By Casey Elliot
Ohio University Faculty Senate heard reports on university funding and potential health benefits changes and discussed the process for evaluating college deans at its meeting Monday night.
Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur outlined how legislators’ action on a federal stimulus package would ripple out to the states and, therefore, public colleges and universities. (See related story.)
Also, Associate Vice President for Human Resources Luis Lewin and Director of Benefits Greg Fialko detailed possible health care benefits changes in light of potential budget shortfalls. Fialko said the Budget Planning Council (BPC) asked the Health Benefits Committee to prepare scenarios for saving $1 million, $3 million and $5 million annually through benefits changes.
All scenarios are being considered at BPC at this time, although the BPC passed a resolution in January to go forward with the $1 million scenario regardless of the budget picture because it would create significant cost savings with minimal impact on employees. Fialko said benefits decisions must be made by March 15 to give the university’s health care provider, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, time to put them in place by July 1.
A resolution up for second reading relating to health care premiums for faculty could not be discussed because of the lack of a quorum at the end of the meeting. The resolution seeks to roll back health care premiums to July 2007 levels if the university raises premiums next fiscal year. Senator Ken Brown had introduced the resolution because that year’s premium increase was not approved by Faculty Senate, as spelled out in the Faculty Handbook.
Brown said he would discuss the next step for the resolution with Faculty Senate Chair Sergio Lopez-Permouth. Brown said he is concerned about delaying action on the measure until the Senate’s next meeting on March 9 because of the timing related to benefit decisions.
The budget and employee benefits will be among topics to be covered at three university Budget Summits slated Feb. 18 and 19. (See related story.)
In her report, Sherrie Gradin, chair of the Faculty Senate Professional Relations Committee, gave an update on the process for evaluating the colleges’ deans.
Under the current process, the provost takes into consideration input from faculty, staff, other deans and her own experiences in developing the deans’ annual evaluations. A committee of four to six individuals – half named by the provost and half by Faculty Senate – facilitates the process within each college and prepares a report for the provost.
Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl -- hoping to streamline the process, increase the number of faculty and staff who offer feedback via questionnaires and determine the most valuable frequency -- asked the chairs of last year’s committees and Russ College of Engineering and Technology Dean Dennis Irwin to offer suggestions for improvements. Among their suggestions was contracting with the IDEA Center, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Kansas State University, to oversee the collection and compilation of data using an online survey tool.
Gradin shared sample questions from the online survey and noted that her committee would be reviewing the faculty questionnaire and determining if it can be customized to Ohio University.
Faculty senators raised concerns about the questionnaire, how the data is collected and how it would be used. Specific issues focused on the use of an outside group for this purpose, retaining anonymity among survey participants, who crafts the survey questions and how accessible the data would be if the Idea Center compiles it.
Gradin said she would seek answers to senators’ questions and report back.
Also, co-chairs David Juedes of the College of Engineering and Graduate Council, and Jeff Connor of the College of Arts and Sciences and University Curriculum Council answered questions related to the recently released report of the Task Force for Centers of Excellence for Graduate and Professional Programs.
The provost’s written report to Faculty Senate is available on her Web site.