The New NSHE Funding Formula, the Good, the Bad and the Worse

August 30, 2012

This statement was delivered at the Board Of Regents’ Special meeting at DRI South on August 24, 2012

The Good

  •  The plan to retain student fees and tuition on the respective college campuses should promote an entrepreneurial approach to higher education that has worked very successfully in many other states such as Arizona and Oregon.
  • Establishing a base formula in which the funding is tied to local student demand and the cost of content delivery is fair and transparent.
  • The emphasis on number of graduates rather than on enrollment should make institutions more accountable.

The Bad

  • The performance pool is disproportionately weighted in favor of the number of graduates, and is therefore only weakly tied to performance as recognized by students, faculty and organizations involved in ranking colleges and universities. There is much too great an emphasis on numbers and not on quality and efficiency.

The Worse

  • The absence in the performance pool of national benchmarks provides little incentive, particularly for the universities, to become centers of excellence

As you may know, student loan debt has replaced auto loan debt and credit card debt as the top source of debt in the nation. The total outstanding student loan debt now stands at a staggering $870 billion. For all borrowers across the nation, the average student debt is $23,000. In this regard, it is important to point out that the longer a student pursues a degree, the greater the debt accrued. That is, there’s a strong relationship between the years to completion and the accumulated debt. Moreover, students who fail to graduate accrue large amounts of debt without any of the considerable economic benefits of obtaining a BS or BA degree.

In Nevada, we cannot just reward institutions for the number of graduates. We also must incentivize our institutions to become better at the efficiency with which we graduate our students. In 2010, approximately 14% of students at UNR and UNLV completed their degrees in four years. The six-year graduate rates, about 40% at UNLV, and approximately 50% at UNR, are much better, but still are not nearly high enough by national standards. In the last two years, graduation rate at UNR has increased to 56%, but only as a result of extensive efforts in advising and other student support services.

To address the low success rate of our students, we need to include graduation rates in the NSHE Performance Pool component of the new Funding Formula. Nevada recently received a failing grade for the “student access and success” component of the recently published “Leaders & Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Public Postsecondary Education” by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (http://icw.uschamber.com/reportcard/nevada/) A major factor in determining Nevada’s failing grade was “The four-year institutions rank in the bottom 10 states in terms of completion rate …” While graduation rate is not a panacea for student success, it is a national and international benchmark by which universities are ranked. Increasing graduation rate at NSHE’s universities will lower the debt burden on our students, improve the rankings of our universities, prevent the brain drain of Nevada’s best students to more prestigious out-of-state universities, and attract businesses to the state seeking a well-educated work force.

Thank you,

David W. Zeh
Chair, Faculty Senate


Greetings from David Zeh, 2012-13 Faculty Senate Chair

June 14, 2012

Dear Faculty,
 
The Faculty Senate held their scheduled executive board elections at their May 9, 2012 Faculty Senate meeting and we are proud to present the new Faculty Senate Executive Board Members to you:
 
Chair:                         David Zeh (Biology)
Chair-elect:                Swatee Naik (Mathematics and Statistics)
Parliamentarian:        Chuck Price (Joe Crowley Student Union)
At Large:                    Trish Ellison (CABNR)
                                   Glenn Miller (CABNR)
Ex Officio:                    David Ryfe (Journalism)
 
Contact information for the new executive board can be found at the link below:
http://www.unr.edu/facultysenate/profiles/exec-board.html

I encourage all faculty to communicate regularly with their Senators to help identify issues of importance that we may consider in the coming year.

The 2012-13 Senators are listed by the unit they represent at the link below:
http://www.unr.edu/facultysenate/profiles/index12-13.html

Below I provide a brief summary of some of the accomplishments of the 2011-2012 Senate, and I outline goals and challenges for the new Senate.

 

Synopsis of the Activities of the 2011-2012 Senate

The UNR Faculty Senate, in collaboration with faculty, the University Administration and other NSHE institutions, accomplished a great deal over the last year. We reviewed the implementation of curricular review in the College of Education, the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, and the College of Cooperative Extension. We created a University syllabus policy and a new, more coherent policy on S/U and test credit limits. We implemented a University student dismissal policy, and a new policy requiring background checks for academic and administrative faculty. We also assisted in the hiring process for our new President, and held a special Senate meeting to discuss placement of laid off faculty members. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, we established the “Commission for the Future of the University of Nevada” (CFUN), a committee of administrative and academic faculty charged with assisting the administration in the development of a strategic vision for UNR as a top-tier residential campus for the 21st century.

I would especially like to thank Chair David Ryfe for his Senate leadership over the last year. David worked tirelessly to make the Senate a more proactive and visionary institution, and was a key player in soon-to-be implemented revisions to NSHE code regarding curricular review.

Under this revised code, a university administration request for curricular review will:

·       Trigger Faculty Senate review of the budget to provide a recommendation to the Board of Regents (BOR) whether or not faculty support the    

     process of curricular review

·      Require the university administration to provide access to all financial data relied upon in developing a curricular review proposal; this will ensure that the process is objective and data-driven

·      Necessitate a decision to accept or reject the declaration of curricular review by the BOR

 

A key feature of the revised code is that faculty oversight will occur at all four stages of curricular review process:

·      Review of the trigger for curricular review

·      Review of the programs to be affected

·      Review of the reorganization plan

·      Review of the appeal process for faculty threatened with layoffs

 

The Senate believes that effective communication between administration and faculty will lead to better curricular review outcomes and better faculty morale in the face of adversity.

 

2012-2013 Senate: Challenges and Opportunities

In the coming year, the University and the Faculty Senate will be confronted with many challenges but also some significant opportunities. The economy is stagnant, NSHE is proposing a new funding formula for higher education that currently favors high enrollment institutions in the southern part of the state, and higher education faces unprecedented challenges provoked by rising tuition costs, increasing student debt, and technology-driven disruptive innovation (e.g., massive open online courses). The Commission is developing strategies to deal with many of these issues. The new funding formula, if adopted, will retain tuition and fees generated by each campus, and will provide the potential for growth and enhancement of university functions. However, we will increasingly be competing with regional institutions for tuition dollars, and this will require clever and strategic decisions to make our university more competitive and attractive to students both within and outside of the state. The new Senate is also working diligently to convince the Chancellor and Legislature that the new funding formula must reward not only numbers of graduates but also excellence in teaching, research and outreach. We are making some progress on this front.

Finally, as the new Senate Chair, I am committed to opening up lines of communication between the administration and faculty. Beginning in the Fall 2012 semester, we will be holding informal, monthly meetings in which the President, the Provost, and the Senate Chair will be available to discuss any issues of concern to the faculty. We will also charge one of our Senate Committees with soliciting suggestions from both administrative and academic faculty to reduce red tape and improve the functioning of the University.

Best wishes,

 
David
 
David W. Zeh
Professor
Chair, Department of Biology
Chair, Faculty Senate 
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557

Tel: (775) 682 5735 or (775) 784-1648
Fax: (775) 784-1302
email: zehd@unr.edu

 


Faculty Senate Chair Remarks, UNR Town Hall, July 16, 2009

July 23, 2009

[Note: The town hall was actually on July 23. I looked at the wrong week on my calendar. Summer is passing so quickly!]

When the Governor proposed cutting the university’s budget by more than a third, he also proposed a 6% pay cut for all state employees. The budget reductions the Legislature actually adopted are still painful, and have cost us good people, but they leave the university standing. The pay cuts are supposed to be in the form of 4% furloughs, though to leave our benefits intact these cuts actually work out to 4.6%, one day a month.

In essence, furloughs are the Legislature’s way of saying that state employees are worth what we pay them, and not overpaid, but we still can’t afford them right now. The taxpayers and the students have also been asked to pony up, so we are not bearing the cost alone.

There is no way to make the financial burdens placed upon us all seem less stressful. However, it may be helpful to remember that it could have been much worse here, and for some states it is much worse.

But the details of furloughs are hard to implement, and furloughs don’t make sense in all cases. The Legislature ordered them for those employees under their direct control, including those in the classified system, but they left it to the Regents to determine how to implement them for faculty.

One issue the Legislature did not consider is how to handle classified employees who work on grants or in revenue-producing activities. Furloughing those who are not paid out of state funds actually costs the state money instead of saving it.

In June, the Regents passed a policy to implement furloughs, as the Legislature intended, as fully as the Code and our contracts allow. But untenured faculty, whether academic or administrative, have annual contracts that, under the current Code, require a year’s notice to change. Tenured faculty have contracts that guarantee them their jobs and their current salaries, and these cannot be changed easily at all.

The result is that hourly employees who earn the least are having to take the biggest pay cuts, in percentage terms. Our untenured faculty are also having to take the cuts, though with a year’s notice. Many of our young tenure-track faculty are trying to manage very large student loan burdens. And our tenured faculty, who are most likely to have research and grant programs that generate non-state funds, are instead being asked to teach more under the current conditions.

The President and I are still trying to persuade the Chancellor and the Regents that we should not have mandatory furloughs for grant-funded faculty, or for any faculty if the furlough costs us more revenue than it saves us. I would make this argument for classified staff too, if the law allowed.

It is normal in times of extreme scarcity for people to turn on each other, as the Donner Party demonstrated. We should not fall into the same trap here. We are all important to the success of this university, academic faculty, administrative faculty, and classified staff together.

In the last month or two, a number of tenured faculty have expressed their great concern to me concerning how mandatory furloughs have been implemented, and the unintended unfairness of our least-paid employees take the biggest percentage cut. It is not what we would have chosen, had we had the choice. It is certainly not what the President, the Provost, or the Faculty Senate wanted (see our “Sense of the Senate,” http://facultysenate.blogs.unr.edu/2009/05/08/sense-of-the-university-of-nevada-reno-faculty-senate-regarding-pay-cuts-for-faculty-and-staff, on this blog).

For tenured faculty who are able, one suggestion is to donate to the Foundation. Last week, I went down to the Foundation to set up a monthly deduction equivalent to the pay cut I would have received had I not been tenured. It was pretty easy, and I will send the form to all faculty.

You can target your donations, to a great degree. The Foundation has a scholarship fund for classified staff to take courses for career development, for example, and they are looking into setting up a fund to help with scholarships for their dependents. You can donate to your department or college, if you prefer, and chairs can use these funds to help out with travel or research expenses for untenured faculty. Within some constraints the Foundation is happy to negotiate with you on how you would like the monies spent. There are rules we have to follow if we want these donations to be tax deductible, but there is flexibility there too.

Of course, these contributions are voluntary, and people can help in many ways. Some of us may prefer to give more to the homeless, or those who have lost their jobs in the current recession. Some of us may have been hurt too much in the current recession to give anything more.

But knowing and appreciating the faculty as I do, I fully expect that there are scores, even hundreds of people out there who are willing to step up to do things to help their colleagues and coworkers in these trying times. Our people will continue to be generous and creative.

Please feel free to contact me with any ideas or questions you might have, at facsenchair@unr.edu.


Statement of the UNR Faculty Senate Chair (Presented to the NSHE Board of Regents Friday, June 19, 2009)

June 22, 2009

The faculty of UNR are grateful to the Legislature, the Board of Regents, and the citizens of this state for their efforts to defend higher education from a devastating budget reduction that would have effectively dismantled the NSHE system into the indefinite future. We also want to express our admiration for our students for recognizing that the education they receive is valuable, and appreciate that they are willing to pay more to help us keep providing it.

We recognize that this proposal represents serious work by many people, in an effort to balance what the Legislature wanted us to do with what we can legally do and what is wise to do. We know that the Regents are doing their best to balance these demands.

For legitimate legal reasons, this proposal gives tenured faculty the option to increase their work responsibilities instead of taking the pay cut, but this option is not given to others.

In the last several days as I have been getting input from my constituents, I have noticed a pattern. Those who were most concerned with the apparent unfairness of this – including myself – are themselves tenured. Those who were the least concerned about it are themselves untenured.

As I worry about the morale effects of separating out our faculty for differential treatment for legal reasons, it brings me great comfort to know that many of our people are so unselfish, and so concerned for their colleagues.

Still, in my opinion, it would be a good idea to give more people the option to do more, and not just require them to do less. Please consider whether the options this proposal makes available to tenured faculty might best be made available to others.

Faculty at my university are willing to do their part, and most of us are not opposed to temporary pay cuts if the Regents deem them necessary, but we want them to be done carefully because we are concerned with negative unintended consequences.

The Legislature recognized in SB 433 that NSHE was a special and complicated case, and gave the Regents the flexibility to institute pay cuts in other ways. We need to take this opportunity to make sure that we are taking the wisest path.

This proposal explicitly exempts DRI’s professional staff if they are entirely funded by grants. We strongly support this. What we would ask you to understand is that there are units at UNR that are exactly like DRI, and I assume these exist at UNLV too.

The Terawatt Facility and the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies, for example, both depend entirely on grants. There are also many research programs within departments that greatly augment their budgets and their support for students through extramural grant activities, and provide additional overhead for the university.

Making them take furloughs out of a sense of fairness simply hurts our budgets and our state economy, with no savings to NSHE or the state budget. Some may lose grants or contracts they can no longer fulfill, and most will reduce the amount of overhead that they bring to the university.

Some of you work for law firms, or other similar professional firms. Suppose the office manager has reduced the wages of the secretarial staff because of budget problems. To be fair, your office manager tells you that you must also work less and reduce your billable hours. It seems to me that that would only make the firm’s budget problem worse.

The UNR faculty senate overwhelmingly supported a resolution to apply reductions in state support only to state-funded salaries. At least, we should allow our Presidents to exempt some of our people from salary cuts if no savings would result. The principle that exempts DRI is equally applicable to similarly-generated funds at any of the NSHE institutions.

One part of the rationale for making higher education absorb most of the state’s budget reduction was that higher education should and could be more entrepreneurial, more like DRI, and less dependent on state funding.

Thus, I think we may be missing out on an opportunity. There are potential outside resources now available to many of our people. Now is the time to develop creative policy that empowers and incentivizes faculty seeking these resources, but we have rules that undermine some of the incentive to go after them, and these salary cuts will make it worse. Let us take this time of crisis to encourage our people to apply for more grants and contracts, to allow them the opportunity to make up for the reduction in their state funding, and to encourage more entrepreneurship by our faculty.

These changes should be left to individual institutions that can best understand and balance their missions and opportunities to meet the budget challenges. The Board can and should frame the parameters to consider, but ultimately our response to SB 433 should be measured by how thoughtfully we meet our missions within the budget constraints we face rather than following a literal reading of the bill.


Statement of the Faculty Senate of the University of Nevada, Reno

June 8, 2009

During this fiscal crisis the Board of Regents has continued to respect the leadership and autonomy of the NSHE institutions in meeting the extraordinary budgetary challenges of the past year. The Faculty Senate of the University of Nevada, Reno urges the Board to continue to allow each institution the opportunity to approach these challenges in ways that preserve the primary missions of the institutions with the least possible impact on faculty, students, and staff.

The Faculty Senate of the University of Nevada, Reno opposes financial exigency as both unnecessary and damaging to the reputation of the system. We similarly oppose either suspending or hastily modifying the Code.

In meeting these economic challenges, it is the shared value of our faculty that salaries should not be reduced if these cuts do not result in real savings for NSHE. In particular, salaries funded from many non-state sources should be exempted from reductions that may be deemed necessary to meet budgetary goals. Such reductions would be harmful to the research and economic diversification goals of the NSHE institutions, and harmful to the economy of the state.


Administrative Faculty

May 27, 2009

In 2008, the Faculty Senate’s Executive Board charged one of its committees, the Administrative Faculty Personnel Policies & Procedures (AFP^3) committee, with the following charges, among others:

6. Consider issues related to the creation of a new employment category for professional or technical staff, and review the policies and categories of peer institutions. Make recommendations to the Senate.

7. UNR Bylaws require that all faculty, academic and administrative, should have the protection of bylaws at the major unit (e.g., college) or below, but many administrative faculty work in divisions and units without bylaws. What bylaws are appropriate and necessary for administrative faculty, and what current examples exist? Make recommendations to the Senate, as appropriate.

What was our thinking in developing this charge? I am happy to tell you some of my own thoughts. But you must take them with a grain of salt, as I do not know if they are close to the opinion of the executive board, the senate, or the administration. They do seem not be be very close to the opinion of the AFP^3 Committee.

This question came up last year because we learned that many people report difficulties in hiring the people they need, when what they need does not fall correctly into either the “faculty” camp or the “classified” camp. There are folks who need to hire professionals who do not necessarily have a college education, but who need to work by the job, not by the hour. The hiring process can be slow, and the classified staff system has an elaborate system of bumping rights. Many are currently concerned that this will make it hard for them to compete for grants. Some grant-funded work has to be done by hiring subcontractors, which is more expensive but more flexible. I think that it is dumb and parochial for the university not to fix.

State law defines us all as professional staff, and only the Code and UNR Bylaws limit us to “faculty.” This stems for historical reasons to our old unitary faculty model, in which you could be tenured as a professor of buildings and grounds. Somebody was apparently Solomonaic a couple of decades ago and separated faculty into two types, administrative and academic, but there are other needs that these two types do not meet. UNLV has changed their bylaws to use different terminology, but they are still bound by a badly-written Code. DRI also does it very differently than we do.

The Code actually defines administrative faculty as administrators, as faculty in “executive, supervisory, or support” roles. Department chairs are supervisors, but they are academic faculty. There is a great deal of variation. Some administrative faculty were once classified staff who were given additional responsibilities. Some administrative faculty were once academic faculty, and still hold tenure in their home academic department. Some administrative faculty have Ph.D.s, some don’t even have a bachelors. Some are fully qualified to teach, and do. Some aren’t, and don’t.

What a mess.

Webster’s dictionary defines faculty as the teachers and instructors within any of the divisions or comprehensive branches of learning at a college or university, or alternatively, as the members of a learned profession. When regents, legislators, or members of the public learn we apply the word to all professional staff, regardless of whether they are qualified to teach or not, they are very puzzled. Why do we do this? Why are we so wedded to this?

I personally think that some administrative faculty truly are that. I think some are not, and we make things both confusing and difficult by insisting on lumping everybody together in the same definition.

If I could have my way, I would advocate creating new categories of professional staff, without eliminating the current category. I have tossed out the terms “technical staff” and “administrative professionals” but am not wedded to anything so specific. Current administrative faculty might choose to retain their place in that category, or might choose an alternative category if it held advantages. New hires could be made into any category the university thought appropriate.

In addition to the grandfathering issue, there are several other questions raised by the creation of new categories of professional staff. In particular, how could we best protect faculty rights, even if we no longer call some of them faculty? What rights and privileges really matter to them? We need to consider how they would best be represented, if not by the faculty senate, or how to make sure they continue to receive the benefits that matter to them. We would also need to reassure them that they were not being put at any additional risk, a difficult thing in this budgetary climate, where administrative faculty positions have been cut more than for academic faculty.

In addition to hiring flexibility and linguistic clarity, there are other reasons to consider. For more than a decade, I have been very concerned with improving and enforcing bylaws. It is very clear to me that most of the bylaws are really written for academic faculty. For decades we have shoehorned administrative faculty into them, but they just don’t really fit. For example, nowhere in the bylaws does it accurately describe the annual evaluation process for administrative faculty, and that is pretty basic in terms of rights. Instead, we talk about personnel committees and the recommendations of chairs and deans. This is just ignored for administrative faculty, but I think this is a bad idea. Bylaws become useless when they are ignored in some cases. How do you protect rights when everybody knows the rules do not apply?

Some administrative faculty like the title, but others find it problematic. Some complain that being lumped in with academic faculty puts them at a disadvantage, since they must compete for benefits (e.g., sabbaticals, awards) that are really tailor-made for academic faculty. They are rarely ever recognized for what their jobs are, and are almost always outvoted by academic faculty even on matters that aren’t academic in nature.

Some work with students and find the title of faculty helps get their respect. Otherwise, I am not sure why anyone would care as long as it does not affect your rights. “Call me anything you like,” my father used to say, “just don’t call me late for dinner.” Some just like having the title, or just being part of the larger group. Some of my friends who are administrative faculty who came from other universities think it is a little silly, and have never understood why we do it this way. Others have never been at any other university, and assume that we do it the way it should be done.

There are, however, practical differences. In the Senate, we sometimes have a difficult time getting administrative faculty to serve to the extent academic faculty are expected to serve. Academic faculty are evaluated by their peers on teaching, research, and service, but many administrative faculty are evaluated by their direct superiors on the performance of specific duties, which does not always include significant service. We once tried to appoint a committee chair who had to get his supervisor’s permission to serve on a committee. This is antithetical to the independent nature of academic faculty. Last year, the AFP^3 Committee failed to even report because everybody on it was too busy with other duties to even meet.

Regarding representation on the Faculty Senate, I have mixed feelings. I value the contributions of our administrative faculty to the debate, and they bring a fresh perspective to the table. I like and respect them individually. On the other hand, I’m not sure they really ever get their concerns heard, and there are practical problems too. There is a strong tradition in the Senate that the Chair should be already tenured, since this allows the Chair the independence to speak for the faculty, to stand up to the administration, the Regents, and even the Governor when it is necessary. This tradition makes the Senate stronger. But with administrative faculty making up a third of the Senate, we have a relatively small pool to choose from in nominating the Chair-elect (especially if there are other characteristics we want in a Chair).

Some have suggested that a different governance structure might make sense. I am agnostic on this, but I do think somebody ought to at least think about it. If we do create new categories of professional staff, the issue will have to be dealt with because these new folks will need some sort of representation.

There are also academic faculty who are concerned with voting rights. Some academic faculty do not like the idea of having people who do not have the degree, who do not teach or research, voting on curricular issues or tenure-track hires. It’s never been an issue for me personally, but some faculty are really concerned with this.

Another reason the issue remains a concern for me is that issues come up every so often with the Executive Board that appear to result from this aggregation of professional staff into one catch-all category. For example, one issue we have been trying to resolve is whether or not “A contract” faculty are allowed to consult. These faculty are required to take leave before they consult. This may make sense for administrative faculty who are expected to keep regular hours, and this makes sense for academic faculty who are funded entirely by grants. But what about state-funded “A contract” academic faculty? Faculty on “B contracts” do not have to take leave, but are instead only expected to report their consulting and keep it under an average of one day per week. Try explaining this difference to the Board of Regents, however.

We are concerned that if these issues are so obvious to us, then eventually they will be obvious to somebody else with the power to dictate change. We know some regents and legislators think the university is a little nuts on issues like this. If we are going to have change, we need to get in front of it to make sure it is done right and reasonably, to make sure it is done carefully and with full consideration by both academic and administrative faculty, to make sure rights and privileges are protected as best they can be.

Finally, I must admit to being in disagreement with the belief that Nevada is inherently different. I love Nevada and I love this university, but I want more of us to open our eyes and see what others do. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel or make change for the sheer love of change, but I think we should study the best practice of our peers, and adopt what works best. We should be willing to make changes that make sense, and not fear change.


The NSHE Budget has Closed

May 13, 2009

Dear Senators:

The budget for higher education finally closed yesterday evening, with a 12.5% reduction overall for NSHE’s state-funded operating budgets. This is relative to our budgets for 2008-2009, which were set by the previous Legislature. This cut is only a third of what the Governor requested, and it will require that the Legislature find the offsetting revenues, that they pass the budget by May 21, and they are able to override the Governor’s probable veto.

There is a Regents meeting tomorrow, which Milt and I will participate in, and we will give you more information once we know more. In the meanwhile, here are some things you should know.

First, the university is already much of the way there already, because the Governor already requested budget cuts this past year, and because we have been preparing for this. It also should include any pay cuts or furloughs, though there are constitutional issues regarding whether or not NSHE can be forced by the Legislature to cut pay, and legal/contractual issues regarding whether NSHE can cut our paychecks unilaterally without a notice period.

Second, there are some tuition increases that are being planned, but these are not dramatic in nature relative to those we have already had, and these tuition increases will be allowed to offset some of the budget cuts for us, rather than just going back to the Legislature as is usual.

Third, it is a complicated matter, using enrollments, the formula, and raw politics, to determine how much of a cut each institution will receive. UNLV has experienced a fall in enrollments recently, from which they will mostly be held harmless, and CSN has grown considerably more than we have. I can’t yet say exactly how much we will need to cut for a couple of days, though we have a good idea already.

Finally, you should know that we have been working with the President and the Provost to prepare for this decision, so if we need to have a curricular review to consider cuts to academic programs and tenured positions, you should feel confident that faculty governance and the Senate will play a key role in any decisions.

By the way, if budget discussions leave you a bit bewildered, Bruce and I wrote up two documents to explain them, which I have linked on my website and you might want to peruse:

University Budgets: A Guide for the Perplexed (Mar. 23, 2009).

Funding, Fairness, and the Formula: The University of Nevada, Reno, in the System of Higher Education (Apr. 17, 2009).

Best regards,

Elliott Parker, Ph.D
Faculty Senate Chair
Professor of Economics /0030
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557-0027 U.S.A.
http://www.business.unr.edu/faculty/parker


Chair’s Corner: goals for chair and senate

May 11, 2009

The university has a unique governance structure that many do not understand well. On budgetary matters, universities follow a traditional, hierarchical top-down model. On curricular and research issues, universities follow a bottom-up approach, in which administrators act as the agents of the faculty. On policy matters, the two share governance, sometimes uneasily.

The Senate represents the faculty, but it is not a union like the NFA. It is, in a way, like an equivalent branch of government, almost but not quite entirely unlike the Legislative and Executive functions. Whether it equal and effective depends on the people involved, and how they choose to behave.

As the new chair, my major goals are:
1. To recognize that to be effective, shared faculty governance requires a greater responsibility of faculty to look out for the long-run interests of the university, and to make reasonable and well thought-out recommendations for change.
2. To make the senate as effective as possible in working with university administration, by working cooperatively with the administration while remaining independent of it.
3. To try to turn over as much control to the senate as is practical, while doing as much with the executive board, the senate office, or on my own to be effective and responsive.
4. To make sure that shared faculty governance plays its proper role in both the development of the ISP and in any curricular review that takes place in response to the budget crisis.
5. To help shepherd through changes that will help the university continue to grow up, to learn from best practice at other universities instead of continuing to believe that UNR is somehow unique.
6. To try to fix long-standing problems in our Code, Bylaws, Manual, and practice, to make them all accurately reflect what we can and should do, to make them workable, and to make them in the university’s long-run interests.
7. To be responsive to suggestions and proposals from the senate in particular and the faculty in general, to represent them as best as I can.

I will rely on the Executive Board to make sure that my efforts are consistent with these principles. The Senate Office staff are also not shy about letting me know when I go too far or make an error in judgment.

I will also try to stay engaged with those outside the university – System Administration, the Regents, the Legislature, and the Public – to better advocate for the faculty.

I will be contacting senators through the Senate Blog – which we don’t use near as often as we should – to get input from them on what problems the senate needs to address, and to keep working on making senators know they can make a difference.


What do you suggest this year for Charges?

May 6, 2009

Dear Senators:

This summer, the executive board and I will start putting charges and members for the various Faculty Senate committees. Half of our committees will operate on the academic year, and half will be on the calendar year. Once we draft charges, they will come to the senate for possible modification and approval.

We get some charges from problems we run into in the prior year or new problems we anticipate, and other charges are suggested by the prior committees. But we also get charges from you, the representatives of the faculty.

We would be grateful if each of you could give us a problem or two that you think the Faculty Senate needs to address this next year, so we can debate and prioritize them in order to have our committees be most productive. Putting them here on this blog would not only be more transparent, it would help other senators better consider their own suggestions.

We greatly look forward to hearing your ideas.

Best Regards,
Elliott Parker
Faculty Senate Chair (facsenchair@unr.edu)


Town Hall Remarks December 1, 2008: Does Anyone Know What’s Really Going On?

December 1, 2008

Bill Follette, Chair Faculty Senate 2008-2009

I applaud the administration for calling us together to keep us up to date on what steps have been taken to address the budget challenges we are facing. In some ways there is no readily foreseeable good time for a Town Hall meeting. Let me recap some recent events. In a recent emergency session of the Board of Regents Investment Committee the investment income amounting to about ½ million dollars for UNR each month was suspended because of market conditions. That was on top of other budget reductions we have had to implement. The governor has asked state agencies to plan scenarios for 4, 7, and 11 % cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year to deal with the estimated $300M revenue shortfall.

Then the election occurs. Both houses in the Nevada legislature are now democratic. Private negotiations have been going on with the governor and legislative leaders and some rumors of a plan appear in the press, but details are missing. A special session of the legislature is being called though the actual specifics of the proclamation have not been set. So far there is no specific tax restructuring on the table for the regular session to consider, but there is a shift in the public dialog about considering an alternative tax structure. The governor says that everything is on the table though a close reading of his statement means everything if there are enough votes to raises taxes which coincidentally is the same amount required to override his veto. The Economic Forum meets today to make its budget projections. In the meantime, budget cuts being considered range from the 14% we have previously discussed at other Town Hall meetings to figures as high as 33% for the next biennium.

Back on the home front, the Chancellor continues to send his missives insisting that not only is a budget reduction for NSHE not possible, but a 10% increase is required. The Chancellor’s multi-point plan to address the state shortfall may have been set back by a slight misunderstanding when he asked Senator Reid for $3B which the senator misheard to be $3M, thus putting a crimp in the Chancellor’s plan since the senator said $3B to Nevada isn’t happening.

Later this week there is a Board of Regents meeting in Las Vegas during which new information may emerge. The budget is now a standing item on the agenda. The agenda listing allows for discussion and unspecified action by the Board. After the first of the year there will be four new regents, two of whom will be appointed by the governor.

All the while the Chancellor conveys a clear message that to plan for budget contractions is a sign of weakness, and that he doesn’t want the NSHE presidents to discuss plans for addressing budget reductions beyond those required so far this year. That may be the case, but it doesn’t take a psychologist to read the mood of the faculty who keep wondering, “What plans are being made to deal with these problems?” Planning for a storm doesn’t produce one, and as FEMA has learned, there is a downside to having no plan to communicate to those who might someday be affected.
The last time we met in this format, we were contemplating a 14% reduction. Now, the target is never the same two weeks in a row. The fact is that plenty is being done with as much transparency as possible.

• The provost is completing the review of the 41 centers on campus.

• Departments are completing their teaching resource management reviews.

• A committee has been formed to restructure the resources needed to replace and perhaps improve the functions provided by the math and writing centers.

• Several advisory groups have been formed to identify improvements to be made to strengthen the ability of the faculty to meet and expand the research enterprise of the university.

• The faculty are actively looking for alternative ways of funding research and programs through competitive grants.

• Meetings are occurring with student leaders to get their input on the Chancellor’s proposal for tuition increases.

Shortly the entire faculty will be involved with updating a brief, and I emphasize brief, update of our institutional strategic plan, and the academic master plan. It is important that the faculty be involved in this process because these documents are intended to define our institutional mission for the next several years. At the heart these documents are an unwavering support for UNR to maintain its research extensive status, preserve our strongest program, and to every degree possible protect our tenured and tenure track faculty because those are the only resources that can provide all the components that make our institution unique in the state.

These are difficult times. Peoples’ lives are affected, roles are changed, and hard decisions have been and will be made. The faculty senate has made what we think are improvements in the reconsideration and grievance procedures should one need to invoke those processes. Several faculty members have provided expert input into the discussion about costs and effectiveness of decisions about higher education in this state. I have seen faculty and administrators try to come together to communicate clearly about any concerns being voiced. We are all concerned about the future, whether it be about the well-being the university community, the health of state, the misfortune of colleagues, concern for the safety of a friend losing a home, or changes to the retirement and compensation system of the state.

As senate chair I have instituted a blog. So far, I have only posted limited messages to it. My reticence towards posting more has been out of deference to the Chancellor preferring to control a united message for the system. However, it is time to increase the communication between us. I will post a message at least every two weeks to which all are invited to respond on the blog itself, directly to me, or the senate office. I cannot promise that there will be earthshaking information or even consistent information given the degree of change we continue to face. If you have questions, you can use the blog as a place to ask. If I don’t know the answer I’ll try to find out who does.
This is a time where it is easy to become mistrustful. Many of you will remember a poster from the 60’s saying “Just because your paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” So far in my experience those in leadership are trying to protect our university to the best of their ability and paranoia serves no purpose. You can be curious, questioning, critical, or better yet involved as much as possible.

Let me end with a quote by Mark Twain that seems appropriate for our times:

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

So ask questions. Listen closely to answer. Participate in the discussions. Thank you for your attention and the many comments of support you have sent.