus and the provost’s office. He asked for Council members to come to the microphone and share how this process works in their individual units.

Professor Janet Staiger (radio-television-film and past Council chair) said she perceived there was no formal faculty discussion in her department of what the department would like included in the college DPAC plan. She asked Provost Leslie if the DPACs were currently completed for the year and if they would be posted on the University’s web site. Provost Leslie responded that work was still underway through the DPAC process. He referred to the DPACs as priority-based planning processes for a five-year period that are rolled out each year but said they were “not budget driven.” Provost Leslie said the expectation is for flat funding levels over the next few years, and this planning is needed for the University “to manage our finances and to focus on making strong institutional decisions to move money toward our priorities….” He explained that the priorities and DPACs evolve over time, vary among the colleges/schools, and are not yet completed. In addition, he said, “As with any budget process that we have with individual colleges, we don’t have that as kind of public information.” Provost Leslie said the DPAC process is relatively new, and “this is the first year that we’ve gotten the full process to a point where we’re now getting into an analysis of the priorities and then applying resources toward priorities.” He added that the DPAC process “is really a long-term, priority-setting, planning process where over time we will apply resources to critical priorities,” whereas the former Compact Process did not include “a structured attachment of resources to the planning process.” In conversations with members of the FCEC, he said he had mentioned this “is very important as we go through year-after-year of this process to drive this down into the faculty so that it becomes transparent.” Provost Leslie explained that this was a difficult process to implement given the size and complexity of UT Austin, especially during a difficult budgetary period. He added that he felt it was important “to keep working on processes so that we can engage the faculty and drill this down into faculty, and we are going to need the Faculty Council’s help with that.”

Professor Staiger asked, “What directions have you given the deans and the chairs about involving the faculty in the process going up?” Provost Leslie responded he had asked for college and school priorities at the deans’ level at this point, and he thought there would be a long time in the future to continue to work on this. He added he had not instructed deans on how they “should manage the process on down into the department or the faculty levels.” After saying her question may have just been answered, Professor Martha Hilley (music) asked Provost Leslie if he had not suggested to the deans that they set up some type of faculty advisory groups on budgetary issues? The provost replied that the conversations were ongoing, and there had been discussions at the meetings of the administration with the FCEC as well as with students and student leaders. He said, “We have not defined, at this point, a structure or strategy for how the deans should organize for drilling into the faculty.” However, he indicated that continued discussion was possible on whether this should be done and whether an institutional process or individualized college/school processes should be used to handle this matter.

Professor Hilley said it was her personal opinion that it would be helpful “if there was some kind of suggestion about an effective process,” assuming the deans could agree in their discussion with the provost regarding this issue. She made this suggestion after saying it was her opinion that problems regarding merit-based decisions had occurred because there was not an overarching University-wide process, such as for determining recipients of endowed professorships or chairs. Provost Leslie said that work on these issues would continue and added that transparency and faculty involvement were among his goals. He explained that “excellence resides in the faculty,” and he wanted UT Austin to be “driven significantly by the faculty.” He added that he thought the campus would be better off if the faculty members are meaningfully engaged campus-wide in priority setting and budgeting processes, and efforts were underway to determine how to do this. However, he said he wanted to return to a point he had previously made regarding whether the same process would be meaningful for all colleges/schools, departments, and programs or whether it is preferable to find an individual process that is effective for each unit. In closing his response to Professor Hilley’ comments, Provost Leslie again emphasized the importance of faculty involvement and transparency as the process unfolds in the future. Professor Hilley thanked the provost for using the “T-word.”

Professor Pauline Strong (anthropology) said she was chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets (FACB), which is charged with advising the president and provost on the University budget. She said there were several levels at which the faculty could have input into the budgetary planning process, specifically the departmental, college/school, and University levels. With the growing importance of the DPAC process, she asked if there was a place in the DPAC process where involvement of the FACB would be helpful. Provost Leslie said he thought there could be and pointed out that a great deal of effort during the past year had been expended in engaging the FACB members in the institutional budgeting process and informing the FACB about the work of the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee. He said, “As we drill into this and try to be more open and more transparent with the Faculty Council through the faculty budget advisory committee, we might be able to come up with strong strategies about how to get this done.” He added that it would be important “to get buy-in from the deans and deans’ offices to actually engage the process.”

Professor Alan Cline (computer science) said twenty-five years ago the budget council in his department had been involved with budgetary matters by discussing the salaries of faculty members and actually signing a document called the budget. He said there had been a loss of faculty power with all of this now being done by the chair, dean, and upper administration. After referring to the amount of emphasis at the meeting on transparency, he said did not think transparency was as important as power. He said by ceding the decision-making to the dean of a college, the dean then would just discuss budgetary issues with the chairs; he concluded his remarks by saying he preferred a process that somehow guarantees faculty involvement in budgetary decision-making. When Chair Neikirk asked Provost Leslie if he wanted to reply to Professor Cline’s remarks, the provost responded, “I take your points, and I don’t really have any comments.” Professor Evans said that the Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP) states that budget councils “still retain the right for merit raises” as well as other budgetary rights. Provost Leslie said Professor Evans’ statement was correct. Professor Evans stated that the faculty members of a department are allowed to approve an executive committee to work on governance and budgetary issues every three years; the provost again said the statement was correct. Professor Evans then said to Professor Cline that he thought the faculty in his department should not have lost this right and could reclaim it with a budget council vote. Provost Leslie responded that he understood that Professor Cline had said he had not been involved in budgetary issues, and then he asked Professor Cline if he were still on his department’s budget council. Professor Cline said that he was.

Chair Neikirk explained there was a relatively brief section regarding budget councils in the HOP that primarily dealt with procedures for setting up alternative forms of governance and specifying membership criteria. He said there were a few statements that referred to the budget council’s role is determining salary rates, but he added that, in his opinion, the body’s role in the budget process was not entirely clear. Provost Leslie again said he looked forward to continuing to work with the Faculty Council, FCEC, and FACB to determine how to deal with this issue. He said it was quite clear that within institutions of higher education in Texas as well as throughout the United States that “there is a lot of stress on our campuses around budgets and priority-setting.” He said it was “exceedingly important that we all work together,” but determining how to do this was particularly challenging during difficult economic times. He added, “I want very much to work with you and will continue to work with you to try to figure this out.”

Professor Staiger referred to an article that appeared in the Dallas Morning News on October 24 that suggested the state’s budget crisis was very serious and would potentially result in Texas being in worse shape than California has been during the last couple of years. She said she thought the faculty members were “justifiably nervous and wanting to participate.” She then asked Provost Leslie his opinion about colleges/schools establishing their own individual budget advisory committees that would be somewhat similar to the University-level one in terms of being created by the faculty rather than by dean’s appointments. Provost Leslie responded that he thought discussions on this matter were on-going with the FCEC and the student leadership and needed to continue. He said he thought strong involvement between faculty, students, departments, and deans’ offices would be very important in determining how to accomplish this and see that it successfully works.

Chair Neikirk said he wanted to move the discussion forward and discuss a study that he would like the Council to conduct regarding the extent to which faculty are actually involved in the budget planning process at the college/school and department levels across campus. He said that the HOP authorizes the Council to conduct studies, and he had sent out a list of potential questions that might be asked of the deans and chairs in an effort to initiate discussion of this project by Council members. (See Appendix C.) He said he thought a brief survey should also be sent to faculty members, but he had not composed questions for the faculty yet. He said he wanted the survey to emphasize front-end planning or consultation rather than efforts to inform the faculty after decisions have been made. Since the DPAC process is such a planning process, he said he had used it as the focus of his questions about faculty involvement. His proposed questions were designed to determine if a faculty consultative committee were utilized and, if it were, how the members were selected and how and when faculty input was sought. If there were no faculty involvement, he said he assumed the chairs were involved in some way, but he said he felt there should be questions regarding the extent of chair involvement as well. He said he was interested in learning about the level of organization of input gathering and wanted to know if the process occurred at formal, scheduled meetings or on an ad hoc basis.

Chair Neikirk invited discussion about possible questions at the meeting, but he said individuals could also send in suggestions for changes to questions or additional ones to him via email. He said he thought the questions could be addressed to department chairs and executive committees since both forms of governance exist across campus. He added it would be useful to gather the information from deans as well as chairs to see if the answers were similar and to determine whether or not departmental faculty committees were being consulted as budget priorities are set. Chair Neikirk commented that he had never been involved in budgetary decisions while serving on his department’s budget council. However, he said he knew that the responsibilities of the budget council had been reduced a couple of years before he became a member, and he thought the changes in his department were similar to those described by Professor Cline earlier in the Council meeting. The chair explained that conducting a study of the viewpoints from deans, chairs, and faculty members would provide information as to whether or not a problem exists and help determine what course of action is needed should a problem be perceived to exist.

Professor Hilley asked if a response to one of the proposed questions were “no” should “why not?” be asked as a follow-on question? Chair Neikirk said he was trying to keep the format simple and use closed-end questions with yes/no answers that would be easy to tabulate. He said he planned to have a separate open-ended box for comments because a fuller explanation would be helpful. Upon reflection, Chair Neikirk said essentially the answer to Professor Hilley’s question was “yes,” and an explanation box could be added for both yes and no responses. He said the actual survey process had not yet been determined, but he hoped to use a system that was readily available, could tabulate the results, and would guarantee anonymity to respondents.

Secretary Greninger said she was interested in learning the extent to which the deans see any potential role for the elected Council representatives from their respective colleges/schools in this process or any other college/school governance functions. She added that perhaps “caving out a role for an interface where those representatives are actually doing something more functional for the college could be of some value so I would be interested in their responses to a query on that.” Chair Neikirk said a question on that issue could be included. He added that there are discussions underway as to which faculty might participate in college tuition budget advisory committees, and one suggestion had been that college/school-elected Faculty Council members would be good candidates for membership given that they have already been elected by the faculty. However, he added that this was “only at the discussion stage at this point.”

Professor Hilley said she had originally understood that Council members should ask the questions of their administrators, but she thought this might need to be clarified. Chair Neikirk said he wanted to send a survey instrument to the various groups; however, he thought talking with administrators would provide additional information if Council members were willing to do so. Professor Alba Ortiz (special education) said she thought it would be better to have a consistent process of information gathering rather than relying on informal discussions with deans and chairs. She asked Chair Neikirk if he had more specific thoughts or was open to appointing a committee to work with him on the survey design. She thought that follow-up with deans and chairs might be more productive after the survey results were tabulated and could be discussed. Professor Ortiz said she also felt there should be a part of this survey that would be directed toward the administration “to try to figure out what it is that chairs and deans are being asked to do.” In addition, she said she thought a part of the survey process needed to deal with implementation because she agreed with comments previously made about executive committee involvement. She said she thought executive committee members might affirm they had input in relationship to merit evaluations, but the answers could well be different if members were also asked if they ever saw the final results when the money was actually distributed. She said she thought the study Chair Neikirk was proposing was “an excellent idea” and the information was especially “critical to have because I do think it could move shared governance forward.” She added, “…if we just asked for a show of hands of how many have heard of the DPAC process, how many have ever seen it, and how many of you have ever had a discussion in your department, that it would be kind of surprising because I bet most of us are in the dark.” Chair Neikirk responded his intent was that there be a formal survey, but he was reluctant to create an ad hoc committee to design the survey. He said he preferred for the Council members to be involved and wanted their input. He added he would ask for input again, most likely in written form, since he thought members would want to see the questions. He clarified that this study was not a legislative matter, and he wanted to get the survey out, interpret the responses, and report back to the Council.

Professor Strong said she thought Chair Neikirk would want to consider utilizing the FACB. She said she had conferred with the provost, and he suggested that the budget advisory committee might have a role in working on the process to include faculty. She said she thought the FCEC had planned to use regularly established committees as much as possible rather than setting up ad hoc committees, and she thought this principle could apply in the current situation. She said her committee members had been working on these issues since last year and would be pleased to work on this process. Chair Neikirk said the intent is to work with all of the Standing Committees of the General Faculty, but he thought this particular study was in keeping with the Faculty Council’s charge and would most appropriately be conducted by an elected faculty body. He explained that some of the members to certain Standing Committees are elected and some are appointed, and his intent was to engage Standing Committees in all appropriate issues. However, he thought this information gathering activity differed from that of the charge of the FACB, which is to consult with the provost on University priorities. He also felt that the study would carry greater weight if it came from the Faculty Council than from a committee since the Council is the primary governance body on campus. He said he felt this was an activity that should be retained and not delegated.

Professor Staiger said she thought the issue was an urgent one because “budget cutting is going to happen really quickly.” She reported that the FCEC has been dealing with these concerns for several months now, and she felt it was important to get the survey instruments out as soon as possible in a effort to review the results before serious budget cutting arrives, which she expected to happen early during the coming spring semester. Professor Staiger summed up her thoughts by saying: “…if we’re rational individuals, we need to move promptly, and to be part of the process, working this out as a group, and not feeling disenfranchised and not part of it and frustrated and angry.” She said she thought the Faculty Council leadership would move rapidly on this project. After saying he was certain the discussion on this important topic would continue in the future, Chair Niekirk turned to the announcements.



Appendix B

Discussion on the Budget and Faculty Involvement in Budget Planning and Prioritization.

  • the “DPAC planning process”: Dean/Provost Academic Core, formerly Compact Process
  • the compact process “… results in a written agreement between the Provost's Office and the individual colleges and schools (Compact) that defines the issues, goals and objectives, plans and strategies, resources available, and specific activities to be undertaken for the coming year.” http://www.utexas.edu/provost/planning/compact/definition.html

DPAC

Possible questions to deans:

  1. Do you have a standing faculty consultative committee on budget planning and prioritization?
    • If yes, are the members appointed or elected? By whom?
    • If yes, does this committee provide input before the DPAC process is complete?
  2. Do you consult with departmental chairs on budget planning and prioritization issues?
    • If yes, does this group provide input before the DPAC process is complete?
  3. Do you formally discuss budget planning and prioritization issues with departmental budget or executive committees at their scheduled meetings?
    • If yes, does this committee provide input before the DPAC process is complete?

Possible questions to department chairs/ECs:

  1. Are you consulted by your dean on budget planning and prioritization issues?
    • If yes, do you provide input before the DPAC process is complete?
  2. Do you have a standing departmental faculty consultative committee on budget planning and prioritization?
    • If yes, are the members appointed or elected? By whom?
    • If yes, does this committee provide input before the DPAC process is complete?
  3. Do you formally meet and consult with departmental budget committees on budget planning and prioritization issues?
    • If yes, does this committee provide input before the DPAC process is complete?
  4. Do you formally discuss budget planning and prioritization issues at scheduled departmental faculty meetings?
    • If yes, does this group provide input before the DPAC process is complete?

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