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Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets
The Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets (FACB) met a total of 8 times in the 2011-12 long session, 6 times in fall 2011 (twice with the president and provost) and twice in spring 2012 (both times with the president and provost). At its first meeting, the committee decided to keep working on these activities from the previous year:
- Ensuring that the Faculty Council’s 2010 resolution is heeded and that faculty budget advisory committees are set up at the unit level: one suggestion was for the FACB to set up a website with a scorecard tracking what each unit has done to involve faculty in its budget decisions.
- Monitoring implementation of the recommendations in the 2008 gender equity report, as well as recommendations on salary compression and salary inversion in the FACB resolution of 2009. How did these recommendations play out in merit increases this year?
- Continuing to define the role of the FACB, given that the committee has not in fact had any opportunity to “review budgets” at any level that would enable input into the budgeting process.
As the year progressed, the FACB members focused mainly on the last item, working with the president and provost to define the areas the committee would provide input to before decisions are made. At the second meeting (September 19, 2011, President Powers urged the FACB to focus on “trajectory shaping” issues that would concern the faculty. We decided to focus on these three areas not listed in order of importance):
- Merit raises
- Non-salary support for faculty
- Graduate-student support
The following are the concerns the FACB uncovered, relative to each of the three areas, and actions we took or planned to take to alleviate them.
President Powers stated that UT Austin is definitely behind our competitors in terms of faculty salaries. We are less behind in terms of staff salaries.
According to President Powers, the cost for a 2% across-the-board raise for faculty would be about $14,000,000. As of end of March 2012, nothing had been decided nor could be until the budget situation became clearer. Once the Board of Regents rejected UT Austin’s request for a small tuition increase in April, an across-the-board raise became even less likely. The deans will therefore probably decide the criteria for individual faculty merit raises.
The president also informed the committee that budget cuts over the last 2 years have definitely eroded UT’s ability to deliver services, education, and research productivity. There is a $20,000,000 shortfall in the 2013 budget of 2.2 billion.
The administration is still working to correct problems with salary inversion and compression, a recurring task that requires constant effort.
The FACB is still concerned to monitor the recommendations in the 2008 Moore/Ritter Gender Equity Report, but progress has been impeded by a change of leadership in the provost’s office.
Non-Salary Support for Faculty
Several meetings in fall 2011 were spent with Victoria Rodriguez to explore the reasons for shifting the awarding of FRAs, SRAs, and graduate fellowships down to the academic units and away from the Graduate School. Dean Rodriguez explained the decision as enabling UT to be more strategic and to better use its resources to support both excellent and up-and-coming academic programs.
The FACB sent a letter to all UT deans (see Appendix A) asking them to describe the process they would use to make these awards, and reminding them of the president’s charge to involve their faculty in those decisions. Five deans answered the letter. Most described forming a committee with some faculty chosen by departments and some appointed by the dean. The FACB will monitor this awards program over the next couple of years to ensure that faculty are involved and feel the selection process is fair.
Another source of support for faculty is research grants. Several members of the FACB are looking into improving the productivity rate of faculty-written proposals. The Office of Sponsored Projects has many constraints and the staff are dedicated and hard-working, but it may not be operating as effectively as it could, especially in responding quickly enough to proposals, especially industry proposals, that could be used to fund research projects (and therefore students). We will continue to interview OSP staff and determine whether we have specific recommendations to bring to the President.
President Powers has told the committee that his topmost priority is building and maintaining the excellence of the faculty, and that his second is to increase graduate-student funding. We are behind our competitors in graduate-student support. Better funding/benefits for graduate students could be a recruiting tool.
The FACB identified several issues with improving funding for graduate students, along with actions to take:
- Graduate students with prestigious fellowships don’t get UT benefits (because they are not employees) – this hurts us in recruiting. When we asked Provost Leslie what would be the cost for UT to pay health benefits for all fellowship holders (internal and external), his estimate was about $2,000,000.
The committee needs more data on fellowship holders in order to make comparisons btw those with and without UT pay and benefits. We should collect information on fellowship allocations within colleges/schools. The Graduate School does not have this information but asked Dean Rodriguez to collect it from the academic units.
- The maximum remission for fulltime TAs is ¾ of tuition. The units, however, get to decide exactly how the tuition-remission is allocated (some students get 100%, some less than ¾). (Note: Most of our peer institutions do not charge any tuition to TAs/AIs.) The FACB needs to discover why tuition for TAs/AIs/fellowship holders cannot simply be waived. Is there a legislative requirement involved? The committee sent a letter in February 2012 (see Appendix B) to new graduate dean, Judith Langlois, who promised to share information as soon as she was established in her position.
- Faculty cannot currently make multi-year offers to graduate students. The FACB needs to explore how to move toward the ability to make multi-year offers to graduate students.
- The Provost would like to see a push toward rewarding those graduate students who finish their degree on time. He encourages the committee to re-think the across-the-board support for all GRAs and TAs. Perhaps departments would be willing to reward more highly performing graduate students by paying them more.
- The committee will continue working with the Graduate Assembly and the Rights and Responsibilities of Graduate Students Committee (C-12) on all these issues.
At the final meeting of the FACB (May 14, 2012), President Powers shared information on the increased freshman enrollment in fall 2012. The yield rate of acceptances is up 5% this year, so we will have about 51,000 students total in 2012-13. UT typically budgets for about 49,000 enrollment, but we have been running about 51,000 for last few years. Proportionately, we have recruited more out-of-state students this year (we are allowed only 10% of undergraduates to be out-of-state).
The president is very worried about faculty salaries: other universities are recovering after the recession, often because of tuition increases, and they are coming after our faculty.
Hillary Hart, chair