May 15, 2007
By Elizabeth Boyle
Discussion about the university's budget, structural reorganization and health benefits, along with a vote for the senate's executive officers, dominated Monday night's Faculty Senate meeting.
President Roderick J. McDavis explained how he expects higher education issues at the state level -- especially the budget -- to affect Ohio University. He noted that the Ohio House approved a budget that deviates from Gov. Ted Strickland's proposed compact with higher education by suggesting universities receive an additional 2 percent state subsidy and be allowed to increase tuition 3 percent in the budget year that begins July 1. The following year's budget, for Fiscal Year '09, would provide a 10 percent increase in the subsidy and allow no tuition increases.
Highlights of reports and resolutions brought forward Monday night
- The Professional Relations Committee presented a resolution for first reading that would clarify detenuring provisions in the Faculty Handbook.
- David Ingram of the Educational Policy and Student Affairs Committee provided an update on the university's retention efforts, which include the creation of the Help Center for students in need of preliminary academic advising and advice; the pilot and extended use of electronic attendance tracking devices; and the addition of more learning communities.
- The Promotion and Tenure Committee did not present.
"This is a significant change in my opinion from the past few years in terms of what's coming from the state," he said, explaining that the House changes could be good news for the university.
The House plan, which also establishes a $100 million scholarship program to support science, technology, engineering and math students, does not call for universities to opt in or out of a compact, McDavis said. "It would simply be what you're going to receive," he said.
Strickland's compact called for the state to provide universities with an average 5 percent increase in support for FY '08 and a 2 percent hike in FY '09. In exchange, the schools would have to agree not to raise undergraduate tuition next academic year and to hold tuition hikes to 3 percent the following year.
Budget discussions also are under way in the Senate, and McDavis said it appears higher education is being viewed favorably. The state budget is not expected to be finalized until June.
McDavis -- who announced that he's agreed to serve as next year's chair of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, an association representing the state's public universities -- said he's excited to work as a leader at the state level.
"I'm very much looking forward to providing that kind of leadership," he said.
In his opening comments, McDavis also asked that in light of the past week's events, which have included rallies at which university community members showed both support for and discontent with the institution's leadership, faculty members "remember what we try to teach our students."
"It's one thing to disagree on policy. ... It's quite another thing to argue against a person," he said. While encouraging the expression of opinions and the exchange of ideas, he added, "Our discourse ought to be done in a civil manner."
Other comments from the president and Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl were in response to questions about last week's announced reorganization. McDavis said that while he has worked externally raising money and developing relationships for the university, he expects the change in structure to help him ramp up time spent lobbying for the university at the state and federal levels.
Krendl said she is meeting this week with representatives of the areas now under her leadership -- regional campuses and the offices of Research, Outreach, and Equity and Diversity -- to discuss how they will work together. She also explained that in her new position, she will seek ways to save administrative costs.
Krendl also reported that the university received 327 more applications for 2007-08 than it did for the current year, and admitted 10,328 prospective students, down 127 from last year. The numbers so far are an indication of higher selectivity, she said. The entering class has an average ACT of 23.74, up from 23.6 for this year's freshman class. The university has received housing deposits from 3,875 prospective freshmen and still expects to hit its goal of 4,050 students in the freshman class, Krendl said.
In the chair's report, Phyllis Bernt said the Faculty Senate's executive committee will meet with the Ohio University Board of Trustees' executive committee May 25 to provide feedback for the president's evaluation. She said the senate committee sent a Web survey to all faculty to gain broad-based input in advance of the meeting. The committee will analyze the data from the 250 completed surveys over the next two weeks, she said, and report findings to the trustees' committee.
"The focus is on performance," she said of the group's evaluation of McDavis. "We had a productive, candid discussion last year, and I expect to have a productive, candid discussion this year."
Reporting for the Finance and Facilities Committee, Senator Joe McLaughlin gave an overview of upcoming changes to health benefits, including how the changes will affect employee premiums. McLaughlin is a member of the university's health benefits committee.
To bring more continuity to future health benefit discussions, the Finance and Facilities Committee brought forward for first reading a resolution that would create a standing university committee on benefits.
The evening's election brought a change in just one of the three executive officer slots for Faculty Senate. A senate nominating committee put forward names for each position, with the following results: Professor of Mathematics Sergio Lopez won the race for chair over Assistant Professor of English Charles Naccarato; in an uncontested race, senators chose Professor of Film David Thomas to return as vice chair; and Associate Professor and Chair of Geography Timothy Anderson defeated Associate Professor of Counseling and Higher Education Tracey Leinbaugh to continue as secretary. The changes are effective immediately.