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III.
COMMUNICATION WITH THE PRESIDENT.

B. Questions to the President.
From Sue Heinzelman, associate professor, English. “In light of UT’s express commitment to gender equity and diversity, what is your response to COLA’s recommended budget cuts to the ethnic and gender studies centers and how might the central administration assist in sustaining these interdisciplinary centers given that they serve the entire university and not just the College of Liberal Arts?”

Since President William Powers could not attend the meeting, Chair Dean Neikirk (electrical and computer engineering) asked Provost Steven Leslie to respond to Professor Heinzelman’s questions. Provost Leslie said he was happy to answer the questions and added that the president would be at the January meeting and could address any follow-on questions that might remain. Provost Leslie said gender and diversity were high institutional priorities and would remain so in the future. He added that the administration was interested in doing everything possible, along with the College of Liberal Arts (COLA), to support and sustain the centers across campus. He explained that most of the centers, with a few exceptions, were funded through colleges or schools with lead deans responsible for the budgets supporting the respective centers; he added that the decisions regarding a center resided with the dean whose portfolio included the center. He said the current economic circumstances were very difficult with budget cuts that would likely be deeper, longer, and more significant than any previously experienced by current UT Austin administrators. He said the University community would need “to work together to try to find ways to support our top priorities, including the diversity and gender priorities on this campus.” With regard to the COLA decision-making process on funding for the centers, he said there had been faculty involvement, and the recommendations were now being considered by the college administration. He emphasized that the University would be working on how to manage “our financial circumstances in the context of our priorities in these centers” over a period of years. He also stated that other departments would be “asked to consider similar kinds of cuts.”

Provost Leslie responded directly to Professor Heinzelman’s question by saying that the current budget of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies would be reviewed, and he expected there would be few, if any, centers and departments where funding would not be affected by the serious financial situation the University is facing. After saying, “We’re all going to have to contribute,” the provost added that he expected there would be “both an institutional and a college/school level focus so that we can manage our financial circumstances over the years to come.” With regard to the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, he mentioned two positive signs of support: (1) the center was recently relocated to its new space in the Gebauer building (2) staff salaries had received and would continue to receive administrative support.

Although he recognized the work undertaken by the COLA Academic Planning and Advisory Committee (APAC) had been difficult, Provost Leslie said he was pleased faculty members were engaged in budget decisions because this type of involvement had been discussed for some time. However, he said he thought it would be important for a future policy to be established making it clear that centers and institutes “need to work hard to try to generate revenues--extramural funding--to support their own operations.” He pointed out that the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies had been working on a National Science Foundation advance grant proposal, which if successful, would be financially beneficial in supporting the center’s work. He said securing increased extramural resources to sustain and further develop the various centers and institutes has become of increased importance due to the expected decline in revenues from state funds over the coming years. He said the COLA was trying to help the centers by using non-recurring funds to bridge the recurring cuts that are expected in the next few years. Provost Leslie said he would gladly answer any further questions from the Faculty Council on this topic.

After referring to the column in The Daily Texan written by Professor Tom Palaima (classics), Chair Elect Alan Friedman (English) asked Provost Leslie to comment on how the athletics department was being handled during this time of financial crisis. Chair Elect Friedman said the column mentioned recent salary increases for the athletics directors, supplementation provided athletics by the University, and efforts by athletics to substantially reduce University Coop revenues from the sale of trademarked sports apparel and merchandise (See Appendix A1 ). In view of the current financial crisis, he said the administration needed to find out “what, in fact, the truth of the matter is” and act in accordance with the relevant factors that exist. Because he had been in meetings and had not yet seen the current issue of The Daily Texan, Provost Leslie replied he could not comment on Professor Palaima’s column and “probably should not comment on athletic revenues and the relationships between the president’s office and athletics because those are not areas that fall within my responsibility.” However, he said, “I would say on a general sense that in terms of the academic side of revenues coming from athletics that there is a genuine effort, and I think a strong effort for athletics to try to find every possible way they can to support academic programs.” He added that he thought this was an issue that President Powers would need to address.

Professor Philip Doty (information) said he wanted to return to the question regarding funding for centers. He said applying the same funding approach to centers across the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, and computational sciences ignored extensive differences that exist in funding models at the national and state levels. He said the centers in social sciences and humanities were “systematically disadvantaged when compared to their sisters in the sciences of the various kinds.” Although he acknowledged that an argument could be made for using the same funding model across the board, he said he thought there was also an argument that this should not occur because all centers were not starting “at the same place.” When he asked the provost if he would address this concern, Provost Leslie replied that the point was a very good one. He said the COLA committee had based its recommendations on measures of productivity and its work should be acknowledged and supported. However, he said the issues raised by Professor Doty were real, and the administration recognized that there were centers that needed institutional support in order for them to become the national leaders that UT Austin wants them to become. He said the centers were included in the priorities of the University and added, “if there are critical needs that we know that they have, we [need to] support them and help them become the very best they can be.”

Professor Edmund Gordon (anthropology and chair of African and African Diaspora Studies) said the dean of liberal arts and the central UT Austin administration had been generous to the Center for African and African American Studies and black studies on campus. However, he said he had concerns about the faculty role in the liberal arts process and the extent to which the recommended cuts were based on levels of productivity. He asked if the provost and president had examined closely the kinds of productivity measures applied by APAC and if they thought the resulting recommendations were the types of cuts that “we should be doing at the University overall?” Dr. Gordon said he thought the APAC’s methodology looked very “similar to the kinds of accountability processes and procedures that have been carried out at places like Texas A&M, and maybe even Texas Tech, in terms of evaluating faculty.” He added he was concerned about the pattern of “using these kinds of basic metrics to evaluate anything.” Provost Leslie responded that he had not deeply studied the process used by APAC, and he would let President Powers respond himself regarding the extent to which he has reviewed the methodology. Provost Leslie explained that his primary point was that the APAC members worked hard, followed the process as directed, and produced recommendations; he said it was important now that the college and University administrations work together with these recommendations and determine what “best serves the institution and the centers.” He said that was what the University’s administration--including the offices of the president, provost, and liberal arts dean--would now be doing.

1Following the Faculty Council meeting, Chair Elect Friedman asked that Professor Palaima’s column be included in the minutes of the meeting to provide contextual background for his question to Provost Leslie.

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  Updated 2013 October 18
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