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Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets

 

The Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets (FACB) met a total of four times in the 2012-13 long session, three times in fall 2012 (once with the president and provost) and once in spring 2013 (with the president and provost). The committee sees its role as providing faculty input to the president and provost on budgetary matters and to offer faculty perceptions and concerns without filtering them through the administration. President Powers agrees that meetings with the FACB are helpful.

At its first meeting, the committee decided to keep working on these activities from the previous year:

  • Merit raises
  • Non-salary support for faculty

Issues to do with graduate-student support are addressed in a report by the joint committee with the Graduate Assembly headed by Alan Friedman and Shernaz Garcia. We hope the joint committee continues its work of monitoring support for graduate students.

As the year progressed, the Committee’s discussions centered on members’ sense of the growing demoralization felt by faculty because of flat salaries for most for some time now and because of having no participation in decision-making about how budget cuts will be felt and by whom. These and other issues were discussed in meetings both with and without the President and Provost.

Lack of Faculty Input on Budget Decisions

On this point, the committee drafted a position and a question for the president and provost:

  • Budget decisions, which are increasingly made at the college/school level, have little or no faculty input. To the extent that faculty input is not solicited and used, budgetary decisions hardly correspond to the concerns and needs of our faculty. As chief executors of the primary functions of the University—education and research—the faculty should participate in identifying needs that require budgetary allocations. The FACB strongly recommends that faculty be included in a substantive way in budgetary decisions at the college and school level because we believe that such involvement is the only way for faculty to have any meaningful input and that such inclusion is fundamental to the concept of shared governance. How can the President and the Provost empower the faculty to assist the Deans in budgetary decisions?

 

The president and provost responded thusly:
On the academic side budgets are mostly delegated to deans. The president’s philosophy is you should not give the units responsibility without authority, but he agrees that faculty input is important at the dean’s level. The provost suggested that the committees involved in annual faculty evaluations may be in a position to provide input to the deans before and as they go through the “DPAC process” during the summer.

The reality is that most deans will say they agree faculty input is important, but it takes a lot of time and it can “fall off the table.” Both Bill and Steve offered to “remind” the deans at Deans’ Council meetings to get faculty input on their budget priorities. There is also the possibility of the FACB chair or the chair of Faculty Council addressing the Deans’ Council on this issue.

Faculty Morale: Bonuses vs. Raises and Inflation

In the past few years, given the painful budget cuts, some faculty members have received one-time bonuses instead of permanent raises. Some committee members feel that bonuses are far inferior to permanent raises and actually do more harm than good. According to the president, last year there was a lot of debate about bonuses, and decisions about whether to give bonuses were left to the deans. His opinion is that bonuses are more appropriate for staff (especially lower-level staff who need money in their pockets) than for faculty, but some deans may think otherwise.

Additionally, as one committee member said, even for faculty who do get raises, “it hurts morale for them to know they came at the cost of someone (a staff member) losing their job.” The president believes, however, that if these laudatory responses became policy it would “deteriorate the University” over time. Budgets must give priority to faculty.

Regarding the effects of inflation: though the University has maintained individual faculty salaries stable during the recession, without individual pay cuts, inflation has effectively decreased most faculty salaries. In fact, the rising cost of living has diminished salaries. The president acknowledges this loss of purchasing power and called it a “terrible situation.” It is, however, an inevitable result of the aggregate budget being flat. Solving the problem depends on state politics. Most of the state's budget is mandated, only transportation and education are discretionary, and UT is at the mercy of the legislative budgetary decisions each biennium.

Committee Priorities Going Forward

By early March, it became a strong possibility that UT Austin would get back 50-60% of the $46 million cut in the last biennium. Thus, for our final meeting of the year, the president asked: “If there is some money available during this upcoming budget year to do something more than cover the basics, what priority would faculty have in your particular unit—what would benefit faculty the most in your unit?”

These are the committee’s priorities:

  • Support for graduate students, including fellowships to cover the tuition gap
  • Support for faculty
  • Merit raises (instead of abundantly rewarding faculty who get outside offers)
  • The problems of salary inversion and compression (“loyalty tax”) urgently need attention
  • Summer fellowships for junior faculty (especially those who have received no merit raise since coming to UT Austin)
  • FRAs for all levels of faculty need more available money
  • Professional development support for all faculty (including lecturers)
  • Presidential research awards (even small amounts would help). Such awards should strike a reasonable balance between achievement and productivity on the one hand, and proposed future research on the other.

The President responded positively to these suggestions but noted that the one-time salary increases (bonuses) awarded in past couple of years were supposed to be similar to “presidential awards.” Additionally, there is no way the University could sustain a 2% raise over 4-5 years.

In conclusion, next year’s committee should keep in mind the president’s suggestion that the committee keep asking the deans to make sure there is faculty input on the budgeting process and the awards process (and also keep reminding the president and provost to raise the issue at the Deans’ Council meetings. The new chair of the FACB should also ask the president about visiting a Deans’ Council meeting.

And finally, the committee should take up the president’s suggestion to meet with Dan Slesnick, senior vice provost for resource management, to go through the institutional budget at the beginning of fall.

 

Hillary Hart, chair