Group discusses resolution regarding provost's approval of senate resolutions
ATHENS, Ohio (Oct. 17, 2006) -- Ohio University's fiscal health remains strong, Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur told Faculty Senate at its October meeting last night. The group also learned that provost Kathy Krendl has appointed a faculty compensation task force and charged it with developing a multi-year plan for improving faculty compensation.
Decatur spoke about Ohio Senate Bill 6, which created a set of financial ratios that the Ohio Board of Regents compiles to track the fiscal health of the state's public universities. Ohio University has a composite score of 3.20 out of 5 in fiscal year 2005 and will drop to 2.9 when it submits 2006 data in December. Institutions that drop below 1.75 for two years in a row go into fiscal watch status. Although the university's score has declined over the past few years, Decatur said he doesn't think there is any risk of Ohio University falling into that status.
"We'd have to issue substantial debt," he said. "And I don’t think we're going to let that happen."
The Senate Bill 6 score is based on three fiscal ratios, including the amount of expendable net assets an institution has in relation to its operating expenses and plant debt. Expendable net assets include unallocated fund balances and quasi-endowments. The 2006 score is down in part because the university issued more debt recently, including the down payment for a student information system and work on the new residence hall, though Decatur said the ratios are not particularly sensitive to short-term changes. Increasing expendable net assets helps raise the score, Decatur said, noting that the best way is to increase quasi-endowments (those that are board-created) because they will generate income. Increasing debt is not helpful to raising the composite score, but Ohio University's debt is relatively low when compared to other Ohio institutions. "We've got to increase debt," he said, "but do it in ways that support our academic priorities. That way if we issue debt, we're going to do it in ways that improve our student experience and support research and other institutional goals."
During her report, Krendl said the Faculty Compensation Task Force includes deans and faculty members from various colleges: Renee Middleton, Charles McWeeny, Ben Ogles, Kevin Mattson, Shawn Ostermann, Rajesh Narayanan, and as ex officio members, John Day, Greg Fialko and Mike Williford.
She provided an update on several other issues:
• Information Technology -- The search committee for the chief information officer position has narrowed the pool to two finalists.
• Enrollment -- Although overall enrollment remains steady, the university did not meet its retention goals nor its transfer goals for this year. "The best things we can spend our time and energy on this year in terms of addressing these budget issues is to meet our targets in terms of freshmen and transfer students and to improve retention," Krendl said.
• Faculty retention and recruitment -- Exit interviews with 29 faculty members who left Ohio University last year identified the leading reasons as "spouse/family/friends," "salary and support," and "professional/program interest." Faculty Senate Chair Phyllis Bernt updated senators on a series of meetings that she and the Executive Committee have had during the past month. She has discussed with the chairs of constituent groups, the president, provost and vice president for finance and administration issues such as employee morale, student issues of concern, shared governance and cabinet goals (such as greater transparency and accountability), and faculty concerns (such as interdisciplinarity and the academic calendar). This Friday she will discuss top faculty concerns with the Board of Trustees. Bernt called for first reading the resolution that would create a timeline for the provost to sign resolutions passed by the senate. "One of the goals of this resolution is to establish a framework for continuing the discussion," she said.
President Roderick McDavis, who was absent from the meeting because of a prior obligation that took him to Washington, D.C., said in a letter read by Bernt that he will gather more information and discuss the resolution further with the senate, administrators and the Board of Trustees. Krendl said she thinks it would be useful to clarify which resolutions require signatures and to make it clear when an issue is up for discussion or is a resolution. "I don't have a problem with a timeline so long as there is a sense of when something is coming down the pipe," she added. "It is important for us to understand all the implications before we get to the floor." In other news shared by Bernt, Saturday, Feb. 10 will be the dedication of the new Baker Center. A student group developing recommendations for the event has asked faculty to participate in the ceremonies. She also said that the Faculty Advisory Committee on Academic Technology has been appointed so that faculty can help determine what they need in terms of information technology resources to facilitate learning and research.
Faculty Senate committees presented the issues on which they've been working:
• Educational Policy and Student Affairs -- Although the 2007 catalog will be predominantly electronic, print copies will be available forincoming freshmen, departments (for record-keeping purposes), and possibly foradvisers, David Ingram reported. Deadlines for submitting course informationwill be the same as previous years, with the main difference being that nopaper will be circulated.
• Professional Relations Committee -- Norma Pecora presented a resolution for a second reading regarding the Family Medical Leave Act. The resolution, which passed, would introduce language into the Faculty Handbookthat explains the act.
• Finance and Facilities -- The out-of-pocket expenses that faculty members pay for benefits has risen from 7.87 percent in fiscal year 2004 to 8.51 percent in 2006, Joe McLaughlin said, but the amount they pay as apercent of the total cost of benefits at Ohio University has fallen from 17.01 percent to 16.11 percent during that same period. He added that in previous years the university has over-budgeted the cost of how much it would spend onbenefits each year, but for fiscal year 2006, its projections are extremely close to the actual costs.
• Promotion and Tenure -- Annette Graham invited discussion about a workload proposal for non-tenure track faculty as a precursor to aresolution on the topic. Several senators said the proposal -- which outlines specific parameters, for example, that non-tenure track faculty who teach atleast nine credit hours (or equivalent) per quarter are eligible for benefits -- is too formulaic for the needs of a diverse group of people and disciplines.
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