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                                                                                    1 December 2011

Dear Colleagues,

Here are the highlights of the third regular meeting of the Faculty Council for 2011-2012, Monday, November 28, plus some related events:

           The Faculty Council Executive Committee requested President Powers to comment on the following:  “A number of faculty members have expressed their concern – even bewilderment -- over the ‘devolving’ of the Graduate School funding for FRAs, SRAs, and Graduate Fellowships.  Could you please answer the following questions about what has occurred and what will occur in the future?”  The questions (which are enumerated at http://www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/2011-2012/agendas/ag112811.html) concern the motivation for the decision, the faculty’s role in the process, new criteria for awards, and how the changes will be evaluated and by whom.

The President said that the devolving of funds from the Graduate School to the academic units is a result of our being “very short of resources for graduate student stipends and for faculty support in the form of research awards, summer grants, and things of that sort.... we are woefully behind our peers, our competitors, in faculty support, both faculty salaries and faculty research, travel, conference support, things of that sort.  And also graduate student support.”  The hope is that the academic units – which to begin with will receive roughly the same amounts as they have received in recent years -- will use the resources more effectively to recruit and retain top faculty and graduate students.  Deans have been instructed to work with their faculty to determine how best to allocate the funds so that they are “used strategically to advance the goals of the departments.”  The President emphasized that all of this is still a work in progress, that he is not advocating a “one-size-fits-all” model, and that he welcomes input from faculty concerning how well they think the new system is being implemented.

            When the President concluded his remarks, I urged the faculty to take up the challenge of monitoring how the new system is working and what role the faculty are playing in it.  All faculty are encouraged to share your experiences with the administration and/or with any member of the Faculty Council Executive Committee.

            Chair’s Report:

            A. Encryption Initiative: members of the FCEC met with Brad Englert, Chief Operating Officer, Information Technology Services, and several of his staff.  Details of the encryption initiative are available at: http://www.utexas.edu/its/news/112011/laptop-encryption-deadline-nears.php.  He indicated that they were working with the standing Faculty IT Committee, which is chaired by Betsy Greenberg.  Assistance in meeting the new encryption requirements is available through your local IT support staff or the Information Technology Services (ITS) Help Desk at 475-9400 or help@its.utexas.edu.  He would also welcome faculty contacting him directly: at 232-1744, b.englert@austin.utexas.edu, http://www.utexas.edu/cio/.

            B. Faculty Information System: members of the FCEC also attended a meeting with a team from the Provost’s office (Dan Slesnick, Renee Wallace, Kristi Fisher) to learn about the project to develop a Faculty Information System.  The idea is to bring together all faculty data – both individually and in the aggregate – that are currently scattered over many sites.  It will include employment and salary history, grants and expenditures, teaching records and awards, student supervision, etc., data needed for promotion and tenure decisions and other reviews of faculty, with the ultimate goal of eliminating paper files.  Those of us present expressed concern over issues related to accuracy, access, security, and the greater ease by which open records requests can be accommodated.  We urged that faculty be involved with the process as implementation moves forward on FIS, and also with the team’s effort to produce a better e-Faculty Annual Report. 

            C. Occupy UT: several of us attended the meeting of administrators, legal affairs personnel, and UTPD to discuss Occupy UT and security issues (and also attended the forum on the proposed tuition increase).  I expressed my concern that the rights and safety of non-violent protestors be protected and that an adversarial confrontation be avoided if at all possible.  I was very pleased that everyone at the meeting totally agreed, and that the forum on tuition did allow for full expression of views while remaining peaceful and respectful.

            Reports:

      1. Jim Walker, Director, Office of Sustainability, reported on the Sustainability Directory being prepared by his office.  See http://www.utexas.edu/operations/sustainability/leadership/
      2. Victoria Rodriguez, Dean of the Graduate School, reported on the recently  conducted graduate student climate survey.   See http://www.utexas.edu/ogs/about/climatestudy/.

            New Business:

            Professor Dean Neikirk, Chair, Faculty Rules and Governance Committee, proposed revisions to the Language concerning the election of the Secretary of the General Faculty in the HOP (http://www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/2011-2012/legislation/secretary.html).  It passed unanimously.

            ANNOUNCEMENTS AND COMMENTS.

The scheduled December Faculty Council meeting will be cancelled unless some urgent business arises.  Otherwise the next meeting of the Council will be held on Monday, 23 January 2012 in Main 212 immediately following the annual General Faculty at 2:15.

The Council will host a breakfast for Chancellor Cigarroa in order to have an informal discussion on the following topics:

1.  His sense of where things currently stand with regard to the challenges and threats to quality higher education that we have experienced over the last 10 months or so;

2.  His Framework for Advancing Excellence (see http://www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/2011-2012/reports/Cigarroa-advancing-excellence-may2011.pdf) and its relationship to System campuses, especially UT Austin;

3.  His view of the quality, productivity, and role of faculty at UT Austin;

4.  His thoughts about graduation rates and their relationship to quality education.  (Students would, for instance, graduate at a higher rate if faculty inflated grades; is that desirable?)

The Council adjourned for a unique reception: Happy Hour hosted by the UT Club.

Again, please contact me or any member of the Executive Committee with your comments and thoughts regarding actions that we have taken or that you think we should take.

            Sincerely,

            Alan Friedman

            Chair, UT Austin Faculty Council, 2011-12

            friedman@mail.utexas.edu