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Financial concerns take front seat at February Faculty Senate meeting
Faculty compensation increase is essential in planning for projected budget shortfall

ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 13, 2007) -- Increasing faculty salaries will remain paramount as a group of university community members works to close a projected $6 million to $11 million shortfall for fiscal year 2008, President Roderick McDavis and Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur told Faculty Senate Monday night. Senators took the opportunity to ask for clarification about strategic investments and the university's fiscal gap at their February meeting.

Chair's report and committee action

An overview of the reports and resolutions brought forward last night:

  • Faculty Senate Chair Phyllis Bernt said that she and several senators met with Chairman of the Board of Trustees Greg Browning on Jan. 31 to discuss the April 2006 senate resolution that called for a non-voting faculty member on the Board. Browning requested more information on the idea, Bernt said, explaining that senate members sent him a draft proposal yesterday for consideration. She added that Browning plans to attend the group's April meeting.

  • Norma Pecora, representing the Professional Relations Committee, presented a resolution that incorporates language about Family Medical Leave to the Faculty Handbook. The resolution, up for a second reading, passed.

  • Annette Graham, with the Promotion and Tenure Committee, explained a resolution for first reading that would introduce faculty workload language into the handbook.

  • David Ingram, with the Educational Policy and Student Affairs, introduced for first reading a resolution that would require faculty members to list desired learning outcomes and objectives on syllabi.

  • The Finance and Facilities Committee, chaired by Joe McLaughlin, brought forward a resolution for first reading that would extend early retirement benefits to summer quarter for qualifying faculty (those faculty on eleven or twelve month contracts, such as those in the College of Osteopathic Medicine). The resolution passed.
"There is no greater priority than the product that we produce -- high quality education," McDavis said. "If we want to enhance the quality of our product, if we want to focus on achieving some of the goals related to academic quality, it means we have to invest in faculty."

McDavis, who received the report of the Faculty Compensation Task Force on Wednesday, Feb. 7, said he's going to "pay very close attention to what their report recommends." The task force, chaired by Provost Kathy Krendl, focused on researching a method for raising faculty salaries to meet those of peer institutions over a five-year period. 

Funding the salary increase will be more than $1 million from the strategic investment pool created by the fiscal year 2007 realignment. Decatur said the 15-member Budget Planning Council will determine the amount of funding for another Vision OHIO priority, graduate education and research. Although the university remains committed to investments in strategic priorities, he indicated the BPC is considering using a portion of the funds as it works to balance the budget. 

Many of the senators' questions centered on the university's efforts to address retention and transfer issues. Decatur, who shared with the senate a thorough explanation of the budget situation and the university's approach to it, said one of the main factors of the shortage is a lower-than-expected amount of transfer students and low enrollment numbers this year, as well as anticipated flat enrollment numbers for next year. 

"What happened at the undergraduate level?" one senator probed. "Have you done any analysis on why the students are leaving?"

Provost Kathy Krendl responded by saying the institution annually conducts a survey of students who leave the university; it has hired a director of retention; and it is enhancing community-building efforts such as learning communities. Associate Provost for Institutional Research and Enrollment Planning Mike Williford provided a statistical perspective by adding that while Ohio University's retention rate has dropped one percent in each of the past five years, its level is good for a state university of its size. 

Additional questions included whether last year's information technology expenses affected the fiscal year 2008 shortfall, whether other institutions share similar financial predicaments, and if the new student information system will be paid for under the new budget model. Decatur responded that the IT funds were one-time allotments and the SIS, which will be supported by the technology fee, is not assumed in the budget.

"We're not at all alone," he said of peer institutions' budgets, explaining that the situation is common across the state.

Bringing the budget issue to the floor later in the meeting, Joe McLaughlin, chair of the Finance and Facilities Committee and a member of the BPC, introduced a resolution that discusses the university's commitment to providing high-quality education during the closing of the budget gap. He told senators that with three members of the BPC present, discussing the resolution was an opportunity to say things they think it should consider as is looks at solving the budget shortfall. Some senators said the resolution should state a commitment toward increasing faculty salaries.

"If we're really talking about recruitment and retention of high-quality faculty, maybe that's what we should say instead," Tracy Leinbaugh, a professor of counseling and higher education, said.

Also discussed at Monday's meeting was the Task Force on the Academic Calendar and System, which has begun its work. McDavis said he met with the group last Thursday to discuss its charge and told them, "they are free to collect as much data as they wanted and to talk to as many groups as they wanted."

Ken Brown introduced for second reading and vote a resolution that would require the university to change the academic calendar only after it conducted a survey of faculty that provides an opportunity to vote on the specific calendar options being considered. Senators, who voted to not pass the resolution, suggested alternative resolutions, including one that would instruct the task force of the key values to faculty that it should consider in its research process. Faculty Senate Chair Phyllis Bernt, chair of the task force, added that the group intends to gather input from the campus as part of its research process.

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Written by: Elizabeth Boyle

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

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