By Katie Quaranta
Faculty Senate members listened to a detailed report about health benefits, heard first readings of four resolutions and welcomed the chair of the Board of Trustees at their meeting Monday night.
John Day, associate provost for academic budgeting, gave a presentation designed to answer faculty questions raised at last month's meeting regarding the university's health care benefits reserves. Day outlined how the university determines the budgeted amount needed for employee health care costs each year and explained that the university works to ensure that this number is as accurate as possible. However, health care claims have been down significantly enough that the university now has a surplus of $3.5 million.
This money was at the crux of the discussion, since many senators have expressed the opinion that the reserve funds should be designated as committed carryforward to be used solely for health care purposes. Senator Duane McDiarmid said he would like to see this additional money used to control co-pay costs. Day indicated that, while this could be a short-term measure, such a move ultimately would not have a significant impact on future healthcare costs.
The discussion provided background for a resolution on health benefits surpluses that Joe McLaughlin, chair of the Finance and Facilities Committee, presented for first reading. The resolution asked that the surplus be considered compensation to be used to defray and contain healthcare costs. Several senators responded in support of this motion, and McLaughlin indicated he would discuss minor revisions with his committee before bringing it to a vote at the next meeting.
McLaughlin also presented two resolutions regarding faculty salaries for first reading. The first called for a 3 percent raise pool to be distributed across the board to Group I faculty effective July 1 to keep pace with inflation and maintain the university's commitment to increasing faculty compensation.
The other resolution calls for a $1.2 million faculty compensation investment to be distributed uniformly across colleges based on merit evaluations. It also asks that the university determine and take into account how changes to employee health benefits contributions may have eroded total faculty compensation.
Both resolutions state that the raises should be effective July 1, contrary to a recommendation by the Budget Planning Council and decision by the university administration to delay funding employee salary increases and base Vision Ohio initiatives until the university gets more concrete budgetary information from the state and has a clear picture of fall enrollment.
McLaughlin, a member of BPC, abstained from the otherwise unanimous vote to delay the expenditures. He said his abstention stemmed from his belief that BPC members did not have enough time to consider alternatives or discuss the decision with their constituencies.
Senate President Sergio Lopez-Permouth also introduced for first reading a resolution calling for a yearly Faculty Senate evaluation of the president and executive vice president and provost. Discussion centered on the makeup of the assessment committee and the goals that would form the basis of evaluation. Senators agreed they should create their own goals for the president and provost to ensure a representation of faculty opinions rather than try to influence the Board of Trustees' goals.
In other meeting highlights:
- C. Daniel DeLawder, chair of the Ohio University Board of Trustees, spoke to the senate about the "fruitful and very, very productive" past year. He noted the work the board and university have done in regard to strategic planning, restructuring board committees and revising the presidential evaluation process. Willem Roosenburg, an associate professor in biological sciences, presented data to DeLawder indicating that the university had the highest ratio of administrators to faculty among 10 peer institutions. While DeLawder said he could not immediately comment on the statistics, he noted that if a closer inspection revealed they represented an apples-to-apples comparison, he would speak with President Roderick J. McDavis about a possible means of addressing the concern.
- Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl reviewed the highlights of the University System of Ohio document, including its emphasis on the themes of quality, accountability, affordability and access. The provost's full report is posted on her Web site.
- During his report, Lopez-Permouth discussed a recent Ohio Faculty Council meeting during which members met with Chancellor of the Board of Regents Eric Fingerhut to discuss the USO. Lopez-Permouth said he was "pleasantly surprised" that Fingerhut was receptive to questions, comments and concerns about the 10-year strategic planning document and that he was working to get Fingerhut to come to campus to talk with faculty about it.
- Senator Joseph Bernt questioned the integrity of the deans' evaluation process, saying two evaluations from his department were not forwarded to the evaluation committee. Senator Phyllis Bernt suggested the problem may be with campus mail delivery after Michael Williford, associate provost for institutional research, said the forms had not reached his office by the deadline. Lopez-Permouth said he would follow up with university officials regarding the concerns.