MINUTES OF THE REGULAR FACULTY COUNCIL MEETING OF
SEPTEMBER 16, 2013
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New Travel Policy.
Vice President Clubb (University operations) introduced the newly mandated UT System policy that was put into effect in May 2013. She explained that in the past faculty members made their own travel arrangement and were then reimbursed. Now the travel agencies Anthony Travel, Corporate Travel Planners, or their online system, Concur, (available twenty-four hours, seven days a week) must be used. Dr. Clubb explained that UT System wants to use these services for a certain amount of time to be able to measure UT’s volume of airline, hotel, and car rental use as a potential tool to negotiate better rates. She told Council members that she had conveyed faculty and staff feedback to UT System and had asked for some evidence that the new system really would save money, which System agreed to provide. Dr. Clubb reported that a student under the supervision of a faculty member had performed a price comparison study that will be posted as soon as it is finalized. Before turning the microphone over to Ms. Lee Loden (director, Travel Management Services), she assured faculty members that they will continue to accrue frequent flyer miles and will continue to be able to use their own credit cards for booking travel through Concur.
Ms. Loden noted that both Anthony Travel and Corporate Travel Planners had worked with UT System for many years, and that “Anthony Travel has a really exceptional customer service rating with the University.” She also offered campus-wide demonstrations of Concur and had already met with a number of individuals and small groups, which included administrative staff. Ms. Loden provided some details on some of the system’s intricacies and some savings already in place and addressed some frequently asked questions, which are also available at http://www.utexas.edu/travel/. She stressed the importance that UT travelers, in their own interest, complete travel authorizations (RTAs) in case of an emergency event or injury, and automatic International SOS registration, so that she may provide crisis services. She is available twenty-four hours a day to assist UT-affiliated travelers anywhere.
Ms. Loden confirmed that travelers will continue to accumulate frequent flyer miles and use any airline credits through Concur. She also addressed the issue of companion travel, indicating that such arrangements cannot be made using the travel agencies. However, permission for such arrangements could be requested via e-mail to Ms. Loden.
Professor Beckner asked for clarification regarding the use of personal credit cards; Vice President Clubb responded that members could book travel through this new system and still use a personal credit card. Elizabeth Gershoff (associate professor, human development and family sciences) asked if there was an option to download a reservation to an electronic calendar. Ms. Loden referred her to TripCase and offered to forward instructions from Anthony Travel or Corporate Travel Planners and also to add them to the Travel Management Services website. In this context, Vice President Clubb encouraged faculty to forward any ideas to improve the system to Ms. Loden.
Professor Michael White (classics) said that many professional organizations require hotel reservations through them to maximize benefits and asked how such cases would be handled. Ms. Loden explained that reservations can be made directly through a professional organization and reimbursement can be requested. She said the policy really refers to airfare, but that hotel and car rental reservations (Avis, National, Enterprise, Budget, and Hertz) are also possible through Concur. However, she cautioned that travelers using their own vehicles or renting a non-contract car may run into issues with insurance and liability.
Charters Wynn (associate professor, history) asked for some clarification on refundable versus non-refundable airline tickets under the new system. Ms. Loden noted that airline rules applied and that tickets ordered through the UT system would be non-refundable, just as if they were bought online, although some airlines allow the use of a ticket value within a year. Dr. Wynn also inquired about hotel and car rental reservations through Travel Management Services and was told that any reservations could be made through the travel agencies, Concur, or could be billed to the department through central billing.
Al Martinez (associate professor, history) asked what “percentage of UT faculty were actually using Anthony Travel before this mandatory change happened,” and Ms. Loden provided some data. Dr. Martinez further inquired about a rate comparison between Concur and, for example, Priceline or other discount vendors. Ms. Loden responded saying that UT grants exceptions for any listed prices that are $100 less than Concur, although a comparison with Priceline is difficult, due to the bidding nature.
Professor Susan Klein (law) felt that requesting an exception was an “overwhelming and unnecessary amount of paperwork” and asked who would be granting these exceptions. Vice President Clubb explained that System will provide regular reports to show the benefits to the campus. If there are none, there will need to be some further discussion with UT System.