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Budget, pay issues dominate Faculty Senate meeting
Board Chair Greg Browning, President McDavis participate in dialogue

ATHENS, Ohio (April 17, 2007) -- Board of Trustees Chair Greg Browning told Faculty Senate Monday night that a stronger, more confident institution should emerge from the challenges Ohio University has faced in the past year.

Committee action

Highlights of the reports and resolutions brought forward Monday night: 

  • The Professional Relations Committee presented resolutions for second reading that would update the sexual harassment policy and grievance language in the Faculty Handbook. Senate passed the resolutions.

  • The Promotion and Tenure Committee brought for first reading and vote a second version of a resolution to include faculty workload language in the handbook. The resolution passed.

For full details and to download Faculty Senate minutes and resolutions, visit www.ohio.edu/facultysenate.

Brown, who attended in order to personally answer faculty questions, named the university's budget -- a topic that dominated much of the meeting -- as well as information technology security as primary challenges with which the university has grappled.

"I do hope that out of the turmoil and frustrations and challenges that we have a better sense of who we are," he said. "My advice is we've got to get back to fundamentals. How do we get back to making this the best undergraduate institution?"

Browning, in his second year as chair and his final year as a trustee, said the board will reflect on its role during a retreat on Thursday. Philosophical questions such as whether the board of trustees is, for example, principally an advisory group, a fundraising group or another type of governing body are among those that will be discussed.

President Roderick J. McDavis, in launching the budget discussion, said the university has not yet decided whether it will agree to Gov. Ted Strickland's proposed compact with public higher education. Strickland has said the state would provide universities an average 5 percent increase in support for FY '08 and a 2 percent hike in FY '09. In exchange, the schools would have to agree not to raise undergraduate tuition next academic year and to hold tuition hikes to 3 percent the following year. The final state budget is subject to legislative decisions in the coming months.

McDavis said university officials still are having conversations with the governor and the chancellor of the Board of Regents to learn more about the proposal. 

Though the state budget will not be finalized until June, he said, the university must go forward with a balanced budget. He said he has accepted the majority of the recommendations from Budget Planning Council for balancing the budget. He will present that plan to the Board of Trustees on Friday and seek feedback. That scenario would include:

  • providing employees with a 3 percent raise, on average
  • increasing financial aid for students by $500,000
  • funding a pool of $2 million for strategic investments in high-priority areas such as information technology and student worker minimum wage
  • increasing health care costs borne by Athens campus employees by $900,000
  • spending $1.2 million to fund the first year of a five-year plan to increase faculty compensation
  • billing insurance companies for care provided to students at Hudson Health Center, with a goal of generating $1.4 million in new revenue

McDavis also noted that earlier Monday, he had announced that 27 senior university officials had agreed to forgo pay raises in the upcoming fiscal year. 

Capturing the attention of senators was the issue of merit raises vs. cost-of-living increases. The budget scenario McDavis presented calls for a 3 percent pay increase based on merit. Some senators said they are concerned only the top faculty will get raises if that model is used.

"It seems as if we're giving raises to certain people when others can't even keep up with cost of living," said Charles Smith, the first senator to take up the issue.

Bernhard Debatin agreed, saying, "It's sort of a bad PR strategy to call the 3 percent a raise." He suggested that it be called a cost-of-living increase and should go to all faculty. He recommended that an additional 2 percent (the $1.2 million in Vision OHIO funds that have been allocated for faculty pay increases) should be given based on merit. 

The Faculty Compensation Task Force, the group charged with developing a strategy to bring faculty salaries in line with those at peer institutions over a five-year period, has recommended that the $1.2 million be dispersed to deans, who would determine how to allocate the funds. 

Faculty also expressed concerns about increased health care premiums, which some said would offset any pay increases. McDavis, who spoke with faculty for about 45 minutes, said the increase outlined in the budget scenario would be small in comparison to salary adjustments.

"With salaries below average and health care costs up, we're really not looking at a very privileged situation," Debatin said. 

Joe McLaughlin, chair of the Finance and Facilities Committee, added that increased health care premiums were not taken into consideration when the task force recommended a plan for raising faculty salaries.

Later in the evening, Faculty Senate passed a resolution that calls for a 3 percent across-the-board cost-of-living increase and a 2 percent merit-based increase as determined by each department or school's merit process. In order to offset any loss in compensation due to increased cost to faculty for benefits, the resolution, brought forward by the Finance and Facilities Committee, also asks that the administration develop a plan to increase the five-year investment of $6.3 million recommended by the Faculty Compensation Task Force to bring faculty salaries in line with peer institutions.

"We need to reward merit, but they've put a little bitty pie on the table, and we have inflation," Smith said. 

McDavis also was asked whether the university will fund Vision OHIO proposals submitted last year for Graduate Education and Research. 

"I don't want to say it's off the table, but we have to wait. We are talking about a limited resource in what we have to invest," McDavis said. "We're trying to stay as close as possible to the priorities of the (Budget Planning Council). We tried to listen to what that highest priority should be and that's people."

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Written by: Elizabeth Boyle 

Media Contact: Senior Director of Media Relations Sally Linder, 740-597-1793 or linders@ohio.edu

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