2013-2014 Annual Report
Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets
The Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets (FACB) met a total of seven times in 2013-14. We began with a combined meeting of the FCECs from 2012-13 and 2013-14 plus the FACB and administration (Provost Steve Leslie, CFO Kevin Hegarty, Assoc. Vice President Mary Knight and Sr. Vice Provost Dan Slesnick). This first meeting was scheduled for August 6 and came about as a result of a conversation held at the July 8 FCEC+ meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to have a dialogue about the present budget issues and the budget "forecast."
This initial meeting was a wake-up call for many on the committees and, as a result, subsequent meetings on the budget were set for August 13 and a follow-up for September 20. At the latter, the topic of Shared Services came up. This called for two more meetings with Mary Knight and Kevin Hegarty. These meetings on October 14 and November 6 were no longer with the expanded committee including previous members of FCEC or FACB. I wish to thank both Hegarty and Knight for giving so freely of their time to keep the FACB abreast of developments with the proposed Shared Services program.
The sixth meeting of the FACB was called primarily to discuss the appointment of a vice chair (Janet M. Davis graciously accepted) and to hear suggestions for a chair for the 2014-2015 FACB (Brian Evans agreed to accept the unanimous nomination).
Our final meeting of the year was a meeting with President Powers and Provost Fenves. I have included the questions submitted for this meeting. Both the president and provost commented on how helpful the dialogue was to them and that this type of communication should continue.
- This question is about the 2 percent of the departmental budgets that are to be set aside as a contingency reserve. Could you please clarify the current process by which those funds are sequestered and later distributed? Are the deans in charge of monitoring departmental compliance with the set aside guidelines? Who makes the decision about whether the funds are returned to the department or instead swept back into the general University funding? What are the consequences of non-compliance? (Marilla Svinicki, College of Education)
- What administrative purpose does the new Faculty Annual Report (FAR) serve in terms of assessing faculty using a "one-size-fits-all" system of "Exceeds Expectations," "Meets Expectations," etc.? I ask because specific faculty labor is often quite variable across departments. Moreover, it seems that teaching and service possess less value on such reports than the sheer quantity (what about quality?) of published research each year. (Janet Davis, College of Liberal Arts)
- How are the president and provost working to ensure that The University of Texas at Austin remains a public university–aside from enacting cost-cutting measures within the University? In other words, how are key UT Austin leaders working with the Legislature to preserve/maintain the state's financial commitment to excellence in public higher education? (Janet Davis, College of Liberal Arts)
- The medical school and biomedical researchers already on the "main" campus are going to interact deeply in many areas, including teaching, faculty appointments, graduate training, and research. However, med schools work very differently from undergraduate campuses in countless ways. My question is, what is the University going to do to facilitate the ability to conduct research, teach, and train graduate students in the most effective manner that ensures a win-win situation for all? I want to know what leaders on our current campus are going to do. I've already talked to the Dean of the Med school so I don't want to hear about him. (Andrea Gore, College of Pharmacy)
Examples (more so you know where I'm coming from):
- Graduate training and stipends: Typically much higher at a university with a medical school; this will create a ripple on the rest of campus where our grad students are typically underpaid. (I want their stipends to go up, but who pays attention and makes it happen?).
- Sponsored research and compliance: shared or autonomous? (e.g. OSP, IACUC, IRB, are already backed up with current regulatory burdens).
- Teaching TLUs (a completely different formula for undergraduate campuses and med schools.
- Research and appointments: Our appointments are typically 9-month. A med school appointment is typically 12-month. Will that change?
- I've noticed two things about how the administration deals with promotions and salaries over the forty plus years I have taught here. The first is that there has been a gradual increase in standards over the years, particularly in the areas of research and publication, part of a push to make this truly a world-class university. I don't have much of a problem with this, although I do think that there are problems with trying to apply a single model to all our different disciplines. For instance, some disciplines, we know, are article-disciplines, and others, book-disciplines. Some disciplines involve snagging multi-million-dollar grants, while others involve, at most, coming up with a fellowship that pays one's salary for a year. There is also what I find to be a certain invidiousness about insisting on the "peer-reviewed" model of publication. I support that idea in many ways, but I have read many an essay by a smart and/or distinguished scholar in a collection that may not have been peer-reviewed and that turned out to be a singular contribution to its field. In short, while I support the idea of asking faculty to meet high standards, I worry that any desire to impose those standards uniformly may do a disservice to people who do excellent work that does not fit into the "approved" categories. (Wayne Rebhorn, College of Liberal Arts)
- The second thing I'm concerned about is what I would call the erratic nature of the application of standards. This actually would seem to contradict what I have just said in the previous paragraph about the gradual increase in standards—and I think it may well be. What I mean in this case is that we seem to have different standards for salary raises (promotions suffer less from this) almost from year to year. Last year, for instance, my department was allowed to distribute raise money as it saw fit, and it finally opted to give raises to about 80 percent of the faculty, motivated to reward such a large number of people in part by the fact that for the past several years, many of them had had no raises at all. This year, by contrast, there is talk of restricting raises to a much smaller percentage of the faculty, something that may or may not finally happen. While I have trouble with a "one-size-fits-all" model for judging research and publication, I do think that it would be nice if the University had a consistent policy about salary raises. If we all knew, for example, that only one third of the faculty could get raises in a given year, and we could plan on that in some sort of consistent way, then we could reward someone who did not get a raise in a given year because he or she did not have much in the way of publications or other scholarly-research accomplishments that year (Annual Reviews suffer from terrible myopia!), by giving that person a sizable raise in another year when he or she had more substantial accomplishments. To some extent, we do that now. But since the percentage of faculty who are entitled to raises in any given year varies, that makes it much harder to apply a consistent policy at the departmental level. So, I wonder if it wouldn't make sense to have a University-wide policy specifying that only a certain percentage of the faculty could get raises in a given year (exceptions could be made for a few cases that could always be presented to the deans). In my own opinion, I would say that restricting raises to as few as one third of the faculty strikes me as a bad policy. It doesn't just demoralize the under-achievers, who may deserve to be demoralized by some standards, but it demoralizes lots of people who are quite productive, but whose productivity is not steady from year-to-year. (Wayne Rebhorn, College of Liberal Arts)
It is the suggestion of this committee that they immediately arrange at least two meetings with the president and provost, preferably one each semester. A further suggestion would be to have at least one meeting with Hegarty and Knight in order to be updated on the status of the Shared Services program.
Martha F. Hilley, chair