MINUTES OF THE REGULAR FACULTY COUNCIL MEETING OF
September 19, 2011
III. COMMUNICATION WITH THE PRESIDENT.
B. Questions to the President.
Dr. Hillary Hart (senior lecturer, civil, architectural, and environmental engineering) asked how the faculty information program (formerly called faculty accountability) was going forward. President Powers said the program was progressing, with Provost Leslie having “developed the way the budgeting process works.” The president indicated work was underway to develop information regarding student success measures, such as time-to-Ph.D., in different departments. He said much of what was being developed was uncontroversial and helpful to the administration and departments, as well as faculty members, such as when does the tenure decision need to be made for an individual who has taken time off for various reasons. However, the president added that some of the information might be misinterpreted if viewed purely at the individual faculty member level, as the past Faculty Council chair, Dean Neikirk, has often pointed out. President Powers said that a faculty member might appear to be relatively nonproductive if he or she is not teaching for a semester or two, while developing and initiating an important educational outreach project, such as attracting outstanding string musicians for the School of Music. He said the information being developed needs to be helpful in looking at the University at the “aggregate level,” so the colleges and schools can monitor their overall progress toward goals. The administration wants to share information, but he is concerned that there is a movement to try and reinvent the entire system with a set of common measures to fit every institution in the UT System. He said this revamping of the information program would be very time-consuming. In addition, he emphasized that UT Austin is a different institution from the UT medical schools and other academic institutions within the System.
Next, Professor David Hillis (integrative biology) said he realized that President Powers could not publicly discuss the “specifics about conference realignment.” However, he said he would like the president to share with the Council his views “about the role that academics plays in these discussions.” President Powers said no decision has been made regarding realignment, and all options were being reviewed. He said the news reports were “very cynical” in emphasizing the role of money and the athletic aspects of realignment. He stated emphatically, “I can tell you, flat out, the most common and important topic on our campus, with our colleagues in the Big 12, and with other people across the country is the impact on academics and student athletes.” In this context, careful consideration was being given to travel distances and the appropriateness of academic institutional partners, and he thought the faculty would be proud of everyone involved in these discussions. He added that the University would take the best solution to this difficult problem, but that the impact on academics and the student athletes was “top-most” for him, the UT Austin athletics directors, and others involved in the situation across the country. He thanked Professor Hillis for asking his question and ended by thanking everyone and saying, “Let’s have a great year!”