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27 February 2012

Dear Colleagues,

Here are the highlights of the fifth regular meeting of the Faculty Council for 2011-2012, Monday, 20 February, plus some related events:

President’s Report:

President Powers spoke at some length about recent regental actions that affect our campus, including construction and building renovations, budget preparations, and unfunded mandates (expanded criminal background checks, campus audits). 

In response to my question, the President commented on the new regental policy concerning Annual Faculty Review and PTR.  He maintained that our current policy, which had been relatively non-disruptive, has served our campus well because low faculty productivity is not a problem at UT Austin.

The major changes in the new policy include an increase in the number of evaluative categories from two to four: 5.1 (a); annual reviews of faculty may be conducted by chair, dean, or peers: 5.1 (e); results are to be communicated in writing to the faculty member, chair, dean, provost, and president “for review and appropriate action”: 5.1 (f); two consecutive unsatisfactory annual reviews may trigger a comprehensive review that can lead to termination: 5.1 (g) (4). 

The President indicated that he would work with the faculty leadership to fulfill the regental charge to each campus to produce a document for implementing the new policy.  The FCEC would very much welcome your comments and suggestions about this matter.

My Report:

            The proposed revisions to UT Austin’s Threatened Faculty Retrenchment policy (see D 8936-8939) has now been approved by the President and sent to System for approval.  The President indicated he would adhere to the proposed new policy even prior to System and regental approval.

I reiterated to the President the FC position that merit raises for faculty should not be limited to an arbitrary percentage of the faculty and that they should not be funded by firing or freezing the salaries of the most vulnerable members of the campus community. 

Hillary Hart, who chairs the Faculty Advisory Committee on the Budget, indicated that the FACB has written to the deans requesting information on how they are including faculty in the decisions concerning graduate fellowships, FRAs, and SRAs that had previously been made at the Graduate School level with University-wide faculty advisory committees.

Other Reports:

            Alba Ortiz reported on the meeting of the Texas Council of Faculty Senates that she and I attended.  The main concerns discussed were mostly familiar ones: faculty governance; CIS (paper vs. online); the role and responsibilities of faculty as defined by institutional policies; and PTR policies.  Two additional items: concern that the expanding Hazelwood Program (which has the worthy goal of enabling military veterans to attend public institutions without paying tuition) creates a financial burden; and the role of faculty, if any, in the search for a new UT Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

Patricia Clubb, Vice President for University Operations, reported on the Tobacco Free Campus initiative.  It is driven in part by the health concerns of a relatively new state agency, the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), which funds cancer research at institutions that have tobacco-free policies.  UT Austin has over $100 million at stake in current and proposed awards.  From this discussion and a subsequent one, I infer that what seems likely to emerge on our campus is the temporary designation of smoking areas that will allow for a transition to a totally tobacco-free campus in a year or so.

            Ted Gordon, UT’s representative to the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, reported on the organization’s January meeting.  Topics included the integrity and economics of intercollegiate athletics; the high salaries of coaches; presidents’ decreasing control of Intercollegiate Athletics; the erosion of trust among some presidents; worries about the health, academics, and economic maltreatment of athletes.  Possible recommendations include: paying athletes to play, restoring freshman ineligibility, and changing scholarships from one year to five.  The COIA report and recommendations will be discussed by the FCEC and then brought to the March or April meeting of the FC. (See Appendix A and Appendix B.)    

Shernaz Garcia, Chair of the Graduate Assembly, introduced a resolution from the Graduate Assembly and the Faculty Council Executive Committee authorizing the formation of a Joint Committee of Graduate Assembly members and the Faculty Council Executive Committee to address issues relating to the devolution of the Graduate School (see D 9501-9503).  The resolution passed unanimously.

The annual joint meeting with the Texas A&M Faculty Senate, will occur on Monday 27 Feb. 2012 at College Station.   

As always, please contact me if you have questions or comments about what the Council is or isn’t doing.


            Alan W. Friedman

            Chair, Faculty Council 2011-12