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.


Sense of the University of Nevada, Reno Faculty Senate Regarding Pay Cuts for Faculty and Staff

May 8, 2009

The Nevada State Legislature is currently proposing that pay cuts for state employees be part of budget reductions for the 2009-2011 Biennium. On May 6, 2009, the Faculty Senate of the University of Nevada, Reno passed the following three resolutions regarding the sense of the senate, should there be a mandate to cut wages and salaries due to budgetary constraints.

1. While some have suggested that all employees be subject to a uniform policy for symbolic or historical reasons, it is the strong sense of this senate that any portion of faculty salary and benefits from non-state funded sources should be immune from reductions to state-funded salaries. Faculty and staff who are funded entirely from sources other than state funds, such as grant-funded researchers, should be exempt from reductions in pay if they are able to maintain current or projected salaries using such funds. We believe that it hurts the university and the state if we turn away income that costs Nevada taxpayers nothing. We also believe that any policy that reduces the incentive for seeking extramural funding is antithetical to the long-run goals of the university.

2. Next, it is the sense of this senate that reductions in full-time equivalency (FTE) or other similar approaches are strongly preferred to reductions in the base rate of pay. Reducing FTE makes it easier for some faculty to make up lost income through other sources such as grants and contracts, it ties pay to performance expectations, and it allows incomes to be more quickly restored once revenues recover.

3. Finally, it is the sense of this senate that the Legislature and the Nevada System of Higher Education should allow the university to determine how funds are cut, and if wages and salaries must be cut then the university should be allowed to reduce average pay, rather than requiring uniform reductions across the board. Such flexibility should strive both to protect lower-salaried faculty and staff and to serve the long-run goals of the university.


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)


Sense of the University of Nevada, Reno Faculty Senate Regarding Health Care Policy

March 5, 2009

 

On January 20, 2009, the Faculty Senate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, passed a “Sense of the Senate” resolution on health care benefits. Soon thereafter the NSHE System Administration Faculty Senate also proposed a Resolution on Health Care Benefits. These resolutions called upon the Legislature to reject the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission recommendations, and pointed out a number of possible negative consequences of these proposals. The UNLV Faculty Senate argued that some of these consequences would also result from the proposals of the Public Employee Benefit Plan (PEBP) Board proposals, even though these latter proposals were much more deliberate in approach and reasonable in scope.

The UNR Faculty Senate recognizes that current and past employees entered into an employment agreement with NSHE with a reasonable understanding that the extant health care plan was a fair representation of what could be expected now and into retirement. Given that a significant change in one’s health cannot reasonably be budgeted, predictable health benefits are fundamentally important to someone making an employment decision.

 

In light of the emerging national conversation about health care funding, at this time the UNR Faculty Senate opposes any changes in employee health care plans in response to a short-run revenue shortfall. The rising cost of health care, the past promises of the state to its employees, and the new Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) rules requiring these obligations to be made explicit are problems shared by all states. A nationwide dialogue needs to take place in which Nevada participates, but unilateral and precipitous action in the absence of a nationwide strategy will unfairly shift risk towards those unprepared to bear it, leave retirees without alternatives, and impair our ability to retain our best faculty, professionals and staff and compromise our ability to recruit the best new employees to replace those who retire.

Related Information:
unlv-sense-of-senate-on-health-care-benefits
sa-senate-resolution-on-health-care-benefits
The Sage Commission recommendations can be found at the link below:
http://www.sagenevada.org/recommendations
The PEBP Board recommendations can be found at the link below:
http://www.pebp.state.nv.us/informed/brdpkts/2-5-09Transcript.pdf
pebp-november-2008-recommendations 


Measuring Success and Appropriations slides

February 20, 2009

 

measuring-success1

The slides presented by Milton Glick at the February Faculty Senate Meeting can be accessed via the link above.


Economic Impact of the Proposed $73 million cut in UNR’s budget (a study by E. Fadali & M. Kilkenny, UCED)

February 17, 2009

By far the biggest reason citizens of all 50 states support their public universities is because university educated young people become inventors, skilled professionals, artists, social scientists, ethical businesspeople, and so on, making our society great.

But when budgets are tight, it’s reasonable to ask how taxpayer support for a university compares on a purely economic basis with tax relief, for example. Nevada taxpayers spent approximately $209 million dollars on the University of Nevada, Reno last year. That state allocation, plus student tuition, fees, and payments for research conducted by the faculty made up a budget of $511 million. Two‐thirds of that budget was spent on wages and salaries, and UNR employed about 4,600 people in Washoe County. UNR is the second largest employer in the county after the Washoe County School District.

Economists at the Center for Economic Development (UCED) calculated the effect on the economy of Nevada if the budget of the University of Nevada, Reno were to be cut by the proposed $73 million in state support. As we know, one person’s spending is another person’s income. The person who earned that income spends some, too, supporting the income of yet another person, and so on. The ‘circular flow’ of spending, income, spending, income, and so on is formalized mathematically by what is called an “input‐output” model. Here is what the mathematical model shows:

A cut of $73 million in state funding for the University of Nevada Reno, coupled with a proportional reduction in the faculty’s ability to bring in externally funded research contracts, amounts to a $99 million reduction in state value added (or state “GDP”) and 1,288 fewer jobs.

Alternatively, if Nevada taxpayers were to raise the $73 million, and we all have less to spend on goods and services, this would also lead to lower economic activity. $73 million in taxes paid (ultimately) by households amounts to $39 million less value added (state GDP) and 534 fewer jobs.

The net effect of putting the $73 million into UNR rather than spending it as usual on goods and services is $60 million more state GDP and 574 more jobs.

Why does the state get more jobs and income when it finances its universities than it does the other way? One, because university faculty bring even more money into the state by doing research and other projects. Without state support, however, faculty cannot accept ‘matching grant’ contracts, for example. Two, a much larger proportion of UNR’s revenues goes directly to Nevada employees. Nothing goes to dividends, profits, royalties or rents to out‐of‐state stockholders, CEOs, or proprietors.

In contrast, a big part of what is spent on a new car or new flat‐screen TV goes out‐of‐state to the factory and company that made it. Some of the retail dollar also goes to pay rents, profits, anddividends, also sometimes out‐of‐state. A much smaller portion of a retail dollar goes to salaries for local employees. A much larger portion of a dollar spent on UNR goes directly into Nevada household income. Spending on UNR keeps much more money ‘coming around and going around’ in our local economy.


My reply to the Governor’s podcast

February 12, 2009

At President Glick’s town hall meeting today, somebody asked him for a comment on the Governor’s podcast defending his higher education budget. As it so happens, last night I e-mailed a reply, and it came back with an error message. This morning I sent the reply to Josh Hicks, his chief of staff. Here it is:

Dear Mr. Hicks,

I just read the text of the Governor’s podcast, and tried to reply to the address in his message, YOUR-OPINION-COUNTS@GOV.NV.GOV. It came back with a “No such user” message, so I hope my opinion can still count.

I am afraid that I must say the podcast was misleading. The Governor said that “Nevada spends more general fund tax dollars on higher education than most other states,” but this is not actually true.

A poor man spends a bigger portion of his income on food, but that does not mean that he eats more than others. Nevada’s higher education system gets a larger portion of its budget from the state, but that does not mean it spends more to educate its students. As a share of state GDP, Nevada has the smallest general fund in the country. Nevada is also 50th in the country in higher education spending as a share of state income, 50th in the country in the number of higher education employees as a share of population, at the bottom in the number of students who attend college, and below the national average in higher education spending per student, even though our cost of living is relatively high and smaller states typically spend more per student than big states.

In addition, most states also have some local government support of higher education, for community colleges. Nevada does not.

The Governor said that higher education has the ability to raise its own revenue, but this is misleading as well. It is true that our tuition is relatively low, and this has been a long-standing policy of the state as it tries to move up from the bottom in the number of students who attend college. The Regents can raise tuition, but if we tripled it next year we would not come close to filling the gap, as we would push out many of our students. Other revenues – like dormitory fees, tickets to sporting events, et cetera – go to pay expenses associated with those revenues, and do not generate substantial residuals. Research grants go to fund research expenses, and if we tried to spend those funds on instructional costs somebody would have to go to jail. Your administration’s budget would not increase those other revenues, but instead would decrease them. It will cost us our most productive researchers who bring in the most outside funding, it would scare away potential donors, and it will encourage our best students to go elsewhere.

It is a bit like trying to get in shape and lose weight by having your legs amputated.

The Governor said that he is proposing only a 36% cut, not a 50% cut, but this is also somewhat misleading. Yes, there is a 36% cut in the total NSHE general fund budget, but some programs within NSHE are left relatively untouched. Athletics, for example, did not have its budget changed much at all. But the cuts your administration proposed for the main campuses of UNR and UNLV are much, much larger than the average for the system as a whole. Relative to our total state GDP, the cuts are tiny – roughly a quarter of one percent – but relative to the total amount the university has to spend on instruction, the cuts are simply devastating.

To survive and prosper in a knowledge economy, Nevada must better educate its citizens. Regardless of his political disagreements with our Chancellor, the Governor must see that a good university system is crucial for our future.

Sincerely,

Elliott Parker
Professor of Economics
University of Nevada, Reno