October 15, 2012


Chair Martha F. Hilley (music) reported on the UT System Faculty Advisory Council (SysFac) meeting she attended with Chair Elect Hart. Chair Hilley said Dr. Steven Mintz, executive director of the Institute for Transformational Learning, indicated he wanted to work with the UT campuses to identify any needs the institute might be able to address and would like to speak at a Faculty Council meeting in the near future. He is currently seeking faculty members interested in serving on a system-wide advisory council that will be charged with such tasks as identifying bottleneck courses that deter student progress, targeting and injecting best practices, and discussing embedded assessment as well as open-source and open-access textbooks. Chair Hilley requested that Council members let her know of their own interests in serving on the advisory committee or to provide the names of colleagues who might be interested.

Representative Tryon Lewis, a member of the Higher Education Commission from the Midland/Odessa area, provided funding data from the last two legislative sessions. He said that overall funding in the 81st legislative session was reduced by approximately $1.2 billion, with about $500 million of that amount coming from higher education. UT Austin’s funding, specifically, was reduced by about $255 million, from $747 million in 2008-09 to $492 million in 2012-13. Representative Lewis pointed out the increased funding for Medicaid over the last decade, which he said had grown from 14 percent of the general revenue in 2001 to about 20 percent in 2011 and was expected to reach 35 percent by 2023. He noted there had been an inverse relationship between funding for Medicaid and funding for higher education in Texas.

Chair Hilley also reported on a session she attended at the SysFac meeting on encryption of university data. In a follow-up message after the presentation, SysFac Chair Murray Leaf noted the need to distinguish the different kinds of data that the university is obligated to protect from data that the university is not obligated to protect and, therefore, cannot claim ownership of. He also stressed the need to define the terms “data,” “university data,” and “university-owned,” as well as to distinguish between intellectual property faculty members produce that may be subject to patent as opposed to information faculty members produce that is subject to copyright. In addition, the SysFac chair thought it was important to define the difference between university records and faculty records and to distinguish faculty academic records that are not university records or student records, as defined under FERPA.

Chair Hilley reported that Dr. Raymund Paredes, the commissioner of higher education at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, talked about low-producing programs. He told attendees that there is not enough funding to sustain those programs and to continue to do so would result in “mediocrity.” The goal is to reduce the number of degree offerings in favor of programs that are producing degrees more efficiently. SysFac Chair Leaf noted that additional consideration is needed on behalf of the following degree categories: (1) programs with important support functions, including English, foreign languages, and STEM-related programs [science, technology, engineering and mathematics]; (2) programs that attract students who are likely to become public school teachers, and (3) programs where reduced degree offerings could affect faculty recruiting.

Chair Hilley reported on a discussion about conflict of interest and conflict of commitment by Executive Vice Chancellor Pedro Reyes and Associate Vice Chancellor and Deputy General Counsel Dan Sharphorn. When members of the council brought up issues that the administrators thought had previously been resolved, this area was labeled a “work in progress.”

Professor Hilley announced that she and Chair Elect Hart would attend the Texas Council of Faculty Senates meeting on October 26 and 27. She reported that topics on the agenda included a panel presentation on Texas’ $10,000 Competency-Based Bachelor’s Initiative, an update from the Higher Education Coordinating Board by Dr. Catherine Parsoneault, and a panel presentation on Mobilizing Public Support for Higher Education Faculty. Chair Hilley reported that she and Dr. John Stallone, speaker of the A&M Faculty Senate, will serve on the panel moderated by SysFac Chair Leaf.

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