June 13, 2007
By Elizabeth Boyle
Ohio University's Faculty Senate discussed the perceived strengths and weaknesses of a new university budget model and its potential impact on the institution Monday night before deciding to table the topic until fall.
Prior to the budget discussion, which began during Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl's report to the senate, Krendl thanked senators for their work on every major task force and committee during the academic year. "You have done this in addition to all that you do as teachers and scholars," she said.
Krendl's planned full report to the senate, which includes information on enrollment, faculty retention, faculty compensation and the academic mission, is available on the Web (pdf).
The new budget model, called responsibility-centered budgeting, seeks to link revenues to expenditures and to tie fiscal planning more closely to the university's academic mission. It will apportion resources based on the revenue activity and total costs of each academic unit, while the overhead costs of the academic support units will be shared by academic units.
This approach to budgeting, common at many universities, is guided by a group of academic quality indicators that ensure the focus remains on protecting and strengthening the academic mission of the university, Krendl said. Those indicators were at the center of Monday night's discussion.
Before beginning work on the construction of variables to be used in the new budget model, the deans developed a list of 10 academic quality indicators, Krendl said, ranging from maintaining the weighted student credit hours produced per tenure-track faculty member to ensuring that units do not duplicate courses simply to generate revenue.
"Far from wanting to drive the bottom line, this is a way to protect academic quality," Krendl said, explaining that enhancing the academic mission is the foremost goal of the new model. "The goal is to use the budget as a tool to inform us on things like enrollment management."
Members of the Educational Policy and Student Affairs Committee stated the new approach could create "perverse and unintended consequences," such as the proliferation of large classes taught by nontenure-track faculty or a reduction in the range of classes offered. While the academic quality indicators are designed to protect against such consequences, some senators pointed to the model's revenue-based resource allocation concept as a mechanism that could, in practice, encourage them.
"Why incentivize the goals of higher ed?" asked Sen. Ken Brown. "Why would you want to adopt a policy that sets up a dozen bad outcomes that you have to safeguard against?"
Deans have discussed the quality indicators with faculty in their colleges, Krendl said. However, in response to senators' concerns that faculty needed more involvement in the development of the indicators, she said she would welcome suggestions for additional values and indicators. The next step will be for individual units to compose their own academic quality indicators, she added.
Senators also voiced concern that the model could create unhealthy competition within and among units and that it is unnecessarily complicated.
Sen. Phyllis Bernt, a member of the Vision OHIO committee that researched whether the university should move to the new model, said the university's responsibility-centered budget is simple in comparison to those of some peer institutions her group researched.
"We (on the committee) were looking for a system that is rational and transparent," she said. "We wanted to find a way to ensure the resources were in place so units can accomplish their goals." She noted that the university's current budget model, known as incremental budgeting, allocates resources on a historical basis, meaning that a unit's budget was based on the previous year's budget with little consideration given to changes in the activities of that unit.
Sen. Annette Graham, who represents the College of Health and Human Services, noted that incremental budgeting has been problematic for a college such as hers, which has experienced tremendous growth in recent years.
During the 2008 fiscal year that begins July 1, the new budget model will be followed, but academic units will be held harmless as the university simultaneously operates under the current incremental approach. The university will use the information gained in following the new model to construct the 2009 fiscal year budget.
However, some senators expressed concern that the change is coming too soon.
"Maybe we should take more time, have discussions, put groups together to discuss how the monitoring will work," Bernt said.
Other highlights of Monday night's meeting included:
- Najee' Muhammad, associate professor of educational studies, urged Faculty Senate to draft a resolution supporting a campus dialogue on race in the upcoming academic year. Prompted by an event in which an individual allegedly made racial slurs and physical threats to two African-American female students in Alden Library May 31, the proposed dialogue could help diversity evolve from something that is valued to something that is lived.
"You can get people here from Appalachia, from Columbus, from wherever you want," he said, his voice filled with emotion. "If they have to endure what these young ladies endured, they will not be here."
The Educational Policy and Student Affairs Committee agreed to follow up on Muhammad's request.
- Sen. Ken Brown brought forward a resolution on shared governance that the senate passed in April 2006. The resolution called for three things: to place a nonvoting faculty member on the Ohio University Board of Trustees; to add an elected faculty member as a nonvoting representative to the president's cabinet; and to have the university make more use of standing university committees rather than forming ad hoc committees.
Brown said the senate received a reply from President Roderick J. McDavis declining inclusion of a faculty member on the cabinet, but has not received an official reply regarding the other two issues. The Board of Trustees has discussed with Faculty Senate's executive committee the possibility of adding a faculty member to its membership but has not taken action on the proposal.
"My problem with this is that I don't like to be ignored," Brown said. "I'd just like to get an answer to the question." After discussion, the senate deleted the cabinet item from the resolution and passed the amended resolution.
- A Finance and Facilities Committee resolution up for second reading passed unanimously. It calls for the formation of a university standing committee on benefits that will be chaired by a member of the Finance and Facilities Committee.
- The senate also passed a Professional Relations Committee resolution addressing detenuring provisions in the Faculty Handbook. The resolution clarifies circumstances under which the university can terminate the salary of a detenured faculty member.
Faculty Senate adjourns for the summer. Its next meeting will be Sept. 17.